Black History Keynote Speaker Addresses Racism

February 13, 2015

ALLIANCE, Ohio – University of Mount Union Black History Month keynote speaker Dr. Rich Milner said Thursday evening that everyone should share the responsibility of addressing and changing racism and sexism.

Milner, Helen Faison Endowed Chair of Urban Education, professor of education, social work (by courtesy) and professor of Africana studies (by courtesy) and director of the Center for Urban Education at the University of Pittsburgh, presented “So What are You Going to Do? A Call to Action in an Era of Apathy.”

Milner discussed three areas in which racism needs to be addressed: educational disparity, wealth disparity and poverty and micro-aggressions.

He noted that educational disparity begins early for African American students and the actions of preschool teachers will significantly shape the lives of African American children. In regard to standardized testing, Milner said it’s important to be mindful of what the tests are used for and shift from a focus on outputs to a focus on inputs.

“We need to shift the way we talk about and think about the students we work with,” he said. “There is a quality, leadership and curriculum gap in the U.S. – not an achievement gap.”

Milner said that educators need to do a much better job focusing on counseling and psychological services in schools.

“Students are just expected to deal with hardship and psychological situations, especially African American children,” he said.

Regarding wealth disparity and poverty, Milner said leaders and educators need to be willing to do what’s necessary to change those issues.

“When you think about how people succeed, you have to be mindful of situations that are far beyond folks’ success,” he said.

He also added that micro-aggressions are daily verbal behavioral actions that communicate racial slurs.

“For many people of color, it becomes taxing,” he said. “You are constantly putting up with these micro-aggressions. It’s a constant reminder that as a person of color you are unworthy.”

Milner encouraged those in attendance to take steps to address racism in their communities.

“You shouldn’t do this only for you – do this work on behalf of something greater than you,” he said.

Milner is a policy fellow of the National Education Policy Center. His research, teaching and policy interests concern urban education, teacher education, African American literature and the sociology of education. In particular, Milner’s research examines practices and policies that support teacher success in urban schools. His work has appeared in numerous journals and he has published five books.

Currently, Milner is editor-in-chief of Urban Education and co-editor of the Handbook of Urban Education. His book, “Rac(e)ing to Class: Confronting Poverty and Race in Schools and Classrooms,” will be released in April. In this book, Milner provides educators with a crucial understanding of how to teach students of color who live in poverty and proposes effective practices for school leaders and teachers who are committed to creating the best educational opportunities for these students.

Other events planned for Black History Month at Mount Union include a Black Student Union round table discussion at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, February 19 in the East Room of the Hoover-Price Campus Center. In addition, a special soul food menu will be served in the Kresge Dining Commons from 4:30 to 7 p.m. on February 25 and February 27. The public is welcome to attend both dinners. Cost is $9.50 per person.

 

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