Category: Race

Racial gap in school suspensions widens

A report released by the National Education Policy Center, sheds light on the growing racial gap in school discipline. The report indicates that black students are far more likely to be suspended or expelled from school for minor infractions. As research suggests, students who are removed from school are much more likely to become involved in the juvenile justice system. In turn, kids who are locked up as juveniles are more likely to be incarcerated as adults. In essence, discipline policies and the disproportionality in school suspensions serve to effectively funnel kids of color through the school-to-prison pipeline. MW

Racial Gap in School Suspensions Widens

Black students are often removed from school for minor infractions, says a new report.

by Joshua R. Weaver

In Mississippi, Wanda Parker’s son was suspended from school after being caught with an iPod Touch, which, she says, administrators mistook for a cellphone. She unsuccessfully pleaded for weeks to get her son admitted back into school. But because of the school district’s zero-tolerance cellphone policy, Parker’s son, who is African American, missed seven weeks of normal instruction and spent 45 days at an alternative school.

School suspensions for nonwhite students in kindergarten through 12th grade have increased by more than 100 percent since 1970, according to a new report. Suspension rates for blacks outgrew those for whites during the same time period, increasing by more than 10 percentage points by 2006, a year in which about a quarter of black students were suspended at least once.

Parker was among a group of parents, administrators, policymakers, judges and academics who convened last week at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to discuss the report’s findings, its implications and the ongoing problem of school-discipline disparity.

“These zero-tolerance policies dehumanize schools and make them feel more like a prison than a second home,” Parker says. “My son was shamed and deprived of his education.” (more…)

Girl Scouts, civil rights, and white racial resentment

Below is an interesting article detailing a lawsuit filed against a Georgia Girl Scouts organization. The lawsuit, filed last week, was a result of the expulsion of two sisters from their Girl Scout troop after they gave a presentation on the civil rights movement. 

The audience and other troop leaders did not respond well to the civil rights presentation. According to the suit, “The only applause [the presenters] received was from the other two African American girls and one Indian girl in attendance.”

The response to the young girls’ presentation is not surprising coming from a largely white audience. In fact, this reaction is all too common. The civil rights movement does not reflect favorably on most Southern whites and, therefore, discussion of the movement is often met with resistance and resentment from white audiences. It will be interesting to watch the suit unfold and hear the response (if any) from the Girls Scouts of America . MW

Ga. mom sues Girl Scouts claiming daughters were expelled after civil rights presentation 

By Associated Press

ATLANTA — An Atlanta-area mother has filed a lawsuit against a Girl Scouts organization alleging that her twin daughters were expelled from their troop after they gave a presentation on their family’s involvement in the civil rights movement.Angela Johnson filed the suit last week in Gwinnett County State Court, claiming intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence. The suit says the troop leaders knew an expulsion would cause the girls harm and that the organization had a responsibility to repair the situation.

In a statement, the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta says the girls weren’t expelled and calls the incident a “disagreement between well-intentioned moms,” referring to Johnson and the troop leaders. (more…)

Hate-crime victim’s family opposes death penalty

By Melanie Wilmoth

The family of James Craig Anderson, a Black man from Mississippi who was the victim of a hate crime this summer, is requesting that prosecutors do not seek the death penalty for those responsible for James’ murder.

As CNN reports, a letter Mr. Anderson’s family sent to Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith reads:

“We ask that you not seek the death penalty for anyone involved in James’ murder. Our opposition to the death penalty is deeply rooted in our religious faith, a faith that was central in James’ life as well. We also oppose the death penalty because it historically has been used in Mississippi and the South primarily against people of color for killing whites. Executing James’ killers will not help to balance the scales, but sparing them may help to spark a dialogue that one day will lead to the elimination of capital punishment. Those responsible for James’ death not only ended the life of a talented and wonderful man, they also caused our family unspeakable pain and grief, but our loss will not be lessened by the state taking the life of another.”

In response, DA Smith stated, “It’s most likely that we will honor the family’s wishes, but we will see whether or not things will change over the course of this proceeding.”

Family of alleged hate-killing victim opposes death penalty in case

By Drew Griffin and Scott Bronstein

Jackson, Mississippi (CNN) — The family of an African-American man who died after allegedly being beaten by a group of white teens and run over by a truck is asking state and federal officials not to seek the death penalty in the case.

Relatives of James Craig Anderson, who died shortly after receiving his injuries on June 26, sent a letter with their request to the prosecutor in the case, Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith. (more…)

A hate crime unites Jackson Mississippi

By Alan Bean

While The Help transported America back to Jackson, MS circa 1963,  a young white Jackson man named Daryl Dedmon was determined to prove that nothing has changed in Jackson.

It could be argued, in fact, that Dedmon’s decision to run over a man he and his friends had already beaten to a bloody pulp was far more senseless than hate crimes perpetrated against black Mississippians during the Jim Crow and civil rights eras.  Violence back then had a clear purpose: maintaining Jim Crow and white supremacy.  Perpetrators weren’t necessarily seething with hatred, they were simply making a point (the lives of black people are worthless) and inspiring an emotion (terror).  That was the message whenever hapless black men were lynched by smiling crowds throughout the South.

What kind of message were Mr. Dedmon and his friends sending?  The only silver lining clinging to the edges of this story is the response of Jackson residents, black and white.  Dedmon et al didn’t mean to unite their community, but that’s what they did.

Normally, I wouldn’t assume the guilt of the defendants, but these guys were caught by a surveillance camera.

James Craig Anderson


Vigil for James Craig Anderson is held in Jackson parking lot where White teens are suspected of intentionally targeting Black victim for brutal attack caught on videotape

Religious and community leaders in Jackson, Miss. led a march and vigil on Sunday for James Craig Anderson, the Black man who authorities say was killed in June by a White teenager who shouted racial slurs after running the 49-year-old over with his car on June 26.

 The Clarion-Ledger reported that a diverse crowd gathered at the Metro Inn to remember Anderson, as Daryl Dedmon remains jailed on a murder charge under an$800,000 bond.

Escorted by police and singing “We Shall Overcome,” marchers walked down Ellis Avenue to the site of the hit-and-run killing, as faith leaders decried a killing that shocked a community and has drawn international headlines. When they arrived, a wreath and candles were laid down as demonstrators joined hands in solidarity. (more…)

What ‘The Help’ says about Hollywood

By Alan Bean

The Hollywood adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, opens in theaters this Wednesday.  Critics have been kind.  Evaluated as a good story, The Help is engaging and emotionally satisfying.  But isn’t this another Hollywood racial melodrama in which a noble white person intercedes on behalf of helpless Negroes?

Yes and no.  Civil Rights activists were deeply offended by the 1988 potboiler Mississippi Burning, a civil rights era drama that gave the FBI credit for staring down the KKK in Philadelphia, MS.  Why, critics ask, can’t Hollywood do a civil rights story about black people standing up for black people?  The answer is simple: Hollywood makes movies for a mass audience, and that means creating narratives that appeal to white people.  Sure, you always want to toss in a black guy so black viewers can relate to the story in a modest fashion; but that’s generally as far as it goes. (more…)

Marlowe: The Unrepentant South

I first met Lara Marlowe of the Irish Times in 2004 when she was crisscrossing the country researching stories on George W. Bush’s America.  Since then, she has been following the Friends of Justice blog and occasionally references my opinionated outbursts in her articles. 

Marlowe is now stationed in Washington DC and writes about America for an Irish audience.  Her column on the Neo-Confederate movement is the first of a series of articles on race, the South and the heritage of the civil rights movement.  (She contacted me while I was in Meridian, MS and I put her in touch with some allies who should be featured later in the week.) (more…)

Rick Perry’s curious bedfellows

By Alan Bean

I got an email from Justin Elliott earlier this week inquiring about “The Will to Secede”, a post about Rick Perry’s ties to neo-Confederate groups I published a couple of years ago.  The post, which to date has received just under 10,000 hits, highlighted the work of Dallas researcher and neo-confederacy expert, Edward Sebesta who has documented the Texas Governor’s close ties to unabashedly racist groups like the The Sons of Confederate Veterans.


Spotlight on Medgar Evers

By Chelsea Zamora

As Friends of Justice prepares for our Civil Rights Tour in the Mississippi Delta, we are spotlighting some of the civil rights activists that have helped change the future for African Americans and minorities across the United States. Medgar Evers, Mississippi NAACP field secretary and civil rights martyr, heads the list.

Medgar Evers was born on July 2, 1925 in Decatur Mississippi. He grew up on a small farm with his parents and five siblings. While Evers was still young, several of his close friends were lynched, a devastating experience for the local black community. Yet this tragedy made Evers even more determined to finish school, a rare achievement for African Americans in Mississippi. (more…)

Alexander v. McWhorter: who’s got the winning formula?

By Alan Bean

John McWhorter and Michelle Alexander agree that the war on drugs should be abandoned.  They also agree that far too many young black males are languishing in American prisons.  But McWhorter thinks Alexander’s call for a consensus-shifting movement is wrong-headed.  It’s wrong-headed because it’s impractical.  It’s impractical because white people are sick and tired of being demonized.  As McWhorter sees it, we simply will not listen to a social analysis that identifies white racism at the heart of the problem.

McWhorter isn’t saying that Alexander is wrong when she associates the war on drugs with a “Southern strategy” rooted in white resentment; he just feels that, as a practical matter, that argument can’t be sold in the white-dominated American marketplace.

This is an important issue.  For criminal justice reformers, it is THE issue.  Should we embrace the “only a movement” philosophy of Michelle Alexander, or the “end the drug war and white guilt is gone” idea John McWhorter has been championing?  Alexander is asking for the second phase of the civil rights movement; McWhorter is looking for an argument that works in an incurably cynical world.

One thing is certain: at some point we must connect with white moderates; if we don’t, the political fight cannot be won.  But how do we win over white moderates?  Do we conform our arguments to their fears, anxieties and preferences, or do we challenge them to embrace a revolutionary vision grounded in love, mercy and justice?

Whether Michelle Alexander knows it or not (and I suspect she does) she is calling for nothing less than a full-blown religious revival.  The values she espouses are biblical values; they won’t work in the political arena, and they aren’t that welcome in most white churches either (if the preacher gets concrete and specific).  Martin Luther King knew that mainstream white America wasn’t ready for integration, so he launched a movement fired by a religious revival.  Mainstream white America isn’t ready to end the drug war; it could even be argued that white folks need the drug war because it reinforces our most cherished prejudices.  Can anything short of a spiritual revival alter this social landscape? (more…)

Is anti-white bias on the rise?

By Alan Bean

The title of this Wall Street Journal article is a bit understated.  Not only do white Americans see anti-white bias on the rise, they believe that bias against whites is a greater problem than bias against blacks.  If this study is accurate (and I suspect it is) it is hardly surprising that references to systemic or structural racism hook so much resentment in white audiences–they think they are the ones getting whooped on!

In one sense, this observation is accurate.  White Americans are generally held responsible for past injustice–a catalogue of grievances ranging from the virtual extermination of Native Americans to slavery, Jim Crow and the “Southern Strategy”.  White people keep insisting that neither they nor their parents owned slaves and they have never personally exterminated a Native American.  Therefore, their hands are clean and the fact that these outrages keep coming up for discussion is an indication of anti-white bias.  This justifies the odd belief that white people encounter more social bias in the course of an average day than black people. (more…)