“It always starts with slavery,” says Caroline Bailey, an assistant professor at O’Neill IUPUI.
Bailey studies the ways in which historical institutions and practices, such as slavery may be related to disparities within the modern criminal justice system and school settings—from race-based victimization to school suspensions and punishments. When she looks at her research and the problems she’s working to solve, she says each one can be traced back to slavery.
“The effects of slavery are everlasting because we, as a country, have never really reconciled it,” she adds. “To understand the disparities of today, we have to go back to the origins. I think that slavery provides a good insight into understanding modern society, especially as we attempt to understand the disparate treatment of Black people.”
Bailey says oftentimes, people tend to remove that impact because the institution of slavery was more than 150 years ago. But she’s quick to remind them that her own parents lived through the Civil Rights Era—just one generation removed—which was a direct result of the fallout from slavery.
“There are very limited spaces to have genuine conversations about the effects of slavery,” Bailey says, adding that she works to make her classroom a space where those interactions can happen. “There is a big fear of being called racist or being deemed discriminatory. I think that fear prevents people from having genuine conversations or understanding.”
She admits there are a lot of people who don’t buy into her research about the long-lasting effects of slavery on American society but says she finds value in those comments.
“That feedback grounds me and helps me understand where we are as a society,” she says. “I get to keep my finger on the pulse of the situation and better understand how people view the effects of slavery.”
She wants that to help guide her work and hopefully lead to a more equitable society for all.
How do you hope your work will help O’Neill students and communities?
“It’s really important for practitioners and policymakers to understand that is important how you treat people and the ways in which you treat people have real-life consequences for them and for our society. My hope is to provide a level of understanding and contextualize the effects of slavery. The effects and feelings that surround those things are still very prevalent today. We can’t go back and undo slavery, unfortunately. What we can do moving forward is to be very mindful and thoughtful about the ways in which we institutionalize policies and how we treat people moving forward. If we continue to mistreat and marginalize certain groups, we should be prepared to deal with the longevity of its deleterious consequences.”
Why do you enjoy teaching and researching at O’Neill?
“It’s rewarding. I love having an impact on students, watching their brains work, and seeing them be better able to articulate themselves as they think through really critical, difficult, and nuanced topics. I think the most important part is introducing students to material, concepts, and topics they may not otherwise come into contact with. From my class, I hope students have skillsets and learnings they can carry with them and share with others wherever they go.”
Why do you think students should come to O’Neill?
“Students will have an opportunity to work with and learn from professors who are incredibly knowledgeable and very caring. O’Neill’s faculty are certainly far more accommodating, far more caring, and concerned about not just how their students are doing inside the classroom, but beyond the classroom as well. I think that’s really important.”