Reflections from California Community College Leaders on Racism, Anti-Blackness and Implicit Bias
In the wake of the most recent
spate of police killings of Black Americans, the California
Community Colleges are grappling with a racial reckoning as
urgent as the one playing out in society at large. In June, 2020,
Wheelhouse sought to understand how community college leaders
experienced and led their institutions through the pain and calls
to action engendered by racist acts.
Researchers from UC Davis, Cosumnes
River College and the Los Angeles Community College
District surveyed California Community College
CEOs on how racism shows up in their institutions, the
barriers to creating more equitable campuses, and their own
capacity as leaders to make their colleges more racially just.
CEOs’ candid testimonies and reflections provide a clear view to
deep personal and institutional experiences with racism and bias
in the context of one of the nation’s most diverse, accessible
and equity-aspiring systems of higher education.
Community College CEOs express hope about recent momentum for
conversations and actions on race and equity, but are realistic
about challenges they face—both personal and institutional—in
leading for change.
Racism, bias and anti-Blackness, in particular, show up on
college campuses in many forms and venues. They are felt
personally by many CEOs and manifest across their institutions,
from classroom interactions and hiring processes to language,
tone and microaggressions that damage student, staff, faculty and
administrators’ sense of efficacy and belonging.
CEOs of color bring lived experiences that are of particular
value in understanding and navigating conversations about race,
and that may have been undervalued in the past.
While most CEOs feel generally well-positioned in their
capacity to facilitate conversations on race and equity, some
expressed uncertainty. Many revealed significant frustration over
structural barriers they described as impeding progress toward
more welcoming, equitable institutions.
CEOs are both answering and issuing calls to action to
transform their institutions to tackle racism and anti-Blackness.
Our hope is that the themes extracted from the survey responses
will inform and contribute to the conversations and actions
necessary to improve student success, equity and the racial
climate across the California Community Colleges, and thus the
state and nation at large. Download the brief here.
A companion brief, Turning on a Dime,
documents California community college transformation in
response to the COVID-19 pandemic.