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The banality of racism in education

Brown Center Chalkboard – Brookings Institution |

A study from 2015 looked at how Americans think about test score gaps in education. In a nationally representative sample of adults, the main finding was that Americans are far more concerned about, and willing to address, wealth-based gaps than race- and ethnicity-based gaps.

Most notable to the researchers, though, came from a question concerning how people explain the gaps that exist today. They asked, “How much of the difference in test scores between white students and Black students can be explained by discrimination against Blacks or injustices in society?” Nearly half (44%) of respondents chose “None.” Only 10% chose “A great deal.”

Jon Valant, Fellow – Governance Studies, Brown Center on Education Policy, explains that the manifestations of structural racism have become such a fixed, omnipresent part of the educational landscape that it is hard for many of us to see them.