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Disparities in Education

Posted February 11th, 2011 by cws_mcqu

I am taking a writing intensive course with an emphasis in African-American culture. All of the reading and writing reflections I do are centered on documents written by African-Americans. This past weekend, I was given an assignment that consisted of discussing the ways in which Jim Crow laws affected the lives of White and African-American individuals. As I was working my way through the assignment, I couldn’t help but reminisce about my childhood. This assignment reminded me of how it was growing up in Compton, California and the many things I was exposed to and I saw as normal. Years later, when my family moved to Beaverton, Oregon, I realized that I had been deprived from many opportunities that would help me succeed in school and life. Doing this homework assignment allowed me to answer questions I had about why things were so different between both communities and helped me accept the fact that our country was founded on racism. It gave me the explanation I needed to understand that what I had experienced were the results of the racist foundations of this country.

I grew up in an environment where hearing gunshots, helicopters around the house, getting the house broken into, and sharing my textbooks was normal. I knew that I wasn’t supposed to be in certain neighborhoods at any time. That there was no point in calling the police because by the time they arrived it would have been to late for them to do anything anyways. That was my reality.  At school you were either African-American or Mexican. If your book was not written on and had all the pages on it, you were one of the lucky ones. There was no such thing as a sheltered course (a class that is for English as a Second Language student and is given at a slower paced than a regular course as there is in Beaverton, OR.); we were put in the same classes as everyone else and a bilingual instructor was present to help those learning English understand the curriculum. I never visited a university only Compton Community College. That was my reality at the time.

Upon arriving to Oregon I realized that my school in California was very behind academically. The education I was now receiving challenged my ideas, it taught me to question and not accept everything as true. The school I attended in Oregon trusted me as a student and knew I was there to get an education and, therefore, didn’t treat me like a criminal behind locked gates as they did in California. I was given semi-new or new books, a variety of class options, and teachers that cared and helped me truly learn the material. I was taken on college visits, and constantly asked where I was planning to apply for college, questions that I had never been asked and, therefore, hadn’t considered.  Upon arriving to Oregon State and learning about social justice issues and further analyzing Jim Crow segregation, I realized that the reason my education in Compton schools was so different from schools in Beaverton was because the systems that were put in place many years ago which allowed for “separate but equal” to be acceptable. The ideology of separate but equal allowed for racial disparities to occur, but as one can see in my case, separation was achieved and is still seen in various parts of this country, but equality has not quite come around just yet. There is a lot of work that this country still needs to do and I think it needs to start through education. I like to think I am doing my part by getting educated and sharing what I have learned with others. I like to think that you don’t really know something until you are able to teach it, and it is only then that you know you have truly learned it.

Melissa Rico

Community Relations Facilitator-Westside

The comments shared by the Community Relations Facilitator program are strictly the point of view from the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of UHDS. If this article has inspired a desire to dialogue, the author, or another CRF and/or any Resident Assistant, Resident Director or CoOp Director would be happy to participate. Please contact Nina Gassoway ( to assist in making arrangements.

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