Oct 8, 2011

Imagine: White Students Suspended Disproportionately More than Blacks

Imagine this headline in your local paper:

Report: White Students Suspended 59% More than Blacks

Imagine the response of a typical American  community to this article:
White students in the City School District tend to get suspended at a higher rate than students from other ethnic groups, according a recent report from district officials.  
According to the report, white students accounted for about 59 percent of the 929 suspensions school administrators handed down during the 2010-11 school year, even though they make up only 16 percent of the district's 12,000 students. 
District administrators denied it is a case of racially profiling white students even though the district's teaching staff is overwhelmingly black, with only 13 whites among the district's 918 teachers, said the district human resources director.  
A successful white student athlete in the district says that most white kids he knows don’t feel singled out for being white. Kids who behave poorly receive their due consequences. “White kids just need to realize that they can still be white! They just have to act more professional and try to fit in."

Imagine if you looked at the comments online for this article and saw many comments like this:

If you were a white parent who had white children in this school district, would you be concerned? Would you worry about how your children are being treated? Would you want the school to invest in programming and training to help teachers become more culturally aware of white behaviors?

Would you fear for your children because of the comments? Would you wonder if those who comment using the anonymous login or a pseudonym would ever take the next step and do something in the real world that targets your children--just because they are white?

The headline above did appear in an Iowa newspaper this week. The article above is a paraphrase with only racial categories changed from the original. The comments are real. 

To white people in Iowa and in many other parts of the country where you are still the majority race, I ask you to think about these questions:
  • How would you respond if you read that your kids are being disciplined more than any other group in school?
  • How would you feel, knowing that you are powerless to do anything about that disproportionate punishment of white students because the same statistics about whites that occur in schools, also are the norm in our judicial system? 
  • What lessons would you teach your children about how to survive in a world where brown people are the majority? 
  • How would you feel about having to teach your white children survival skills so that they can exist in a brown world?
  • What would be important to you? If your children were surrounded by brown people all day, every day, and rarely saw other white people, what would you want them to learn about white culture?
The questions I ask above are the questions that parents of brown children have to ask every day. Stop and think for just a moment. Read any story in your local paper that deals with race. Substitute "white" for "black" or "hispanic" while you're reading, and imagine how you'd feel.

Think about it.


  1. These numbers are upsetting. A person not taking outside variables (i.e. bias) into consideration would infer that brown teenagers are all trouble-makers. Makes me wonder how these numbers would compare to Blacks, Hispanics, other minority populations in the penal system? I've stopped reading comments on news sites, Jen. They're too awful for me to stomach. 

  2. This story was all over Iowa news for a couple of days--on the radio, in the newspaper, and on TV. I hoped it would show people why schools are doing so many things to adjust their discipline and curriculum delivery styles, but the comments on all of the media sites show a real lack of understanding. I really wonder what would happen if the tables were turned? 

  3. Jen, sadly, I think the "what would happen" would still be determined by economics. Those with the most money have the loudest voice. : (

  4. Hello Jen!
    Sadly I agree with what Ezzy says, still money gives you the power of "being right" or at least of being heard more. In general, the world would be a much better place if we all stopped and put ourselves in other's people's shoes. In the majority of cases, people tend to react and see injustice only when something happens to the group the feel they belong to.

  5. Hi Dania! Thanks for stopping by :-) I think you and Ezzy are on to something with that sad, but true observation: money = power. 

  6. Jen, I think that more people need to think about what the situation would be like were it reversed.  Sadly, they don't have to make this consideration.  What they said in the comments sums up the level of ignorance pretty well... "There is no culture issue...they're not from another country".  Wow...this is as ignorant as it comes.  Disappointing.  Obviously, the culture of a group dominated and enslaved will be far different from that of a group that has made money off the backs of slaves and benefits from privilege.

    I highly doubt that German Jews and German Whites felt they shared the same cultural values and outlooks following WWII.  People need to think about what culture means and the fact that is about more than a simple location or decidedly "foreign" surname.

  7. That particular comment really upset me, Chantilly. I have been very disappointed by so many of the comments made in response to that news article. There are very few places in our country where a white person from Iowa could go without experiencing some degree of "culture shock"--even if it is just one state over. There are regional dialects, customs, styles of dress, and flavors in every part of the U.S. It amazes me that someone can be so small-minded that they cannot see or appreciate those differences. 

  8. Exactly...I totally agree.  Even from state to state there is a marked difference in the local culture and you're so right that whites in an isolated pocket where 'white culture' reigns will likely face a culture shock.  The term can be applied in so many ways...also to religion.  For example, being white and Christian in Utah...or white and Mormon...there is a marked difference in culture even among these two communities and within the same region, so the idea that you must be 'foreign' to possess cultural variation is ridiculous...

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