Removing Black Children From Racist Public Schools

Guest OpEd: We can't continue to leave Black children in generational failure, mental anguish, and physical harm. So, what do we do?

Christina Laster | Guest Contributor | @ChristinaLast3r

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Amid national attention surrounding House passage of the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act, we are reminded of the angry White mobs that participated in heinous, sadistic acts through public mutilation and killings of Black people as a sport.

Today’s supremacist sport rears its ugly, evil head through systems of education.

Blatant acts of violence and oppression are being enacted through a reign of terror on our Black children as they attend government-run schools. This terror begs the question of who the key supremacist actors are and who are those “councils of citizens” that have seemingly been deputized to carry out these acts upon our children. More so, we must correctly and collectively view these acts and ask ourselves if we’re still waiting for sheets and burning crosses before we collectively act on behalf of our children.

Race-based oppression is one thing - structural harmful exploitation is another. When added together you have slavery and when you look at the system by which these things operate you have America. Public government-run schools have never been immune from perpetuating violence and discrimination onto our Black children. In fact, much systemic oppression and institutionalized racism exist within. Our Black children enter one way and come out a different way that they were never intended to be. 

Look at the 6 year old Black autistic boy from Akron, OH attending Coventry Elementary School: he was locked in the bathroom, tied to a chair and kept in there with the lights out. His mother has “done everything a mother could do to protect her 6-year-old son who has autism.” She also stated that her son has been harmed and their lives forever changed.  Highly disturbing what happened to her son. But as disturbing was the fact that other children and school employees knew he was strapped to a chair and locked in a dark bathroom, yet no attempted to stop it.

Or: 6 year old little Black girl Kaia Rolle screams, cries, and begs for her freedom and life as she’s handcuffed, arrested, and charged with a crime at her Florida elementary school. The officer admits, with a body camera on, that this isn’t the first time a child her age has been arrested and received a formal criminal record. Her arrest from school is highly disturbing but equally disturbing is that no one intervened or even attempted to stop it.

A week before Kaia’s screams was little black 6 year old Florida Nadia King’s questions as she was detained and taken in to a police car to a mental health facility under the “Baker Act,” a mental health involuntary hold law. Very disturbing that the child was picked up and taken by police from school; however, Nadia seemed coherent and wise enough to know her Miranda rights as she asks if she’s being arrested. As concerning is the body cam conversation from officers where the female officer is overheard saying, "She's been actually very pleasant." while the male officer replied: "I think it's more of them not wanting to deal with it."

The Black children in Carolina government-run schools are under attack and more likely to be punished than their White counterparts.  In fact, Meredith Horton, deputy executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice stated in a recent interview that “[w]e’re still continuing to see a pattern related to school discipline that breaks down along racial lines.” He also coined the situation a “racial caste system” where structural racism and discrimination continue to blatantly take place.  The use of force and violence on black students is nothing new for Carolina, and is clearly seen through various excessive, punitive, harsh punishment exercises these children face and by the verbal and physical attacks they experience. An incident at Spring Valley High School of South Carolina is a prime example. Here a female student was grabbed by her neck thrown to the ground and dragged out of class for not responding to a teacher’s request. The resource officer was ultimately not charged with use of excessive force on the young student, an indication of the way our children are viewed as somehow deserving of harsh punishments and rarely viewed as victims.  Most recently, South Carolina High School Black students were victims of hate speech and had to defend themselves against the use of the word “n***er” in a class by a White teacher. Not only are these situations harmful and disturbing, but they forever change our children while impacting the students who are onlookers to the offense.

California is “so progressive” that the Black children are left behind.  Academically the black students are ranked across grade levels at 80 percent unable to do math and 67 percent who can’t read or write

But beyond the liberal curtain, you will find no liberty from oppression and racist attacks on our Black children. Recently fleeing from an angry hateful mob were the San Diego Lincoln High School students who showed up to play a football game. They were terrorized and even followed to the bathroom and taunted by the San Clemente High School parents and students.  Their tear-filled eyes watched hopelessly as they were told they were dogs and should be put on leashes. 

This is no isolated incident in California as the Riverside County Black students have also experienced an escalation of consistent hate and attack.  Black children attending public government-run schools where de facto segregation exists. Non-black students, also the non-Black staff, have free reign of terror and hate masked under freedom of speech claims. In fact, there is a 120 percent increase of white supremacist propaganda within Southern California leaving us to ponder who is beneath the sheets.  Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino said “It’s not just the fact that white supremacy and prejudice are being mainstreamed, but among youth, there is also the need to be hurtfully shocking. These are the images that go viral online. Bigotry is now cool for young people who feel that society is cleaving away from them. It’s an expression of in-your-face tribalism.”  Equally disturbing as the acts is the non-intervention from the onlookers.  If silence is permission, their silence is comparable to the masses of White people who faithfully showed up and participated in weekly lynching rituals.

In a recent survey conducted by Amy Harmon of 101 black teenagers in Washington, D.C., findings may startle some while being commonplace to others.  The “How Much Racism Do You Face Every Day?”survey revealed that the students “… reported more than 5,600 experiences of racial discrimination over two weeks. That boils down to an average of more than five instances per day for each teenager. That’s more than 70 over two weeks.”  By triangulating that in the student’s perspective we find that the impact from racism and discrimination not only causes short term harm but impacts our black children in enormously destructive ways.

The overall impact of the reign of terror through racist attacks and harmful structural exploitation in the government-run school has been verified by an American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement. This first of a kind policy statement from AAP on racism has coined the term “socially transmitted disease” when describing the acute physical and tremendous mental health effects of racism on child and adolescent. Much of this harm is done while at school and through the use of excessive punishment practices.

Racial inequities in school discipline begin early, and school discipline has long-term consequences for children. Although federal civil rights laws prohibit discrimination in the administration of discipline in public schools, the US Government Accountability Office found that African American and American Indian students are overrepresented among students experiencing suspension. Although children and adolescents who are the targets of racism experience the most significant impact, bystanders are also adversely affected by racism. As an example, young adults who were bystanders to racism and other forms of victimization as youth experience profound physiologic and psychological effects when asked to recall the memory of a past anchoring event as a victim or bystander that are comparable to those experienced by first responders after a major disaster.  

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a five-tier model showing that needs must be satisfied in a certain area and direction to ultimately attain self-actualization. Starting with physiological, safety, love and belonging, self-esteem then reaching self-actualization …

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This is polar opposite to the white supremacist pyramid of hate …

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On this pyramid of hate, notice that lynching is at the very top, along with hate crimes, use of the N-word, racial slurs and racial jokes.  All of which our children experience daily in government-run schools.  These are overt and blatant white supremacist tactics that our Black children have no sanctuary from in their educational environments and it is time for us to say enough is enough. 

The public funding that is poured into education should not be used to perpetuate systemic harm as discrimination and exploitation onto our children.  Their livelihood and wellbeing is depended on our immediate action: we cannot allow our children to remain defenseless, to be routinely vulnerable to racist attacks that kills their souls and their future. “It’s very difficult to tell the Klu Klux Klan from your everyday citizen,” said James Allen, editor of Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America, in 2005. “Every White person in America was privileged because of this violence: when a Black child goes out his home today, he will know that he is at higher risk for police brutality, for harassment than a White youth of the same age. These are all privileges of sorts, that gave Whites … all of these benefits, unless there was an intentional weeding out of racism - which has never happened in America.”

We must immediately vote with our feet and remove our children from toxic educational environments. As parents, we should encourage mass student walkouts and protests that spotlight these environments, and local communities should consider empowering our youth by lowering the voting age one more time to 16: Let’s create a political paradigm whereby policymakers and school boards are directly accountable to a new class of young student voters who demand change. We cannot wait for White people to fix this problem for us, since they are only willing to address racism from a level of comfort and convenience.  It is insanity to rely on the same people who perpetually discriminate against your child to suddenly treat them with human dignity and respect, fairness and equity. Don’t leave your child in generational failure, mental anguish, and physical harm. Let’s remove our children from these institutional cages and empower them today.