How to Expose Racists: Simply Mention Racism

I was pleasantly surprised when Education Week published Why Are We Criminalizing Black Students? by Tyrone C. Howard.

Regretfully, this blog is gorged with posts about EdWeek routinely failing the education discussion, but Howard’s commentary confronts well a hard topic in education.

And then came the comments — tone deaf at best, defensive and racist themselves as worst (first three opening rebuttals):

mcruiz

I’m amazed. I truly didn’t know we teachers had that much power, and the propensity to use it for evil deeds. Wow! Imagine that, we have the power to criminalize Black students. Wow, again!

LynnG

This is a ridiculous article and the author’s bias is so heavy handed that he’s made his argument a joke. Talk about confirmation bias.

Paul D. White

One more racist rant from a Black college professor who doesn’t have the courage to tell the truth, and one more worthless posting by Ed Week for what? A desire to show how “tolerant” they are to biased, ignorant positions regarding race and performance in the schools?

The great failure of the U.S. which has brought us to Trumplandia is, as I have pointed out often, James Baldwin’s “this rigid refusal to look at ourselves” that must be aimed with laser focus on white America.

In schools, black and brown children are disproportionately targeted and punished for the same behaviors as white children, and then in society, black and brown people suffer more inequitable treatment by police and the judicial system.

As Thomas Rudd explains about school discipline:

Contrary to the prevailing assumption that African American boys are just getting “what they deserve” when they are disciplined, research shows that these boys do not “act out” in the classroom any more than their White peers.

For example, in a study conducted by the Indiana Education Policy Center, researchers conclude that:

“Although discriminant analysis suggests that disproportionate rates of office referral and suspension for boys are due to increased rates of misbehavior, no support was found for the hypothesis that African American students act out more than other students. Rather, African American students appear to be referred to the office for less serious and more subjective reasons. Coupled with extensive and highly consistent prior data, these results argue that disproportionate representation of African Americans in office referrals, suspension and expulsion is evidence of a pervasive and systematic bias that may well be inherent in the use of exclusionary discipline (Skiba, 2000).”

And the ACLU reports: “Staggering Racial Bias: Marijuana use is roughly equal among Blacks and whites, yet Blacks are 3.73 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.”

Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow details that policing and the judicial system routinely practices inequitable targeting, convicting, and sentencing along racial lines for the same behaviors — blacks disproportionately suffering for acts no different than whites.

This begins in our schools because the white power structure cannot or will not see the bias in order to eradicate it.

The seeds of the wider post-truth U.S. have been sown by the white “rigid refusal” to admit and then confront the racism that continues to fester in the country.

This is old fake news, but as the posts on the EdWeek commentary reveal, racists respond to facts about racism by calling the messenger a racist. That’s the nastiest fake news there is, especially when it is coming in a publication about the education of our children — the first victims of racism, the most powerless victims of racism.

Written by

P. L. Thomas, Professor of Education Furman University, taught high school English before moving to teacher education. https://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store