Racial and ethnic diversity in higher education: White privileged resistance and implications for leadership


  • Lidyvez Sawyer Drexel University College of Nursing and Health Professions
  • Roberta Waite Drexel University College of Nursing and Health Professions




higher education, white privilege, racism, leadership, diversity


Extrapolating history is crucial to mitigating the current underpinnings of racial and ethnic inequities in higher education; however, to establish sustainable change, one must consider its fundamental origin. The inception of 15th-century white settler colonialism is at the epicenter of modern-day racial discrimination and the normalcy of oppressive practices in the United States' education system (US) of America. To understand white settler colonialism and its denigrating manifestations is to understand the dynamics between those in power and those who are subjugated. America's white settler colonialism's horrific ideology is insidiously depicted through torture, persecution, brutality, plunder, and pillage (Traore, 2004). This ideology is the foundation that breeds our society's racial and ethnic hierarchy, including in higher education. Racial discrimination in higher education creates a partisan, culturally divided learning environment, frequently normalized in academic leadership. The purpose of this paper is three-fold: (a) to examine normalized whiteness in higher education, (b) to examine how mere talk about diversity and inclusion inhibits disruption in power to transforming modern-day consciousness of inequities, discrimination, and racism, and (c)  discuss action steps to promote leadership among black and brown raced individuals in higher education.


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Author Biographies

Lidyvez Sawyer, Drexel University College of Nursing and Health Professions

Lidyvez Sawyer is the Director of Community Health Wellness and Strategic Partnerships at the Stephen and Sandra Sheller Eleventh Street Family Health Practice of Drexel University. She serves as a committee member of Drexel University, College of Nursing and Health Profession's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion board. She is also the co-lead for the Anti-racism Advisory Council at the Eleventh Street Family Health Practice, aiming to identify social health inequities in health care practice while addressing the deeply rooted structures that create them. Mrs. Sawyer is a doctoral candidate at Drexel University's School of Education. Her research centers on the underrepresentation of  Black faculty in higher education, specifically on recruitment, experience, and retention efforts. Mrs. Sawyer is an adjunct faculty member for Arcadia University's Public Health program. Her curriculum and instruction are focused on racial trauma, social justice, and health equity.

Roberta Waite, Drexel University College of Nursing and Health Professions

Roberta Waite is a Doctoral Nursing and Associate Dean of Community-Centered Health & Wellness and Academic Integration. Waite also serves as the Executive Director of the Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services of Drexel University, operated in partnership with Family Practice and Counseling Network. Waite created the Macy Undergraduate Leadership Fellows Program, an interdisciplinary program for students in the College of Nursing and Health Professions and the School of Public Health, focusing on leadership development while concurrently fostering critical consciousness using a social justice lens. Waite's scholarship and research center on behavioral health, social-structural influencers of health, and racial justice.




How to Cite

Sawyer, L., & Waite, R. (2021). Racial and ethnic diversity in higher education: White privileged resistance and implications for leadership. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 29(January - July), 38. https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.29.4668



Striving for Social Justice and Equity in Higher Education