Most discussions on anti-Blackness (racism, white supremacy) tend to focus on issues of injustice via the criminal justice system. However, anti-Blackness, whether in the form of laws, policies, traditions or stereotypes, is a danger to our mental, physical and emotional well-being wherever it rears its ugly head.
Take, for instance, education. Anti-Blackness in this arena can retard intellectual growth, stymie professional earning potential and exacerbate the already overpopulated school-to-prison pipeline.
WHAT IS ANTI-BLACKNESS
According to “Anti-Blackness/Colorism,” a report by a group of scholars including Janvieve Williams Comrie, “Anti-Blackness is defined as the beliefs, attitudes, actions, practices, and behaviors of individuals and institutions that devalue, minimize, and marginalize the full participation of Black people… the systematic denial of Black humanity and dignity, which makes Black people effectively ineligible for full citizenship.”
In education, anti-Blackness plays out in several ways.
A Brookings Institute study found that 30% of respondents (including both teachers and non-teachers) expressed explicit pro-white/anti-Black bias and 77% expressed implicit pro-white/anti-Black bias. The study found that teacher anti-Black biases mirror the level of anti-Black bias in the larger society.
These biases fuel the “school-to-prison” pipeline as well as more in-school and out-of-school suspensions and expulsions for Black students, and their over-representation in special education classes and under-representation in AP courses.
Anti-Black biases also play out in the “adultification” of Black children that leads to harsher punishments than their white peers for similar infractions.
A report from the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality titled “Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood, argues that Black girls experience “adultification;” being viewed as less innocent than their white peers. This potentially explains the harsher treatment they routinely receive via school discipline and law enforcement encounters.
“Black girls are suspended from school and arrested at incidents greater than their white peers. Black girls are more likely to be disciplined for minor violations, disobedience, disruptive behavior, fighting and bullying than their white peers,” stated Sarah Guidry, director of the Earl Carl Institute (ECI) based at Texas Southern University during a 2020 interview. “In fact, the incidence of punishment for Black girls is even greater than the disparity between Black and white boys.”
Research by the Center on Poverty and Inequality found that some adults believe Black girls need less nurturing and protection than white girls, and know more about adult topics and sex. According to Word In Black reporter Alexa Spencer, the organization Rights 4 Girls found that girls are commonly criminalized for reporting abuse, with school administrators actually punishing students who report sexual abuse and harassment.
Another Word In Black reporter, Anissa Durham discovered that big contributors to the over-punishing of Black students amid this anti-Black matrix are school zero-tolerance policies that criminalize minor infractions of school rules, by suspending or expelling students and simply the presence of police on campus.
“Research shows schools with a police presence lead to an increase in Black students being arrested for minor infractions and harsher punishments,” wrote Durham.
According to the National Education Association’s (NEA) 2020 report What the Research Says About Ethnic Studies, “Students who participate in ethnic studies (i.e. AAS) are more academically engaged, develop a stronger sense of self-efficacy and personal empowerment, perform better academically and graduate at higher rates.”
Thus, efforts to ban these studies via the mislabeled “anti-CRT” movement, are literally damaging the mental, emotional and intellectual well-being of Black children. Scholars call this kind of damage “epistemic violence.”
A Rand Corporation report revealed that since 2021, legislation has been proposed in 42 states to curtail race- and gender-related teachings. In 18 states, the measures are now law, according to an Education Week tracker. In at least six states, the rules include penalties for educators or schools that do not comply with denying Black students (and all students) with Black history, literature, arts, etc.
This anti-Blackness in education is happening even as a survey of teachers across the country found that 78% of teachers think the anti-CRT frenzy is “interfering with a productive and necessary discussion regarding race in America” according to an American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology report.
One possible result: “Since 2017, suicide has been the second leading cause of death in those 10-19 years old. Rates of suicide among Black youth have risen faster than in any other racial/ethnic group in the past two decades, with suicide rates in Black males 10-19 years old increasing by 60%. Early adolescent Black youth are twice as likely to die by suicide as compared to their white counterparts.”
Data shows that socioeconomic stress and perceived discrimination are two of the “greater predictors” for suicide in Black children and adolescents than in their white peers.
And Texas is ground zero for this attack on “our Story.”
Just months after African American Studies classes were cleared to be offered to Texas high schoolers (April 2020) by the Texas Board of Education, such courses seemed to be in danger of ever being taught. As pushback to the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project and calls during the “Summer of George Floyd” to end white supremacy in education and elsewhere, any efforts to teach Black history or provide a Black perspective on contemporary issues were slapped with the erroneous CRT label and vehemently attacked by conservative organizations, parents and politicians.
For example, Katy ISD, just outside of Houston, canceled a scheduled presentation from author Jerry Craft, winner of the 2020 Newberry Medal, the Coretta Scott King Author Award and the Kirkus Prize, because his books New Kid and Class Act chronicled elementary school life for Black children attending predominantly white schools. Katy ISD even removed Craft’s books from school libraries at the behest of anti-CRT Katy parents.
One university report found that between Jan. 1, 2021 and Dec. 31, 2022, federal, state, and local government officials introduced 563 anti-CRT measures, 241 of which were enacted or adopted.
In 2020 ECI launched the Black Girls Initiative focused on confronting and reducing the disparities Black girls face in school discipline, education, criminal justice, homelessness, human trafficking, LGBTQ discrimination, child welfare and more. The project focused on raising awareness to the issue of anti-Blackness and increasing support via mentoring and pushing for pro-Black girl policy recommendations.
Moreover, some brave teachers like Sterling Aviation High School’s Andre Muata Richardson and Christina Frascino of Mickey Leland College Preparatory Academy, have been teaching AAS for a couple of years, even amid potential backlash from anti-CRT-crazed adults.
There are also several community-based groups and organizations taking the education of “our story” into their own hands, some based on the “Freedom Schools” model, others simply teaching classes, hosting conferences and workshops and infusing Black subjects into their after-school programs.