African American Youth In The Criminal Justice System

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Various behavioral correction practices implemented in learning institutions have quickly increased the number of African American youth that have run-ins with both juvenile and the adult criminal systems. Through these practices and societal inequalities,African American youth are being funneled into the criminal justice system more rapidly than ever, making the “school-to-prison” pipeline a major element of institutional racism in America. Behavioral correction practices that are contributing to the pipeline include but are not limited to: zero-tolerance policies, exclusionary discipline, and the placement of law enforcement as disciplinarians. However, it is not only practices being done in the school that contribute to African American youth being pushed down the pipeline, but also their surrounding community.

An improvement in education levels for only certain segments of the Black community has contributed to increasing inequality amongst the Black community.This is in relation to the conflict theory, because it causes alike groups (races, ethnicities, SES) to have to compete with each other for already limited resources and power.This has also led to an increased absence of successful Black role models for urban poor young Blacks to look up to, as many middle class Blacks leave the neighborhoods (Kerbo, 2012). Culture of PrejudiceThis theory’s name explains exactly what it is. It states that prejudice is embedded in our culture. Through traditions, media, literature, and stereotypes. Constantly being exposed to images, thoughts, and ideas that promote prejudice, it becomes impossible to know to what extent they have influenced thought process’.

Cultural competence amongst educators and school WRITING ASSIGNMENT #23faculty is vital to dismantling the pipeline. The stereotype forced upon African Americans, especially young males, allows for severe miscommunication between student and teacher. The pipeline often begins with the preconceived perceptions and stereotypes that educators place upon students. Misconceptions such as the tone of voice, body posture, and non-verbal’s of African American students exhibit both “threatening” and, or “dangerous” qualities can lead administration to make rash and unfair judgements and decisions about a student’s academic future. Researchers at Yale conducted a study where they had 135 educators view videos of children in a classroom setting. The participants were asked to point out any “challenging behaviors”, although this existed in none of the videos. However, when they were asked to identify who required the most attention, “42% of the educators” identified the only black boy in the video(Hathaway, 2016).

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Another study was conducted with Black makes who attended ivy league colleges as this focus group. The findings showcased Black misandry and sterotyping that was experience both in academic and social settings on campuses. Findings also showed that the participants were “placed under increased survellience by community and local policing tactics on and off campus” (Allen, Danley, Smith, 2007). Donald R. Kinder sought an answer to why White Americans continue to oppose efforts toward racial equalty. He came to two conclusions. One was that it centers around “symbolic racism”. The idea that White Americans opposition stems from their loyalty to “traditional American values” and their “endorsement of racist sentiments”. Another conclusion was that their opposition is due to their perception that Blacks pose a real threat to their personal lives (1986).

This higlights the exact concept of being from a culture of prejudice. Despite, statistics and facts that contradict their sentiment, white American still view Black Americans through a WRITING ASSIGNMENT #24certain lens. This often-times skewed perception causes false pre-notionsand often lead to mistreatment. Due to school faculty’s lack of proper diversity training and misinterpretation ofBlack youths’ behavior there becomes heighten stigmatization and hyper criminalizationstereotypeforced upon them. “Infractions in the school discipline policy were used to labelstudents (primarily African American and Latino) as potentially dangerous(termed preventive detention), which resulted in the removal of students toalternative self-contained school programs. The staff discussions resultingin students being labeled as dangerous were largely done in the absence of any actual dangerous behavior on the part of the students. Students who werethought to have the “potential” for being dangerous were removed (primarilyAfrican American and Latino boys)” (FenningRose, 2007).

School resource officers swarmed public schools after the idea that schools were being taken over by a crime wave. This justification came shortly after the Columbine shooting, which played a large role in the spike of SROs in education institutions. While majority of school shootings happen in small towns with predominately white townspeople, schools in urban cities with mostly students of color are the ones with SROs patrolling the hallways. While the overall public thought is that adding law enforcement into schools should help foster a safer and healthier learning environment, that does not seem to be the case. Acts of minor misbehavior and disagreements are no longer sat and talked about between student and administration, but instead traumatizing acts involving handcuffing, in-school arrests, and referrals to juvenile courts are the responses to student behavior. There have been many incidents sited in which Black students have been “stomped on, beaten with batons, thrown into lockers, andtasered by SROs” (Singh, 2018).

While schools are supposed to be a nurturing environmentthat enables the fostering of academic excellence, facilities swarmed WRITING ASSIGNMENT #25by SROs are more like a battle ground for minority students.Those employedas SROs are brought into schools in efforts to deter shootings and other violent acts, however in many cases they are the ones perpetuatingsaid violent acts on students. “Evidence of excessive force, racial bias, and reinforcement of the so-called school-to-prison-pipeline have undermined the ability of officers to effectively keep children safe and threatened to worsen already tense community relations” (Tomar, n.d.). This begs the questions, why are SROs more violent or quick to punish Black students? There has been no valid evidence that African American students disobey conduct rules more than White students, so it becomes not an explanation in their contrast of behaviors, but instead an explanation of the dissimilarity of how, when, and why zero tolerance policies are enforced. Often when the debate of SRO involvement arises, concern over lack of or poor training is the first to be mentioned. Similar to educators in schools, if the SROs are not properly culturally aware they can make rash decisions when interacting with minority students who they stereotypeas aggressive or threatening. Cultural competence amongst school faculty is vital to dismantling the pipeline.

A study done using the Implicit Association Test, showed that even for those who strive to be unprejudiced, sometimes cannot control “split-second reactions”. Like stated earlier, when you are swamped with images and notions that African American is related to words such as, “bad”, “hostile”, and “angry”, that’s what you begin to associate them with (Mooney, 2014). Especially, when it’s time to make a “split-second” decision on how to react. This kind of thinking, even when done unconsciously can create a vicious cycle that leads Black youth with the short end of the stick. Breaking the cycle beginswith proper training being given to those of authoritative position in education institutions. They need to become aware of behaviors and traits of adolescents from various cultures, Also, they should be trained in positive behavior reinforcement practices instead of automatically labeling a child as a “disruption” or “problem”.While, it may not completely remove all bias, it will help offset the effects of bias.

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