One blog post in particular has stuck with me all week, shared by another independent education consultant in the Facebook group for ACCEPT (I talked about ACCEPT and the work they’re doing last week). The author, Sydney Montgomery, talks specifically about how IECs can use their roles to advocate for a better, anti-racist system of college admissions. In particular, Montgomery points out the insufficiency of doing pro-bono work with low-income students of color, writing,
“I want to challenge this conflation of Black students with pro-bono and poor students. Black students aren't just found in CBOs, non-profits, Boys and Girls Clubs, and low-income neighborhoods. The repeated fusing of "low-income" and "minority" perpetuates the stereotypes that most Black students are poor and disadvantaged. It sets up a dichotomy that most students are either rich and White or poor and Black. This is a dangerous mental schema for those of us in this profession. Too often the only time Black students are mentioned by consultants is in reference to their income or state of being underprivileged.”
She goes on to ask,
“If you are genuine about anti-racist work and committed to dismantling White supremacy, the question I want to ask you is whether you feel just as passionate about helping dismantle systemic racism for the wealthy Black student with straight As as you do the archetypical "low-income" Black student from a poor neighborhood. I'm not saying that these students have equal advantages or are the same, far from it, but what I am saying is that fighting systemic racism cannot just be confined to pro-bono work. Studies show that Black and minority students undermatch in the college application process across all socioeconomic statuses.”
That last point was eye-opening to me, but it shouldn’t have been. Of course Black and minority students face greater barriers to access in higher education regardless of their backgrounds. And this problem does not go away once students get admitted to highly selective universities. Just think of stories like the Smith College employee who called the police on a Black student eating lunch on campus, or the White Yale student who called the police because a Black graduate student was taking a nap in her dorm common area. It is merely luck that those situations did not end in tragedy like so many other interactions between the police and Black people.
In addition to her own perspective on the challenges facing Black students in higher education, Montgomery takes the time to share some valuable resources, like Dr. Beverly Tatum’s seminal work, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?, and organizations working to make an impact in this area like the National Society of Black Engineers and the National Black Law Students Association. I would highly encourage you to read the full post and check out the resources Montgomery suggests.