A community experience is a field study that is undertaken with the goal of gathering information about whatever appropriate, focused information is available (Balcacer & Angela, 2015). Interviews of people who have a clear understanding of the subject study in question are used to collect knowledge about group experiences. My community service will take place in Cleveland, Ohio, and will focus on the education of minorities. To make my research more successful, I’ll include interviews.
The interview led me to a neighborhood in the city suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, and a house in the center of the city. Cleveland is a 30-minute drive from the city and is home to a diverse population. It is however dominant of black Americans and whites while Hispanics are the minorities. It was a minute past midday when I arrived to begin the interview.
Cleveland downtown is a fast-rising residential, the neighbourhood in the recent past was a scattered residence with a low population but the recent boom has seen it grow so fast and it is now a home to more than 15,000 people. More construction projects are still ongoing, and over a thousand others are still in various planning stage.
The rental renaissance has seen the rise of apartments and single units which are on lease while others are family owned. Other commercial developments sprouting within the neighbourhood include shopping centres while the Public Square still stands out as the predominant architectural symbol that preserves the rich history of Ohio.
The home of my interviewee, John (disguise identity) is a two bedroomed rental apartment on the ground floor on a brick-built with an overlooking balcony. The semi-furnished domicile seemed run-down, but the recent renovation gave it a fresh touch. Utilities such as water and electricity are ample, John said.
He was clad in casual blue jeans and a loose fitting short sleeved denim t-shirt. Aged 37, he had lived there for over 32years, and most of his family lived nearby. John is a medium-built black American with ancestral roots in Senegal, works in Cleveland as a sales representative of a renowned steel company. He was welcoming and charismatic, at the course of the interview he proved to be an extrovert with a sense of humour. He is married with two kids.
On meeting him, I already had formed explicit and implicit biases; this was based on readings and watching documentaries about black Americans in the USA. These are the initially formed perspectives:
I first thought that John might be a criminal my thoughts attributed to the prejudice that most blacks are likely to commit a crime to earn a living. I thought that most blacks earned money through robbery, smuggling, selling contrabands among other illegal income generating means. Furthermore, Cleveland prisons host more blacks than whites. So my initial perception revolved around criminal possibilities. My thoughts were however extinguished at the course of my interaction as John proved to be a man of his means in obtaining an honest income.
My second bias was that young black Americans abuse drugs and John was not an exception. Bhang, cocaine heroin are among the most abused drugs by youths and most especially black youths. Later after the interview, I came to learn that John was using any of the named substance, not even alcohol.
The explicit bias that black Americans are lazy to work and most often idle in hoods where they steal money, and other valuable items from residents was an opinion I had about blacks; a prejudice formed based on online stories about black American hoods. John was, however, a hardworking employee, and this trait saw him rise in ranks to the position of sales representative.
With knowledge about black neighbourhoods in states like Chicago where black men have formed imporous and imperious gangs, I thought the same was a constant in all black residents. Downtown Cleveland was devoid of such, the blacks there is work oriented and any hood cohorts formed is to promote peace and unity, John said.
Summary of observations
Being a minority, John says, his educational experience was a tough one, throughout his academic life resonates prejudices and biases all racial. Having moved to Ohio since age 5, John has experienced biting racism, but he says that those prejudices have slowly but steadily abated in recent years.
In elementary school in Ohio, John was among the few black students in the school. His class had a few students of Asian origins while the rest were white kids. The white kids did not want to associate with them and him especially because of his skin tone. The teachers too were not left out they openly showed discrimination. While they favoured white kids, they unfairly gave him and other minorities low marks. Other students constantly bullied him. In class, most interactive opportunities were given to white kids. They were ridiculed because of the low economic strength, his parents then were taking low paying jobs and could not offer him luxuries compared to the white kids. As much this demoralised him and gave him low self-esteem it acted as a source of motivation to overcome those odds, and he excelled in the final exams.
In high school, the script was the same, this time more intense in a different setting. John explains that his social circle was limited to a few black friends. This time round there were black kids, and they formed an entente to protect their interests and retreat to when one of them was threatened. He was suspended at some point after his crew was said to have beaten up a white kid. He, however, dismisses this, saying that they were framed and his group was singled out because it only had black students.
In high school, he encountered discriminatory grading practices. White teachers failed them intentionally and constantly harassed them. They made fun of them in class and silenced them (black students) whenever they asked questions or challenged the teacher in class. John says that this was limited to a few teachers who were untouchables since the school head was white and an ally to the rogue teachers. Their quest to find justice was obscured as all possible channels were sealed and they could not air their grievances. At one time they tried to demonstrate, but they were accused of planning to riot and destroying school property.
Other students frequently called them names that associated them with negative negritude. The racial-name calling was so frequent that they got used to. He says that such environments are what breeds harmful gangs among black youths. White students often used the offensive word ‘nigger’ when calling or making reference to them. He, however, noted the education measures that have been put in place to curb racism in schools.
In college where he studied sales and marketing, racial discrimination was infrequent. Being a basketball player his ability as a player was more appreciated than his skin tone. Being black in college he says gave him some of the best lifetime experiences as got to interact with different people and share experiences. Currently discrimination in institutions of higher learning is close to none because of stringent education policies that have been placed. The students are more mature and inclusive as compared to other levels; he said as we concluded the interview.
Implications on my professional life
This interview proved to be transformational; it changed my perception on my colleagues especially those of a different race and ethnicity. It gave me an insight on how one may be misguided by baselessly prejudicing or forming biases on another person without taking the time to interact and know the person well. Professionally, I’m more enlightened and informed on accommodating those different from me as well as embracing inclusivity of all social groups. The interview made me recognize diversity and how we can blend in different idiosyncrasies to achieve cohesion and build team spirit among colleagues in a working environment.
Minorities in the USA and most especially blacks in Ohio have encountered terrible prejudices and unsubstantiated biases in various levels of learning, a factor that has greatly affected their education, while to others this has been seen as oppression to others it has been a source of intrinsic motivation to overcome odds. The government should put more legislation in schools to curb this adage menace while schools come up with better programs to enhance cohesion among students. It is behoving for states to create programs that promote awareness of diversity and how it can be embraced to promote togetherness and unity.
Balcacer, A. J. (2015). Book Review: The plight of invisibility: A community-based approach to understanding the educational experiences of urban Latina/os.