Book By: Ian Law, Deborah Phillips, & Laura Turney (Eds.)
Review By: Chrissy L. Davis
Title III Activity Director/Student Success Specialist
Seward County Community College, Liberal Kansas
“Institutional racism is not the proverbial grit in the machine that conventional programmes of race awareness training can remove. Rather, it is organic in nature and function and grows in cunning and resilience with each challenge it successfully overcomes” (p. 28). As I read the book this quote caught my attention and stayed with me throughout the text because I began to associate the continued existence of racism with one word: ADAPTABILITY.
Although each author in this text expresses his or her message on the subject of racism through a different lens, their words can be captured within one theme: institutional racism is like a chameleon; professionals in the Higher Education arena must be aware of the color of the chameleon. This metaphor and the diversification within the articles showcase the complexity of racism.
Institutional racism has managed to persist in organizational systems, including institutions of Higher Education irrespective of many years of change. The authors -- each with experience at institutions of Higher Education in the United Kingdom -- tackle this complicated and taboo subject through a collection of articles. The density of racism is prevalent in the articles; the content of each goes beyond the surface to present a degree of “realism” digestible by all readers. The book is written in phases that move the reader from “here is the problem” to “here are some solutions” to subjugate racism.
The editors wrote an interesting article entitled, Tackling Institutional Racism in Higher Education: An Antiracist Toolkit (based on a Web resource: see reference below), that challenges the reader to shift from discussion to practical application. This “antiracist” toolkit can be beneficial as a professional development instrument to raise awareness. It also can be modified to target campus-related problems and “treatments” and thus stimulate dialogue between advisors and their advisees regarding racism and institutional barriers. I believe that academic advisors are gatekeepers with the responsibility to talk openly with our advisees about real life matters (such as racial issues). If nothing else, the “antiracist” toolkit can be used to enhance academic advisors cross-cultural communication styles.
One limitation for North American advisors is that research and information included is based on institutions in the United Kingdom. In addition, the “antiracist” toolkit is not designed specifically for staff-student relations; thus, its focus is not academic advising. Despite these two limitations the book can be used as a reference and serve as a guide for academic advisors examining institutional policies and procedures. I frequently recommend this book to academic advisors and professionals in the domain of Higher Education.
Turney, Laura, Law, Ian & Phillips, Debbie.(2002). Institutional Racism in Higher Education Toolkit Project: Building the Anti-Racist HEI. Retrieved on March 16, 2005 from http://www.leeds.ac.uk/CERS/toolkit/toolkit.htm.
Institutional Racism in Higher Education.
(2004). Book by Law, Ian; Phillips, Deborah; and Turney, Laura (Eds.) Review by Chrissy L. Davis. Great Britain: Trentham Books Limited. Distributed by Stylus Publishing, 180 pp. ISBN # 1 85856 313 5