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Targeted for cages not classrooms, Part II

Separate and Unequal School Punishment

Jayne Matthews Hopson | 4/11/2014, 6 a.m.
Education Matters continues “The School to Prison Pipeline: Black Students Targeted for Cages not Classrooms.” Michelle Alexander, an associate professor ...

RS: So, what's the impulse that makes us respond in that punitive manner?

MA: I think we still, as a nation, have deep-seated, unconscious, as well as sub-conscious, stereotypes and biases. Particularly about black men, but kids of color in general, that lead us to be less compassionate, less forgiving, and less optimistic about their ability to make a meaningful contribution to our society. It seems normal for those kids to be at the bottom of the hierarchy.

Imagine a school district in which the white kids were the ones who were constantly being pulled out of class, kicked out of school, arrested and sent to jail, but all the black kids, or most of them, trotted off to college. People would say “what is going on here?” It would just be treated as utterly bizarre and it would defy all expectations.

But, we’ve gotten accustomed to thinking of young black kids as troublemakers and underperformers. So their failures and suffering doesn’t disturb us as much, doesn’t defy our expectation.

I think there is unconscious bias and stereotyping even among those of us who claim to care, and believe that we’re non-racist. We have these stereotypes that have been ingrained in us not just for decades, but for centuries, and they won’t go away easily. We’ve all been socialized to have these perceptions and expectations of kids of color.

Next week: The conclusion

Jayne Matthews Hopson writes about education matters because “only the educated are free.”