Tuesday Reading List: Upending Cultural Norms, Elite Colleges, and Rolling Back Police Reform

Barrett Rosser of Philly's 7th Ward talks about how to survive as an educator, in schools where the children are mostly Black and Brown, but the culture is overwhelmingly - well - White:

... I am still trying to figure out how schools, full of thousands of Black and Brown students, feel so White; how schools with so few men feel so male-dominated, overflowing with the stench of patriarchy. And as a woke woman of color, I’ve studied, lectured, ran professional development sessions and joined other opportunities around cultural context and race, identity and gender, and STILL the Whiteness in schools is so pervasive it’s unbearable ... I’m talking about the norms, values and unspoken rules that are set by White men in charge and upheld by everyone (including people of color and women) in order to not disrupt “normality.”

Rosser provides some tips for navigating these situations, which are worth understanding even if you cannot relate to her experience. If you're an educator - White or otherwise - who hasn't considered the extent to which you're propagating an environment that is uncomfortable for adults and children who aren't White, perhaps you can use some of the language from this piece to ask your peers for feedback? Just a thought ...

Derek Thompson of The Atlantic wants to understand the real value of elite colleges:

For most [college] applicants, it simply doesn’t really matter if they don’t get into their top choice, according to a paper by Stacy Dale, a mathematician at Mathematica Policy Research, and Alan Krueger, an economist at Princeton University. These researchers tracked two groups of students—one that attended college in the 1970s and another in the early 1990s. They wanted know: Did students attending the most elite colleges earn more in their 30s, 40s, and 50s than students with similar SAT scores, who were rejected from those elite colleges? The short answer was no. Or, in the author's language, the difference between the students who went to super-selective schools and the students with similar SAT scores who were rejected from those schools and went to less selective institutions was "indistinguishable from zero."

But wait! There's more ...

The researchers found that the most selective schools really do make an extraordinary difference in life earnings for "black and Hispanic students” and "students who had parents with an average of less than 16 years of schooling.” In other words, getting into Princeton if your parents went to Princeton? Fine, although not a game-changer. But getting into Princeton if your parents both left community college after a year? That could be game-changing ... The irony is that elite colleges are disproportionately kind to legacy students and famously struggle to fill their classes with high-achieving minorities and other low-income students from less prestigious high schools.

In other words, while elite colleges could actually be engines of social mobility, they mostly act as propagators of existing pockets of privilege. Sounds familiar.

In other news, Monique Judge of The Root looks at recent actions by the Attorney General:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday ordered Justice Department officials to review reform agreements that are in place with police departments across the country that have been found to have problems with their policing methods, saying the reviews are necessary to ensure the agreements don’t run counter to the Trump administration’s goal of promoting officer safety and morale while fighting violent crime ... This, of course, raises the question of whether or not the agreements, which were a legacy of the Obama administration, will even stay in place.

The context is important here. Some of these agreements were reached as a way to both reconcile conflict and reform policing in places with highly publicized incidents of police violence, like Baltimore and Ferguson. Rolling back these agreements would mean even less accountability for local police.

Finally, Brett Schulte of Slate looks at a town in Arkansas that remains a KKK stronghold:

That Harrison, a town of just 13,000, is 96 percent white and located in the Ozark hills of a former Confederate state might make it an unsurprising breeding ground for white supremacists. But for the last 15 years, civic leaders have battled Robb for the town’s reputation. Organized as the Community Task Force on Race Relations, they have launched their own billboards, media-outreach campaigns, and diversity-themed events. For years, the task force pitted what it thought were mainstream ideals of pluralism against the segregationist goals of the KKK. It enjoys the endorsement of business and city leaders ... But if Harrison is any guide, establishment endorsements and task forces aren’t enough to push back the rising tide of white nationalism. Trump demolished the competition in Boone County, winning 76 percent of the vote—16 points higher than his already-sizable statewide victory.

This piece is a nice example of how White nationalism, racist violence, and the ascendancy of Trump are inextricably connected. You can parse the "economic anxiety" of Trump voters all you want, but the racist attitudes that enabled his rise are in plain sight, and everyone that voted for him made a conscious decision to either embrace, or acquiesce to, those ideas. Have a nice day ...