How the SJW Race Obsession Hurts Black Students

Source: Legal Aid Justice Center

Each day I wake up and tell myself, “I’m not going to write about race today. I’m tired about writing about race. I want to write about something else.” But each day I read the Richmond Times-Dispatch and Washington Post, and each day there are articles and op-ed columns about race, almost all of which perpetuate the narrative of endemic racism in America today. Of course racism still exists, and of course people of good will need to stand against it. But America is not a endemically racist society, and Virginia is not an endemically racist commonwealth. I have no choice but to counter a pernicious and destructive falsehood.

The latest offense comes from Kristen Amundson, a former member of Virginia’s House of Delegates and, scarily, a former chair of the Fairfax County School Board. Virginia has a lot to learn about race, she writes in the Times-Dispatch, and schools are a good place to start. She makes numerous assertions that warrant response, but I will focus on the most egregious and show how it harms the very kids she purports to care about.

In the op-ed Amundson contends that Virginia should “ensure that students of color are not suspended for minor misbehavior” (my emphasis). In Virginia, black students are more likely than their white peers to be suspended, even for minor violations, she says. Citing the Legal Aid Justice Center, she notes that black students were suspended at rates five times higher than Hispanics and whites last year. The gap was significantly higher than it had been the previous year.

Some obvious questions occur. Blacks are suspended at a higher rate than whites and Hispanics. In other words, Hispanics, who generally fall under the rubric of people “of color” are suspended at almost the same rate as whites, according to the Justice Center’s own data (displayed in the graph above).

Amundson implies that Virginia’s racist institutions discriminate against all “people of color,” yet Hispanic people of color are punished at the same rate as whites. Why would this be? Could it be that the putative racism in Virginia schools does not extend to this particular sub-set of brown people? Is it possible that blacks are suspended at higher rates because they commit more offenses? Is it possible that, continually bombarded by the message (from people like Amundson) that they are victims of racism, black students have less respect for school authority and are more oppositional in their behavior? Is it possible that blacks, who are more likely to grow up in neighborhoods with concentrated poverty and in fatherless households, are subject to less discipline at home and, thus, are more resistant to discipline at school? Is it possible that black teenagers, perceiving the reluctance of school authorities to discipline blacks, are exploiting that reluctance?

Amundson implies that it is an indictment of Virginia’s education system that the gap in black and white discipline has widened in the past year — yet she neglects to mention that this trend occurred even while Social Justice-driven disciplinary policies have been implemented at more schools. Teachers and principals are employing a more therapeutic approach to disciplinary infractions for the explicit purpose of reducing the racial gap — yet the racial gap has gotten wider. Remarkably, Amundson shows no sign of cognitive dissonance.

Nor does her op-ed refer to disparities in the very school district of which she served as school board chair. According to the Legal Aid Justice Center, Fairfax County issued long-term suspensions to 4.65% of its black students at least once last year, compared to a mere 0.96% of its white students — almost five times more frequently! Are Amundson’s colleagues in Fairfax County racist? Is the school system over which she presided permeated with unconscious institutional racism? If so, it is curious that she did not tackle these injustices when she was in a position to do something about them.

Amundson does not consider alternative explanations of disciplinary disparities. To her way of thinking, evidence of disparity is proof of discrimination.

Worse, while Amundson and the Legal Aid Justice Center bemoan the suspensions and other punishments meted out to misbehaving students, they express no concern about the students whose teaching is disrupted by classroom misbehavior, the fact that students whose classes are disrupted are disproportionately black themselves, or the fact that racial disparities in SOL test scores last year also got worse — arguably a direct result of deteriorating classroom discipline.

Social Justice Warriors have a narrative of racial injustice, and, by god, they’re sticking to it. Maybe it’s true that students suspended from school find it harder to catch up academically. Maybe it’s true that Virginia’s disciplinary policies should be improved. But don’t blame those problems on racism. Oblivious to unintended consequences, Social Justice Warriors are making racial disparities in Virginia schools worse, not better.

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28 responses to “How the SJW Race Obsession Hurts Black Students

  1. I wonder why Asian-Americans are not included in the Legal Aid Justice Center graph?

    Maybe because it would further disprove their point?

    I again suspect the new standard of liberal analysis and commentary – misrepresent the facts or just lie about the facts and then scream racism.

    By the way … have the Chicago Police apprehended that evil MAGA-hat wearing, racist duo who attacked Jussie Smollett?

    As a former resident of Streeterville in Chicago I can say with confidence that two white guys in MAGA hats would have stuck out like sore thumbs and would have been noticed and remembered by everybody who saw them. This is MAGA country? Streeterville? This story never was credible.

  2. I hope these brilliant educational scholars get exactly what they want. I want them to refuse to suspend any kid no matter the cause. And I want them to somehow find all people of color teachers and raise the respective city taxes enough to double the per pupil spending. And scrub the schools of any trace of implicit or explicit bias including anything sexed such as bathrooms (VCU has done this in their new dorm I was told it was “so progressive” to share bathrooms) and sports teams. I would also remove all dress codes so we don’t risk mansplaining to or misgendering anyone. And ban police force resource officers who we know were hired and trained by white supremacist black police chiefs.
    The one definite will be additional white flight from their school district and a collapse of whatever was left of property values and tax base.
    I heard someone on TV say “Go woke, go broke”.

  3. re: “… alternative explanations of disciplinary disparities.

    so what would they be ??

    I think before I attribute such behaviors on the basis of race – I’d like to see some per school stats and especially the stats for schools with high numbers of lower income demographics.

    are there also higher numbers of disciplinary cases for low income regardless of race?

    Unfortunately, if you take people who received poor educations and they grow up unable to get good jobs – and send their kids to not-so-good neighborhood schools with higher numbers of other low-income kids – it breeds problems.

    We can blame it on race and wash our hands of it – but the problem will fester.

    There are no easy fixes – but just essentially blaming it on race by asserting the idea of “alternative explanations” is no answer either.

    what exactly would you expect educators to say anyhow – that blacks are “inferior” and that the real problem?

    • “What exactly would you expect educators to say anyhow – that blacks are “inferior” and that [is] the real problem?”

      I’m not saying such a thing. You are creating a racist straw man that you can easily knock down. The possible explanations I provide have nothing — repeat NOTHING — to do with blacks being “inferior” as a race and everything to do with the tone of contemporary identity politics:

      ” Is it possible that, continually bombarded by the message (from people like Amundson) that [blacks] are victims of racism, black students have less respect for school authority and are more oppositional in their behavior? Is it possible that blacks, who are more likely to grow up in neighborhoods with concentrated poverty and in fatherless households, are subject to less discipline at home and, thus, are more resistant to discipline at school? Is it possible that black teenagers, perceiving the reluctance of school authorities to discipline blacks, are exploiting that reluctance?”

      • re: ” The possible explanations I provide have nothing — repeat NOTHING — to do with blacks being “inferior” as a race and everything to do with the tone of contemporary identity politics”

        Have you provide any alternative explanation yourself so the implication is not there?

  4. Gentlemen –

    Is not the underlying problem is obvious? LBJ’s Great Society.

  5. I think these reactions to Kristen Amundson’s column are overblown, gloss over some valid points, and ignore some hard truths.

    There is one point on which I disagree with her. Instead of saying, “Ensure that students of color are not suspended for minor misbehavior”, I would content that no student should be suspended for minor misbehavior. It is this issue of student discipline that I want to focus on. The data compiled by the Legal Aid Justice Center should give anyone pause. In 2016-2017, over 50,000 students were given short-term suspensions. Even more worrisome, almost 18,000 of those short-term suspensions were to students in pre-K through 3rd grade. Students that young should not be suspended.

    Five categories comprised the vast majority of these suspensions: Defiance of Authority/Insubordination; Classroom or Campus Disruption; Disruptive Demonstrations; Using obscene/In appropriate language/Gestures; and Disrespect/Walking Away. Of course, the weakness of the data is the lack of details about what constituted insubordination, disrespect, classroom disruption, etc. In reality the behaviors probably ranged from fighting to “talking back” to the teacher and these are subjective categories. However, looking at the details of each of the almost 68,000 incidents would be a daunting task.

    There is no question that black students were suspended at a disproportionately higher rate than other students. Amundson did not claim, or even imply, that “Virginia’s racist institutions discriminate against all ‘people of color,’”. She merely pointed out the facts borne out by the data. What is needed is an analysis of the data to see if black students are systematically punished more severely than other students for similar infractions. Unfortunately, the Legal Aid Justice Center report did not go that far into the data.

    Although the data needs further analysis, it does strongly indicate a cultural bias in meting out student discipline and should not be dismissed by saying there are alternative explanations. I do not think that Amundson was accusing anyone of overt discrimination or racist behavior/policies. We all have unconscious biases and that was the point. Lately, I have come to realize even more that those of us who are white really cannot understand the fear, hurt, and resentment that still linger as the legacy of racism. For a moving description, see Del. Jay Jones’ speech on the House floor yesterday: https://www.richmond.com/news/virginia/government-politics/general-assembly/full-text-of-del-jay-jones-speech/article_13ad1611-e094-5b4a-b3cc-26109902b9f4.html

    • “A cultural bias in meting out student discipline…”

      So, school systems in liberal Northern Virginia have a pervasive cultural bias against black students (but not Hispanic)? Black-dominated school systems like Richmond and Petersburg have a cultural bias against black students? School systems generally, where teachers vote Democrat by a two-to-one margin over Republicans, are pervaded with cultural bias against black students?

      I never imagined that liberals and Democrats were so racist!

      • Jimbo Bacon says: “I never imagined that liberals and Democrats were so racist!”

        Jim, don’t you see? They are racist through and through. They like all racists are obsessed with race. Why, primarily because without it they cannot remain in power. With it, they think they can keep and expand power and domination over others.

      • The differences between the percentages of blacks suspended compared with percentages of white suspensions in Northern Virginia localities were among the lowest in the state. I never said that liberals and Democrats don’t have unconscious biases.

        • Unless one wants to operate at the level of the MSM, one has to compare the disciplinary action taken for similar bad behavior under similar circumstances. If white student A does not get suspended for lighting a firecracker in the boys room while black student B does get suspended for doing the same thing, there may well be a problem. But even there, this may be B’s third offense since Thanksgiving even after being warned twice before while this is A’s first offense. What are the actual facts?

          There may well be racial bias in school discipline but counting black suspensions and white suspensions alone tells us nothing. That level of analysis is worthless. The bigger question is: Whether Amundson is that stupid or just another dishonest lefty?

          And ignoring the Asian question makes me think Amundson is probably both.

          • Reed Fawell 3rd

            My guess would be that Kristen Amundson, like all Democrats in Virginia, are scared to death they now might loss the 80%+ black vote in Virginia they need to stay in power, so will do or say anything to keep it. That explains most everything that is going on in Virginia politics today.

          • Dick Hall-Sizemore

            As I pointed out, “What is needed is an analysis of the data to see if black students are systematically punished more severely than other students for similar infractions.” The statewide and locality-level data are red flags that discipline is skewed. Of course, digging deeper into the data to analyze it by controlling for certain factors, such as type and frequent of incident, in order to see if race were the primary factor, takes more effort and a longer time. I hope someone has done this, but that sort of data is not in the Legal Aid Justice Center report.

          • Dick, you are absolutely right about the need to drill deeper into the data. Until someone does drill deeper, we have to say of both sides of the argument: case not proven.

            The argument I tried to present in my post is precisely that: the assumption of racism and/or discrimination is unproven. And public policy is predicated on that unproven assumption.

          • Reed Fawell 3rd

            I suggest that we need to put our focus on motivating cultural changes that give all of our children, particularly our “disadvantaged children,” the best possible chance at living productive and meaningful lives, including their best possible chance at sharing and participating fully in the fruits of American society. In saying that, I think our current obsessive focus on race and alleged discrimination is wasteful, counter productive and poisonous to our youth, our society, and our political system. I think history, the best of emerging research, and current events, all these things make this abundantly clear.

          • I agree with Dick that we need a deeper dig into the data. But that probably won’t happen. The MSM is very content to stick with the superficial writings of Amundson just like they take every statement about climate change as gospel so long as it fits the political agenda.

            The problem with both of these actions, for example, is that the failure to challenge the claims and analyze the data is that the public never gets close to the real facts and reasonably drawn conclusions.

            I sure would not be willing to state that there is no racial bias whatsoever in school discipline but the crap thrown out by Amundson makes it impossible to learn if, when, where, how and why it exists. Similarly, by not reporting and considering the impact of data alterations for temperature, we don’t get a good factual base for making energy decisions.

            I suspect that most Virginians simply want to see school discipline to be fair even though they might disagree as to exactly what that means. For most people that probably means similar discipline for similar bad behavior under similar circumstances. But, of course, some want similar discipline irrespective of the facts – sort of a racial quota. Without the deep dig, we will never have the first.

    • With all due respect, I think you are wrong when you write … She merely pointed out the facts borne out by the data.

      Are Hispanics not people of color?

      Are Asian-Americans not people of color? Where is the data for Asian-American suspensions?

      People like Amundson use the term “students of color” because it coincides with the “white privilege” narrative. According to that theory white people have held down all non-white people leading to a plethora of social injustices. If Amundson wanted to be honest she would have said that African-Americans are punished at higher rates than whites, Hispanics and (I’ll wager) Asian-Americans. In fact, I’ll bet anybody on this blog a beer that Asian-American students are suspended at a rate far lower than white students.

      So, “white privilege” becomes anti-African-American prejudice I guess.

      • You can be certain that if Asians were punished at a rate exceeding that of whites, the Legal Aid Justice Center would have mentioned it. The fact that Asians (representing more than 5% of the population) were excluded means that the numbers did not support the desired narrative of white privilege.

        • I would also wager that African-Americans are over-represented among the principals, assistant principals, etc of Fairfax County Public Schools. Why are these African-American administrators such racists against African-American children? Just once I’d like to hear from a principal at a school in … say … Richmond where the administrative staff and students are majority African-American about the suspension rates. It always seems to be the Educrats doing the talking. Let’s hear from some front line teachers and administrators.

  6. The notion that correlation is proof of causation is pervasive in SJW-land. More black students suspended => educators have it in for blacks => racial animus. End of story, for the SJW crowd. Do they ever imagine that others might understand that the world is a more complicated and subtle place and that such simplistic illogic hurts their credibility? Oh, I suspect so. They don’t care much about credibility — what they want is the power of the jingoist mob to shame, to intimidate, to blame, to extract tribute.

    So patient explanations of real problems for students, like poverty and family instability and lack of support at home for getting an education, are ignored. Until, that is, you put a racial spin on these — and then you get funding to do something about it. Gee, it’s enough to breed a healthy dose of cynicism about our political and educational process . . . .

    • Right Acbar – we know what the problems are. Just can’t face them, so we allow demagogic leaders to grab scapegoats to aggregate and gin up their own political power at the expense of innocent people. This current racket is just another version of Antisemitism. Never buy into it. Never tolerate it. Or pamper it. Call it out by name. And reject it forcefully.

      This new ugly Leftist/Fascist era is on the rise everywhere. Look at what is happening to South Africa. Another Venezuela.

  7. so what “alternative” explanation would be provided to show that the SJW got it wrong?

    seriously.

    If we don’t like/hate the SJW interpretation -what would we provide as a more legitimate explanation?

    • I won’t say this is right but I do think it articulates an alternate theory well …

      https://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2014/03/the_decline_of_the_africanamerican_family.html

      • Yes, Don, that is a fair summary. And there is a ton of good history and emerging research of very high quality to back up that article. Therein lies our solutions. The rest is hogwash,

      • so the verdict is that the black family – as a race – has “declined” – it’s a race thing?

        and this is the answer:

        ” The good news is that things can be turned around because a thriving nuclear family is at the heart of African-American tradition.

        First, we must acknowledge that well-intentioned social have uprooted traditional cultural incentives and legitimized an entitlement attitude that is counterproductive and harms children.

        Second, we must stop ignoring bad behavior and choices in the African-American community. Discriminating between proper and bad behavior as a legitimate judgment, it is not discrimination or bigotry. Basic psychology tells us when you are allowed to get away with and are rewarded for bad behavior; you reinforce and get more progressively worse behavior that harms children.

        Third, there must be an admission that clinging to a counterproductive culture that is supposedly “authentic” in the name of group pride or to avoid self-reliance and personal responsibility is not only historically incorrect, it harms children. Thomas Sowell has shown that no group has ever successfully improved their circumstances by doing so.

        Lastly, the African-American community, with or without the civil rights “establishment,” must acknowledge and demand that the family is, and will forever be, the originator and primary transmitter of social capital — values and character traits — that enable children, on becoming adults, to seize opportunities and become productive citizens. Toxic role models that guide children into a culture of destructive behaviors must be challenged.

        In short, if the family structure is a primary predictor of an individual’s life chances, and if family disintegration is the principal cause of the transmission of poverty and despair in the black community over the last 50 years, then family integration will stabilize the institution and offer children hope.”

        For once and for all, we must reach out and “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Walking on eggshells out of fear or guilt, being angry at the sins of the past, or throwing money at a problem that only the heart can solve must end.”

        and the next step to fix it is … what?

        I’m seriously trying to follow the idea… here..

        • Well, Larry, I respectfully suggest that you miss the point. Race has nothing to do with it. Nor does IQ. Culture has everything to do with it. Just like culture has everything to do with everyone else, no matter what they look like, where they came from, or who their parents are. This subject goes very deep, and is emerging now with ever more clarity and force. But there are also very strong and deep reasons why all of us as human beings, by virtue of our deep seated nature, make race a very big deal, and why that fact allows race to be made a very big deal by trouble makers, including those who want to gain power over others. I hope to write an article or two on this subject before too long.

          • Well Reed – it sure looks like reading Sowells words that he IS talking EXACTLY about the “African-American community”
            and again, I ask – if what we have been doing is wrong – what should be doing now?

            I think it’s easy to condemn the policies to date – and no shortage of folks who do so – but coming up with an alternative path for change seems not to be proposed – but I am more than willing to listen to any such proposals.

  8. Thomas Sowell’s power lies in fact that he never made excuses for any group. So he was free to study history objectively, and let history then tell the truth about the past and shine light on the present.

    We today do the reverse. PC has us tongue tied. Unable to find and speak the truth, we look for excuses. This demands scapegoats.

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