Saturday, May 10, 2014

Stacking the Deck

I was going to write a post about a bunch of different research that shows why black kids have the deck stacked against them... lots of tabs sitting open, waiting for me to link to them. But then I saw this TruthDig post that wrote it all for me.

Some of those links, though:

  • Black boys are perceived to be older than they are by both cops and college students. They're not allowed to be children, and therefore not allowed to make mistakes that can be forgiven or only lightly punished. They're seen as less innocent than white children.
  • When preschool-aged children are observed by teachers while doing pretend play, black kids find themselves rated as less school-ready than kids of other races. "Among Black preschoolers, imaginative and expressive pretend play features were associated with teachers’ ratings of less school preparedness, less peer acceptance, and more teacher–child conflict, whereas comparable levels of imagination and affect in pretend play were related to positive ratings on these same measures for non-Black children."
  • Even in preschool, black children are much more likely to be suspended for behavior. Suspended. What good does that do anyone, especially a four- or five-year-old?
A resource I discovered from the TruthDig post:
More than 20 years ago, Smith College professor Ann Arnett Ferguson wrote a groundbreaking book based on her three-year study of how black boys in particular are perceived differently starting in school. In Bad Boys: Public Schools in the Making of Black Masculinity, Ferguson laid out the ways in which educators and administrators funneled black male students into the juvenile justice system based on perceived differences between them and other students. 
Sounds like a good book to read.

And it brought to mind these stats that ran in a Star Tribune article in mid-February:
White students in poverty graduate in four years at a higher rate than black students who are not poor, according to district data.

Even among black students not tagged with the labels usually linked to low performance -- poverty, special education, English learner, or homeless-highly mobile -- only 49 percent graduate in four years.
 That disparity looks like this:

Yes, that says 44.5 percent of poor white students graduate in four years, while only 36.2 percent of non-poor black students do. And that the worst-attending white students significantly outperform the best-attending black students in reading proficiency (50.7 vs 27.8 percent, respectively).

This graph shows that American-born black students, while reading more proficiently than foreign-born black students, graduate at a lower rate than those students (and, of course, even lower rates than white students).

Tuppett Yates, author of the study comparing how preschoolers engaged in pretend play were rated by teachers, pointed to an example from Ferguson’s book Bad Boys: “when a white student fails to return their library book, they’re seen as forgetful and when a black student fails to return a library book, terms like ‘thief’ or ‘looter’ were used.”

How do you overcome that? You can't, as an individual. It requires systemic change and the recognition that racism is an institutional outcome, not just a personal prejudice.

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