Recently, I had the pleasure to attend the discussion with social justice scholar Dr. Monique Morris about her book Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools. The discussion began with a brief introduction about Dr. Morris, and her book. Soon thereafter, Dr. Morris stepped on stage and the discourse began. Dr. Morris presented a topic that I personally had never thought about, the discrimination and misunderstanding of black girls by teachers, administrators, and the justice system.
Many people question why Dr. Morris chose to study black girls, and her answer was simple, because they are worthy of study. Right away, I knew that Dr. Morris was going to provide a powerful discussion, and I was excited to learn about something that I knew almost nothing about. The lecture revolved around one central problem, the flaws with our public school system, and how they cause all of this harm to these girls. There were many key points to the discussion, but a few stood out to me. One of the most important points brought up was that across the board, black girls are extremely overrepresented in areas of discipline and punishment while in school. Black girls are seven times as likely to experience suspension compared to their white counterpart. This knowledge and data is eye opening, and without most of the public even remotely aware of this issue, nothing will be done and people will keep on suffering.
Throughout our class, we discussed several different time periods and topics about the history of African Americans. A history that I noticed had a common theme of the general population being unaware of the situations at hand. How I viewed this unawareness was that it traces back to the withholding of information, and an insufficient ability to communicate effectively. This common theme is one that occurred throughout history, and continues to happen. Americans had only one way to read the news, and that was through white owned newspapers. African Americans hadn’t gotten their perspective and experiences out until the mid 1800’s, amassing around 200 years of African Americans in the new world without a means of expressing themselves. Barracoon, written by Zora Neale Hurston, is another prime example of this. Barracoon is piece of literature based on interviews from the 1920’s, and we are only reading about it now. That is just one powerful piece of text that was withheld for almost a century. This stems out into recent times as well, one example being the case where New Jersey Police had held back data about racial profiling for years, acting like it never existed. These are a fraction of the examples throughout history, but all together they represent an important part of African American History.
Withholding of information is one of the key points to understanding African American history. There were numerous times where African Americans were doing something for a different cause in order to get something. During many of the wars in America’s history, African Americans weren’t fighting for the same cause as their white counterparts, and this can be partly be explained by misunderstanding and a lack of knowledge from the general public. The way that the country worked during the slave years made it almost impossible for the African Americans to get word out through newspapers or other forms of communication. Until newspapers became attainable and much less expensive, almost no rights had been given to the population. Eventually, the general public became a lot more aware of the set of circumstances at hand and started accepting and allowing the African Americans a lot more.
Now in the present day, an inability to communicate and share is not the problem anymore, but many racial problems still exist. Times have almost flipped, there are endless possibilities for word to get out, but little get the attention it should. As in the case with myself, things like Dr. Monique Morris’ book, Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools, I was completely unaware of the issue at hand. This is just one example, and I can’t imagine all of the other issues that myself and the public is also unaware of. What can be taken away from all of this is how information is key, and with it, a lot will improve.