Writing at the Huffington Post, Michaela Pommells says that those who argue that racial disparities in school suspensions are not proof of racial discrimination need a lesson in differentiating between interpersonal and internalized racism.
Last summer, President Obama faced a barrage of criticism after signing an executive order creating two federal panels to review public schools’ discipline policies and outcomes toward African-American students …
School [districts] like Oakland’s are not attempting to manipulate a discipline system to be race based instead of behavior based. The argument that white students are suspended more often than Asian students indicating racism against white students, is irrelevant. Any eye rolling antagonist will tell you that a post-racial America has been the running joke since 2008. President Obama did not and cannot change the simple notion that the U.S. was conceived and then nurtured around the concept of white superiority. Whether it’s intentional or not, the messages received about people of color frame society’s perception of black and brown people. Dismantling racism requires acknowledging that white privilege is the beating heart of America. It’s going to take our government to set policy and institutions like the Oakland School District to take the lead in implementing policies that make us think differently about black and brown people.
The outcome of the 2012 presidential election will determine the federal education mandate but the true measure will be whether America can successfully close the racial disparities facing U.S. schools. In true transformative practice, President Obama has not shied away from addressing underlying racist practices in our public schools but it hasn’t been enough. We have a teaching and administrative body that doesn’t always understand the context of where students of color come from leading to cultural misunderstandings. Without intentional policies that force us to question racist practices, racism will continue to hide in plain sight because those with privilege continue to be the ones in charge. The direct social consequence will be a continuation of disparate outcomes based on race in all sectors of society.
Read Michaela Pommells’ entire piece at the Huffington Post.
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