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Cashin's 'Place, Not Race'

Despite the landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, today's schools are more segregated than in the past. But if the recent election reveals anything about race relations, it's that we've reached a point where, as Sheryll Cashin writes, "Nothing will get better, then, without reconciliation between sizable numbers of whites and people of color" (110). If we want to establish a true coalition and set of alliances that are working toward progress, everyone needs to feel as if their voices are being heard.

Published in 2014, Cashin's Place, Not Race explores the history and future of affirmative action in the United States, while encouraging changes in policy and strategy to create more opportunities for those in underserved places, which, in turn, will improve outcomes for all races.

I'll share just a few lines that have had me thinking the last few days:

  • "While non-blacks see real and virtual examples of black success every day, they don't see black poverty, because they are removed from the deprivations of ghetto neighborhoods." (xiv)
  • "If whites are to engage with diversity rather than resent it, the rules of competition must be perceived as fair to them and everyone else." (18)
  • "Socioeconomic status is the best predictor of academic success, no matter the measure of achievement." (70)
  • 'A study that examined academic outcomes of students by race and gender at twenty-eight selective colleges found that "the biggest effect in predicting college grades is that associated with high school GPA, whereas the SAT score is nowhere to be found among the strongest predictors."'(73)
  • "Whites who are shut out of the traditional avenue to middle-class status--college--are most disgruntled and susceptible to race-baiting." (105)
Throughout her book, Cashin repeatedly calls attention to structural disadvantages that middle- and low-income families face. If we know, as mentioned, above, that socioeconomic status is the best predictor of academic success, which in turn is one of the best predictors of financial success, then something radical has to be done. 

Cashin mentions in her book that fear of debt is one of the major reasons that many low-income students are not as aggressive in their college search process as they should be. In addition, many elite colleges focus on their "lamp post" areas of recruitment, places where they typically are successful in recruiting large numbers of students and so they normally routine there.

She argues that colleges, in particular, need to do more work to look into places where there might be "hidden gems" or underserved youth. If that happens, if they move beyond where their light is already shining, then opportunities can open for even more students.

This book profoundly changed the way I am thinking about postsecondary education for my students. As a teacher and a mentor, it shaped the advice that I offer and the honest conversations I am having with all of my students, regardless of their race. 

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