Colleges and universities that support racial and social justice create more inclusive communities on their campuses, and the increase in student diversity has made the need for change especially urgent. According to a 2022 report from the Education Data Initiative, college enrollment of nonwhite students has increased by 185.5% since 1976, and this growth is projected to continue for the foreseeable future.
Creating a safe and productive space for students from all racial backgrounds to study and socialize is a worthwhile investment for every postsecondary academic institution. Keep reading to discover resources that will help school administrators, staff, faculty, and students gain a deeper understanding of today’s racial issues and how they can become a part of the racial justice movement.
Definition of Racial Justice
When people discuss racial justice, they are generally referencing policies and practices that make society safer and more equitable for people of color. Although the word justice is commonly associated with the criminal justice system, that is only one part of a large and dynamic problem. Other aspects of society that have historically been unjust to minority populations include:
Racial justice activists work to ensure that all people receive fair treatment and have the opportunity to reach their full potential, regardless of ethnic or racial background. Reaching this goal requires making structural, cultural, and systemic changes to long standing policies and institutions.
Importance of Racial Justice Resources
The scope and severity of racism in the United States are complex, and racial justice resources help to break down the elements into more comprehensible pieces. This allows for a greater understanding of the origins of racism and the ways that it continues to manifest in modern society. However, simply knowing about racial issues is not enough to create actual change for people of color. As a result, racial justice resources also provide actionable guidance for people who want to participate in creating a more equitable environment in public spaces, the classroom, and the workplace.
To fully understand the goals and strategies of the racial justice movement, it’s important to first examine the development of racism. These educational resources illuminate the complicated ways in which racism has become embedded in everyday life.
Nonfiction books offer a realistic and detailed exploration of racism and discriminatory practices. While there are many books available, these options are a good place to start:
- “Stamped from the Beginning”: This bestselling book by historian Ibram X. Kendi outlines and analyzes the history of American racism and how activists have fought to overcome it.
- “The New Jim Crow”: Written by legal scholar Michelle Alexander, this book delves into the issue of mass incarceration and its effects on minority communities.
- “How to Be an Antiracist”: In his follow-up to “Stamped from the Beginning,” Ibram X. Kendi describes the personal experiences that defined his perception of racism and discusses how people might build a path toward an antiracist society.
Reading these books helps white members of a college community better understand the experiences and challenges that their black peers and colleagues face on a daily basis.
Documentaries are a powerful medium for learning about racism in the United States. Some of the most impactful and effective films include:
- “13th”: Directed by Ava DuVernay, this documentary offers an in-depth look at the issue of mass incarceration and draws on expert insights from the political, academic, and legal worlds.
- “I Am Not Your Negro”: Based on an unfinished book by James Baldwin, this documentary directed by Raoul Peck offers a unique perspective on the assassinations of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
- “Whose Streets?”: This documentary, which was directed by Sabaah Folayan, examines the uprising and protests that followed the police killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Missouri.
Because they present real-life footage of actual events, documentaries often help viewers to feel more connected to issues that might otherwise seem abstract or separate from their own lives.
Audio series and podcasts have become one of the most popular ways of sharing information about racism with the public. These podcasts are among the most powerful racial justice resources available online:
- “Code Switch”: Produced by NPR, the Code Switch podcast offers a space for journalists of color to explore race from multiple angles, including historical, political, and cultural perspectives.
- “1619”: This podcast produced by the New York Times begins with the origins of American slavery and examines how its long-lasting reach has presented itself in the different aspects of modern life.
- “Intersectionality Matters!”: Civil rights advocate Kimberlé Crenshaw created this podcast to discuss racist policies, practices, and beliefs in America.
Podcasts provide an excellent opportunity for discussion and engagement, whether during professional development meetings or sessions with students.
Organizations and Advocacy Groups
People who want to become more actively involved in the racial justice movement may not know where to begin. Fortunately, there are many prominent organizations and advocacy groups that offer information, resources, and the opportunity to volunteer.
Black Lives Matter
The Black Lives Matter movement began in 2013 in response to the death of Trayvon Martin and the subsequent acquittal of the man who killed him. The organization has a presence in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada. It relies on local outreach and activism to bring awareness to acts of violence and discrimination against black people.
Color of Change
Color of Change is an online racial justice organization with seven million members worldwide. With a widespread focus encompassing culture, criminal justice, politics, and economics, Color of Change seeks to expand voter access, ensure equitable treatment, and promote diverse representations of the black community. Members have the opportunity to create and recommend campaigns related to racial justice and equity.
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) is a legal organization and law firm based in Washington, DC. Members of the LDF seek changes to the structure and policies of the American criminal justice system in an attempt to build a safer, more equitable society for people of color. In addition to its efforts in the criminal justice system, the LDF also pursues economic justice, works to protect voting rights, and strives to improve educational equity.
ACLU Racial Justice Program
As part of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU Racial Justice Program (RJP) uses legal processes, grassroots activism, and public education to fight against all forms of racism. The RJP’s efforts target dangerous and harmful discriminatory practices in policing, housing, education, and education. The ACLU also often files lawsuits in an attempt to protect the rights of people of color.
Action and Allyship Resources
The burden of promoting racial justice often falls on the shoulders of minority communities, but allies and advocates can play a prominent role in altering and eliminating inequities. However, serving as an ally requires active participation as well as understanding, and these resources help people who believe in anti-racism take practical steps toward societal change.
An anti-racist is a person who not only disagrees with racism but also takes action to help end it. These resources provide strategies and materials for anti-racist advocates:
- “Anti-Racism Project”: Participants in the project learn about entrenched racist practices and internalized racism through a series of courses and workshops. The project offers guidance on how to develop a social action plan and become a vocal anti-racist rather than an outside observer.
- “Showing Up for Racial Justice”: SURJ is designed for white allies who want to help dismantle racist systems. Founded in 2009, SURJ provides extensive resources and education related to anti-racist strategies.
- “The Conscious Kid”: This organization provides resources for families and educators who want to teach children about racism and allyship. The group provides recommended books, read-aloud videos, and guides.
In addition to personal research, the content of these resources is also well-suited to professional development sessions, workshops, and conferences.
Petitions and Donations
Individual pursuits of racial justice are important, but major changes often require organized action and substantial financial resources. Fortunately, some websites make it easy to promote a petition and collect donations related to racial justice causes.
Individuals and groups who want to create and disseminate a petition can use Change.org. Launched in 2007, this site allows site members to write and post petitions, share them over social media, and solicit signatures and comments from people around the globe. Although Change.org allows petitions related to practically any subject, it is a popular site for racial justice campaigns.
Petitioners with concerns specifically related to discrimination, inequities, and racism can also use the Color of Change website to post and share a campaign. Color of Change encourages site members to organize for causes large and small, including prison constructions, unfair employment practices, and incidences of police brutality.
In addition to seeking signatures and support, racial justice advocates may also need to collect donations to support people of color who are struggling due to unfair or inequitable practices and institutions. One area of particular concern is the criminal justice system. Established in 2016, the National Bail Fund Network (NBFN) accepts donations for community bail funds. In an effort to reduce mass incarceration, the NBFN helps to support individuals who are being held while awaiting criminal or immigration trials and are unable to pay for bail.
Community Engagement Resources
Some of the most significant changes in history have come as a result of community activism. These resources allow people to become more engaged in the racial issues occurring in their local areas:
- Campaign Zero: Since its launch in 2015, Campaign Zero has focused its efforts on research and advocacy projects related to public safety and alternatives to police intervention.
- Black Voters Matter Fund: Black Voters Matter works to mobilize and empower black voters and draw attention to issues in the black community, including mass incarceration, housing discrimination, and police reform.
- The Bail Project: Bail payments often force people to remain in jail during pretrial periods, and the Bail Project works to pay bail for individuals who do not have the financial means to do so.
Through these sites, people can not only learn more about different aspects of racial justice but also connect with other activists who share the same passions and concerns.
The Importance of Racial Justice on College Campuses
Student populations on college campuses are often diverse, and it’s critical for all members of an academic community to feel seen, supported, and safe. When colleges and universities promote racial justice, they demonstrate their dedication and concern for all students, no matter their racial or ethnic backgrounds.
Colleges have a unique role in promoting racial justice. The administration, staff, and faculty establish the campus atmosphere through their actions and words. They also serve as role models for students who have come from less diverse backgrounds and may not fully understand the impact of their actions.
Most importantly, colleges and universities that embrace and promote racial justice help protect vulnerable students who are experiencing challenges on multiple fronts. Students of color often have to cope with issues like:
- Hate crimes
- Physical assaults
- Depression and anxiety
- Discriminatory housing practices
Many of these issues have become increasingly challenging for nonwhite students in academic environments. During the 2021-2022 fiscal year, the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights received more than 18,800 complaints about discrimination in K-12 and higher education. When colleges make clear that they don’t tolerate bias, discrimination, and racism, they create an environment where students of color can feel protected while pursuing their academic goals.
Resources Available to Promote Diversity and Inclusion on College Campuses
Many schools already have resources in place to promote racial and social justice on campus. They include:
- Office of Diversity and Inclusion: Staff in this office create policies and practices that create a more equitable campus environment. They also assess existing strategies and offer programming to promote racial justice and protect minority students.
- Student organizations: Establishing student organizations for students of color offers them a way to create a sense of community and feel less isolated. Student groups that allow allies and advocates to stand beside and show support for minority student populations are also important.
- Multicultural centers: Colleges can demonstrate their commitment to all students by embracing and reflecting their cultures on campus. Multicultural centers allow students to connect, share their traditions, and access resources.
These on-campus resources are essential to developing a more inclusive campus environment in which all students feel welcomed and engaged.
Strategies for Promoting Racial Justice on College Campuses
Colleges that make thoughtful, informed decisions in every aspect of their operations, from staffing to building design, can more successfully achieve inclusion and reduce inequities. Some of the most important strategies are:
- Hiring decisions: Inclusivity and diversity practices shouldn’t end with students. Colleges that want to fully promote racial justice can prove their commitment by hiring faculty and staff from different racial and ethnic backgrounds.
- Curriculum design: School curriculums that include multicultural perspectives represent the backgrounds and experiences of the entire student body. Administrators and faculty should carefully consider textbooks, assignments, and assessments to ensure that they align with the diverse nature of the campus community.
- Safe spaces: When colleges intentionally create safe spaces for students to discuss and address issues of race and racism, they help create a stronger and safer environment. Students suffering from or witnessing racially motivated bullying, discrimination, and hate crimes may be able to better process their experiences, trauma, and fears when they have an outlet for their experiences.
While no single strategy will eliminate every incidence of racism on a college campus, these methods build a strong foundation for a community that embraces diversity and rejects racist behavior.
Reviewing and Sharing Racial Justice Resources in Higher Education
Books, documentaries, and advocacy groups are key resources for colleges and universities that believe in the pursuit of racial and social justice. Individuals at every level of the campus community, from students to college presidents, can gain insights into the experiences of people of color and the need for change by reading, watching, and discussing information related to the history and evolution of racism in America. As student populations become more diverse, academic institutions can serve as leaders in the fight to reduce inequities, establish fair practices, and promote equality for minority groups who have struggled under the weight of systemic racism for far too long.
Education Data Initiative, College Enrollment and Student Demographic Statistics