It’s important to remember that King’s work isn’t done (to which everyone reading goes, “Duh.” Sorry, I’m writing from “post-racial America”). This piece in GOOD on the school-to-prison pipeline is just one example of how systematic racism has taken over where Jim Crow laws left off.
In an interview with Rethinking Schools, Alexander says that school discipline policies were directly copied from the get-tough rhetoric of the war on drugs. One of the earliest examples of “zero tolerance language in school discipline manuals was a cut-and-paste job from a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration manual.” Alexander says schools quickly “began viewing children as criminals or suspects, rather than as young people with an enormous amount of potential struggling in their own ways and their own difficult context to make it and hopefully thrive.”
Indeed, the Children’s Defense Fund research has revealed that black children are criminalized in American schools. They’re almost three times as likely to be suspended from school and are more than four times as likely to be expelled. Even though research proves that building strong relationships with students, not law enforcement, is what puts students on the right track, school districts continue to invest their dwindling resources in having a police presence on campus. Instead of giving students guidance, schools now treat them “as potential violators.”
Colorlines also offers a handy guide for how to be a Racial Transformer — an excellent resolution for the new year.
Begin by thinking about the institutions you routinely interact with—stores, banks, media outlets, health facilities, schools, your workplace, community or religious organizations, city government and so on. Pick one and ask:
Are the policies and practices, and their impacts, racially inclusive and fair?
Who are the stakeholders and how can they be engaged in making change?
What concrete equitable changes can you envision and propose?
How can you focus your collective power to influence the power-holders?
What purposeful action steps could lead to real change and when can you begin?
Read it all. There’s even a great cartoon.