Does Political Activism Have a Place in Story Time?

We all certainly have fond memories of children’s books, whether it be the actual books we read or the sentiment associated with the ritual of story time. For me, flipping through the pages of Goodnight Gorilla and Where the Wild Things Are, continues to make me nostalgic. The books I read as a child were entertaining, featured a couple of trite moral lesson, but nothing more. Conversely, we are now entering a time of hyper-politicization of children’s books, or rather as the Atlantic puts it, “the radicalization of bedtime stories.”

Children’s books from the past certainly touched on hard pressing issues, however, it seems that new books are more overt in their approach. The current climate is receptive towards children’s book which tackles large political topics, such as, Feminism and Islamophobia, just to name a few. This shift can be attributed to the increase in the amount of Millennial’s who are having children. Millennials are notoriously known for “quasi” activism, and purchasing a politically charged Children’s book might be the next iteration of the concept.

In addition to hyper-politicization, children’s books are becoming more representative. John Oliver released a parody of the book, Marlon Bundo’s a Day in the Life of the Vice President, written by Mike Pence’s daughter. The parody features the same rabbit, however, in Oliver’s version he is gay. From a young age, it is fantastic to be read books that feature characters of different backgrounds, races, and sexual identities, allowing the child to not feel pigeon-holed, or rather not view themselves as abnormal in the future. Legitimizing diversity from a young age will do wonders to help limit future discrimination and bullying.

At the same time, the right is producing a multitude of conservative children’s books. A few of the titles include, The Remarkable Ronald Reagan, Land of the Pilgrims’ Pride, and Donald Drains the Swamp! When presented with these book titles, I’m faced with an inner dilemma. To me, the aforementioned titles are pure propaganda, yet, the right would certainly say the same things about liberal children’s books titled, Dreamer and A is for Activist. Where is the line between teaching a child a valuable lesson and promoting biased propaganda? I personally do not know the answer to this question. I can only hope that with the rise of political children’s books, on both sides of the aisle, the universal children book’s values of humility, honesty, and kindness continue to be a prominent part of the respective stories.

Sharna Olfman, a psychology professor, tacked the hyper-politicization of political books with the following commentary,

Some of the messages in politically oriented books, though, might be going over kids’ heads. Very young children can empathize with another’s feelings, but that it isn’t until “middle childhood”—roughly ages 5 to 11—that they can empathize with someone’s circumstances, like coming from another country or being unable to speak a certain language fluently. After age 11, kids can start to grasp the finer points of a political philosophy. For that reason, Olfman says it’s important to distinguish between “parroting the perspective of the author or the parent” and “deeply understanding” the issue at hand.

I understand Olfman’s perspective, but I do not believe it is a strong enough reason to keep parents from reading their children politically charged books. Although the messages may be going over kids heads, the representative nature of “woke,” books are especially powerful in shaping a child’s mindset before they are “corrupted,” by the influencer of school. I don’t think the rise of “woke” books are going to tremendously change the culture going forward. Hypothetically, if “woke” picture books were not in existence, the respective parents who are inclined to purchase the books would still go out of their way to impart the same values onto their children, and the same can be said for consumers of conservative picture books.

It is clear that humans are not born with innate bias and prejudice, both are learned traits. These new “woke” children’s books are a great way to introduce children to different issues in a digestible manner. However, for every “woke,” picture book there will be a conservative counterpart on the bookstore shelves. As much as I want to limit that, it would be unfair of me to support the propaganda of “woke” books and not award the same opportunity to conservative books. In general, picture books are inherently political, and they always have been. In theory, Children’s books help to teach important values that help children understand the world around them. The hyper-politicized children books are a great tool in shaping the perceptions of young children, however, they will not dramatically alter the political perceptions of future generations.

When Did Businesses Stop Caring About Profit?

Diversity in terms of gender, race, and thought are crucial factors for any successful business, and that’s the bottom line.

The recently passed California Senate Bill 826 will increase the profitability of businesses in the state by at least 15%. Yet in the most shocking twist of events, many businesses vehemently oppose the bill. Critics claim the bill is unconstitutional, but when has constitutionality ever gotten in the way of a business’s profit before?

So, what exactly is this horrific California Senate Bill 826 that businesses are so scared of?

Bill 826 requires that all companies headquartered in the state of California have a minimum of one woman sitting on their boards by 2019, and 2 to 3 women on their boards by 2021. In order to help implement the bill, fines are set to punish those that fail to comply.

As illustrated throughout history, the second men feel that women are encroaching on their “boys club,” they will find any, and every, excuse to block them from joining. In this one instance, corporate America must revert back to their money over everything else mentality. Bill 826 is not a threat, in actuality, it is a positive business opportunity for increasing success, growth and profit. Possibly, one of the best laws to influence business in years.

The Peterson Institute conducted a study which monitored the impact of increasing the number of women who hold C-suite and board positions by 30%. The profit of the respective companies went up by 15% clearly illustrating a positive correlation. The Peterson Institute is not alone in their findings, Mckinsey’s research led to the same results. Credit Suisse discovered that gender diversity directly leads to better stock market returns and valuations. Another study found that women are less likely to commit fraud. Allowing a diverse pool of viewpoints helps develop new ideas which keep businesses innovative and competitive in their sectors.

Why in this case are businesses against profit? The answer is simple, Women. The threat of equality is so daunting, many businesses are willing to forgo greater success. The fear felt by men is captured in the constitutionality argument. The argument is completely centered around a technicality, stating that many California companies are chartered in Delaware, therefore the bill is unconstitutional. Although valid, this reason is not strong enough to completely reject the sentiment of the bill. In fact, the reliance on the constitutionality argument illustrates the urgent stride to keep women from board positions.

Clearly, the bill was positioned incorrectly. The choice to present it as a Women’s rights bill, rather than a pro-business bill, directly led to the contention. Following the passage of Bill 826, Governor Jerry Brown publically stated that he was aware of the flaws attached to the bill, however, he felt it important, and timely, to pass as it would send a strong message to Washington D.C. When a bill is positioned as a “Women’s bill” it is not going to fare well. I’m not being pessimistic, I’m being realistic. Immediately, I am brought back to the failed fight to pass the ERA and the ongoing controversy regarding the existence of Roe V. Wade. Unfortunately, I fear this bill is no different.

There is no way to hide the substance of the bill because it is inherently controversial. Yes, the bill sets quotas for Women on boards, but it is not a Women’s bill. Governor Brown and other senators should have shifted the rhetoric towards the opportunities for business profitability.

If the bill remains, businesses are likely to opt out. The fines which are set are simply chump change. Businesses need to be called out. If a company does not accept this bill, sexism clearly takes precedence over profit.

It would behoove businesses to embrace Bill 826. Taking quotas and affirmative action out of the conversation, this bill is clearly positive for business practices. And hey, if it turns out that the demolition of the glass ceiling is a byproduct of business profitability, I’m not complaining.

Trump Attempts to Remove Birthright Citizenship: Yet Another Attack on Immigrants

With less than a week out from midterm elections, the dialogue has once again been hijacked by Trump. Trump announced his plan to present an executive order which eliminates the congressional right to birthright citizenship.

‘We’re the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years, with all of those benefits,’ Mr. Trump told Axios during an interview that was released in part on Tuesday, making a false claim. ‘It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. And it has to end.’

Plainly stated, this comment is embarrassing. Firstly, Trump is not united with his party, Paul Ryan, and other staunch Republicans, have shot down the president’s plan to write an executive order, stating that is unconstitutional. Secondly, the Presidents lack of knowledge about other countries citizenship laws is alarming. Many people take what Trump says as fact, even though this comment, and many others, are factually inaccurate.  Thirdly, the people that bring their children to the United States, are not simply looking to reap free benefits. They are hoping for a better life for their child, therefore, the child is most likely going to contribute to and enhance, society.

Even if Trump’s executive order is not issued, which is likely, this rhetoric is extremely dangerous. Using the term “anchor babies,” and portraying immigrants as threats, promotes xenophobia within the United States. This point is made evident through the horrific mass-shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue. Trump’s tweets are inspiring people and legitimizing the white nationalist movement. Trump’s threats, such as eliminating birthright citizenship, need to be taken seriously. Additionally, Trump uses shock strategically, sending out this tweet, takes the attention away from his statements regarding Tree of Life Synagogue.

Eric Foner took on this topic in the New York Times, stating,

This has not been our way. Adopted as part of the effort to purge the United States of the legacy of slavery, the principle of birthright citizenship remains an eloquent statement about the nature of American society, a powerful force for assimilation of the children of immigrants and a repudiation of our long history of racism.

Foner’s statement is a beautiful statement, but it’s not entirely true. In times where it feels as if things are going awry, it’s comforting to look at the past reminiscently. However, when doing this one fails to remember all the terrible attempts our government has taken to try and remove or limit citizenship. Since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, there are plenty of examples of limiting citizenship, the Chinese Exclusion Act is one prominent example. Yes, Foner’s right, birthright citizenship, and the 14th amendment is an “eloquent statement about the nature of American society,” yet, since its ratification, the amendment has been under attack. In reality, this amendment was written for the assimilation of White Western Europeans, which is why it has been met with much contention.

Trump’s rhetoric is working to galvanize the white nationalist movement and promote xenophobia. This conversation should be about more than constitutionality, but about the morality behind removing birthright citizenship. As midterms approach on Tuesday, it is important to vote, and support candidates that do not condone white supremacist rhetoric.

Elizabeth Warren Is The Latest Victim of Trumps “Bullying”

Although an irrelevant piece of information, a politician’s genetic background is often used as a political weapon by the opposing party. A prime example is the “birther” conspiracy that worked towards discrediting Barack Obama’s citizenship and character. The most recent victim of this phenomenon is Senator Elizabeth Warren. Throughout her public life, Warren has publically discussed her parent’s elopement. Warren’s mother was “Cherokee and Delaware,” and therefore, not approved by her father’s family. President Trump capitalized on this information to fuel his incessant effort to work towards discrediting the character of others. Trump accused Warren of using her, “Native American ancestry to gain the advantages of affirmative action from various educational institutions and employers.” In response, Warren provided PDFs which show when provided the opportunity she always checks the “White” box. Journalist, Caitlin Flanagan, analyzed this situation as follows,

And at some point, she decided that the thing to do was to have a DNA test and make the results public, which has only proved that Trump can push sensible people past the point of madness. Putting one’s genetic information into the public conversation about one’s fitness for office is a bizarre idea. Moreover, her insistence that it would offer definitive proof of something her supporters believe in was tone-deaf. Doesn’t Warren realize that race is a social construct and whiteness is an idea? Doesn’t she know that the science of genetics is often used as a tool of the oppressor, that you cannot destroy the master’s house with the master’s tools?

Whether Warren was trying to not get caught in a lie or she was simply manipulated by Trump’s rampant bullying, Flanagan is spot on, Warren acted incorrectly. By acting in this manner, Warren gave Trump exactly what he wanted. The results illustrated that she had very little Native American ancestry. However, The Washington Post makes an effort to point out that the journalists left out that, “the report also said that the long segment on Chromosome 10 indicated that the DNA came from a relatively recent ancestor.” Regardless of any DNA evidence, Warren is not a member of the Cherokee nation, therefore it is wrong for her to even claim a remote relation. In fact, the Cherokee Nation’s Secretary of State publically stated, a “DNA test is useless to determine tribal citizenship.”

However, it is unfair to blame Warren for her actions. As a victim of Trump’s wrath, it’s hard to act rationally. When initially reading this story, I immediately thought of Hillary Clinton, and the treatment she received in relation to her email server. Although a drastically different situation from Warren’s, Trump’s strategy remains consistent. Trump’s mission is to delegitimize his oppositions character and integrity in any way possible. Ultimately, DNA should have no place in what determines a legitimate politician. Trumps determination to latch onto small inconsistencies in a person’s background is incredibly petty, but not out of character. Unfortunately, if Warren is to run for president, this “scandal” may alienate voters. However, it is important to not let this instant impact our perception of all the positive attributes Warren brings to the table. This instance is just another example of political theatre and proves irrelevant in determining if Warren can do her job.

University of Michigan Professors Rescind Letter of Recommendation: Highlighting the Complexities of The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

For many students, studying abroad is often referred to as the cornerstone of their college experience. Last month, two University of Michigan students faced a road-block in pursuing their study abroad program. The respective professors rescinded their letter of recommendations when they learned the location of the program, Tel Aviv. The two professors cited their boycott of Israel as the impetus for the decision to retract the recommendation and even offered to write recommendations for other locations.

When this story broke, I immediately was fed the information from two drastically different perspectives. My pro-Israel friends and family angrily posted on Facebook that these professors were restricting the respective students’ academic rights. Conversely, other friends and articles advocated for the professors right to free speech. Both sides are passionate, vehemently opposed to the other, yet the arguments are both valid. In terms of forming my own opinion, it is difficult to reconcile the two perspectives, as I believe there has to be a more nuanced answer than “Israel is bad” vs. “Palestine is good,” and vice versa. Gabby Deutch wrote about this debate in the Atlantic,

Why would professors critical of Israel deny their students this experience? The top two destinations for Michigan students studying abroad in the 2016–17 academic year were Spain and Italy, a university spokesperson told me. No one wants students to boycott popular programs in Florence because of Italy’s unwelcoming policy toward African immigrants, or in Barcelona because last year Spain’s government shut down a democratic referendum about Catalonian independence.

Deutch’s point is interesting, however, her statement does not delegitimize the professor’s decision to protest. Simply because the professors are not protesting every injustice in the world, does not mean they shouldn’t have the right to protest anything. If we expected everyone to follow Deutch’s statement, one should then argue that the professors should protest colleges within the United States, given our unwelcoming policies towards immigrants and poor treatment of minorities. The two respective professors do not support Israel, and that’s fair.

The refusal of the study abroad recommendation acts as a microcosm for larger challenges regarding the Israel and Palestine dialogue on college campuses, “serious conversations about real challenges in Israel aren’t happening on American college campuses, because pro-Israel students have to spend all their time and energy making the basic argument that Israel has a right to exist.” From my personal experience within my Jewish community, and by no means an all-encompassing assumption, the people I interact with that are purely pro-Israel tend to see the issue as black and white. Therefore, it’s unfair that Deutch seems to be putting all the blame on Pro-Palestine supporters on college campuses.

Within the article, Deutch cites her own study abroad experience in Israel as an eye-opening opportunity that introduced her to the complexities of the issue. I agree with Deutch, studying abroad in Israel is a good opportunity to shift the perspective of Jewish-American students. Learning, and interacting, from Palestinian professors, as Deutch did, will help students understand the nuances and histories. However, bringing it back to the study abroad dilemma, the professor’s decision to rescind their recommendation ultimately did not impact the student’s ability to study abroad in Israel. The student simply found another professor to write their letter of recommendation. Just as the students have a right to go to Israel, the professors have the right to protest it.

As I continue to grapple with my own stance on the larger issue, one of Deutch’s sentences particularly resonated with me, “it took that semester to understand that, as a supporter of the country, I could still challenge its policies when I disagreed with them. Israel is a country like any other; I can stand behind it even when I don’t stand behind its leaders.” Throughout my religious upbringing I’ve been taught to love Israel, and throughout my schooling experience, I’ve been taught to love the United States. But in the same breath, I’ve been taught to question and challenge, and never accept the status quo if it’s hurting others. Overall, the study abroad example illustrates the extreme polarization on the issue. I don’t have any answers, but I hope that people on both sides of the issue question, and don’t accept information at face value.

A Culture of Mass-Incarceration: Rooted in Systemic Racism

The United States has the largest prison population in the world, with China and Russia not lagging far behind (BBC). 2.2 million adults and children are locked up across the variety of correctional facilities housed within the United States (PPI). With such strikingly high incarceration rates, it begs the question, are crimes more prevalent in the United States, or is the nation just more punitive than other countries? Both of the suggested answers play a role in influencing high incarceration rates, but neither is fully correct. It is important to note that, Blacks and Hispanics are overly represented in the prison system. Within the U.S population, 12% of adults are Black, and 16% are Hispanic. Whereas, 33% of the prison population is Black, and 23% is Hispanic. To put this into context, 64% of the U.S adult population is White, compared to 30% of the prison population (Pew Research Center). From this data, it is incorrect to conclude that Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to commit crimes, therefore, legitimizing the high incarceration rate. More accurately, the mass incarceration problem plaguing the United States is a result of deep systemic racism. Even after the formal abolishment of Jim Crow, other laws and policies continued the oppression of African-Americans; one of these policies is redlining. Redlining resulted in segregation, excessive policing, and stilted the progress of families living in these respective communities. Within The United States, mass-incarceration is perpetuated, and worsened, by the school to prison pipeline, a system which is a direct byproduct of redlining communities.

By definition, the process of redlining occurs when banks and insurance companies reject loans or mortgages solely based on the geographic area in which the respective customer resides (Ezeugwu). In 1934, the Federal Housing Administration was established to issue private mortgages, in turn, dropping interest rates, and decreasing down payments; African-Americans were barred from this process (Coates). During this time, neighborhoods were mapped to determine stability, “A” neighborhoods were considered excellent, and eligible for insurance, compared to, “D” neighborhoods which were considered poor, and struggled to receive FHA backing. Unsurprisingly, “D” neighborhoods were primarily Black communities. Conversely, “A” neighborhoods did not include one Black family (Coates). The FHA justified redlining by claiming if Black families moved into a highly rated community the property value would go down, therefore putting the loan at risk (Gross). The Federal Housing Administration program aided in helping White working-class families move out of public housing. African-Americans filled the vacancies, and public housing shifted from the working class to the poor (Gross). The FHA measures blocked many African-American families from owning a home, stunting their ability to achieve equal wealth, success and opportunity in the short-term.

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Following the outlaw of redlining by the 1968 Fair Housing Act, some African-American families were able to “upgrade,” and own homes. However, according to Ta-Nehisi Coates, the majority of damage to African-American communities was already done, in addition, segregation continued under the radar (Coates). Communities which resulted from redlining continue to struggle with high unemployment and poverty, making it difficult for people to improve their situation (Coates). Within the United States, it is common for children to attend the public school within their geographic district. As a result of redlining, school districts in poor areas tend to be racially and socio-economically homogeneous. “D” communities receive less money through property taxes, resulting in poor schools, worse teachers, and fewer resources. Additionally, White schools are more likely to receive supplemental funding from the government. (White). The effects of redlining have relegated students to subpar education options, generating an achievement gap which makes it difficult for students to strive for college, and other opportunities.

Within poor school districts, created through redlining, one is likely to identify the manifestation of “the school-to-prison pipeline. The “school-to-prison pipeline” is a concept which refers to the funneling of children and teenagers directly from public school into juvenile and criminal detention centers. The pipeline disproportionately effects those coming from poverty or abuse (ACLU). In fact, “over 50% of students who were involved in school-related arrests or referred to law enforcement are African-American or Hispanic” (EJI). Law professor, Michelle Alexander, cites “zero-tolerance policies,” as the catalyst for the funnel system (Alexander). By definition, “zero tolerance refers to strict, uncompromising, automatic punishment to eliminate undesirable behavior” (Wilson). Originally, “zero-tolerance policies” were devised as a mechanism for combatting school violence, specifically, to reduce school shootings. However, zero-tolerance policies shifted from its initial focus to automatically expelling or suspending, a student for, “alcohol, tobacco, drugs, fighting, insubordination, dress code and disruptive behavior” (Wilson). Zero-tolerance policies are commonly implemented in poor communities, as they are deemed more “unsafe,” however, the mentioned infractions occur in all schools, not just poor districts. The logic behind zero-tolerance policies is inherently flawed; turning schools into policing grounds, simply infuriates and provokes students. Instead, a safe, encouraging environment, would help bring out students untapped potential. Through redlining, the government is responsible for the development of poor communities, and rather than repairing the negative effects, zero-tolerance policies are enacted, creating “the-school-to-prison pipeline” which perpetuates the norm.

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If a child comes from poverty, surrounded by drugs and violence, it is intuitive to assume their life experiences will translate into their behavior in the school setting. The school should nurture the students from a young age, on the contrary, the school’s implement zero-tolerance policies early in the child’s educational experience. For example, Kaylb Wiley, a 7-year-old student in Kansas City, was handcuffed and briskly escorted by a school law enforcement officer, after reacting to people bullying him for his hearing impairment (Kirk). Handcuffing a young child is incredibly traumatizing, and can lead to distrust of teachers, police, and authority in general. Beginning in preschool, in Delaware specifically, “black students are only 18% of the students, yet, they comprised, 42% of students suspend once, and 48% of the students suspended more than once” (EJI). According to research, “educators can prevent students from entering the pipeline by establishing relationships of mutual trust, building a caring learning environment, and applying positive behavior approaches to prevent and respond to problem behavior” (Coggshall, Osher, & Colombi). However, in poor school districts teachers are often unequipped to deal with situations in this manner. The lack of funding prohibits teachers from receiving the proper training to handle students with behavioral issues. In many cases, teachers are so overwhelmed and overworked, they feel the only option is to send the child away. In fact, 97% of suspensions and expulsions are at the discretion of teachers. Proving that teachers play a substantial role in perpetuating “the school-to-prison pipeline.”

With constant police searches and strict rules, already disinterested students, are more likely to skip class or drop out. In fact, a study titled, The Breaking Rules, found that students who experienced at least one suspension were five times more likely to drop out, and three times more likely to have a brush with the juvenile justice system (Wilson). Imagine this scenario, a third-grade boy is repeatedly suspended for constantly being disruptive in class. The child experiences a significant amount of problems at home. His continuous negative behavior, causes teachers to lose hope, and the boy feels educationally isolated. Entering middle and high school, education is no longer a commitment for the boy, as he feels undervalued. With a lack of educational support and negative influences outside of school, the now teenager partakes in drugs and alcohol. From here the path can go many ways, the boy drops out, loses faith in the school system, gets expelled, or faces juvenile charges. But most likely, the boy is set up for failure and is prone to future crime, and arrests. This fictional example, illustrate the negative spiral of “zero-tolerance policies,” and how it directly fuels the school-to-prison pipeline.

From 1970 to 2009, the prison population within the United States grew by 700% (ACLU). It makes logical sense to associate the dramatic spike with The War on Drugs and “Tough on Crime” policies. These policies are responsible for the rise in incarceration rate, but not for the cultural shift towards mass-incarceration. In fact, the influence of these two policies on poor school districts is to blame for the cultural shift. The philosophy behind “Tough on Crime,” is emulated through “zero-tolerance policies.” Redlined communities, were targets for the application of the aforementioned policies, leading to a high rate of arrests within poor communities. A national, longitudinal study, followed children that had an association to people who are, or were, incarcerated, and found that they did worse academically, and ultimately were at a higher risk of failing or dropping out (Skelton). As mentioned, dropping out of school is correlated with facing the criminal or juvenile court system and prisons, leading to a criminal record which, “authorizes legal discrimination against you in employment, housing, access to education, public benefits.” (ACLU). Since the school system is designed to set children up for failure, children of ex-convicts, are more likely to follow their parent’s trajectory. The War on Drugs and “Tough on Crime” policies, influenced the development of “the-school-to-prison pipeline,” which shifted the culture to legitimize policing and early targeting within inner-city schools. There are currently 1.2 million Black and Hispanic people incarcerated within the United States. Given the flawed school discipline system, children, and relatives of these people are more likely to experience some form of incarceration in their lifetime. Taking into account the relationship between convicts and their family, the number of incarcerated individuals will continue to rise exponentially, perpetuating the mass-incarceration problem. Redlining has ignited a domino effect, creating a continuous cycle of poverty and incarceration.

Analyzing the root causes of racial disparity in Delaware’s criminal justice system will aid in illuminating the correlation of redlining, the school-to-prison pipeline, and mass incarceration. The state is comprised of 22% African-Americans, whereas the prison population is comprised of 58.3% African-Americans, illustrating the racial disparities in Delaware (EJI). Unsurprisingly, redlining is identified as one of the main root causes to the problem, and created a situation where, “white students attend schools among a student body in which thirty percent of students are poor, while Black and Hispanic students attend schools with sixty-five and sixty-six percent poor student populations, respectively” (EJI). In Delaware, much like other places throughout the United States, there is an assumption of guilt held by the police which makes African-American “Delawareans” a target (EJI). Delaware acts as a microcosm for the racist narrative running throughout the United States.

The Equal Justice Initiative declared that segregated schools in Delaware are a direct result of redlining, and within poor communities, there are myriad of factors that contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline. Firstly, the lack of resources encourages teachers to “push out” difficult students, and create more resources for other students. Secondly, there are specific testing policies which reward schools with higher scores, as a result, administrators separate low performing students from high performing student, putting the former at an extreme disadvantage. In impoverished communities, children endure, “housing instability, inadequate nutrition, exposure to pollution, poor healthcare, family abuse and neglect, exposure to violence, developmental delays, chronic stress, depression, and possibly even stunted brain development” (EJI). All these factors, which are completely out of the children’s control, make them more prone to disciplinary actions.

Within their briefing, the Equal Justice Initiative suggested that Delaware can fix the racial disparity within their criminal justice system by desegregating schools (EJI). However, desegregating schools alone will not completely resolve the problem. If schools are simply desegregated, racism would find a way to develop in alternative ways; most likely, through tracking and implicit bias. Removing tracking and implicit bias requires training educators and restructuring the education system, two adjustments that would significantly shift the culture, and decrease incarceration rates within Delaware.

Heather Mac Donald, a Thomas Smith Fellow at The Manhattan Policy Institute, spoke about “the myth of criminal-justice racism,” during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 (Mac Donald). During her testimony, Mac Donald rejected the claim that the War on Drugs and systemic racism are to blame for mass-incarceration. Rather, Mac Donald attributes mass-incarceration to a rise in violent crimes. During Mac Donald’s testimony, she states,

A 1994 Judiciary Department survey of felony cases from the country’s 75 largest urban areas found that Blacks actually had a lower chance of prosecution following a felony than whites. Following conviction, blacks were more likely to be sentenced to prison, however, due to their more extensive criminal histories and the gravity of their current offense.

The War on Drugs is not the sole reason for mass-incarceration, but it plays a role. Mac Donald is correct in that there are more people convicted of violent crimes than drug crimes, however, the survey she cites as support for her argument is a clear contradiction. The survey’s former claim, “Blacks actually had a lower chance of prosecution following a felony than whites,” simply proves that Black people are arrested without sufficient evidence at a higher rate. The latter claim is in direct contradiction to Mac Donald’s overall point, stating that Black people are more likely to be sentenced because of their “extensive criminal histories.” Mac Donald is admitting to the fact that Blacks are more likely to be convicted for violent crimes, yet in the same breath rejects systemic racism. Given the discrepancy between the United States African-American population and incarceration rate, it is clear that systemic racism is at play. The rise in violent crime within the “75 largest urban communities,” is a response to a variety of factors, including, the school-to-prison pipeline’s “zero-tolerance policy”, which, as illustrated through this paper, is a byproduct of redlining. Mac Donald and The Manhattan Policy Institute are clearly incorrect on the role racism plays in the reality of mass-incarceration.

There is clearly a direct linear relationship among redlining, the “school-to-prison pipeline”, and mass incarceration. Redlining is responsible for the development of poor communities, and poor schools. “Zero-tolerance policies,” specifically prevalent in poor schools, acts as one of the main impetuses to incarceration. When five-year-old children are expelled for behavior out of their control, there is a significant problem. As a result of “the-school-to-prison pipeline”, there is a vicious cycle of incarceration within redlined communities, all rooted within systemic racism. However, despite how bleak the future looks, the staggering high incarcerations statistics are not irreversible. Dismantling the “school-to-prison pipeline,” although not an easy task, is the first step towards working to eliminate the culture of mass-incarceration. In order to do so, people need to become cognizant of the structural racism which rears its ugly head in a variety of manifestations, in this case, through redlining. Understanding the roots of mass-incarceration, specifically redlining and “the-school-to-prison pipeline,” allows the nation to hopefully solve the problem one day.

Works Cited:

Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York: [Jackson, Tenn.]: New Press; Distributed by Perseus. Distribution, 2010. Print.

Coates, Ta-Nehisi. “The Case for Reparations.” The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations/361631/. Jun 2014. Accessed 30 September 2018.

Coggshall, J., Osher, D., & Colombi, G. (2013). Enhancing educators’ capacity to stop the school-to-prison pipeline, family Cowrfiîeview, 51(3), 435-444.

“Delaware’s Access to Justice Commission’s Committee On Fairness in the Criminal Justice System.” Equal Justice Initiative. https://courts.delaware.gov/supreme/docs/EJI_DelawareRootCausesPaper.pdf. Accessed 30 September 2018.

Ezeugwu, Ofo. “How A Half Century of Redlining Successfully Segregated American Neighborhoods.” Huffington Post. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/how-a-half-century-of-redlining-successfully-segregated_us_58cbe254e4b0537abd956fc3. 17 Mar 2017. Accessed 1 October 2018.

Gramlich, John. “The Gap Between the Number of Blacks and Whites in Prison is Shrinking.” Pew Research Center. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/01/12/shrinking-gap-between-number-of-blacks-and-whites-in-prison/. 12 Jan. 2018, Accessed 30 September 2018.

Gross, Terry. “A ‘Forgotten History’ of How the U.S Government Segregated America.” NPR. https://www.npr.org/2017/05/03/526655831/a-forgotten-history-of-how-the-u-s-government-segregated-america. 3 May 2017. Accessed 2 October 2018.

“How Many People Are Locked Up in The United States.” PPI, https://www.prisonpolicy.org/graphs/pie2018.html. Accessed 30 September 2018.

Kirk, Mimi. “Staunching the School-to-Prison Pipeline.” Citylab, https://www.citylab.com/Equity/2017/10/staunching-the-school-to-prison-pipeline/544247/. 31 Oct 2017. Accessed 3 October 2018.

Mac Donald, Heather. “The Myth of Criminal-Justice Racism.” CityJournal, https://city-journal.org/html/myth-criminal-justice-racism-10231.html. 22 Oct 2015. Accessed 4 October 2018.

“Mutually Reinforcing: Mass Incarceration and the School-to-Prison Pipeline.” ACLU, https://www.acluutah.org/blog/item/918-mutually-reinforcing-mass-incarceration-and-the-school-to-prison-pipeline. Accessed 3 October 2018.

“School-to-Prison Pipeline.” ACLU. https://www.aclu.org/issues/juvenile-justice/school-prison-pipeline. Accessed 3 October 2018.

White, Gillian. “The data Are Damning: How Race Influences School Funding.” The Atlantichttps://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/09/public-school-funding-and-the-role-of-race/48085/. 30 Sept 2015. Accessed 2 October 2018.

Wilson, Harry. “Turning Off the School-to-Prison Pipeline.” Reclaiming Children and Youth, vol. 23, no. 1, 2014, pp. 49-53.

“World Prison Populations.” BBC, http://new.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/uk/06/prisons/html/nn2page1.stm. Accessed 30 September 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bill Cosby’s Trial: The Most Racist in History?

Amid a news-filled week centered around the sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, Bill Cosby was sentenced to three to ten years in prison. Based on the significant set of accusations against Cosby the sentencing length feels inadequate. Most shockingly, after the verdict, Cosby’s publicist Andrew Wyatt, said, “I believe and think it is important to point out that this has been the most racist and sexist trial in the history of the United States.” There is no doubt that rampant racism plagues the United States’ legal system, however, Atlantic writer, Hannah Giorgi’s, brilliantly highlights the flaws in Wyatt’s statement,

“Cosby was not a low-income black man arrested for turnstile jumping on the way to work. He was not a neighborhood sex worker detained by police simply for possessing a condom. He was not a protester pepper sprayed while decrying an injustice perpetrated by the state. Bill Cosby is an unrepentant sexual predator who was tried and sentenced according to due process. He is not a political hero. If the prison system is still the only widely accepted punishment for serial offenders who present a danger to the public, then Cosby’s actions merit his sentencing.”

For the most part, I completely agree with Giorgi’s stance. The accusations against Cosby were not part of a larger racist agenda, there is sufficient, and clear, evidence that Cosby committed the crimes alleged against him. By claiming that Cosby’s case was the “most racist and sexist in history”, Wyatt is discrediting the intents of his larger argument. Wyatt appears to be stating that he believes there to be a racial discrepancy in how the law is administered an argument which is, in fact, valid. Yes, Black men are more likely to be brought to court for crimes than White men, especially for crimes which involve White women. For example, Brett Kavanaugh faces severe allegations from multiple women, yet he most likely will not face a criminal trial for his actions.

A tweet which circulated following Cosby’s conviction draws a comparison between Cosby and Carolyn Bryant Donham, the woman who falsely accused Emmett Till, ultimately, leading to Till’s lynching. The point the tweet makes is relevant, but the comparison is misguided. Yes, Donham should receive punishment, but not because Cosby received punishment. The tweet continued by saying, “America’s fictive father, is being #stolen from us.” Cosby’s actions were heinous, and it will now be difficult to re-watch the Cosby show in light of his actions. However, Cosby’s arrest does not detract from the monumental effects the show had on American society; the shift in culture and the movement towards racial equality that came from the show will not completely vanish in light of his crimes.

To put Cosby in the same boat with the Black men who suffer from our flawed legal system is unfair, and incorrect. Cosby deserved his sentence and is an example of an instance when our court system worked well to serve justice.