Author: has written 5281 posts for this blog.

Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

87 Responses

  1. Cade DeBois (@lifepostepic)
    Cade DeBois (@lifepostepic) March 6, 2012 at 1:46 pm |

    I’m a spec ed teacher/tutor and in the past, I have had to report inappropriate restraint of spec ed students by teachers and aides. I don’t know how prevalent it is–I don’t think it’s something any agency is tracking properly. But since I also am an adultwith autism (Asperger’s) I regularly come across nightmarish stories of autistic children being abused in school by coercive use of restraints or seclusion via various autism websites/social media. And given I’ve seen students restrained as a coercive measure to get them to comply, which is illegal in my state (restraint/seclusion can only be legally used to prevent self-injury or harm to others), and having aides tell me they were taught to do it, I think it’s a systemic problem.

    Either way, whether we’re talking spec ed or mainstream students, coercive use of restraint or seclusion is cruel, inexcusable and inarguably child abuse. That there appears to be an added level of racial bias to it just makes it that much worse.

  2. number9
    number9 March 6, 2012 at 2:33 pm |

    This study of school discipline in TX, Breaking Schools’ Rules, shows that a) students of color and students with disabilities face harsher disciplinary actions; b) students who are suspended or expelled from one school are more likely to repeat grades or drop out altogether; and c) are more likely to become involved with the juvenile justice system. So we are really talking about the school-to-prison pipeline, ultimately. It’s tragic, really.

  3. jillian
    jillian March 6, 2012 at 2:36 pm |

    the secretaries at my middle school (this is 15+ years ago now) were in charge (i dont know why) of a lot of minor infractions and other “sent to the office” issues and their contempt for students of colour was plain on their faces. even if a student of colour had to call home or something because they forgot their lunch or homework there was a nasty look and comment. but white students always got a gracious word and a smile.

  4. jimbeam
    jimbeam March 6, 2012 at 3:09 pm |

    I wonder how much of the variation is within schools, and how much between schools. I had a friend in Teach for America, at a primarily black, poor school, and it sounded like the discipline there was way harsher than when I was in school (but presumably applied to any white kids there as well, whereas the lax discipline at my school also applied for black kids). But this could also mean that in the same classroom, a talkative white kid vs talkative black kid get different punishments. I also wonder how it differs by gender.

  5. Chiara
    Chiara March 6, 2012 at 3:36 pm |

    I’m not trying to do the trolling or anything.

    But surely this doesn’t necessarily mean (I mean it could mean, but it doesn’t necessarily mean) that black kids receive harsher discipline but maybe black kids are doing misbehavior more often than white/asian kids?

  6. librarygoose
    librarygoose March 6, 2012 at 3:44 pm |

    But surely this doesn’t necessarily mean (I mean it could mean, but it doesn’t necessarily mean) that black kids receive harsher discipline but maybe black kids are doing misbehavior more often than white/asian kids?

    Institutional racism is a thing. Hell, straight out racism in teachers is a thing. So, no I seriously doubt that some how that black kids are just “bad”.

  7. Other Miriam
    Other Miriam March 6, 2012 at 4:12 pm |

    IME, there is a lot of variation between public schools due to general school culture, but nonetheless, the more “of color” or lower class the school is the more harsh the discipline tends to be.

    There are a lot of reasons that this happens, and many point directly to institutionalized racism and classism thanks to asshole administrators taking their bigotry out on students. But part of the insitututional dysfunction that CAN BE MANAGED if the state ever gets its shit together is the erratic funding for “in need/at risk” kids, especially kids who are high conflict and fight a lot or abuse drugs. One year they’ll be qualified as special ed (usually for generalized emotional disability, a great way to get services to kids who don’t necessarily have a diagnosis) and get more funding and more individualized services and the next year they’ll be gen ed and get less funding and more mainstreaming.

  8. Other Miriam
    Other Miriam March 6, 2012 at 4:15 pm |

    An example I’ve seen this year locally that I can think of offhand is where a couple of students were repeatedly in trouble for fighting. With one another, no less. Despite repeat incidents and repeat slaps on the wrists, one kid was expelled and pushed permanently into alternative school and the other was allowed to stay in regular ged ed school. Although not every detail is available to me, I can’t see why one student was labelled enough of a problem to get pushed out and the other was allowed to figure it out in a regular high school setting.

    Guess which kid is black and which kid is white?

  9. tmc
    tmc March 6, 2012 at 4:20 pm |

    But surely this doesn’t necessarily mean (I mean it could mean, but it doesn’t necessarily mean) that black kids receive harsher discipline but maybe black kids are doing misbehavior more often than white/asian kids?

    Jesus fucking christ. Do you know what an internet is? Maybe you could do a little fucking research about the experiences of children of color in schools before deciding to throw out ridiculous and fucking racist theories like this.

    No love,
    tmc, a formerly black kid (now a black adult)

  10. Chiara
    Chiara March 6, 2012 at 4:23 pm |

    No no that’s not what I meant.

    I know there’s racism but what I was saying is that maybe racism outside of school causes misbehavior in school and then the teachers aren’t as much to blame. But probably I don’t know what I’m talking about and shouldn’t say more.

  11. debbie
    debbie March 6, 2012 at 4:40 pm |

    I’m not trying to do the trolling or anything.

    But surely this doesn’t necessarily mean (I mean it could mean, but it doesn’t necessarily mean) that black kids receive harsher discipline but maybe black kids are doing misbehavior more often than white/asian kids?

    Chiara, do you think before you post here? Or do you just post whatever comes into your head and then apologize when people call you on saying really messed up stuff (and generally try to excuse it on the basis of being drunk)?

  12. Cécile
    Cécile March 6, 2012 at 4:44 pm |

    Chiara, institutional racism is pervasively damaging. It wreaks havoc in the lives of people who experience it—these experiences, especially as they are so often publicly denied, ignored, or ridiculed (or worse—JUSTIFIED), can also become internalized in very tragic ways. This can shape family/community dynamics in very tragic ways. This is another (but not the only) reason there tends to [appear to] be a comparatively high percentage of “in need/at risk” black youth.

    …but that hardly skims the surface. People need to get past the idea that “empirically witnessing” “lots of” black children misbehaving means that either the children are ‘inherently more prone’ to misbehavior, or are otherwise somehow ‘defective,’ or that they have ‘bad parents.’

  13. Cécile
    Cécile March 6, 2012 at 4:49 pm |

    *in the second paragraph, I meant “misbehaving”—in quotes.

    Youths doing drugs, for ex., is so not “misbehavior.”

  14. What We Missed
    What We Missed March 6, 2012 at 4:58 pm |

    [...] data shows that students of color face harsher discipline in [...]

  15. Julie
    Julie March 6, 2012 at 5:03 pm |

    On the whole “don’t students of color just misbehave more?” thing:

    When I was a camp counselor, we had incidents with two campers. In one incident, Camper A, after an entire session of problematic behavior, kicked a boy in the genitals. The lead counselors took her aside and told her they knew she was going through a rough time because her family had recently moved and encouraged her to talk to them whenever she wanted to.

    Later, Camper B hit another camper. Counselors who witnessed it said that it was clear that she hadn’t meant to hurt him; they described it as a “hard pat.” She had no prior instances of misbehavior, but she was expelled within hours.

    Do I need to tell you which camper was the wealthy white kid, and which one was the Black foster kid there on scholarship?

  16. iiii
    iiii March 6, 2012 at 5:05 pm |

    I’m not trying to do the trolling or anything.

    Such success, without even trying! Think what you could do if you really applied yourself.

  17. number9
    number9 March 6, 2012 at 5:08 pm |

    I’m not trying to do the trolling or anything.

    Yeah, you are, but I’ll bite…

    But surely this doesn’t necessarily mean (I mean it could mean, but it doesn’t necessarily mean) that black kids receive harsher discipline but maybe black kids are doing misbehavior more often than white/asian kids?

    If you just used the fucking Google for once, let alone actually read a study or two, you’d find that “black kids” are getting harsher punishment for committing the same infractions as “white kids.” Students of color aren’t just more likely to be disciplined by the school, they are also more likely to get the cops called on them, for committing the same infractions as white students. That’s why we have people pushing for restorative justice in schools now. It’s not like someone just pulled this idea out of their ass yesterday, and it’s not just this one study that Jill linked that came to this conclusion.

    If you did a modicum of research, you would also find that in cases where schools have discretion to punish the student or ignore the violation, the schools are more likely to punish a student of color than they are to punish a white student. So let’s say that at a predominantly black school, ten white students and ten students of color commit the same minor infraction (for example, all of them refuse to take their hats off in class). The school is likely to make a choice to punish the students of color and let the white students off the hook. Let’s say the school punishes 8 of these students of color and only 2 of these white students. And if this sort of racially disproportionate punishment continues across the board with all discretionary infractions, when we look at the number of discipline violations by race over the school year at this school, we might come to a conclusion that more students of color than white students misbehaved. But that interpretation would be wrong. Because what is considered to be an “infraction” varies depending on your race, gender, and (dis)ability status.

  18. Donna L
    Donna L March 6, 2012 at 5:12 pm |

    Chiara, you’ve already said you don’t know any LGBT people except from what you see on television. Do you know any black people?

  19. Chiara
    Chiara March 6, 2012 at 5:15 pm |

    Yeah I was really wrong sorry.

    What I was trying to suggest was not to deny racism altogether but to say maybe racism is making kids of color misbehave, which is why they get more harsher discipline.

    And no Donna I don’t know any black people because in my country there are very few people of color.

  20. matlun
    matlun March 6, 2012 at 5:15 pm |

    How much of this is about race and how much is about class? Can it even be known when these are so strongly coupled in US society?

    @Cécile

    People need to get past the idea that “empirically witnessing” “lots of” black children misbehaving means…

    Have we established that they are in fact misbehaving more than others? I read this as you agreeing that this was the case but wanting to argue about the reasons. (Perhaps I misunderstood?)

  21. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable March 6, 2012 at 5:18 pm |

    Do you know what an internet is?

    This is awesome.

  22. Chataya
    Chataya March 6, 2012 at 6:14 pm |

    Completely unsurprising. I’ve seen a teacher punish a student of color for the exact same behavior that a white student went unchastised for (throwing wads of paper at a nearby trash can). When called on it, she insisted that the student of color was doing it “more aggressively.” This same teacher once called a black Haitian student “uppity” for questioning her about some minor part of French grammar (the student’s native fucking language).

    Then those students are labeled “trouble-makers” or “problem kids,” which makes it easier for, and encourages, teachers to single them out for minor behavioral infractions.

  23. IrishUp
    IrishUp March 6, 2012 at 7:03 pm |

    Chiara – On the vanishingly unlikely chance that you are a clueless person and not a douchecanoe, I want to make one thing perfectly clear to you.

    You’re posts do damage to real live human beings. You consistently write things that hurt people’s feelings, that perpetuate harmful stereotypes, and that prop up and reinforce existing oppressions. Your posts are an additional burden on the affected people who read them. And because you force already marginalized and assaulted people either to try to teach you how FUCKED UP the stuff you post is, OR to brace and fortify themselves against the LAST/LATEST/NEXT ASSHOLE THING you write, your posts have the effect of completely crossing decent human boundaries.

    If you don’t want to be That Kind of asshole, stop posting until you’ve gotten your 101 on. If you want to exercise better judgment, start with some SHUTTHEFUCKUPS – no seriously, drop and give me 20, or 50. Stop making other people deal with your ignorance.

    OTHER PEOPLE DO NOT EXIST FOR YOUR EDIFICATION. THEY ARE NOT YOURS TO USE. THEY ARE NOT HYPOTHETICAL SITUATIONS, SITCOM CHARACTERS, OR INTELLECTUAL EXERCISES.

    Otherwise, stop with the apologies. As my grandmother used to say “Don’t be sorry. Be careful, and don’t do it again.”

  24. EG
    EG March 6, 2012 at 7:04 pm |

    When called on it, she insisted that the student of color was doing it “more aggressively.”

    Hey, I’m sure that trash can was terrified. Somebody has to save trash cans from the hordes of black people aggressively throwing paper at them.

    To say nothing of those black people who think they know something about language.

    Expel students of color and make the ones who try to stay in school miserable so as to discourage them from attending. Then they’ll do poorly and/or drop out, and have to take any shitty crumb of a job thrown at them, because they won’t have any other options. Honestly, in the US this is not a bug; it’s a feature. It’s part of how our race-class structure replicates itself.

  25. IrishUp
    IrishUp March 6, 2012 at 7:19 pm |

    EG, I agree 1000% with your last paragraph, and I add that the feature isn’t so much, or only, the bad jobs (after all, “the illegals” take those, amirite?), propping up the USian kyriarchy. It’s about feeding the military-penal-industrial complex which is the armature around which our kyriarchy is moulded.

    We need bodies for the warS we’re fighting in what, now we’re adding Iran so that’s 5 countries? And we can’t have a draft, because upper-class white kids get drafted, and lookit how bad the press around Viet Nam got to be. If they don’t get out of school, the army starts to look pretty good.

    We need bodies in the for-profit prisons. This has extra special bonus features everywhere. We have a robust system for incarceration in case ANYONE gets uppity. POC remain a non-threat because they are disenfranchised from (what remains of) our democratic systems. And everyone’s favorite feature: more rich white guys get richer from government contracts, sucked from the pockets of the working/middle class since the $$$ of the 1% are off limits.

  26. Nic
    Nic March 6, 2012 at 7:52 pm |

    While some of the discipline issues are no doubt direct racism, a great deal of it is probably indirect racism. A rather large proportion of teachers and administrators are middle class white people who have particular cultural expectations of specific appropriate behaviors and response to correction. The middle class white kids have that same cultural knowledge, so their behaviors and responses are more likely to be congruent with the teachers and administrator’s expectations and so they are more likely to be perceived as compliant and get a break. Students who don’t share a culture with their teachers and administrators are automatically at a disadvantage even with teachers and admin who are more insightful into their own motivations because they are more likely to respond in a way that would be perceived as non-compliant or over-reactive or sullen. And their parents are less likely to have the cultural knowledge and/or connections to smooth things over as well.

  27. EG
    EG March 6, 2012 at 8:44 pm |

    Really good points, IrishUp, and a great thorough analysis of how much of this country’s infrastructure depends on systematic cruelty members of the “wrong” groups.

  28. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers March 6, 2012 at 9:09 pm |

    My daughter, who is white, went to a majority black school for a while. There’s a gifted program that runs at three middle schools in our city. One of them is the school we are actually zoned for, which is in a wealthy area and has a half-black, half-white population. Another is in a school that’s 99% black, in an area that’s not dirt poor, but not wealthy either. She got into the gifted program, but too late to get into it at our local school, because everyone wanted to be in the rich-kid-area school, so we sent her to the 99% black school so she could be in the program.

    In the rich-people-area school, they have school uniforms in standard colors you can get anywhere, navy blue shirts and khaki pants/skirts. In the majority black school, they make the kids wear yellow shirts and either gray, burgundy, or plaid pants/skirts. These colors are hard to find; the burgundy and plaid are sold in only one store in the city, and the brands of pants available are not cut right for teen girls’ hips. (These are public schools, by the way, so I am not sure why it is even legal for them to have school uniforms, but almost all the middle and high schools in our city have them.)

    In the rich-people-area school, if you’re late to school about twenty seven times, your parents get called for a conference. In the majority black school, if you’re late to school once, you get detention.

    The majority black school will suspend boys for coming to school without a belt. The rich-people-area school does not.

    If girls come to school in the wintertime to the majority black school in a skirt, wearing thermal stockings that are not gray, burgundy (red isn’t allowed) or plaid (no thermal stockings anywhere come in these colors) or white (black is not allowed), they are forced to either take off their stockings (it’s winter and they don’t have pants) or go home. The rich-people-area school does not care what color stockings the girls wear.

    Slightly off-color (meaning off the uniform colors, not risque) pants and skirts are not allowed, such as dark grey instead of grey, or red instead of burgundy.

    My daughter was a “good kid” in elementary school; my son was a “problem kid” because of his severe ADD. My son went to our zoned middle school, the rich-area school. My daughter went for two years to a gifted program at the majority black school. My daughter got suspended or got detention more often than my son did.

    So yes, schools with a majority of black students are overall just shitty to *all* the kids, including the white ones. My observation was that they treated all their students like “we know you little shitheads are out to screw everything up, and we’re watching out for you”, whereas the other school treated kids like, well, kids. This isn’t a case of white administrators being racist to black students; all of the administrators of the majority-black school were black.

    I think that white people treat black children badly, but I also think that black people treat black children badly, and that whether you are black or white, something about our culture suggests that you ought to look at a school full of black kids as a hotbed of violence and disruption. It goes deeper than individual racism. In a majority black city with a black mayor and half the city council being black, where possibly a majority of the school administrators are black, a majority black school with all black administrators in a decent neighborhood that has a gifted/talented program *still* treats their kids like shit.

    It’s awful. But I have no idea how to fix it. I had the privilege to pull my daughter out of there and send her to the rich-area school because that’s where I live; I just had to give up on her being in the gifted program. Other people don’t. My daughter’s best friend’s brother still goes there (my daughter’s best friend, and the best friend’s brother, are Asian and they are also treated like shit by that school.) And this is a good school, that produces a fairly high rate of kids who go to college. How hellish is it in the poor, majority-black schools?

    You can fight racism when it’s the disparate treatment of two different kids at the same school, for the same acts, because then it’s obvious to anyone who’s not an idiot, and you can threaten lawsuits and things like that. But how do you fight a school that treats all the kids the same — like junior hoodlums, even if they’re in the gifted program — because so many of the kids are black that they just treat them all equally badly? How do you accuse a school of racist treatment of their students when the administrators are all black? You certainly can’t do it when you yourself are white, so I feel like I had no ground to stand on to fight that school to protect my daughter… but the fact that I’m white means that I had a very, very clear compare-and-contrast situation where the same family got different results at two schools, despite the fact that the child who was treated better was objectively worse behaved. A black child might have been treated badly at the rich-area school too; I don’t have a black child, so I don’t know. But I do know that the way the majority-black school treated *all* its students was far, far harsher, crueler and stupider than the way the rich-area, mixed-race school did.

  29. Azalea
    Azalea March 6, 2012 at 10:05 pm |

    But surely this doesn’t necessarily mean (I mean it could mean, but it doesn’t necessarily mean) that black kids receive harsher discipline but maybe black kids are doing misbehavior more often than white/asian kids?

    You are trying to win Feministe Next Top Troll, aren’t you?

  30. tmc
    tmc March 6, 2012 at 10:34 pm |

    How much of this is about race and how much is about class? Can it even be known when these are so strongly coupled in US society?

    Google* that shit, dude. Derailing discussions of racism to muddle it up with classism is fucking old hat.

    *Look specifically for what non-whites have to say about it. “It’s not racism, it’s classism!” is a favorite trope of racist whites who would much rather talk about an axis of oppression that affects whites instead of anything to do with the oppression of non-whites.

    Aaaand I have now officially reached my Racial Teaching Moment quota for the fucking year.

  31. Angel H.
    Angel H. March 6, 2012 at 10:54 pm |

    Google* that shit, dude. Derailing discussions of racism to muddle it up with classism is fucking old hat.

    Ah, the old #16a. A classic.

  32. Matt
    Matt March 6, 2012 at 11:04 pm |

    I was a white student in a predominantly black school. Like 90%. They let white kids off the hook with a lot of stuff.
    There actually was classism in this case, certain black students were allowed to get away with more because of class. However the classist vs racist differential was really small.
    Typically white students did behave better and there was a disproportionate number of rich white students vs poor white students. Poor white students were given a much harder time than rich ones for similar behavior.
    I would say that the class difference in punishments was generally 10% of the difference based on race. So even if we accept that classism is a significant factor, it is not of the same magnitude, in the mathematical sense, as racism. I want to say that sexism had a similar impact compared to classism. This was not as widely discussed by students and teachers.
    There were several students considered problem children, including myself, although my behavior was primarily academic contempt, ie I refused to do assignments which I felt were stupid or a waste of time, who were given stricter punishments than children who were not perceived as problem children.
    No reasonable person could conclude that differences in punishments vs infractions were not primarily assigned based on race, with other forms of discrimination only a subset of the differences.

  33. WordSpinner
    WordSpinner March 6, 2012 at 11:18 pm |

    I’m just out of high school, and I can’t say that I’m surprised. I was in an IB* program at a mostly-white suburban high school with fairly large latin@ and asian populations. It was also well-known about the latin@ students that the administration was harder of them. I’m assuming it was probably similar for the few black students at the school.

    Some of my classmates–since these were IB students, it was a mix of mostly white, asian, and Iranian students–decided to go out and move another student’s car onto the strip of grass near the parking lot. They were going to get suspended until the administration found out they were IB students, at which point there were given Saturday suspension so they wouldn’t have to miss class. Because the academic futures of IB students are so much more important (/sarcasm).

    This isn’t directly racial, but racial inequalities did effect who became an IB student and was given that extra bit of leeway.

    * Like AP, but with an international flavor.

  34. Mechelle
    Mechelle March 7, 2012 at 12:11 am |

    but I also think that black people treat black children badly

    I would say that this is a result of something called internalization. Instead of realizing how institutional racism may play a role in how Black children are treated differently, some black people internalize the views of the oppressive group in a society (in this case, White people) about themselves and their people, and act accordingly.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internalisation_%28sociology%29

    I’ve had to catch myself on this as well because even though I am Black, I tend to be harder on the behavior of Black people, even if it is something White people do. Sometimes, it’s because I’m aware that their behavior can indirectly result in the stereotyping of myself. The same behavior is seen in different ways depending on if the person is Black or White. Sometimes, Black people can be more judgmental (like the adults in the school on the children) towards other Blacks as well, because we don’t want our people to contribute to Black stereotypes. We realize how damaging and hurtful they are to us so we try to prevent ourselves and others from displaying certain behaviors. This also may explain why being late once may cause the Black school students to get detention and more harsh punishments by Black adults. Sometimes we as Black people feel as if we need to try harder to attain certain things (and we do) so the punishment may be more harsh because the teachers may feel like their behavior needs a quick and harsh deterrent because they really want to see these Black kids succeed and, they think it may be harder to reach them (which could be a result of internalization and the view that Black people aren’t as smart and/or stubborn)

    Now, I’m not saying their behavior is right! I’m just explaining how sometimes Black people go through internal struggles in a White society where we’re not viewed as equals.

    Also, about the detention thing. I thought about this when reading it. Could it be that their parents are more likely to work so they aren’t available to meet the teachers as often as the White school? I was thinking of my mother when I was in high school. She didn’t have a car and not a lot of money so it would actually be quite difficult for her to make it to a school meeting.

  35. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune March 7, 2012 at 12:57 am |

    Five comments before troll?

    That’s IT? Five comments?!

    Also, Chiara…I lived in a country where less than 1% of the population was of another race, the residents of a particular geographical region within it excluded. I still knew to extrapolate, from class/religious discrimination I’d seen directly, how my experience might translate to racial discrimination in the US. If you’re not in a place where there’s any racial mix at all, you can still extrapolate from the ridiculous bigotry of similar statements (poor people are just lazy, blue-collar men are bigoted ignorant jerks, young mothers are sluts) to (racial minority is just badly behaved). Just sayin’. So your “unexposed” defense doesn’t even hold steam, let alone water.

  36. Cécile
    Cécile March 7, 2012 at 7:18 pm |

    Have we established that they are in fact misbehaving more than others? I read this as you agreeing that this was the case but wanting to argue about the reasons. (Perhaps I misunderstood?)

    Hi matlun. I was hesitant about posting that because I knew it might not come off “right,” so thank you for inquiring.

    This comment comes from a couple different places:

    I live in one of the most segregated cities in the U.S., and grew up attending public schools here. I have grown up witnessing a lot of the “high risk”/”in need” behaviors that can accompany being raised in the inner city. By THAT, I mean that inner city communities are under constant assault and abuse from all sorts of angles: politicians “blaming” people in the inner city for all of the hardships and “crime” that exist there, by constantly proposing bills/passing legislation that are harmful to inner city citizens, with the implicit accusation that they are undeserving of being “granted” any “favors” by the government. Surrounding the city limits are mainly conservative white suburbs that tend to collectively have a pretty overt, and very racist, disdain for people in the inner city—and certainly for their children as well. This is reflected in the appalling ways suburban voters can express their heartless demands to reduce funding to the public school district in the city.

    Not sure how much of a case I’m making here, but I’m coming from a standpoint of personal experience (as far as witnessing dynamics here in my city) and a moderate academic exposure to the relationship between “racism and [urban] geography” as well as to trauma. Inner cities are often spoken about as exuding violence, but in truth, they are constantly under assault of racist violence. (Which, I know, isn’t news to anyone here.) Some trauma researchers study inner cities as “traumatized populations.” Not because of anything about the people inherently, but because of abuses like the horrible “mismanagement” by the police dept, for one thing. There are regular reports here of people in the inner city being brutalized and raped by cops, and just treated as less-than-human in general. Years ago, I stopped seeing one of my therapists cold-turkey. I had been trying to find his phone # online and came across an article about him. In the article, he stated that many of his patients were from a certain neighborhood in the inner city and many of these patients and “witnessed the deaths” of their own family members. I was stricken with shock and guilt and just stopped going to see him, stopped taking up his time, totally ashamed. Statistics in my city show that infant mortality rates of black infants, specifically, rival and even surpass stats in certain developing nations. Studies have linked this “otherwise inexplicable” phenomenon as being related to the profound emotional and psychological effects that racism has upon human beings who are targeted by it: the internalized experience can deteriorate people’s bodies, their immune systems, their reproductive health. I’m trying to paint the picture of a massive, and very tragic, cycle. I hope I’m successfully conveying this in such a way.

    I wasn’t in any way suggesting that “black children misbehave more and they’re black.” (And I don’t in any way deny instances when children of color are accused of misbehaving without actually doing so, or when they are targeted with unjustifiably harsh discipline/blame, or when they are “racially profiled” in schools and are reported/punished when white students are not.) (the point, for anyone skimming:) My intention was to add another dynamic to the conversation: Anybody who experiences racism is experiencing abuse from society. Many times, people who experience abuse are impacted psychologically and emotionally; children: developmentally. Sometimes, yes, this racist abuse, or the abuse experienced by their parents, manifests itself the behavior of children of color, just as it can (and often does) with any person experiencing prolonged abuse. And then these students become punished for the racism that shatters their worlds, to any given degree.

    All I intended to do was recognize that. It deserves to be recognized.

  37. Cécile
    Cécile March 7, 2012 at 8:05 pm |

    *got a beast of a comment waiting in mod. Just a quick edit to make on a stupid, stupid typo:

    The last full paragraph, top line, it should say “misbehave more because“—not “misbehave more and”

    >.<

  38. Sulyp
    Sulyp March 7, 2012 at 9:32 pm |

    Chiara, I also request that you please not post anymore on this topic… or any other topic until you educate yourself enough on these issues to actually contribute something to the conversation without leaking that prejudiced rhetoric all over the place.
    ><
    Going to school was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life as a black girl. And I'm including my university experience in this also.

    It's affected me to the point where I don't want to live here in the USA when I have children, but I don't know where I can go in the developed world that will treat any child of my womb as full human beings. In fact, I already know that if I do have children, I absolutely don't want to have any sons because I'm *terrified* of what awaits for them in society. I don't know if my heart can take it.

  39. Cécile
    Cécile March 7, 2012 at 10:36 pm |

    My comment is still in moderation, but I just wanted to add a couple links.

    Essentially my argument is: if/when there is more “legitimate” “misbehavior” coming from black children, or other children of color, it so quickly gets wrought into victim-blaming by greater society, that we might be afraid to admit it when we [believe] we see it. As a result, it can be leading us away from recognizing and engaging the “misbehavior”—not in ways to place condemn upon children of color, but to recognize when they are exhibiting traumatic symptoms at the soul-crushing hand of racism, and to respond with the proper support, patience, and humanity due to victims and survivors.

    Inner City Children of Trauma: Urban Violence Traumatic Stress Response Syndrome and Therapists’ Responses
    http://www.giftfromwithin.org/html/parson.html

    Understanding the impact of trauma and urban poverty on family systems: Risks, resilience, and interventions
    http://fittcenter.umaryland.edu/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=jFOaDJRM1P8%3d&tabid=147

  40. matlun
    matlun March 8, 2012 at 5:07 am |

    @Cecile: Yes, how to address misbehaviour and succeed in engaging the kids in a constructive manner is an important discussion well worth having.

    The article linked in the OP states that there has been a trend in the US with a significant general increase in zero tolerance policies

    In recent decades, as more districts and states have adopted zero-tolerance policies, imposing mandatory suspension for a wide range of behavioral misdeeds, more and more students have been sent away from school for at least a few days, an approach that is often questioned as paving the way for students to fall behind and drop out.

    and also states that “…suspension rates in the nation’s public schools, kindergarten through high school, had nearly doubled from the early 1970s through 2006″

    This was news to me which shows how much I know about the US school system…

  41. matlun
    matlun March 8, 2012 at 5:30 am |

    And just to clarify my own position. I do believe that black kids are misbehaving more, but not because they are black (which would obviously be racist).

    Instead I believe this is due to the poor environment. High criminality, poverty, under funded and mismanaged schools – it all plays a part in building a toxic environment. And yes, racism is also a component in all this.

    (And if this causes me to be shot down again for bringing classism into to discussion, so be it)

  42. tmc
    tmc March 8, 2012 at 1:32 pm |

    I do believe that black kids are misbehaving more

    Why? Do you have any research to support this assertion? Or do you believe it just because it’s the leading stereotype and it doesn’t bother you to accept that stereotype as truth without a smidge of evidence?

    And if this causes me to be shot down again for bringing classism into to discussion, so be it

    Cry me a fuckin river.

  43. Angel H.
    Angel H. March 8, 2012 at 1:39 pm |

    (which would obviously be racist).

    And the other stuff isn’t?

  44. Cécile
    Cécile March 8, 2012 at 2:13 pm |

    Why? Do you have any research to support this assertion? Or do you believe it just because it’s the leading stereotype and it doesn’t bother you to accept that stereotype as truth without a smidge of evidence?

    tmc, I just posted several links that don’t give statistics, but a clinical discussion of how racism confines people in circumstances that can cause childhood trauma. Please see the links, which discuss how these things impact behavior in children. Children of color are disproportionately susceptible to being exposed to trauma, and thus to becoming traumatized, because of racism.

    People who are traumatized, and people who are abused (as I said upthread: anybody experiencing racism is experiencing abuse from society) are thus more prone to behaviors that are often misinterpreted as “misbehavior”—which is what matlun and I were talking about.

    Racism can cause this. It harms people, it traumatizes them, and then they get punished for their symptoms of trauma. IN ADDITION, you’re right, there are also prejudices that cause even more horrible things to happen, as discussed in the OP.

    The two aren’t mutually exclusive. Yes, children of color face harsher and more frequent discipline because of stereotypes. But also, yes, the innumerable impacts of racism can cause misbehavior traumatized behavior.

    A climate that makes people afraid to recognize the latter does a serious disservice to children who are traumatized by the experiences and circumstances of racism.

    On the converse, it can be said that white children don’t have as many “behavior problems” because of white privilege.

  45. tmc
    tmc March 8, 2012 at 2:22 pm |

    Matlun didn’t say that more black children act in “traumatized” ways than whites, and that their trauma is misinterpreted as misbehavior. He specifically said they misbehave more than whites. Those are two different things.

    And I’ve seen nothing that has me convinced that black children actually misbehave more frequently.

    Racism can cause this. It harms people, it traumatizes them, and then they get punished for their symptoms of trauma.

    I really don’t need to be told what racism does to people.

  46. Cécile
    Cécile March 8, 2012 at 2:22 pm |

    And the other stuff isn’t?

    Angel H., is this referring to the entire contents of matlun’s comment #43? As in, this:

    Instead I believe this is due to the poor environment. High criminality, poverty, under funded and mismanaged schools – it all plays a part in building a toxic environment. And yes, racism is also a component in all this.

    ???

    If so, I don’t see what is racist about recognizing the way that racism generates pervasively lower qualities of life for anybody who is not white.

    This, too, deserves to be recognized.

  47. Cécile
    Cécile March 8, 2012 at 2:36 pm |

    I really don’t need to be told what racism does to people.

    Understood, tmc.

    I was just emphasizing this in general because schools and wider society on the whole aren’t good at distinguishing between misbehavior and traumatized behavior. Because of this, I deeply question how much statistics documenting misbehavior in relation to ‘race’ can actually tell us, one way or the other.

  48. Angel H.
    Angel H. March 8, 2012 at 2:48 pm |

    @ Cécile:

    What’s racist is the absolute refusal to believe that the Black children are simply being targeted by racist teachers even when they’re not doing anything wrong.

    And ditto what tmc said: This Black woman really doesn’t need to be told what racism does to a person.

  49. matlun
    matlun March 8, 2012 at 4:23 pm |

    What’s racist is the absolute refusal to believe that the Black children are simply being targeted by racist teachers even when they’re not doing anything wrong.

    Obviously, this happens. But statistically speaking surely the criminality/misbehavior among black kids is higher than among whites? Unless black people are super human aliens, I do not see how they could avoid being affected by the environment that they are forced to live in.

  50. tmc
    tmc March 8, 2012 at 4:57 pm |

    But statistically speaking surely the criminality/misbehavior among black kids is higher than among whites?

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Are you really going to continue to whitesplain this shit to us? GOOGLE IT and stop pissing your racist bullshit into this thread!

    Dear white allies: I’m not going to provide any more free education to ignorant whites here. That’s YOUR job. If matlun won’t do his homework, then YOU do it for him. Don’t leave that shit to people of color.

  51. Angel H.
    Angel H. March 8, 2012 at 5:02 pm |

    @matlun: Not every person – Black or white- who grows up in a bad environment turns to criminality. For all your talk of wanting to bring class into the equation, you’re making some pretty classist statements.

    Also, according to the article, the report states what race of students get disciplined in what ways. Since the disciplinarian won’t report “I suspended so-and-so because I’m a racist and zie looked at me funny”, we don’t know if the “acting out” was really “acting out”. We do know, however, that Black and Latin@ people often get harassed by the authorities for doing something as benign as standing still. And when the majority of disciplinary action is being brought against a minority population, it doesn’t take a big leap to suggest that racist authoritarian is racist.

  52. Cécile
    Cécile March 8, 2012 at 5:34 pm |

    And ditto what tmc said: This Black woman really doesn’t need to be told what racism does to a person.

    Those messages were directed to all readers of this board, to nobody in particular—just anyone who was compelled to read them. I wrote them with the awareness that many readers already know, and many readers know much more than I do. When I mentioned the articles that I had posted to tmc, it was only in order to contextualize what matlun was responding to.

    But still, since this is the internet, virtually anyone from anywhere of any age/background could be reading this thread. With social justice comes the need to constantly be willing to accommodate “newcomers” through “educating.” Which can come off as annoying/patronizing/etc. to those who know already, but there is always the potential that someone is reading and learning to look at something in a way they had never thought before. That’s the nature of the process of changing the Zeitgeist. As frustrating, inconvenient, and even offensive, as it can be, social transformation doesn’t happen homogeneously.

    That said, as many people here pointed out—those who are “learning” have a responsibility to avoid offending or hurting anybody to the best of their ability.

    But statistically speaking surely the criminality/misbehavior among black kids is higher than among whites?

    Yes (in the U.S.), and these statistics are poisonous, because they don’t acknowledge things like racial profiling and racist legislation.

    See ‘the war on drugs’ and ‘the prison industrial complex’ for starters…

  53. matlun
    matlun March 8, 2012 at 5:36 pm |

    @tmc: So you do believe that if it was not for direct racism, then black, white and latin@ students would have the same amount of suspension and in-school punishment? I find that an interesting claim, but I am not convinced.

    As I have stated above, I am Swedish so I do not even have a privileged first hand experience (you could say it is even weaker that the normal “whitesplaining” perspective) of the US school system, but to say that the actual criminal statistics in current US society (as opposed to the convictions in the current racist system) would be identical between the white and black populations seem rather implausible to me.

  54. matlun
    matlun March 8, 2012 at 5:38 pm |

    Yes (in the U.S.), and these statistics are poisonous, because they don’t acknowledge things like racial profiling and racist legislation.

    And also as you have stated above: How could the traumatizing, unjust conditions under which black kids have to live not have an effect on their behavior as in “acting out” etc? This is just a natural consequence of human nature as far as I can see.

  55. Cécile
    Cécile March 8, 2012 at 5:40 pm |

    (I had connection problems and was just able to post my comment that I started typing like 25 minutes ago, gahh. I wrote it before seeing your most recent comments, tmc and Angel H. Just wanted to put that out there, so it doesn’t come off as a response to your comment #52, tmc)

  56. Argenti Aertheri
    Argenti Aertheri March 8, 2012 at 7:30 pm |

    But still, since this is the internet, virtually anyone from anywhere of any age/background could be reading this thread. With social justice comes the need to constantly be willing to accommodate “newcomers” through “educating.” Which can come off as annoying/patronizing/etc. to those who know already, but there is always the potential that someone is reading and learning to look at something in a way they had never thought before. That’s the nature of the process of changing the Zeitgeist. As frustrating, inconvenient, and even offensive, as it can be, social transformation doesn’t happen homogeneously.

    That said, as many people here pointed out—those who are “learning” have a responsibility to avoid offending or hurting anybody to the best of their ability.

    As one such newcomer, I was going to just read this one, but wanted to say thank you for that comment // the educating. *goes back to reading // be educated* (that’s not meant as snark, sorry if my socially awkward is coming out that way >.<)

  57. bill
    bill March 8, 2012 at 9:38 pm |

    You’d think racist people would no longer exist.
    Guys that refuse to acknowledge racial equality are disgusting.
    Are they trolling us?

  58. evil fizz
    evil fizz March 8, 2012 at 11:55 pm | *

    But statistically speaking surely the criminality/misbehavior among black kids is higher than among whites? Unless black people are super human aliens, I do not see how they could avoid being affected by the environment that they are forced to live in.

    Okay, matlun, listen up. Racism has real and demonstrable negative impacts on people of color. No question. HOWEVER, it does not follow that racism induces in them a) greater misbehavior b) greater criminality or c) greater mass trauma.

    What does follow is that because society writ large is racist is that people of color are disproportionately penalized for the same misconduct. When the same offenses are punished, students of color are punished more harshly. (For a more generalized example: sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine, for example.) People of color (including students!) are charged with more crimes and *perceived* to exhibit more misbehavior. Non-Hispanic Blacks are disproportionately represented in arrest and incarceration rates in the U.S.

    I could go on, but look there’s a Wikipedia page on this exact topic. (Not the best synopsis ever, but it’ll give you some good points of inquiry.)

  59. evil fizz
    evil fizz March 9, 2012 at 12:07 am | *

    Actually, I’m not done yet. I want to come back to the original foolish remark that got us into this mess. (Note: this is ally oriented.)

    But surely this doesn’t necessarily mean (I mean it could mean, but it doesn’t necessarily mean) that black kids receive harsher discipline but maybe black kids are doing misbehavior more often than white/asian kids?

    Listen up, white folks. When you say stupid shit like this, people who are not white are reading. They know that you are assuming that the rest of your audience is white. They know that you think you can say these things with minimal repercussions. (They’re usually correct.)

    There are 80 million constructions of the “Why can’t we entertain the idea that X group really is inferior in Y way?” NONE OF THEM ARE CONSTRUCTIVE OR NON-OPPRESSIVE. Quit being ignorant, acknowledge that you can’t get by in life coasting on stereotypes and do a little research.

  60. matlun
    matlun March 9, 2012 at 2:32 am |

    I could go on, but look there’s a Wikipedia page on this exact topic. (Not the best synopsis ever, but it’ll give you some good points of inquiry.)

    I am not sure what you wanted to show with this link. That page just gives a fairly long enumeration of different theories to explain the criminal over representation.

    I have some comments in moderation, but unless someone addresses me directly I will avoid posting anything more on this thread. My comments seems to be just aggravating people without starting any useful discussion.

  61. XavJones
    XavJones March 9, 2012 at 2:38 am |

    I agree wholeheartedly. People on the internet are too eager to hide behind the anonymity the internet provides and be insensitive to the feelings of others.

    Most white people are totally unaware of the systemic discrimination faced by people of color. When someone states a “fact” such as that black people commit seven times as many crimes/murders per capita, they are completely ignoring the institutionally racist reality – that white people commit more crimes and more murders but are seven times less likely to be reported or caught and seven times as likely to get off if they are caught due to the biases inherent in the system.

    In fact, black people are often blamed for crimes committed by other groups. I was pulled over and aggressively questioned for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. My only crime was the color of my skin. It turned out the criminal they were after was WHITE but the police didn’t care and took it as an opportunity to harass me.

  62. Angel H.
    Angel H. March 9, 2012 at 5:47 pm |

    I was pulled over and aggressively questioned for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. My only crime was the color of my skin.

    Unfortunately, too many of us pay for this with our lives:

    Florida Black Teen Killed In Gated Community By White Watchman

  63. Jim
    Jim March 9, 2012 at 6:10 pm |

    This also applies to things like who gets assigned to special ed classes disproportionately and who disproportionately doesn’t get identified as gifted. And gifted kids are a special needs population, who can easily be misidentified as behavior problems, so failing to identify them can lead to this kind of discrimination.\

    I don’t have stats on this and I really doubt anyone keeps them for me to find, but what I am sure of is there are commenters here who have anecdotes on this immediately at hand.

  64. Angel H.
    Angel H. March 9, 2012 at 6:39 pm |

    @Jim:

    Actually Missy Elliot was one such case. When she was younger her teacher wanted to put her in a special ed class because she assumed the reason she wasn’t doing her work was because it was too hard. After they tested her, they learned she actually had an above average IQ.

  65. Raymond
    Raymond March 10, 2012 at 7:58 am |

    As an administrator that handles discipline at a minority school, I can provide a bit of insight. The difference in the number of suspensions is the socially “accepted” behavior of outwardly challenging authority. I would bet that the majority of the suspensions were due to disrepect and/or gross insubordination; basically an “I don’t give a…” attitude, which could include profanity, name calling towards teachers/school administrators. I have witnessed this behavior in students and by parents, in front of their students. And, minority cultures might not be as open to school officials re: family change issues, medical issues, etc. For example, student begins to commit serious offenses when previously there were none. School calls mom in to have a meeting about a change in behavior, and asks if their are any changes at home. Told no. Student continues to misbehave and receives a suspension. Through another student, the schoo, finds out the father figure moved out of the home, which matched up with the timeline of behavior issues. If mom was honest with the school, interventions could have begun which might have prevented the suspension…not as simple as a black/brown vs. white issue.

  66. HeoCwaeth
    HeoCwaeth March 10, 2012 at 6:35 pm |

    Who would have thought, when I elected to become a teacher, that I was choosing to become the enemy of all states, equally reviled by right and left alike? Weirdly, I thought that choosing a career in which I would be overworked, poorly remunerated, and –if I were doing my job well enough to be a trustworthy adult — subject to the angst and occasional tantrums of hundreds of hormonal teenagers at once would not require me to feel attacked by those on the left I had previously considered allies.

    Naive of me.

    I teach in a suburban, 30% poverty-rate, 96% African-American middle school. My class sizes average in the high thirties. I teach equal numbers TAG and SpEd students.

    I had a mother a year ago who argued that her son was a victim of the schools because he kept getting sent to In School Suspension. We had told her at least a dozen times that when her child behaved the way he did every day in the classroom, 37 other children’s educations were jeopardized. These children were no less black, no less poor, had no greater reading or math comprehension skills, and had just as many fucked up obstacles to their success in the world as this boy. If I were to write the list of his infractions here, many would seem ridiculously minor. Some of you would inform me I was overreacting and a bad teacher, etc. That doesn’t change the fact that the kid regularly kept 37 other children from having a safe environment in which to learn.

    And, before those of you who have never been in a classroom start telling me how it is my responsibility to be a super-human pied piper, consider this: his behavior was not just his and my failure. I called in every mentor, guru, and specialist I could get my hands on. I got the state teacher of the year to watch me and give me feedback. I spoke to my own therapist to see if there was something I was failing to do, or some vibe I was giving off that prevented the kid from trying to learn. I got the school to set up free therapy for the boy.

    But, all year long, 38 black children didn’t get a quality education when he was in the class. When he “became a statistic” and was in In School Suspension, 37 black children did get a quality education. They were also physically and emotionally safer.

  67. Angel H.
    Angel H. March 10, 2012 at 7:25 pm |

    @HeoCwaeth:

    Lemme guess: You saw a few too many “Nice White Lady” movies and thought you could swoop in and save the poor little darkies from themselves. Now that you’ve seen the reality you want to be given a cookie for bothering to give a damn.

    I feel sorry your students. The fact that you took an article highlighting the institutionalized racism of the country’s school systems and made it all about you makes me feel very, very sorry for the 96% Black population of the school you teach in.

    Get over yourself.

  68. librarygoose
    librarygoose March 10, 2012 at 7:40 pm |

    Fuck, dude. No one was claiming that all teachers are overtly and cruelly racist*. But when children of one race are being treated differently than children of other races on a massive scale, then chances are that RACISM is at fault. You ever ask why you had 38 poor black students? It might be the fact that institutional racism has made it harder for them. Denying racism and pretending to be hurt by the unconscionable accusations no one leveled against you makes you seem like a tool.

    * I said earlier that some teachers are overtly racist, but that’s because I had teachers who were.

  69. tmc
    tmc March 10, 2012 at 10:13 pm |

    Lemme guess: You saw a few too many “Nice White Lady” movies and thought you could swoop in and save the poor little darkies from themselves. Now that you’ve seen the reality you want to be given a cookie for bothering to give a damn.

    I feel sorry your students. The fact that you took an article highlighting the institutionalized racism of the country’s school systems and made it all about you makes me feel very, very sorry for the 96% Black population of the school you teach in.

    Get over yourself.

    Co-sign 100%.

  70. EG
    EG March 10, 2012 at 11:54 pm |

    And, before those of you who have never been in a classroom start telling me how it is my responsibility to be a super-human pied piper, consider this: his behavior was not just his and my failure. I called in every mentor, guru, and specialist I could get my hands on. I got the state teacher of the year to watch me and give me feedback. I spoke to my own therapist to see if there was something I was failing to do, or some vibe I was giving off that prevented the kid from trying to learn. I got the school to set up free therapy for the boy.

    Well, that’s lovely. In that case, I guess the article this post is addressing is not about you. Hard to believe, I realize, that we could be having a conversation about race and education that does not center you and take special care to acknowledge and enumerate your various good deeds, but that is indeed what is happening. It’s hard to realize, as white people, that not every decent non-racist or even anti-racist thing we do or say is characteristic of the class of people we are members of, or that such non- or anti-racist acts and words don’t actually deserve special honors, but I encourage you to give it a shot.

  71. HeoCwaeth
    HeoCwaeth March 11, 2012 at 12:04 pm |

    I was responding to the comments, not the article. And I did not make it all about me. Though I did feel that some of it was about me and people like me. Specifically, the part where teachers are defined by some commenters as the problem.

    For my petulance, which I agree was there, I apologize. I trust that some of you will forgive that someone who feels personally attacked by every damned side of the argument sometimes gets weary, and sees the attack by supposed friends as a worse attack than some damned Limbaugh outburst. Or not. Your call, really.

    Teachers work hard, most of them, and in most cases have only the best interests of their students in mind. I can speak only for and from my own experience, and so I did that. Isn’t that what we do? Recognize that the personal is political? Isn’t the part where we consider that the problem is thornier than can be easily spoken of in one blog comment from one perspective important?

    I also asked about the children in my class who are being robbed of an education by a child or children who refuse to allow education to happen in their presence. What do we do for them? It’s often not poor black kid vs. rich white kid. Often, it is poor black kid vs. other poor black kids.

    A lot of that is systemic. Most of it is. Now, how do we attack it?

    Also, adorable that you should assume I saw the nice white lady movies and thought that the main character was me.

  72. Angel H.
    Angel H. March 11, 2012 at 12:33 pm |

    Also, adorable that you should assume I saw the nice white lady movies and thought that the main character was me.

    I’ve read your blog – about how even though you come from a “98% white hometown” you get indignant when people tell you that you don’t understand Black culture and you think you know more about the language culture of Black people than they do.

    The truth is adorable, isn’t it?

  73. HeoCwaeth
    HeoCwaeth March 11, 2012 at 1:12 pm |

    Yes, I am white, and come from a predominantly white home town. Yes, a colleague got angry with me and I got angry right back because we disagreed. And, yes, I absolutely do behave in shitty ways right back to people who try to make my kids believe they are inferior because of their dialect. Please explain to me how defending kids against what I hope was unconsciously racist language instruction by teachers who haven’t studied language makes me the nice white lady?

    I wanted a job teaching kids about what I love. I wanted that job to be near a city so I could be a nerd on weekends. I got that job, and I do it well.

    I also got to hear the rightwing assaults on teachers. I got to see what that did to talented and dedicated colleagues. But, I was prepared for that. I was not prepared for the left wing assault on teachers whenever something goes wrong in the schools. I was not prepared to read comments about an article chronicling racism in the schools and see a lot of insults aiming at teachers as if that is attacking the root of the problem. I thought we on the left were smarter than that.

  74. HeoCwaeth
    HeoCwaeth March 11, 2012 at 1:29 pm |

    Actually, please accept my second apology. I don’t want to derail the discussion. Don’t explain it to me. I’ll figure it out myself.

    As Jill intimated earlier, this is not about me, or my issue. It’s about the severity of kids’ punishments in schools being influenced heavily by the color of their skin. That is not OK.

    Where do we begin attacking the problem?

  75. Raymond
    Raymond March 11, 2012 at 9:14 pm |

    Posters: Don’t jump on HeoCwaeth! This educator is an example of the frustration that educators have to cope with within the classroom. Teachers are human and when teachers put their all into their students, they want them all to succeed. Behavior problems, classroom management problems can completely eliminate learning. Sometimes it is a teacher problem, but sometimes teachers have a student that just won’t conform. Prior to removing the student, teachers usually try every trick of the trade to reach the student. It could work, but there are times it will not, and in those cases, the student must receive a consequence. Also remember, that the push in education is merit pay: salary is married to student performance. Teachers need all their students to perform well. A student suspension hurts the teacher as well.

    If HeoC had a dream of working at an underperforming school & inspiring her students to greatness, that is awesome! Why knock her for that? Didn’t MJ dream of winning a championship? MLK dream of uniting a nation? Visualization is a great performance technique.

  76. tmc
    tmc March 12, 2012 at 9:24 am |

    Didn’t MJ dream of winning a championship? MLK dream of uniting a nation?

    Man, how I love the MLK trump card. He’s the favorite go-to guy of whites desperate to force compliance from uppity negros, which is a shame considering the fact that MLK was never the cuddly colorblind feel-good teddy bear that white people today pretend he was.

    Raymond: This thread is not about white people or all the wonderful things that they do. It’s supposed to be about the racism being directed at black children and how it’s fucking up their education. Focus!

  77. tmc
    tmc March 12, 2012 at 9:25 am |

    Is everyone on moderation in this thread or is it just me?

  78. tmc
    tmc March 12, 2012 at 9:26 am |

    That last one went through okay. Weird that my “cosign” post was modded though.

  79. William
    William March 13, 2012 at 6:29 am |

    It seems like there’s a lot of talking past each other as if these statistics have a single cause. Is institutional racism real? Absolutely. Does it explain all of the disparities? Probably not. But at the very least it means we ought to take an extremely hard look at the system first before dismissing the disparities found in the statistics. Especially if its a situation where its up to individuals to make a decision about how severely to treat the incident, whether to just warn the student or throw the book at them. Biases could certainly affect judgement. Looking at stats for students who were suspended for “disruption” or “insubordination” would likely reveal a lot of this sort of thing.

    Some of the statistics, however, might not reflect institutional racism. If school officials are required by law to report certain incidents, they (hopefully) are not treating those incidents differently based on students ethnicity. If someone has a gun at school, it would be absurd for an administrator to let one student off with a warning or to ignore it regardless of race. Presumably stats on extremely serious violations would reflect more behavior than bias.

    I imagine that there will be considerable variation from school to school. It is important that discipline be fair as well as firm. In order for public schools to function, they must be safe and orderly. If not, well-to-do parents will pull their children out. At the same time, it would be foolish for educators to overlook institutional racism and assume they are automatically being fair or lack biases.

  80. tmc
    tmc March 13, 2012 at 3:33 pm |

    Here’s a nice little bedtime story:

    Black kid walks home from the corner store.

    White neighboorhood watchman calls the cops and tells them that the black kid is suspicious because he is wearing a hoodie and walking slowly.

    Cops tell the white man to leave the kid alone and that they’re on their way.

    White man ignores the cops, pursues the black kid, gets punched in the face, then shoots the black kid dead.

    Cops show up, takes the white man at his word that it was “self-defense,” and don’t even bother taking him into custody.

    When people like matlun and Chiara say stupid shit like “black kids are more prone to criminality, right?” they are reinforcing the lies that kill children like Trayvon Martin and allow their murderers to go free. This shit goes way, way beyond than the classroom.

    Also, compare and contrast this scenario to what happened to Cece.

  81. tmc
    tmc March 13, 2012 at 3:40 pm |

    And I feel the need to mention how fucking ridiculous I find the assertion that oppressed people are more prone to criminality than those who are not oppressed.

    The assertion that “Blacks are more likely to be criminals because they have to endure racism” makes about as much sense to me as:

    – “Poor people are more likely to be criminals because they have to endure classism.”
    – “Trans folks are more likely to be criminals because they have to endure transphobia.”
    – “Gays are more likely to be criminals because they have to endure homophobia.”
    – “Women are more likely to be criminals because they have to endure sexism.”
    – “Fat people are more likely to be criminals because they have to endure fatphobia.”

    And so on. The shit just doesn’t wash. And I like to think that most people would agree that the statements above are fucking nonsensical and offensive. But suddenly when we’re talking about black people and criminality, there are all these excuses as to why it would make sense (and it just happens to comfortably fit within the dominant paradigm of Blacks As Criminals…with a cute little white guilt liberal twist of “but not because they’re black!” as if that’s supposed to somehow make it more palatable).

  82. Jadey
    Jadey March 13, 2012 at 5:49 pm |

    There is a difference, I think, in talking about direct and indirect (or mediated) causality.

    There is no reason at all why poor people or members of some POC racial groups (who both tend to be over-represented in the criminal justice system across multiple countries) should be more criminal as a result of something *innate* to that specific characteristic. Evidence: despite over-representation, the vast majority of POC and poor people don’t get involved in the CJS. (I’mma talk about the CJS because I’m not as sure about the education system, although there’s kind of a continuity unfortunately, for some students.)

    But involvement in the CJS (and this is a broad term that includes arrest, incarceration, other forms of sanctions, diversion, etc., especially at the juvenile level) hinges on a lot of factors, which can be traced back to institutional racism in a lot of different ways:

    1) More likely to be attended to and policed by the CJS, either through individual profiling or geographic profiling (e.g., the neighbourhood they live in gets more police presence looking for people to bust) – this is what this article is really getting at, kids being singled out and having their actions perceived more extremely because of their race

    2) More likely to have their everyday behaviours criminalized (especially very poor people for this one – like the criminalization of homelessness) – kind of inter-related with point 1, but a subtle variation

    3) More likely to be exposed to conditions of living which are associated with increased criminal behaviour for the entire population (e.g., exposure to pro-criminal attitudes and peers, increased risk of addictions and substance abuse) and less likely to receive meaningful and useful institutional support to cope with exposure to these criminogenic living conditions. This is where it can get into shaky victim-blaming territory, but I think we have to keep in mind that this is not something innate but rather the enhanced risk is the product of institutional racism and that these factors can also affect members of other groups and do not affect *every* member of these groups. Also, risk is not the same as certainty.

    4) Possibly more likely to directly rebel against the system which marginalizes you? I think this one may only apply to some and probably wouldn’t explain consistent large differences across groups. I haven’t seen any evidence for it being a major factor at least – the four major individual-level predictors of criminal offending are

    So being black, even being black in a racist society, doesn’t make a black kid worse behaved and couldn’t. But if you use the analogy of toxic chemicals for the criminogenic living conditions, to the extent that being black in a racist society makes it more likely that these kids will be exposed to the kinds of conditions that could lead *anyone* to behaving badly (or criminally, once you get to the adult level) – just like being forced to live next to a chemical plant that could increase the risk of cancer in *anyone* who lived there, but in a racist society it’s the racially-marginalized who are most likely to live there and therefore disproportionately likely to get sick, even if the majority of them don’t – then it is plausible that on a very large-scale level averaging across a lot of individual difference, you could see differences in behaviour prevalence.

    BUT

    That’s only one factor. And frankly if you are only looking at one school/neighbourhood at a time where the conditions are similar for all kids (or at least statistically controlling for those differences), then to see disparities in disciplinary rates across racial groups should send up a big ole red flag that there’s something else going on. Either there’s a huge criminogenic factor there that’s hitting one group of students and not the other (and racism, experienced or perceived, has not been found to be a strong direct criminogenic factor, just to head that one off at the pass), and/or there’s systematic discrimination.

    Anyway, my point is that I think some people have been trying to get at this idea that the experience of living in a society which marginalizes you can encourage antisocial behaviour, directly or indirectly, and there’s some research support for that. But I don’t agree that it really explains all of these differences here, especially with that big initial caveat of the majority of people in every social group do not engage in serious/abnormal antisocial behaviour. So if it were the oppression itself that were doing it directly *and* it was having such a uniform influence, we would see a different pattern in the results.

  83. Simon Tarses
    Simon Tarses March 17, 2012 at 3:31 pm |

    @IrishUp: The fact that somebody from another country is trying to find info by asking a question wouldn’t mean that they were d-bags for doing so, wouldn’t it? Especially since said person (Chiana) might be a nonwhite person asking questions that you and others here could have responded to in a more civil manner?

  84. tmc
    tmc March 20, 2012 at 7:40 pm |

    I don’t give a fuck if you’re white or not. If you call me and my family and my community a bunch of criminals or misbehaving delinquents, you get a big unapologetic FUCK YOU from me.

    And “wanting to learn” is no excuse for making stupid racist bullshit statements. If they wanted to learn, Chiara or matlun could have done actual research into the matter on their own without shitting into the laps of all the black people that had the misfortune to read this thread.

Comments are closed.

The commenting period has expired for this post. If you wish to re-open the discussion, please do so in the latest Open Thread.