A writer and educator explores how various learning environments marginalize black girls and push them away from positive and productive futures.
The concept of the “school-to-prison” pipeline has long dominated discourse about the relationship of the education and juvenile justice systems, especially where young people of color are concerned. Morris (Black Stats: African Americans by the Numbers in the Twenty-first Century, 2014), the co-founder of the National Black Women’s Justice Institute, builds on previous work in which she discussed the way that “the ‘pipeline framework’ has been largely developed from the conditions and experiences of males.” Poverty is one of the most daunting challenges black girls face, and they have a far greater likelihood of incarceration than girls of other races. But even when they do find employment, they earn less than both black and white men. They also live in more violent environments and die of homicide at shockingly high rates and young ages. Rather than help uplift these girls, however, Morris argues that the public school system participates in their further marginalization through zero-tolerance–type discipline policies such as detention, suspension, and expulsion. It also hurts them by reducing black girls to their sexuality and/or understanding them according to race and gender stereotypes that characterize them as loud, aggressive, and disrespectful. So girls are not pushed into jails or the streets to be exploited and abused, schools—including those at juvenile detention centers—must become “bastions of community building, where healing is the center of…pedagogy.” The personal stories at the heart of the author’s discussion create a compelling study that puts a human face on both suffering and statistics. Combined with the many suggestions she offers throughout the book for creating healthier learning environments for black girls, Morris' book offers both educators and those interested in social justice issues an excellent starting point for much-needed change.
A powerful and thought-provoking book of social science.