It’s comforting to look around a room full of people and see others who look like you. There is something inherently motivating about knowing that you are surrounded by peers who may have experienced the same things you have, lived in similar places and understand things the same way you do.
This is unfortunately not the reality for a small group of African American students at New York City’s prestigious and elite Stuyvesant High School.
The New York Times reported that out of 895 spots in the incoming freshman class, only seven African American students were offered admission. Ten students were offered admission in 2018 and 13 in 2017. The small numbers reflect an ongoing issue of lack of racial diversity in New York City’s elite high schools.
But it’s not the only place in the country with limited racial diversity.
The student population of Plattsburgh State is predominantly white. With an overall enrollment number of 5,704 students for the Fall 2018 semester as reported by SUNY Central, the number of African American students is 495 and Hispanic or Latino students is 643, making up only a one-fifth of the total student population. White students have a total enrollment of 3,738 with 65.5%. There is an imbalance here.
With an imbalance in racial diversity comes a lack of understanding and community.
Overall, the SUNY System doesn’t boast particularly impressive racial diversity numbers. SUNY Central reported 424,051 in total enrollment across all SUNY campuses with 104,623 Hispanic/Latino and African-American students and 237,329 white students.
The number of total white students is a little over 56% of the total SUNY enrollment with minority enrollment being one-fourth of the total system.
When the number of minority students is under 50% of total enrollment, there is a problem.
In a country, that deals more and more every day with issues of race and division, it is harmful for both high school and institutions of higher education to have visible discrepancies in their enrollment demographics. It is in the halls, classrooms and social spaces of these important years that connections, learning and growth take place. How can we learn from others if the numbers are staggeringly unequal?
Of even more importance is the representation among faculty and staff. Here at Plattsburgh State, there is a small number of faculty and staff that are non-white, a point of concern for many minority students.
Racism is alive and well in the United States, unfortunately, and with the absence of a equal and balanced number of students from different backgrounds, constructive conversations can not take place.
As a biracial student, the demographics of my potential college were important to me. I identify with both of my backgrounds, black and white, and it is incredibly important for those who identify as more than one race that these conversations are had. If they don’t, we all lose in the end.