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Anti-Racism Teach-Ins: Understanding the Present through the Past

Ideologies and Advantages of Diversity in Higher Education

By Sakui Malakpa, Ph.D.,
The University of Toledo
Special to The Truth
(Part I of a series.)

History shows that people of diverse backgrounds and races built this nation. However, despite the declaration that all human beings were created equal, and regardless of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, the nation has been characterized by de facto and de jure laws, policies and practices that fostered discrimination and segregation on the basis of race, ethnicity, and gender. In the education sector, as in other areas, these vices were maintained and perpetuated by laws, policies and practices aimed at reducing or totally preventing racial diversity in schools and institutions of higher education.

Sakui Malakpa, Ph.D.

Fortunately, Civil Rights advocates were relentless in their strenuous struggled to ensure the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Title VI of that act prohibits private and public institutions which receive federal funds from discriminatory policies and practices that violate the tenants of the Equal Protection Clause. Similarly, in major cases (e.g., Grutter v. Bollinger and Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin) the U. S. Supreme Court, reversing itself from the 1857 Dred Scott decision, held that racial diversity of students was a compelling state interest.

Despite laws and Supreme Court rulings, ideologies have been advanced to subvert the advocacy for diversity in higher education. This teach-in addressed a number of these ideologies because it helps when teachers and administrators understand the arguments buried in ideologies intended to circumvent policies and practices that promote diversity. Directly and indirectly, the aim of such ideologies is to perpetuate white supremacy and buttress institutionalized racism.

For years, scholars have noted that, “while most White Americans value liberty, justice, and equality, there is a gap between these ideals and their willingness to support policies” that will foster egalitarianism in society. Similarly, scholars note that “White Americans’ racial attitudes have shifted from being primarily based in overt Jim Crow, biological racism … to being characterized as symbolic racism or racial resentment.”  Thus, Burke et al. (2017) maintain that despite appreciation for the presence of nonwhite bodies in various spaces, real systemic changes in the American racial hierarchy are not likely soon because of a reliance on diversity ideology.

Burke et al. (2017) argue, “Diversity ideology is used to maintain whiteness—a set of power relations that socially, politically, and historically privilege those identified as white and conversely, disadvantage others—in multiracial spaces. Diversity ideology helps whites move between valuing diversity and maintaining a lack of support for policies that would bring those values to fruition” (p. 890).  Here, based largely on Burke et al. (2017), I present an overview of the most prevalent diversity ideologies in hopes that being able to recognize and name them will allow us to challenge and change them.

Colorblind Ideology. A dominant mode of thinking about issues of race is colorblind ideology. Essentially, proponents of this ideology maintain that differences in opportunities between the races are not due to past and present patterns of racial discrimination. Allegedly, this is because, in a post-Civil Rights era, everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed. If, on the other hand, there are racial inequalities, or persistent patterns of differences in outcomes seemingly due to race, such differences are actually due to culture, natural occurrences, or “a little bit” of residual racism that exist among prejudiced individuals. In other words, systems and institutions bear no culpability for racial inequality. Rather, blame is shifted to cultural practices and individual behaviors for racial inequality. This ideology therefore “serves to prop up the existing racial hierarchy, where whites dominate” (Burke et al., 2017).  

Diversity as Acceptance. With this ideology, diversity is not only accepted but also characterized as a celebration of differences. In that celebration however, power asymmetries are ignored and racial inequality denied. Therefore, as this ideology ignores inequitable power distribution and racial inequality, it is a medium for maintaining the existing racial hierarchy and a tool of oppression for the powerful (Burke et al, 2017).

Diversity as Commodity. This ideology also allows whites to celebrate the presence of people of color and other “minorities” in their midst. They celebrate because “nonwhites teach them something, help them become well rounded, and enrich their lives.”  In other words, people of color are viewed as “tools to enhance the lives of whites” but in that process, whites do not have to be concerned about structural disadvantages and racial inequalities people of color face. Put differently, with diversity as commodity, nonwhites are not treated as people. They are treated as “objects that serve to benefit, entertain, or color the lives of whites.”

This diversity ideology allows whites to be lauded as antiracist for appreciating the different perspectives of people of color without considering the underlying structures that lead them to have these “different” perspectives and experiences than whites.  For example, “in employment settings, a diverse workforce is embraced symbolically as a marketable commodity.” In neighborhood and educational settings, the value of diversity is often framed in terms of the enhancement people of color bring to the lives of their white neighbors and colleagues.” Hence, based on these benefits, “diversity becomes another good in the market that whites can consume to fulfill their individual desires and make themselves more attractive in the marketplace.” In that marketplace, while whites seem to emphasize inclusivity and broad acceptance, emphasizing such an ideology of diversity becomes a tool and a new way of maintaining white supremacy and status. This leaves little or no room for power sharing or any emphasis on equity.

Diversity as Intent. This ideology requires whites to have intentions of being inclusive with little or no emphasis on results.   With this ideology therefore, “firms, universities, organizations, and individuals—however well intentioned—use the language of diversity to signal a commitment to principles of justice and equality” without focusing on creating systemic change with equitable results. Stated differently, this ideology is another means of sustaining “a system of structural inequity because equitable results are not required.” This is what we see in strategic plans, corporate handbooks, and policy guidelines that accentuate a need to promote diversity with no effort to foster systemic and structural changes for justice, power sharing, and racial equality.

Diversity as Liability. This ideology focuses on the shortcomings of diversity. For example, diversity is seen as “incompatible with other values, such as meritocracy.” Burke et al. (2017) argue that, in emphasizing this ideology, “Whites use their political, economic, and social prowess to make whiteness the norm in multiracial spaces. In this way, liability is framed in contrast with racial comfort, not just meritocracy.” On one hand, the ideology emphasizes love of diversity while on the other, it stresses a “need to control diverse spaces and people of color for the sake of comfort, fairness, and high standards.” For example, some students see diversity as a liability in that the presence of students of color on campus makes them uncomfortable because of the expectation that they must interact with such students. In other instances, this ideology “protects whiteness because whites can resort to notions of meritocracy (based on measures that structurally advantage them), fairness, and colorblind ideals.” Furthermore, this ideology stresses that, without regulation, diversity will create as many problems as it solves. This is therefore a form of social closure. Another scholar characterized this as a “process of subordination whereby one group monopolizes advantages by closing off opportunities to another group of outsiders beneath it which it determines as inferior and ineligible.” Murphy (1988, p. 8).

In sum, colorblindness, diversity as acceptance, commodity, intent, and liability are ideologies employed (although sometimes not articulated) to circumvent advocacies for promoting and perpetuating diversity through power sharing, racial equality, and equal opportunity. These ideologies fly in the face of the many documented advantages of diversity within educational institutions. It is realized that, in covering these ideologies briefly, “whites” are generalized. Of course, there are exceptions but the focus here is on systemic and institutionalized racism fostered and maintained by the powers that be. 


Burke, M. A., Smith, C. W., & Mayorga-Gallo, S. (2017). The new principle-policy gap: How diversity ideology subverts diversity initiatives. Sociological Perspectives, 60(5), 889-911.

Sakui Malakpa will address the advantages of diversity in institutions in part II of this article in next week’s Truth.

19th Century School Segregation in Toledo

By Lynne Hamer, Ph.D.
The University of Toledo
Special to The Truth

(Part I of a series.)

Since coming to Toledo in 1994, I have been often amazed by how segregated we are as a city and how silent we are on our past.  Immediately upon arrival as a new faculty member at UToledo, unofficial sources—students and community members—told me that racism was prevalent in Toledo’s schooling at all levels, P-12 and higher education.  Their information seemed in part a warning to me but more so an admonition to change that—something I was ill-equipped to take on having graduated from a Eurocentric Ph.D. program in a PWI that didn’t know it was predominantly white.

To emerge from my confusion, and to become a white ally for antiracism in education, I had to do my own research to understand what was going on and how my actions would either support racism or support antiracism—there being no neutral ground. As a humanities scholar, I knew and know that knowing the past is essential in making sense of the present, and as a teacher education professor, I know that I need to teach my students who are preparing to be teachers or who are already teachers and administrators about the history of white violence and school segregation in Toledo. 

My awareness and understanding of Toledo history comes primarily from conversations with colleagues in the community who are dedicated to understanding and sharing history, among them Diane Gordan, Gregory Johnson, Twila Page and Rahwae Shuman. Although beyond them, I have drawn from Toledo Lucas-County Public Library’s excellent local history archive, I have learned most of the history included here from three under-utilized print sources, which I now incorporate in my classes: Wilburforce University’s Dr. McGinnis’s (1962) history, The Education of Negroes in Ohio, and two amazing Master’s theses, Musteric’s (1998) Perpetuating patterns of inequality: School segregation in Toledo, Ohio in the 1970s and Williams’s (1977) Black Toledo: Afro-Americans in Toledo, Ohio, 1890-1930.  This article is limited to the 19th century, with 20th and 21st century articles to follow.

In 1802, the Ohio Constitutional Convention voted to prohibit slavery in Ohio, with the decision passing by one single vote.  Between 1804 and 1807, in response to our new free state status, the Ohio legislature passed sweeping Black Laws.  Williams (1977) described the scope of these laws: “These Laws prohibited blacks from testifying in court against whites or serving on juries. They required that black residents in Ohio be registered while those entering the state be compelled to post "good behavior and support bonds" and furnish positive proof of their free status. In the absence of "freedom papers," entering blacks were to be denied employment” (p. 5).  These laws dominated Ohio’s white and Black experience for half a century, making work and movement—and therefore growing prosperity—available to whites like my ancestors while denying it to Blacks.

One indication of the strength of Ohio’s Black Laws is that 40 years after their legislation, in 1847, Toledo’s Jesup W. Scott, writing as the Toledo Blade editor, endorsed the Black Laws and cautioned Toledoans to enforce them. Mr. Scott “warned against offering blacks ‘any inducements to come among them’” (in Williams, 1977, p. 6); As Williams (1977) explained, “In the main, the majority of white Ohioans, while opposed to slavery and its extension, seem to have believed that ‘the south should give the Negroes freedom in the south and not send them to the north to be free” (pp. 6-7).

Establishment of Toledo schools intertwined with politics, legislation, and the ideologies of racism, segregation, and white supremacy enacted by the legislature and popularized by the press.  In 1837, Toledo incorporated and established one grammar school in each of its three wards. As Musteric (1998)  documented, around the same time, in 1838, Ohio established a fund for the education of white youth: “in exempting blacks from the school tax, Ohio also systematically excluded them from public education” (p. 5). 

In 1849, Toledo Board of Education was established and increased the number of elementary schools.  Notably classes were taught in multiple languages: Retired teacher Maria Farst recalled in a 1937 Blade article teaching in German at TPS’s Franklin school. But while effective education of white immigrants was prioritized in this way, education for Toledo’s Blacks was not. According to Musteric (1998), in 1850, Lucas County’s population included 139 blacks (just over one percent of the total population) and Black families lived in seven of the eight city wards; however, all went to one one-room school, located downtown at the corner of Erie & Canal streets.

Meanwhile, in the larger society the fight between slavery and antislavery forces continued with the passage of the federal Fugitive Slave Law in 1850.  Though there was an abolitionist movement in Toledo calling for repeal of the Fugitive Slave Law, the Toledo Blade, still under editorship of Jesup W. Scott. “warned its readers that … ‘the law and the constitution had to be obeyed.’ It labeled as treasonable critical challenges to the fugitive law made by free soil editor Charles R. Miller and declared they [the challenges] were obviously the work of a ‘vulgar knave’ who was ‘hopelessly insane’” (Williams, 1977, pp. 15-16). It was in this ideological context that most Black children from across the eight city wards made their way to the one crowded school open to them.

In 1857, again at the federal level, the US Supreme Court decided with the Dred Scott Case that the U.S. Constitution does not include people of African descent and therefore Blacks had no legal rights.  Perhaps emboldened by the decision, in 1859 the Ohio Supreme Court ruled “distinctly black” children could not attend public school with whites; according to Williams (1977), Toledo schools continued occasionally to allow Black children to attend white public schools, so long as no white parent objected. I have found no record of the numbers of Black students this affected, but histories of Toledo and its schools tend to focus on these exceptions, presenting them as the rule.

Also in 1859, the state legislature reaffirmed its commitment to white supremacy with passage of SJR 78, known as the “Safford Resolution,” reaffirming that Black persons in Ohio could not vote. This decision was controversial throughout the state and specifically in the Toledo area, but it was reaffirmed in 1867 when Ohioans defeated referendum to extend suffrage to Blacks; as an indication of the climate in Toledo at this time, the resolution was also defeated in Lucas County.

Against these movements to establish and maintain white supremacy through segregation and denial of rights, Warren African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church established the Toledo Colored Schools Association in 1862. Throughout the 1860s, members of Warren AME protested segregation of Toledo high schools—specifically unequal conditions and over-sized school zoning—by withdrawing their children from Toledo public schools and instead enrolling them to attend classes held at the church.  Throughout this time, Toledo’s Black citizens petitioned for entrance into various wards’ schools, citing unequal facilities (Williams, 1977, p. 38).

By the 1870s, calls for school integration could not be ignored, and in 1871, amid rampant Blade editorials (Williams, 14-15), Toledo school board members voted in favor of desegregation.  Interestingly, this gets represented simply in dominant culture history, such as WGTE’s (2018) documentary, Toledo stories: A chance for every child, as Toledo’s desegregating voluntarily and relatively early, i.e., before desegregation was required by law. Absent from that dominant culture narrative but documented by Williams (1977) and Musteric (1998) is the hard work Black Toledoans put into making desegregation happen.  Also absent is the resistance from the white Toledoan school board and the continuation of de facto segregation in Toledo, throughout the 20th century and into the present, through housing patterns and school board policies.

In its broader context, Toledo was indeed in some ways progressive for that time.  According to Musteric (1998), at the same time Toledo was officially desegregating its schools, the Ohio Legislature revision of school laws in 1873 provided for continued segregation. In 1878, Ohio Legislature further revised school laws, specifying districts must furnish Blacks with schooling for same term as whites retained segregation as an option.  Finally, in 1887, the State of Ohio legally abolished segregation and repealed the Black Laws.

As most of us know, the 19th century concludes with a reaffirmation of segregation and endorsement of white supremacy in the form of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Plessy vs. Ferguson establishing the “separate but equal” doctrine that supported Jim Crow de facto segregation for the next half century and beyond. 

Though far from a comprehensive history of 19th century segregation in Toledo’s schools, my teach-in raised the following questions for discussion that all of us can think about, but that I as a white person particularly need to consider: (1) Why didn’t I know this history? (2) How has not knowing it supported both myself as an individual and white supremacy in society? (3) How does this history and lack of knowledge of it continue to affect me today, both personally and professionally, with unearned rights and privileges? And, most importantly, (4) What do I do now that I do know this? 


McGinnis, F. (1962). The education of Negroes in Ohio. Wilberforce, OH: Wilberforce University.

Musteric, M. (1998). Perpetuating patterns of inequality: School segregation in Toledo, Ohio in the 1970s. (Master’s thesis, Bowling Green State University).

Toledo Lucas County Public Library’s Local History archives.

WGTE. (2018). Toledo stories: A chance for every child [documentary]. Toledo, OH: WGTE. Retrieved from https://www.pbs.org/video/a-chance-for-every-child-haspda/

Williams, L. (1977). Black Toledo: Afro-Americans in Toledo, Ohio, 1890-1930 (Master’s thesis, University of Toledo).

Anti-Racism Teach-Ins, hosted by the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library and supported by The Sojourner’s Truth, ended its first series with Labor Day. Dr. Malakpa and Dr. Hamer were both part of the group that started the teach-ins and organized this first series, and that group is meeting to determine next steps for the teach-in. Materials from the first ten teach-ins are available via the Truth’s website and at https://www.utoledo.edu/education/programs/educational-theory-and-social-foundations/anti-racism-teach-ins.html   Follow Anti-Racism Teach-Ins on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100053978557767 for a schedule of future events and links to materials shared in teach-ins. If you would like to be on our mailing list, contact Dr. Hamer at lynne.hamer@utoledo.edu with Teach-Ins in the subject line.




Copyright © 2019 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 09/10/20 09:27:07 -0400.

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