The Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American and African Studies at the University of Virginia held its second forum on Thursday, of the year-long program. “Engaging Race: A Carter G. Woodson Forum,” is one in a series of dialogues and deliberation, aimed at heightening awareness about an ongoing challenge that all Americans are invited to be concerned with, especially because those within the African-American community still face,even today, and may be somewhat difficult to describe.
As incidents rising to the level of resistance to authority seem to have been increasingly challenging to law enforcement, an argument could be offered that there may be certain patterns of discipline that rely upon the belief that whoever that authority figure is, they will have one’s best interest at-heart and can be trusted.
In Kindergarten through grade 12, the penalties for an abandonment of self-control — referred to often as ‘acting out’ can mean consequences that range from exclusion through suspension or some other sort of ‘disciplinary action’ in response.
Research now shows that these consequencs occur to a greater degree than one would otherwise expect to find, all else being equal, and at this point these consequences have become ‘statistically significant,’ as the official documentation has shown.
In April of this year, according to a report issued by Catherine E. Lhamon, Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights. there were some outcomes that are cause for celebration:
Today, for example, more students of color are graduating from high school and attending college than ever before, educational and athletic opportunities and attainment for girls and women are far greater than they were when Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) was enacted
However, in an article entitled Obstacles facing black girls topic of UVa panel, Daily Progress government reporter Chris Suarez writes: “According to the 2011-12 school year statistics from the Department of Education, black girls were suspended six times more than white girls. Black boys were suspended at half that rate when compared to their white male counterparts.”
Although males are suspended in greater numbers than females overall, race and ethnicity turn out to be substantial risk factors for Black girls when they are compared to their white counterparts. Data released by the Department of Education for the 2011–2012 school year reveal that while Black males were suspended more than three times as often as their white counterparts, Black girls were suspended six times as often.
Only 2 percent of white females were subjected to exclusionary suspensions in comparison to 12 percent of Black girls. … Black boys are disciplined more than any other group, and are far more likely than white boys to be disciplined. Black girls are also punished more than other girls. In addition, the relative risk for suspension is higher for Black girls when compared to white girls than it is for Black boys when compared to white boys.
These statistics would indicate that if race may be a more significant factor for females than it is for males, the resources needed to determine the contributing factors for this phenomenon and the determination of how to directly address it ought to be the highest priority.
Could it be possible that it may be more challenging for African-Americans, generally, to defer to white authority figures, or even to defer to authority figures in general, since economic circumstances in households where – according to the most recent statistics – 72% or children are born out of wedlock
In 2013 when the Atlantic article Understanding Out-of-Wedlock Births in Black America, was published that figure was 70%, and the writer and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates notes:
For African-Americans. That’s embarrassing. And you know, in the entire recorded history of the planet, there has never been a greater voluntary abandonment of men from their children than there is today in black America. Never. I mean, when men went off to war, they had to go off to war. That wasn’t voluntary. But never as great of voluntary abandonment of children by their fathers than in black America today.
To his credit Coates does entertain a prospective solution of sorts:
Why don’t the NAACP and similar organizations take all the money they use to challenge and complain about the standards that their groups (in the aggregate) don’t meet when it comes to university admissions, selective high-school admissions, school discipline, mortgage loans, police and firefighter tests, felon disenfranchisement laws, employment policies that look at criminal records, etc., etc., and use that money to figure out ways to bring down the illegitimacy rates that drive all these other disparities?
Ta-Nehisi Coates published a memoir, The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, published in 2008; and released his second book in July, Between the World and Me, which was nominated for the 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction.
Daily Progress reporter Chris Suarez spoke with Deborah McDowell, on Thursday, who the Alice Griffin Professor of Literary Studies at the University of Virginia, and the director of the Carter G. Woodson Institute, who explained that reason for addressing this particular issue in this November forum follows the release of a recent report entitled “Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced, and Underprotected.”
The study and the report were generated by the African American Policy Forum and the Columbia University Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies, On page 23 was this block of text:
“In New York City during the 2011–2012 year, ninety percent of all the girls subjected to expulsion were Black. No white girls were expelled, and thus, no ratio can be calculated …”
Additional data from an Office of Civil Rights Report “Civil Rights Data Collection Data Snapshot: School Discipline,” in March of 2014 reveals this:
Black children represent 18% of preschool enrollment, but 48% of preschool children receiving more than one out-of-school suspension;
in comparison, white students represent 43% of preschool enrollment but 26% of preschool children receiving more than one out of school suspension. Boys represent 79% of preschool children suspended once and 82% of preschool children suspended multiple times, although boys represent 54% of preschool enrollment.
Disproportionately high suspension/expulsion rates for students of color:
Black students are suspended and expelled at a rate three times greater than white students. On average, 5% of white students are suspended, compared to 16% of black students.
The panel for Thursday’s Forum included UVa Curry School of Education Associate Professor Joanna Williams and Ph.D candidate Lindsey Jones. Lakisha Simmons, an assistant professor of Global Gender Studies at the University of Buffalo, also was a panelist.
Priscilla Ocen, an associate professor of law at Loyola Law School is one of the co-authors of the “Black Girls Matter” report, and she was able to offer this observation:
Radicalized and gendered implicit biases increase the likelihood that black girls will be disciplined. While the trope of the “strong black woman” often makes them seem impervious, stereotypes defining black women as disobedient, loud and confrontational make them — despite what their actual age or personal demeanor might be — a target for overzealous discipline in schools and communities.
Panelist Tammy-Cherelle Owens, a pre-doctoral fellow at the Woodson Institute, and also currently a Ph.D candidate in the University of Minnesota’s American Studies program, clarifies further:
Since slavery, black children have not been imagined as embodying the ideals of innocence and childhood. Race has refused that status of child. Recognizing the violence that black girls experience as a result of being outside the dominant constructs of childhood and girlhood, some of the most influential black women and girls from all factors of life and cultures throughout history have directly or indirectly tried to articulate that they experience oppression as a result of being wedged at the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality and, most importantly, age.
There will be additional Forums later in the year. For more information, contact The Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville.