Monday Reading List: Solidarity, Suspension, Abolition, and Valediction

The victims of yesterday's horrific shooting in Orlando are on my mind this morning. Beth Hawkins wrote a moving piece about making sure that our educational institutions are a safe place for children of any sexual orientation:

Whatever your relationship to the young people in your community or their educators, mark Pride this year by finding some way to push your local schools to be that place of solidarity and empowerment [the president] described. Where LGBT youth and adults can come together to raise awareness, speak their minds, and advocate for their civil rights.

Alexis Morin, the executive director of SFER, made a similar point about providing nurturing educational environments for vulnerable children:

Morin is correct about neutrality. Encouraging the healthy, and safe, development of gay and transgender young people should not be a controversial position. Here are links to resources for teachers who want to understand how to encourage safe and tolerant environments for LGBTQ youth. Folks who think that "PC culture" is overly concerned with policing verbal violence should remember that the actual safety of vulnerable communities has always been the issue.

Speaking of verbal violence, social media erupted when two high school valedictorians in Texas proudly declared their undocumented status:

When Mayte Lara Ibarra, the valedictorian of her high school’s graduating class, revealed her plans to attend the University of Texas at Austin on a scholarship, she did what any graduate would do: She shared her excitement on social media. Ms. Ibarra also declared, proudly, that she is undocumented ... “America can be great again without the construction of a wall built on hatred and prejudice,” said Ms. Martinez, according to WFAA, a local ABC affiliate. She told the station that she had a full scholarship to Yale with plans to study medicine. But some observers saw the students’ decision to express pride in being undocumented as an affront, and criticized them on social media.

Click the link to the article to see the disgusting response to a brave, promising young person. Moments like this reveal the complete incoherence of anti-immigration sentiment in this country. It is impossible to argue that immigration brings undesirable elements to the country, while simultaneously lambasting a Yale-bound high school senior. Unless you take the position that this country needs fewer Yale graduates, in which case ...

Staying in the southern part of the US, in Alabama there's a school district that only expels its black students:

Federal data shows there's a racial disparity at Dothan City Schools when it comes to disciplining students, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. About 55 percent of the student population in Dothan City Schools are black, but they represent 85 percent of in-school suspensions, 87 percent of out-of-school suspensions, 90 percent of the referrals to alternative school and 100 percent of the expulsions ... Dothan City Schools has the third highest number of referrals of black students to law enforcement in the state, data shows. It is one of the school districts with the highest rates of disproportionate law enforcement referrals of black students.

It is important to understand the linkages, both real and implied, between zero-tolerance discipline policies and the criminalization of youth, particularly youth of color. I once saw a police officer confront an elementary school student about writing on a school wall, claiming that the police had jurisdiction because it was an act of vandalism. That's crazy. Period. It's that sort of behavior that drives abolitionist sentiment, according to Sharif El-Mekki:

In the antebellum South, it was largely a crime to teach the 4 million enslaved Black people to read and write. Today, from the cries of foul from status quoers, it would appear that it is a crime for us to demand schools that support our youth’s humanity ... Unfortunately, there are some haunting similarities in many of the arguments of the pro-slavery crowd and today’s anti-civil/human rights groups.  Alarmingly, those who defended shackles, preached patience, and a gradual freedom yesterday, use those same arguments today. They have actually never stopped. Dr. King lambasted them from his shackles in a Birmingham jail for having the audacity to tell those who suffer to patiently await relief. Today, they tell us that school choice is too expensive, it undermines persistently failing schools, and that choice is a form of radicalism. Really? Those who claim to be pro-equity should be wary of having similar arguments of those who fought against abolition. I know it may sound radical, but we have thousands of drop-out factories in this country-especially in Black and Brown communities.  Anything pedestrian to address it is an act of sabotage.

Strong words to contemplate on your way to work today.