Earlier this year the Civil Rights divisions of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Education (DOE) put out a letter to help public schools navigate the complicated issue of racial inequality in public school discipline.
Of course, the Obama administration can’t do anything without conservatives claiming the sky is falling so it should come as no surprise that the government’s attempt to help schools abide by the 1964 Civil Rights Act would turn into cries of “quotas” and “manifestos.”
While the actual letter is far from a manifestos the bias from the right is clear. Detroit News Editorial writer Ingrid Jacques stated “What the letter overlooks is the possibility that the numbers are higher for these (black) students because they actually misbehave more.”
If you recall this was a popular meme not too long ago with gun violence when “black on black crime” became a common talking point for Fox News and other conservative echo chambers. Rather than addressing how racism affects the country and having a serious conversation about how to address it, many conservatives have adopted the Ann Coulter line of thinking that racism doesn’t exist anymore. In this world being ignorant clearly trumps accepting one’s own flaws and attempting to become a better person.
It should be noted that Civil Rights include more than the rights of African Americans. They are there to prevent the government and private organizations from discriminating against anyone, be it for the color of their skin, their religious beliefs, their sex, or their sexual orientation.
In this instance the DOJ and DOE present data that suggests there is a systemic problem with discrimination in the education system. Conservatives look at these stats and believe they prove that black students are inherently more disruptive and need to be censured more often. In the past these sorts of beliefs would quickly be identified as racist however hypersensitivity from the right over putting a label on their bigotry prevents people from calling a spade a spade anymore.
But imagine if instead of black students, it was discovered that devoutly religious students were twice as likely to be disciplined as their non religious counterparts. Would those in the religious community not seek a change in how punishment was doled out? Would they be comfortable with an atheist writer suggesting that religious students are inherently more disruptive? Would they not cry that these students Civil Rights were being ignored?
While it may be a great comfort for some white folks to believe that African Americans are just more violent and unruly than their white peers, the data tells a different story.
Even though black and white kids use marijuana at similar rates, black youth werefour times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.
While the media would have you believe black on black crime is a problem, it occurs at an almost identical rate as white on white crime. The same is also true of violent crime rates where socioeconomic status not skin color determined the likelihood of being a victim.
In New York 83 percent of the people who were stopped and frisked were black or Hispanic yet they only represent around half of the population.
The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth shows the U.S. is a deeply racist country with African Americans being perceived as the most lawless.
The reality is that for many whites this bias is a self-fulfilling prophecy. They only accept the information that matches their prejudice and never consider how their views and actions exacerbate the problem. Perhaps nothing proves that more than this belief that a black president asking public schools to consider the Civil Rights of all students is somehow a socialist affront to whites yet when the white president says “Strong civil rights enforcement will be a cornerstone of my administration” it is an applause line.
Unfortunately having a black president didn’t end racism. Instead racists pretend things have changed and use political debate as cover to rationalize their bigoted talking points.