If you want to understand the connection between no-excuse discipline policies (and the disparities in the application of these policies) and racism, take some time to listen to this broadcast on This American Life. This is an astounding chronicle of the schools-to-prison pipeline and well worth an hour of your time.
“I can’t breathe.” Those were Eric Garner’s last words on Earth. He was unarmed and killed by police officers who are hired and trained to “serve and protect.” But they didn’t protect Eric Garner. I suppose they were protecting the citizens from a man who was allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes on the streets of Staten Island, New York. I say allegedly because Garner will never be officially charged, never go on trial, and never have a right to be defended by an attorney. He is dead. And no one will be held accountable for his death. Our nation is still reeling from the events of Ferguson, Missouri, where Michael Brown, another unarmed man was killed — shot to death — by police officers. And the officer who shot him was also acquitted by a grand jury. Michael Brown allegedly stole some cigars and was walking in the middle of the road. Of course, Michael Brown, too, was never officially charged, never went to trial, and was never defended in a court of law by an attorney. He is dead.
These are not isolated cases. As Josh Harkinson reported in August, four unarmed black men were killed last summer in the span of a month in the U.S. And in Cleveland, Ohio, police officers are under investigation for the shooting death of 12 year old Tamir Rice in a playground. Tamir was shot because someone called 911 after seeing him brandishing a replica handgun — and the caller made it clear that the gun probably wasn’t real. All of these men and Tamir had two things in common: they were black and they were Americans.
We have a problem in the U.S. Take a minute to read the NAACP’s Criminal Justice Fact Sheet. Consider, in particular, the following:
“… 35% of black children grades 7-12 have been suspended or expelled at some point in their school careers compared to 20% of Hispanics and 15% of whites …”
We should all be having a little trouble breathing. We must stop dehumanizing black lives in our country. It starts when they’re kids. And no-excuse charter schools are not the answer. I agree with Jon Stewart. We certainly are not living in a post-racial society.