Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

January 27, 2018

Exciting New Curriculum from Rethinking Schools

Filed under: BlackLivesMatter,Rethinking Schools — millerlf @ 1:03 pm

New Rethinking Schools book

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A Revisit with Michelle Alexander on Schools: We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.

Schools and the New Jim Crow: An Interview With Michelle Alexander

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Interview published in Rethinking Schools

We asked Alexander to share her thoughts about the implications of her work when applied to education and the lives of children and youth.

RS: What is the impact of mass incarceration on African American children and youth?

MA: There is an extraordinary impact. For African American children, in particular, the odds are extremely high that they will have a parent or loved one, a relative, who has either spent time behind bars or who has acquired a criminal record and thus is part of the under-caste—the group of people who can be legally discriminated against for the rest of their lives. For many African American children, their fathers, and increasingly their mothers, are behind bars. It is very difficult for them to visit. Many people are held hundreds or even thousands of miles away from home. There is a tremendous amount of shame with having a parent or other family member incarcerated. There can be fear of having it revealed to others at school.

But also, for these children, their life chances are greatly diminished. They are more likely to be raised in severe poverty; their parents are unlikely to be able to find work or housing and are often ineligible even for food stamps.

For children, the era of mass incarceration has meant a tremendous amount of family separation, broken homes, poverty, and a far, far greater level of hopelessness as they see so many of their loved ones cycling in and out of prison. Children who have incarcerated parents are far more likely themselves to be incarcerated.

When young black men reach a certain age—whether or not there is incarceration in their families—they themselves are the target of police stops, interrogations, frisks, often for no reason other than their race. And, of course, this level of harassment sends a message to them, often at an early age: No matter who you are or what you do, you’re going to find yourself behind bars one way or the other. This reinforces the sense that prison is part of their destiny, rather than a choice one makes.

A Birdcage as a Metaphor

RS: At one point in The New Jim Crow, you refer to the metaphor of a birdcage as a way to describe structural racism and apply that to mass incarceration. How does what is happening to African American youth in our schools fit into that picture?

MA: The idea of the metaphor is there can be many bars, wires that keep a person trapped. All of them don’t have to have been created for the purpose of harming or caging the bird, but they still serve that function. Certainly youth of color, particularly those in ghetto communities, find themselves born into the cage. They are born into a community in which the rules, laws, policies, structures of their lives virtually guarantee that they will remain trapped for life. It begins at a very early age when their parents themselves are either behind bars or locked in a permanent second-class status and cannot afford them the opportunities they otherwise could. For example, those with felony convictions are denied access to public housing, hundreds of professions that require certification, financial support for education, and often the right to vote. Thousands of people are unable even to get food stamps because they were once caught with drugs.

The cage itself is manifested by the ghetto, which is racially segregated, isolated, cut off from social and economic opportunities. The cage is the unequal educational opportunities these children are provided at a very early age coupled with the constant police surveillance they’re likely to encounter, making it very likely that they’re going to serve time and be caught for committing the various types of minor crimes—particularly drug crimes—that occur with roughly equal frequency in middle-class white communities but go largely ignored.

So, for many, whether they go to prison or not is far less about the choices they make and far more about what kind of cage they’re born into. Middle-class white children, children of privilege, are afforded the opportunity to make a lot of mistakes and still go on to college, still dream big dreams. But for kids who are born in the ghetto in the era of mass incarceration, the system is designed in such a way that it traps them, often for life.

RS: How do you define and analyze the school-to-prison pipeline?

MA: It’s really part of the large cage or caste that I was describing earlier. The school-to-prison pipeline is another metaphor—a good one for explaining how children are funneled directly from schools into prison. Instead of schools being a pipeline to opportunity, schools are feeding our prisons.

It’s important for us to understand how school discipline policies have been influenced by the war on drugs and the “get tough” movement. Many people imagine that zero tolerance rhetoric emerged within the school environment, but it’s not true. In fact, the Advancement Project published a report showing that one of the earliest examples of zero tolerance language in school discipline manuals was a cut-and-paste job from a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration manual. The wave of punitiveness that washed over the United States with the rise of the drug war and the get tough movement really flooded our schools. Schools, caught up in this maelstrom, began viewing children as criminals or suspects, rather than as young people with an enormous amount of potential struggling in their own ways and their own difficult context to make it and hopefully thrive. We began viewing the youth in schools as potential violators rather than as children needing our guidance.

The Mythology of Colorblindness

RS: In your book, you explain that the policies of mass incarceration are technically “colorblind” but lead to starkly racialized results. How do you see this specifically affecting children and young people of color?

MA: The mythology around colorblindness leads people to imagine that if poor kids of color are failing or getting locked up in large numbers, it must be something wrong with them. It leads young kids of color to look around and say: “There must be something wrong with me, there must be something wrong with us. Is there something inherent, something different about me, about us as a people, that leads us to fail so often, that leads us to live in these miserable conditions, that leads us to go in and out of prison?”

The mythology of colorblindness takes the race question off the table. It makes it difficult for people to even formulate the question: Could this be about something more than individual choices? Maybe there is something going on that’s linked to the history of race in our country and the way race is reproducing itself in modern times.

I think this mythology—that of course we’re all beyond race, of course our police officers aren’t racist, of course our politicians don’t mean any harm to people of color—this idea that we’re beyond all that (so it must be something else) makes it difficult for young people as well as the grown-ups to be able to see clearly and honestly the truth of what’s going on. It makes it difficult to see that the backlash against the Civil Rights Movement manifested itself in the form of mass incarceration, in the form of defunding and devaluing schools serving kids of color and all the rest. We have avoided in recent years talking openly and honestly about race out of fear that it will alienate and polarize. In my own view, it’s our refusal to deal openly and honestly with race that leads us to keep repeating these cycles of exclusion and division, and rebirthing a caste-like system that we claim we’ve left behind.

RS: We are in the midst of a huge attack on public education—privatization through charters and vouchers; increased standardization, regimentation, and testing; and the destruction of teachers’ unions. Much of it is justified by what appears to be anti-racist rhetoric: Schools aren’t meeting the needs of inner-city children, so their parents need choices. How do you see this?

MA: People who focus solely on what do we do given the current context are avoiding the big why. Why is it that these schools aren’t meeting these kids’ needs? Why is it that such a large percentage of the African American population today is trapped in these ghettos? What is the bigger picture?

The bigger picture is that over the last 30 years, we have spent $1 trillion waging a drug war that has failed in any meaningful way to reduce drug addiction or abuse, and yet has siphoned an enormous amount of resources away from other public services, especially education. We are in a social and political context in which the norm is to punish poor folks of color rather than to educate and empower them with economic opportunity. It is that political context that leads some people to ask: Don’t children need to be able to escape poorly performing schools? Of course, no one should be trapped in bad schools or bad neighborhoods. No one. But I think we need to be asking a larger question: How do we change the norm, the larger context that people seem to accept as a given? Are we so thoroughly resigned to what “is” that we cannot even begin a serious conversation about how to create what ought to be?

The education justice movement and the prison justice movement have been operating separately in many places as though they’re in silos. But the reality is we’re not going to provide meaningful education opportunities to poor kids, kids of color, until and unless we recognize that we’re wasting trillions of dollars on a failed criminal justice system. Kids are growing up in communities in which they see their loved ones cycling in and out of prison and in which they are sent the message in countless ways that they, too, are going to prison one way or another. We cannot build healthy, functioning schools within a context where there is no funding available because it’s going to building prisons and police forces.

RS: And fighting wars?

MA: Yes, and fighting wars. And where there is so much hopelessness because of the prevalence of mass incarceration.

At the same time, we’re foolish if we think we’re going to end mass incarceration unless we are willing to deal with the reality that huge percentages of poor people are going to remain jobless, locked out of the mainstream economy, unless and until they have a quality education that prepares them well for the new economy. There has got to be much more collaboration between the two movements and a greater appreciation for the work of the advocates in each community. It’s got to be a movement that’s about education, not incarceration—about jobs, not jails. A movement that integrates the work in these various camps from, in my view, a human rights perspective.

Fighting Back

RS: What is the role of teachers in responding to this crisis? What should we be doing in our classrooms? What should we be doing as education activists?

MA: That is a wonderful question and one I’m wrestling with myself now. I am in the process of working with others trying to develop curriculum and materials that will make it easier to talk to young people about these issues in ways that won’t lead to paralysis, fear, or resignation, but instead will enlighten and inspire action and critical thinking in the future. It’s very difficult but it must be done.

We have to be willing to take some risks. In my experience, there is a lot of hesitancy to approach these issues in the classroom out of fear that students will become emotional or angry, or that the information will reinforce their sense of futility about their own lives and experience. It’s important to teach them about the reality of the system, that it is in fact the case that they are being targeted unfairly, that the rules have been set up in a way that authorize unfair treatment of them, and how difficult it is to challenge these laws in the courts. We need to teach them how our politics have changed in recent years, how there has been, in fact, a backlash. But we need to couple that information with stories of how people in the past have challenged these kinds of injustices, and the role that youth have played historically in those struggles.

I think it’s important to encourage young people to tell their own stories and to speak openly about their own experiences with the criminal justice system and the experiences of their family. We need to ensure that the classroom environment is a supportive one so that the shame and stigma can be dispelled. Then teachers can use those stories of what students have witnessed and experienced as the opportunity to begin asking questions: How did we get here? Why is this happening? How are things different in other communities? How is this linked to what has gone on in prior periods of our nation’s history? And what, then, can we do about it?

Just providing information about how bad things are, or the statistics and data on incarceration by themselves, does lead to more depression and resignation and is not empowering. The information has to be presented in a way that’s linked to the piece about encouraging students to think critically and creatively about how they might respond to injustice, and how young people have responded to injustice in the past.

RS: What specifically?

MA: There’s a range of possibilities. I was inspired by what students have done in some schools organizing walkouts protesting the lack of funding and that sort of thing. There are opportunities for students to engage in those types of protests—taking to the streets—but there is also writing poetry, writing music, beginning to express themselves, holding forums, educating each other, the whole range. For example, for a period of time the Ella Baker Center in Oakland, Calif., was focused on youth engagement and advocacy to challenge mass incarceration. They launched a number of youth campaigns to close youth incarceration facilities in northern California. They demonstrated that it is really possible to blend hip-hop culture with very creative and specific advocacy and to develop young leaders. Young people today are very creative in using social media and there is a wide range of ways that they can get involved.

The most important thing at this stage is inspiring an awakening. There is a tremendous amount of confusion and denial that exists about mass incarceration today, and that is the biggest barrier to movement building. As long as we remain in denial about this system, movement building will be impossible. Exposing youth in classrooms to the truth about this system and developing their critical capacities will, I believe, open the door to meaningful engagement and collective, inspired action.

 

Why teach about structural oppression and other systems of control?

Young people are not likely to get this information from any other source. If we are ever going to overcome this, we first have to be able to talk about it, describe it, to know what it is. Unlike the old Jim Crow, there are no signs alerting you today to the existence of racial bias. The “whites only” signs are gone, and it’s easy today to be lulled into this belief that people are at the bottom because they simply don’t work hard or are lazy or prone to violence. If we don’t pull back the curtain for young people and help them to see how unconscious bias operates, how systems of discrimination operate, then they will continue to operate on a false belief that race discrimination is a part of our past and not our present. They will find themselves being part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

 

What would you want students to understand from reading and studying your book? 

They have the power to change the system. It’s easy to imagine that a system like mass incarceration can’t be dismantled. The same was said about slavery, the same was said about Jim Crow. And yet a powerful movement, led in large part by courageous, young people who were unwilling to accept the status quo, who were bold and brave and who were truth-tellers, helped to bring that Jim Crow system to its knees. I think it’s important that even as we learn about great injustice that we not become paralyzed by it but recognize that we are the change we’ve been waiting for and that young people—perhaps more than any other segment in our society—are the hope upon which future generations can rely.

Interview by Jody Sokolower, Rethinking Schools, published 2013

Who is shackling our children and who is supporting their liberation?

 

October 24, 2016

BlackLivesMatter in Seattle!

Filed under: BlackLivesMatter — millerlf @ 7:24 pm

Thousands of Seattle teachers wore Black Lives Matter shirts to school. Here’s what it looked like.

The #BlackLivesMatterAtSchool event in Seattle  was breathtaking.

Never before in the country has an entire district of educators risen up to declare that Black lives matter. It’s hard to even put into words the power of this event. It has been reported that 2,000 teachers wore Black Lives Matter shirts to school across the district–in fact, the number was much larger than that.  That is the number of shirts that were ordered from the Social Equality Educators, however, many schools made their own shirts. Families made buttons and distributed them to schools.  Some parents set up informational booths in front of their school with resources for teaching about racism. There was a joyous atmosphere around the city.  Many educators around the city took the day to teach students developmentally appropriate lessons about institutional racism and hold dialogues about Black lives matter.

There is so much work left to be done to make Black Lives truly matter at school. But at the rally for Black lives at lunchtime at my high school, Garfield, something happened that let everyone know that change is already happening.

One of our teachers, Janett Du Bois, revealed to everyone in the middle of our rally that the police had murdered her son a few years ago. No one at our school knew about this. It was in that moment of seeing everyone wearing  Black Lives Matter shirts that she found the strength to tell her story. Her bravery to go public with this has changed Garfield forever.  I am so glad that she no longer has to suffer alone with the pain. Here is a short news story that doesn’t do her full speech justice, but will give you a glimpse: http://www.king5.com/news/local/seattle/2000-seattle-teachers-to-wear-black-lives-matter-shirts/338419052

ABC provided national news coverage of our day and the amazing evening rally: http://abcnews.go.com/US/video/seattle-teachers-bring-black-lives-matter-school-42942387

Here is a link to some of the best photos taken of the day from a Seattle Public Schools parent, photographer, and author Sharon Chang: https://sharonhchang.com/blacklivesmatteratschool/

Below are just some of the photos of schools from around Seattle who participated in #BlackLivesMatterAtSchool:

October 5, 2016

Milwaukee Public Schools: Black Lives Matter resolution

Filed under: BlackLivesMatter — millerlf @ 4:44 pm

Black Lives Matter, Milwaukee Public Schools Resolution 1516R-001 April 28, 2015

WHEREAS, The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (1948) boldly declared that, “Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship…”; and

 

WHEREAS, As a public school district, we are facilitators of the limitless growth potential of human beings. Our charge is to pour every ounce of creativity and energy that we have into the task of helping young people find and achieve their purpose. Our purpose must be guided by the belief that every human being deserves to live with dignity and that each of our students can leave his or her communities better than he or she found them; and

 

WHEREAS, The killing of unarmed Black men and women has left young people searching for answers to incredibly complicated and infuriating questions; and

 

WHEREAS, The extrajudicial killing of Black people in this country has deep roots in the dehumanizing system of white supremacy that once defined Black bodies as property and persisted in the form of lynchings during the 100 years of Jim Crow. The mob and the whip have been replaced by government sponsored “programs” like COINTELPRO, the war on drugs, mass incarceration, unjust policing, and structural policies that maintain racial segregation (redlining, urban renewal, and more) that exploit and oppress poor communities. Because these tragedies are not new and have lasting negative consequences for our communities, cities, and nation, we need to assert, over and over again, that the lives of Black people matter; and

 

WHEREAS, As WEB Du Bois stated, “The teachers of Black youth must believe in them. They must have faith in them and their community. They must trust them and encourage them and defend them.” Right now that means affirming that we are committed to the emotional and physical safety of Black students. It means that our schools and classrooms must be safe spaces for dialogue and support on the issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement and the efforts to reverse the school-to-prison pipeline; and

 

WHEREAS, We believe deeply that the lives of all people matter. As a school district and as educators our lives are constructed around this fact. Shouting loudly that “Black Lives Matter” does not negate our commitment to ALL of our students. In fact, we believe that challenging all of our students and colleagues to recognize the innate value of Black lives will help them grow and that the quality of life for all who live in our communities will improve when we value the lives of everyone. Since so many of our Black students struggle to trust that our society values them, we must affirm that their lives, specifically, matter; and

 

WHEREAS, Historically, when Black people have fought for a more democratic society, the lives of all people have improved. Each time barriers to Black people’s potential have been erected, our whole society has suffered; and

 

 

WHEREAS, Educators knows that each of our students has different needs and that none of their lives end at our classroom doors. When our students are hungry or struggle emotionally, they don’t learn as well as they otherwise could. When our students witness or experience violence, they suffer emotionally and physically. To maximize student potential, our school system must meet the needs of our students in different ways. Right now, it is especially important for Black students to know that we value them, no matter what the legal system and police actions tell them; and

 

WHEREAS, Problems in our schools mirror those in our society. Society is plagued with poverty, growing inequality, gun culture, and violence. For our schools to be safe and centers of respect for the educational process, students, staff, parents and community must all come together for the betterment of our students’ future now; and

 

WHEREAS, The problems mirrored in schools can only be fully addressed with a united effort of community and school coming together; now, therefore, be it

 

RESOLVED, That our district and schools and classrooms create safe space for dialog and support on issues faced in communities and schools related to policing, the educational process, and improving school safety; and be it

 

FURTHER RESOLVED, That quality restorative justice practices be expanded and deepened district-wide, with the goal of training all staff in those practices; and be it

 

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the district create an advisory council — comprising community, parents, educators, and students — to assist in reviewing, strengthening, and creating curriculum and policy related to the issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement, the efforts to derail the school-to-prison pipeline, the broader historical experience of the Black community, and present schooling experience; and be it

 

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the above advisory council shall assist in implementing policy and curriculum and establishing quality dialog with staff, parents, students and community; and be it

 

FURTHER RESOLVED, That student leaders of all types be called on to participate in advancing this discussion and implementation; and be it

 

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the effort include discussions of biases, racial micro-aggressions, school-wide
data on race and discipline, fears, cultural ignorance, and stereotypes of Black youth; and be it

 

FURTHER RESOLVED, That these discussions lead to training of school staffs in methods of de-escalation, mindfulness, creating a culture of trust, and cultural relevance; and be it

 

FURTHER RESOLVED, That one of the goals of this process be to strengthen bringing community into our schools and to strengthen schools as centers of support for communities; and be it

 

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the district review its programs that may be contributing to unfair, unequal power relationships with community and school policing.

April 28, 2015

September 26, 2016

Charles Blow on Police Violence: American Epidemic, American Consent

Filed under: BlackLivesMatter — millerlf @ 1:03 pm

The Opinion Pages | Op-Ed Columnist Charles Blow NYTimes Sept. 26, 2016

Credit Andy McMillan for The New York Times

Another set of black men killed by the police — one in Tulsa, Okla., another in Charlotte, N.C.

Another set of protests, and even some rioting.

Another television cycle in which the pornography of black death, pain and anguish are exploited for visual sensation and ratings gold.

And yes, another moment of mistakenly focusing on individual cases and individual motives and individual protests instead of recognizing that what we are witnessing in a wave of actions rippling across the country is an exhaling — a primal scream, I would venture — of cumulative cultural injury and a frantic attempt to stanch the bleeding from multiplying wounds.

We can no longer afford to buy into the delusion that this moment of turmoil is about discrete cases or their specific disposition under the law. The system of justice itself is under interrogation. The cultural mechanisms that produced that system are under interrogation. America as a whole is under interrogation.

We are in a new age in which the shroud has slipped and trauma has risen.

This is a video age, in which facts that were previously filtered though police accounts and media sources, that were previously whispered over shoulders at barbershops and across kitchen tables, have been buttressed by the immediacy and veracity of visual proof.

It is an age in which the language of resistance has been set and accepted, in which the mode of expression and resistance has been demonstrated and proved effective. It is an age of enlightenment and anger, of fear and frustration, of activism and alertness. Black America is beyond the breaking point, a point of no return.

And in this era, the discussion around these issues must be broad and deep because the actions required to address the problems must be broad and deep.

This moment in our nation’s history is not about how individual fears are articulated — in an emergency call, in an officer’s response, in weapons drawn and fired, in black people’s desire to flee for their lives, in black parents’ anxiety about the safety of their children. This moment is about the enormous, almost invisible structure that informs those fears — the way media and cultural presentations disproportionately display black people, and black men in particular, as dangerous and menacing and criminal. It’s about the way historical policies created our modern American ghettos and their concentrated poverty; the ways in which such concentrated poverty and its blight and hopelessness can be a prime breeding ground for criminal behavior; the way these areas make poverty sticky and opportunity scarce; the way resources, from education to health care to nutrition, are limited in these areas.

We keep talking about choices, but we don’t talk nearly enough about the fact that choices are always made within a cultural and historical context.

People didn’t simply choose to live in neighborhoods with poor housing and poor schools and crumbling infrastructure and few grocery stores and fewer adequate health care facilities. There were many factors that created those neighborhoods: white flight, and the black flight of wealthier black people, community disinvestment, business lending practices and government policies assigning infrastructure and public transportation to certain parts of cities and not others.

And the people living in those communities — sometimes trapped in those communities — make choices, sometimes poor ones, within that context.

We may say that a poor choice is simply wrong and the offending party must deal with the consequences. But poor choices made in a poor environment don’t have the same consequences as those made in wealthy environments. For poor people, the same poor choices are punished more often and more severely, compounding their deficit.

Then America takes it further, imputing the poor choices of a few onto a whole race, and in so doing sets the stage for disaster. This creates the suspicion and fear that can lead to the deaths we’re seeing, in which the person killed may have made no poor choices, in which the only poor choice was the pulling of a trigger.

This is what people mean when they talk about the impact of systemic racism in these cases and in these areas. It is not that the police harbor more racism than the rest of America, but rather that racism across society, including within our police departments and system of justice, has been erected in ways that disproportionately impact poor, minority communities. That is acutely clear in these killings.

Republican vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence said last week, “We ought to set aside this talk, this talk about institutional racism and institutional bias,” calling it “rhetoric of division.” That is exactly the opposite of what we should do.

The police are simply instruments of the state, and the state is the people who comprise it. The police are articulating a campaign of control and containment of populations and that campaign has the implicit approval of every citizen within their jurisdictions. This is not a rogue officer problem; this is a rogue society problem.

September 6, 2016

Tupelo, Mississippi: Police Killing Called a Modern Day Lynching of Unarmed Man

Filed under: BlackLivesMatter — millerlf @ 8:13 pm

‘A modern day lynching,’ attorney says. Antwun “Ronnie” Shumpert was pulled over on a routine traffic stop on when he ran and was pursued by police in Tupelo, Miss. A K-9 officer chased Shumpert down. His testicles were mauled by the dog and several of Shumpert’s teeth were knocked out before he was shot repeatedly in the chest by Officer Tyler Cook.

While there has been little national attention, demonstrations have been organized by Stand Up Mississippi and the Coalition of Concerned Pastors demanding justice for Antwun. There have been smaller counter-demonstrations by a white supremist group called Confederates United Patriots Society. The Confederates United Patriots Society’s marching chant has been “justice has been served.”

(Tupelo’s Black community has historically fought against terror and white supremacy. I attended a demonstration in 1978 in Tupelo called by the United League, the leading civil rights organization in Northern Mississippi at that time. See attached photos by Bob Brown:  tupelo-photos)

Shaun King NEW YORK DAILY NEWS July 1, 2016

When police officers assault or kill someone, getting to the truth of what happened, barring the presence of an HD video, is nearly impossible.

If any type of malfeasance took place, the likelihood that the responsible officer, the supervising officers, or the police union simply come out and admit such a thing right away is slim to none. “I’m poorly trained and a bit of a bigot,” while a distinct possibility, is simply not a phrase we’re likely to hear come out of an officer’s mouth when explaining the use of force in America.

Consequently, the initial reports from local media outlets when police have used lethal force often read like the script from a heroic Captain America film with clear cut good guys who were forced to kill the law-breaking villains because they simply had no other choice.

The reality is rarely that cut and dry. Getting to the truth of a case of police brutality, particularly if the only other witness to the brutality is now dead, sometimes requires us to wade through a gauntlet of conflicting media and witness reports to search for a few small clues that something is just not quite right.

Such is the case of the police killing of Antwun “Ronnie” Shumpert on Saturday, June 18th in Tupelo, Miss. What the police are saying (and what they have so far not said) just isn’t quite adding up.

Shumpert, a beloved 37-year-old father of five, was pulled over for a “routine traffic stop” while driving the car of his friend, Charles Foster. Police have not yet said what that routine traffic violation was. That alone has caused many to believe it was a “driving while black” type of stop.

Whatever the case, after he was pulled over, something clearly spooked Shumpert and he ran from the vehicle. A nearby camera showed as much.

To many people, the idea of running from police makes no sense whatsoever. I won’t use this space to explain the deep and well-placed fear that millions of African-Americans have developed of law enforcement and how that fear of police, of the judicial system, and of local jails and prisons could cause an otherwise calm and cool black man to get out of his car and run when faced with a ticket or another simple violation, but it’s a real thing.

Shumpert, who his family lawyer says was completely unarmed, ran.

Officer Tyler Cook, who lawyer Carlos Moore says pulled Shumpert over, then let a K-9 loose. Cops claim the the K-9 found Shumpert, who then “emerged from hiding and attacked” the dog and the officer.

But whatever actually happened ended with the dog repeatedly biting Shumpert in the testicles, mutilating them, Shumpert having several of his teeth knocked out and others apparently kicked deep into his gums, and him ultimately being shot repeatedly in the chest by the officer.

“We believe the officer just went berserk,” Attorney Carlos Moore told ThinkProgress. “It was a modern day lynching.”

Shumpert died five hours later at the North Mississippi Medical Center.

I have viewed the pictures of Shumpert taken at the hospital and have chosen not to share them here. They are unthinkably brutal and indeed show the injuries described.

An unarmed African-American is at least six times more likely to be killed by police as an unarmed white person. In fact, an unarmed African-American is almost as likely to be killed by American police as an armed white person. In some cities, a black man is more likely to be killed by police than he is to suffer a fatal car accident.

With American police in 2016 on a pace to kill more people than any year ever measured, mandatory body cameras must become the norm. While they may not reduce police violence, they would at least allow us all to understand the full truth of cases like the brutal death of Ronnie Shumpert.

The Daily News contacted the Tupelo Police for comment but received no response.

 

August 17, 2016

Milwaukee’s War on Black People

Filed under: BlackLivesMatter,Milwaukee Community Devastation — millerlf @ 11:29 am

 

Sarah Lazare
August 15, 2016
Alternet
Protesters taking to the streets today say that police violence against black residents of Milwaukee remains systemic. “You see anger, just the anger and the frustration of a community that has suffered atrocities and oppression on behalf of what they deem to be the police oppressive system, that has never seemingly been held accountable for taking the life, like the young man said, of their loved ones,” Muhibb Dyer, a community activist said.

Maria Hamilton, mother of Dontre Hamilton, leads the march Monday along Water St. during a Coalition for Justice rally at Red Arrow Park in downtown Milwaukee, Calvin Mattheis,

Donald Trump supporter and Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke has built a national profile by openly declaring war on the Black Lives Matter movement, from the floor of the Republican National Convention to the pages of national media outlets, once even proclaiming on social media that racial justice protesters will “join forces” with ISIS.

Now that some Milwaukee residents have staged days of open rebellion against police violence following the cop killing of 23-year-old Sylville K. Smith, Clarke is ratcheting up his rhetoric. During a press conference on Sunday, he employed dog-whistle racist language, stating that “the urban pathologies have to be addressed to shrink the growth of an underclass.” Clarke went on to argue that, from Baltimore to Ferguson to Milwaukee, there is a “war on police,” and vowed to escalate his crackdown on demonstrators. Meanwhile, Gov. Scott Walker on Sunday declared a state of emergency and activated the national guard against protesters.

But in a city that has been called the most segregated urban area in America, angry demonstrators are telling a different story, of a state-sanctioned war against poor black residents. This perspective was described by Sedan Smith, who identified himself to local outlet CBS 58 as the brother of Sylville Smith.

“It’s the police. This is the madness that they spark up. This is what they encourage. This is what they provoke. This is what you get. You take a loved one from something, this is what you get,” Smith declared on Saturday, standing in view of an auto parts store engulfed in flames. “I don’t know when it’s going to end. But it’s for y’all to start. We’re not the ones that’s killing us. Y’all killing us. We can’t make a change if you all don’t change.”

Before Sylville Smith was killed, Milwaukee was already reeling from former Milwaukee police officer Chistopher Manney’s killing of Dontre Hamilton, a mentally ill black man, with 14 gunshots in 2014. While Manney was fired from his position, he did not face any charges for the murder, and Milwaukee residents staged Black Lives Matter demonstrations to protest his impunity.

Protesters taking to the streets today say that police violence against black residents of Milwaukee remains systemic. “You see anger, just the anger and the frustration of a community that has suffered atrocities and oppression on behalf of what they deem to be the police oppressive system, that has never seemingly been held accountable for taking the life, like the young man said, of their loved ones,” Muhibb Dyer, a community activist and co-founder of the organization Flood the Hood with Dreams, told Democracy Now.

But in Milwaukee, injustices against black people extend far beyond policing. A 2013 study from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee found the state has the highest incarceration rate for black men in the country at 13 percent. Report authors John Pawasarat and Lois M. Quinn note:

The prison population in Wisconsin has more than tripled since 1990, fueled by increased government funding for drug enforcement (rather than treatment) and prison construction, three-strike rules, mandatory minimum sentence laws, truth-in-sentencing replacing judicial discretion in setting punishments, concentrated policing in minority communities, and state incarceration for minor probation and supervision violations. Particularly impacted were African American males, with the 2010 U.S. Census showing Wisconsin having the highest black male incarceration rate in the nation. In Milwaukee County over half of African American men in their 30s have served time in state prison.”

Not surpringly, Wisconsin’s budget allots more for incarceration than for schooling. Four out of every five African-American children in Milwaukee live in poverty.

A report released last year by the University of California at Los Angeles found that schools in Milwaukee suspend black students at nearly two times the national average. Meanwhile, Wisconsin has the worst achievement gap between white and black students in the United States, thanks largely to the Milwaukee public school system, which has been systematically defunded and privatized for more than two decades.

Racial disparities extend to home lending. A study released in July by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition found, “In the Milwaukee Metropolitan Statistical Area, whites represent 70 percent of the population, yet received 81 percent of the loans. African Americans are 16 percent of the population yet only received four percent of the loans.”

NPR’s Kenya Downs wrote an article last year raising the question, “Why is Milwaukee so bad for black people?” Downs wrote: “Milwaukee is a vibrant city known for its breweries and ethnic festivals and can be a great place to live — unless you’re black. Statistically, it is one of the worst places in the country for African-Americans to reside.”

When Baltimore erupted in uprisings last year following the violent death of Freddie Gray in police custody, angry protesters, most of them black youth, were widely demonized. Yet a recently released Department of Justice investigation into that city’s police department vindicates protesters’ outrage, exposing law enforcement’s atrocities against poor black communities, including systematic harassment, violence and degradation.

Now, like their counterparts in Baltimore, the black youth of Milwaukee are being demonized as thugs and criminals by the police department entrusted to protect and serve them. Bolstered by a hate-fueled presidential campaign, Sheriff Clarke is escalating his demagogic incitement against the very people he and his city have failed.

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War.

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.

 

Preview YouTube video FULL SPEECH: Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. Republican National Convention

Preview YouTube video Sheriff David Clarke Gives Epic Press Conference Following Milwaukee Mayhem

August 15, 2016

The Long-Term Effects of Social-Justice Education on Black Students

Filed under: BlackLivesMatter,Ethnic Studies — millerlf @ 11:42 am

A new study shows such courses prompted self-exploration and openness in marginalized kids.

Melinda D. Anderson Jul 19, 2016 The Atlantic

Last summer, the high-school English teacher T.J. Whitaker revised the reading list for his contemporary literature course with the addition of a new title—The Savage City, a gritty nonfiction account of race and murder in New York City in the 1960s. The 24-year teaching veteran said he chose the book to give his students at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey, a chance to read “an honest depiction of the Black Panther Party and the corruption that existed in the NYPD during the ‘60s.” In a school where black students are half of the student body—and a photo of two white peers in blackface caused an uproar in May—Whitaker’s classroom is a space for students to examine issues such as oppression, classism, and abuse of power. And it’s yielding results.

When the South Orange-Maplewood School District recently considered restoring school resource officers, law-enforcement officials assigned to school campuses, the move was met with sizeable opposition from juniors and seniors in Whitaker’s class. They organized fellow students to attend the public forums and testify on their experiences with local police—both in school and the community. And notably, they relied on Whitaker’s class discussions to bolster their arguments.

Transformative social-justice education is often viewed as a path to more equitable classrooms and cross-racial understanding, at a time when public-school classrooms are increasingly segregated. Most frequently associated with the Brazilian educator and theorist Paulo Freire, it is an approach growing in popularity and interest nationally. But for students from marginalized and disenfranchised groups—those most in need of upending the status quo—what is the payoff? And how can teachers steeped in this method affect their learning?

A new study from Pennsylvania State University seeks to answer these lingering questions. Marinda K. Harrell-Levy, an assistant professor of human development and family studies at Penn State Brandywine, set out to explore the long-term impact of a transformative social-justice course on black adolescents. The class, a junior-year requirement, intended to motivate students to become social agents in their schools and communities, and included a service learning component. In 2010, as part of a larger research project, Harrell-Levy followed up with 13 black students who graduated from an urban parochial high school in 1995 to 2009, and, though the sample size was small, she found that the benefits of their mandatory social-justice class extended well into adulthood.

“We know that if you teach … anything related to civic development, it’s very likely that within the next week or two after taking the course, students are going to have a positive feeling about their experiences,” she said. “[But] how do they feel … years later? Is it still resonating?” Harrell-Levy’s goal was to discover how the social-justice class helped a socioeconomically diverse group of black teenagers see themselves in society. What the study revealed was a deep-rooted link between the course, career choices, and the former students’ civic and social-justice values.
“[These] thought-provoking conversations made them consider, or reconsider, their own perspective on what it meant to be black.”

Black alumni of the class, many years after graduating, uniformly credited the social-justice course for provoking a process of self-exploration that altered their sense of justice and influenced their self-identity. Eleven of the 13 reported identifying or revising career interests while taking the course, prioritizing professions to improve their community. Helping convicted felons return to the workforce, pursuing a degree in social work, and working in the education field all flowed from their enrollment in the social-justice class.

“Jenna” (pseudonyms were used in the study to protect the identity of the student participants) pointed to the course as giving her “a different moral standpoint and a different conception of justice.” Her knowledge of civic issues like capital punishment increased, she said, inspiring her to enroll in law school “to contribute to a socially just world.” Likewise, conversations with participants like “Patricia” showed how the social-justice class ignited “the power of her own agency”—a sentiment widely shared, in which students saw themselves as capable of changing conditions in their own lives as well as larger institutional injustices.

The former students were very forthcoming, said Harrell-Levy, sharing all types of experiences they were going through, from “My father was in jail” and “My mother was addicted to drugs” to “I was in a foster home during half of my time at the school”—underscoring how their teachers incorporated those experiences into the learning process. “They felt that they were relevant. That their experiences were relevant. There was this nexus of culture and pedagogy that was happening with the students and with the teachers that made the learning process that much more meaningful for everybody,” said the study’s lead author.

Additionally, the research showed that the race of the teachers was not an impediment to the course’s mission—a crucial takeaway given that just over 8 out of 10 public schoolteachers are white. “They didn’t ignore the fact they are white,” said Harrell-Levy, stressing that “colorblind ideology” was rejected. Instead, recognizing that her students looked at her as “this privileged white lady who had the luxury of illuminating about issues [of diversity],” the teacher brought the students’ reluctance into the classroom discussion as a learning point.

An unexpected outcome for the researchers was how the course allowed students to unravel issues of advantage among black students based on class—an aspect that seldom surfaces in social-justice discourse. The predominately black Catholic school included a mix of students attending through school vouchers, athletic scholarships, academic scholarships and other financial means. According to Harrell-Levy, the combination offered a unique opportunity for the teachers to challenge intra-racial stereotypes. Participants who described themselves as “privileged” or “sheltered” revealed that their opinions of the “black poor”—and more generally, those living in poverty—were effectively confronted through the social-justice curriculum.
“We’ve got to give them the tools…to process in ways that are healthy and will actually build our democracy.”

“All of these … thought-provoking conversations made them consider, or reconsider, their own perspective on what it meant to be black. Their own perspective on what it meant to be poor and black. Their own perspective on what it meant to be [economically advantaged] and black. That was a type of conversation that teachers willingly let [happen].”

Leigh Patel, an associate education professor at Boston College and a sociologist of education, characterized the study as a nuanced take on race and class, and a departure from the study of blackness and black youth as a monolithic topic. She cautioned, however, that understanding the full scope of transformative social-justice education should extend beyond the individual to the collective impact.

“Are we transforming individuals’ [career] pathways [or] are we transforming a collective population’s realities of wellness and suffering?” asked Patel, noting that the drawback to focusing primarily on “individualistic, live-your-best-life” measures is that inequities are never experienced exclusively by individuals. By contrast, Patel cited United We Dream, the Dream Defenders, and We Charge Genocide as “explicit projects of social transformation” that are “fundamentally collective.”

Where Patel and Harrell-Levy found firm agreement was on the critical need to rethink teacher training and professional development to incorporate transformational social-justice teaching. “What’s required here is a certain vulnerability that you don’t really expect [and] teachers don’t generally want,” said the Penn State researcher. “The teachers in the study, on a regular basis, had to expose themselves in order to connect with the students. At the very least, teachers need to understand the impact that they’re having on students’ identity. Whether it’s intentional or unintentional, it’s happening.”

In the wake of recent fatal police shootings of black men, the Black Lives Matter Movement, and heightened interest in how black youth are processing these events, Harrell-Levy said the time is now to revisit the role of teachers and schools. “There’s a lot of emotion surging through a lot of [youth] right now, who don’t have any experience on what to do with it, and how to deal with it,” she said. “There’s a mental toll to … literally seeing life leave bodies on YouTube, again and again. We’ve got to give them the tools…to process in ways that are healthy and will actually build our democracy.”

August 13, 2016

How Black Lives Matter Activists Plan to Fix Schools

Filed under: BlackLivesMatter,Charter Schools — millerlf @ 8:08 am
Emily Deruy August 5, 2016
The AtlanticActivists are calling for an end to charter schools and juvenile detention centers.
Black Lives Matter activists have already successfully pushed some colleges to address racism on campus and make curriculum more inclusive. But the movement as a whole has been less visible in the K-12 space. That’s changing.

 

As my colleague Vann Newkirk has noted, the Movement for Black Lives Matter coalition recently published a platform outlining a range of specific policies it would like to see take shape at the local, state, and federal levels. The education proposals are rooted in the K-12 space, activists who helped draft them told me, because the U.S. public-school system is so broken that college is never an option for many young people of color. And while many universities are privately controlled, the group sees an opportunity to return control of K-12 public schools to the students, parents, and communities they serve.

 

Public schools, even in the nation’s most affluent cities, remain highly segregated, with black children disproportionately likely to attend schools with fewer resources and concentrated poverty. There are more school security officers than counselors in four of the 10 biggest school districts in the country. And whereas spending on corrections increased by 324 percent between 1979 and 2013, that on education rose just 107 percent during the same time.

 

The coalition’s proposals are wide-ranging and, depending on who is talking, either aspirational or entirely unrealistic. They range from calling for a constitutional amendment for “fully funded” education (activists say federal funding is inadequate and not distributed equally) and a moratorium on charter schools to the removal of police from schools and the closure of all juvenile detention centers.

 

Mostly, said Jonathan Stith, the national coordinator for the Washington-based Alliance for Educational Justice and one of the lead authors, the propositions are an attempt to crystallize what the movement supports and to provide activists with a platform from which to move forward. “It’s always been clear what we’re against, but [articulating] what we’re for, what we want to see, was a real labor,” Stith, 41, said. The document is also an effort to connect education priorities to health care, the economy, criminal justice, and a range of other public-policy areas, and to, as Stith put it, force progress “in concert.”.

 

The plan, which lambasts the “privatization” of education by foundations that wield fat wallets to shape policy and criticizes charter-school networks for decimating black communities and robbing traditional neighborhood schools of resources, drew immediate criticism from education reformers who see charters and groups like Teach for America (the plan calls for its demise) as providing badly needed services to students of color. Some of these reformers said it signaled that the movement was cozy with teachers’ unions and the status quo. Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the head of the National Education Association, one of the country’s two main teachers’ unions, wrote in an emailed comment, “The NEA is honored to stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and proud to be a partner with the organizations that support community-based solutions to support students and public schools.”

 

But Hiram Rivera, the 39-year-old executive director of the Philadelphia Student Union and another author of the platform, pointed out that the plan offers plenty for the unions to dislike, too, such as community control of curriculum, and the flexibility to hire and fire teachers. “The education system in this country has never worked for poor people and people of color,” said Rivera. “We’re not calling for the status quo. We don’t want things to continue as they’ve always done.”

 

Stith (who has a child enrolled in a charter school and said the desire to eliminate them “comes from a lived experience”) and Rivera think that reformer-union dichotomy ignores the movement’s broader goal of returning control of schools to parents, students, and local communities. “A lot of the real issues get lost,” Rivera said, citing curriculum, school safety, resources, and college-and-career preparation as examples.

 

The Philadelphia Student Union, as its name suggests, works directly with young people to improve schools in the city, which has been reeling from a lack of funding that saw nurses and counselors cut from school rosters. (The plan calls for free health services.) Rivera was able to incorporate young people’s voices into the education platform. Students, he said, told him they do not feel safer with police officers in schools, and school closures, often in impoverished communities, leave them feeling set up to fail by the system.

 

“The education system in this country has never worked for poor people and people of color.”

While the education platform covers a broad array of issues, both Rivera and Stith hope activists at all levels will see it as a starting point; they’re also optimistic that it will give community members who may not have seen a clear way to take action the framework they need to get started. “Visions change as time and conditions change,” Stith said. He noted, for instance, that parents in Illinois have pushed for elected instead of appointed school boards, something the platform advocates, and wants groups to be able to point to the platform as a source of ideas and support.

 

It should give “community members, people directly impacted, folks working inside of schools, a set of policy suggestions they can think on and move forward,” Rivera said. Broadly, Stith hopes it will “prompt a dialogue among African Americans about the quality of education in this country. That dialogue is one that’s long overdue and a particularly important one at the moment.”

 

With the recent passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, a new federal education law, activists see an opportunity to push for equity in schools. But Stith and others are also nervous the act, which returns some control of education policy to states, will exacerbate inequities in states where lawmakers do not see ending them as a priority.

 

Mobilizing community members can be difficult, particularly when it comes to communities whose educational needs and priorities have long been ignored. Parents may assume they will be ignored, or they may not have a vision of themselves as community activists or leaders because they have never seen anyone like them in that role. But Stith says the plan has been well-received and that it’s “starting to do some of what our intention was, which is to stir a conversation around black education in this country.”

 

“These are not the be all, end all,” Rivera added. “These are conversation starters, something for people who needed someplace to start.”

 

Half of Wisconsin’s Black Neighborhoods Are Jails

Filed under: BlackLivesMatter,Milwaukee Community Devastation — millerlf @ 8:05 am

17-year-old Lew Blank researched race and housing in his state and found some disturbing patterns.

AP/Gerald Herbert

17-year-old Lew Blank was fiddling around with the Weldon Cooper Center’s Racial Dot Map when he discovered something disturbing about Wisconsin, where he lives: More than half of the African-American neighborhoods in the state are actually jails. Not only that, but the rest of the black neighborhoods across the state are either apartment complexes, Section 8 housing, or homeless shelters—the lone exception being a working-middle class section of Milwaukee.

Sharing this info on the Young, Gifted, and Black Coalition’s blog, Blank explains that he used the Racial Dot Map to identify where predominantly black neighborhoods—defined as “a certain area where the majority of residents are African Americans”—are located throughout the state. There are 56 of them, 31 of which are either jails or prisons. There are 15 cities where the only black neighborhood is a jail. The city of Winnebago claims it has an African-American population of more than 19 percent, but most, if not all, of that black population is located among one of four correctional facilities there. It’s perhaps no wonder that Wisconsin perennially comes up as the worst place for African Americans to live in the country.

Below are a few maps from Blank’s Wisconsin collection—blue dots represent white residents, yellow dots are for Latinos, and green dots are for African Americans:

(Lew Blank)

In Madison, the circled “J” area is the location of the city’s largest jail. Every other area circled is Section 8 housing, save for two apartment complexes (“D” and “G”) and two homeless shelters (“I” and “K”). Read more from Blank about Madison’s racial disparities here.

(Lew Blank)

The large circled area of Milwaukee marked with an “A” is the lone black neighborhood in the state of Wisconsin that is not a prison or mostly low-income housing. That said, there are two areas within that large circle, and one area adjacent to it that are correctional facilities. Another predominantly black area way at the southern tip of the city (“E”) is also a jail.

(Lew Blank)

Three of the seven “black neighborhoods” in Racine are actually correctional facilities: The section circled by “B” contains two jails.

These disparities are not without consequence. Cities and legislative districts with mostly white populations are able to draw down extra federal resources based on their incarcerated minority populations through a sketchy practice called “prison gerrymandering.”

But Blank’s own conclusions about his map findings stand on their own:

Despite this terrible epidemic, it seems that whenever people try to speak out against it, they are met with backlash and apathy. Whenever people failed by a racially disparate economic system, a business-as-usual governmental system, and a rooted-in-slavery police system demand much-needed, life-or-death systemic changes by marching in the streets and chanting “Black Lives Matter,” they are somehow met with disdain for simply fighting for their freedom and their right to self-determination.

Perhaps instead of not listening to the experiences of Wisconsin’s and the nation’s Black [communities], we should lend our ears to their demands.

This kid is woke.

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