Thursday Reading List: Education vs. Punishment, and How White People Talk About Race (Spoiler: Not Much)

Melanie Asmar at Chalkbeat took a look at research on schools with lower rates of suspensions. There are patterns in what those schools do, including this:

Many of the schools use restorative practices to address misbehavior. Students who break the rules are asked to reflect on what happened, identify the harm done and come up with a plan to repair any damage, the educators said. While that approach takes more time than meting out a suspension, the educators said it allows students to develop conflict resolution skills and an understanding of accountability ... While the researchers noted that many educators were uncomfortable talking about the role of race in their discipline process, educators at about a third of the 33 schools explicitly discussed their use of culturally responsive practices.

As I mentioned in my rant on punitive practices on Monday, it is important to remember that children are children. Yes, they need to learn that there are consequences for misbehavior, but the purpose of education should be to teach, not to punish. The criminal justice system is wrestling with similar questions, as Vann Newkirk highlights in a piece in The Atlantic about the federal clemency process for nonviolent offenders:

The [Obama] administration’s own clemency initiative has committed it to issue clemency for certain federal offenders. The current criteria for the 2,000 or so eligible offenders are strict: They have to be convicted of nonviolent drug offenses, to have served a significant amount of time, and to have sentences that would be significantly shorter under current law ... Currently, the “bureaucratic inertia” is formidable ... The shift in the clemency process, and the accompanying drop in accepted petitions, came at the peak of crime-wave-hysteria and the beginning of Reagan’s War on Drugs. That’s indicative of a problem deeper than bureaucracy. There isn’t a real legal or constitutional reason why any president couldn’t just change the system to accommodate more requests, less red tape, and fewer conflicts of interests. Osler said that around Reagan’s presidency, “we had a shift in cultural norms about that times in terms of becoming more retributionist."

Obviously I do not believe that the criminal justice system should have the same standards as schools vis-a-vis the balance between corrections, education, and punishment. That said, the equilibrium among those three things is wildly off course in our criminal justice system, particularly when it comes to the sentencing and incarceration of men of color for drug-related offenses.

In other news, Ebony F at Blavity looks at research on how White people talk about race in social media:

According to a recent Pew Research Study, 67 percent of white social media users say they never post or share posts about race on their timelines. This might not come as a surprise as conventional etiquette tends to shy from public discussions about hot button, passion-inducing topics like politics, race and religion. And for those who don’t have to deal with the daily stresses of racism, talking about race can feel daunting or overwhelming. Conversely, the study reveals that black users are less likely to skirt the conversation.
Live footage of White people during conversations about race.

Live footage of White people during conversations about race.

My hypothesis is that White readers of the blog are in the minority here and DO in fact talk about race on social media. If you don't already, I encourage you to start! Speaking of social media, there has been a lot of chatter the last two days on all of my feeds about the cognitive dissonance involved in the release of the new film The Birth of a Nation. The movie, which won some of the biggest festival awards this year, focuses on the 1831 rebellion of enslaved people led by Nat Turner. As publicity for the film's fall release heated up this week, media sources started reporting on the fact that the film's director, Nate Parker, narrowly avoided a rape conviction when he was an undergraduate. Folks are conflicted about how to respond to the revelation, and a rich discussion is unfolding right now about men's complicity in rape culture, the intersections of gender and race, and how to think about art in the context of the artist. Erika Totten and Feminista Jones, who have been working to organize viewings of the film, have changed course after learning about the director's history, and their discussion of that decision is what I'll leave you with today:

Yes, the film is incredible. It made me cry. It made me shout. It made me angry. It made me hopeful. It inspired me and re-invigorated my energy in this movement. And I squealed when I saw my brother’s name scroll by during the credits. However, I decided that I could not go forward with promoting the film in a way that would put a great deal of money into the pockets of someone I’m not so sure I can or want to vouch for. And I don’t need to vouch for Parker at all, really. It’s never been about him. This concept has been about Nat Turner ...