2016 was another challenging year for African Americans and Muslims. From the increase in black girls getting suspended from school, to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, to President Obama visiting his first American masjid at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, to the charter school controversy, to the rapid rise in hate events against blacks and Muslims, many are welcoming the end to 2016 and bracing for an even more challenging 2017.
Black Girls and School
Growing numbers of black children from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade are finding it harder and harder to get a quality education because they get suspended or expelled in disproportionate numbers, especially girls, and especially in the south.
“Far too many students across the country find themselves suspended, expelled, or involved with the criminal justice system for misbehaviors that occur during school,” explained Congressman Cedric Richmond (D-La.) in the executive summary of a new report by the Penn Graduate School of Education (PGSE).
“Making all of this worse is the fact that these punishments are not applied equally. From the data available, we know that black students are disproportionately suspended, expelled, and referred to the criminal justice system by schools. The overuse of these punishments and their disproportionate use on students of color are serious problems that we have to address right now.”
President Obama’s Mixed Review Visit
President Obama’s first visit to a mosque, February 3, was condemned by critics who questioned the choice of the Islamic Society of Baltimore (ISB), seen by some as linked to terrorism and Muslims who felt it as a slap in the face considering the countless numbers of drones in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia that have killed innocent Muslims.
However his supporters were impressed with his words of support for Islam and the rights of Muslims to live in America without fear.
“And so if we’re serious about freedom of religion -- and I’m speaking now to my fellow Christians who remain the majority in this country -- we have to understand an attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths. And when any religious group is targeted, we all have a responsibility to speak up. And we have to reject a politics that seeks to manipulate prejudice or bias, and targets people because of religion,” said the president.
The hashtag #toolateObama was all over social media. @AfrixaAF wrote, “Years of surveillance, drone strikes an negligence and a visit to a Masjid is supposed to mean what? Fix what?” (There is something missing after drone strikes. - SR)
@DarakshanRaja wrote, “This entire speech was paternalistic to Muslims. It belittled our pain, the collective punishment we face.”
What About the Children of Flint?
Flint, Michigan's water crisis placed thousands of children at risk. There is no cure for lead-based poisoning. "Increasing evidence shows that there is no safe blood lead level and that lead disproportionately impacts low-income children. Lead has been linked to decreased IQ and an increased likelihood of ADHD, delinquent behaviors, total arrests, and increased rates of arrests involving violent offenses,” said pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha.
“There are other adverse effects on health attributable to lead exposure, including but not limited to hematological, cardiovascular, immunological, and endocrine.”
2016 began with many students, who were forced to go before school to go get water for their family. They trudged through the snow and bad weather to get free water from the numerous donation sites around the city.
Then they went to school.
“The Flint Community Schools will need additional support in the form of expanded special education resources. We need lead-free facilities for all students so time can be spent on what matters most – teaching and learning. We need resources to measure the intellectual and emotional damage done to each, and possibly every child. This will require complete testing – both medical and intellectual assessment – to understand the magnitude of our issues,” explained Superintendent Bilal Kareem Tawwah, of the Flint School District.
“We need early intervention programs to provide the educational support so that each student will have the opportunity to lead a productive life, and year-round schooling to deliver these services. We need the resources to attract and retain talented specialists who are trained in
special learning needs.”
Charter School Controversy
The Movement for Black Lives and the NAACP, who have long expressed concern about charter schools, recently called for a moratorium on the expansion of privately managed charter schools.
“The NAACP is not anti charter as a policy,” explained Rodney Muhammad, president of the Philadelphia Chapter of the NAACP . “But we want to put the brakes on opening new schools. We’ve found that charter schools’ suspension rates are higher and some of their expulsions are more. In Philadelphia now that we have a monitoring system, we’ve found that charters are not performing better than public schools.”
“Everyone that opens a charter, are they really qualified to run a school? We have hedge fund managers applying for charters. They quadrupled the amount they want for administration. They profit off the backs of black children. They get $6-$7 million a year to run a school. There are very good charter schools in Philadelphia but a lot of them are performing poorly.”
The resolution, voted on during their annual convention won’t become final until an NAACP Board vote in the fall, includes the following language:
“Charter schools have contributed to the increased segregation rather than diverse integration of our public school system.”
“Weak oversight of charter schools puts students and communities at risk of harm, public funds at risk of being wasted, and further erodes local control of public education.”
“Researchers have warned that charter school expansions in low-income communities mirror predatory lending practices that led to the sub-prime mortgage disaster, putting schools and communities impacted by these practices at great risk of loss and harm…”
Calls for a moratorium from two widely known and supported organizations have drawn a line in the sand about school choice. Dr. Steve Perry, founder and principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Conn., was quick to respond.
“The NAACP isn’t even considering what’s best for black children. If they were considering what’s best for black children the first thing they would be doing is getting black children out of the schools that lead to the prison pipeline. Over 90% of black children are attending traditional schools that have failed since they opened to educate black children. So much so that the venerable NAACP came to prominence in large part due to its efforts to get black children out of those schools,” he explained.
“The teachers' union has thrown a couple of dollars at them and it isn’t even real money. They literally take on the teacher’s union perspective. The teacher’s union which by the way is over 90% white and overwhelmingly female. They take on a suburban white female platform at the expense of black, Latino and poor children of all colors. The second thing is the data is so clear that black children in general and black males in particular are doing better in charter schools in particular and school choice in general.”
Hate’s on the Rise
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka is calling for the termination of a 67-year-old Department of Labor employee from Brooklyn accused of verbally assaulting a Muslim woman December 5, yanking her hijab off and throwing it to the ground.
"This was an act of hate against the Islamic faith, as well as an attack on her as a woman," Mayor Baraka explained. "In the present climate of violence against Muslims across America and around the world, hate crimes must be recognized for what they are and they must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
As 2016 comes to an end, this is just the latest in an increase of incidents ignited by hate that continue to soar across the country on almost a daily basis with blacks and Muslims as the primary targets according to FBI statistics.
“This is a reflection of where America has always been,” political scientist and Sirrius XM Radio host, Dr. Wilmer Leon told The Final Call. “After the election of Donald Trump, people feel more empowered to express their hatred and xenophobia. America has always had deep seated hatred. It tends to ebb and flow with a downturn in the economy and threats from abroad.”
“Usually when the US is vanquishing its opponents things are more stable. Since the illegal invasion of Iraq, instability of the Middle East and the assassination of Ghaddafi, it's only getting worst. One of the consistent things his supporters say is, ‘He’s saying exactly what I think but have been afraid to say.' Donald Trump’s election is evidence they are. Looking at his cabinet selections, we’re in for a very, very ugly time.”
He added, “Compound everything I’ve said with his ability to nominate two to three Supreme Court justices. He will have Supreme Court back up to what he does. It’s not about the writing of the law but the interpretation of the law which is what the Supreme Court does.”
2016 promises to be a record year for hate with 2015 not far behind according to the FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics Report of 2015, the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program’s latest compilation about bias-motivated incidents throughout the nation.
In 2015, law enforcement agencies submitted incident reports involving 5,850 criminal incidents, a 6.8% increase from the 5,479 incidents reported in 2014, and 6,885 related offenses as being motivated by bias toward race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, and gender identity in 2015.
The report revealed 5,818 single-bias incidents involving 7,121 victims. A percent distribution of victims by bias type showed that 59.2 percent of victims were targeted because of the offenders’ race/ethnicity/ancestry bias, 19.7 percent were targeted because of the offenders’ religious bias, and 17.7 percent were victimized because of the offenders’ sexual-orientation bias.
Rethinking School Discipline for Black Girls
President Obama’s Masjid Visit Gets Mixed Reviews
Flint Water Crisis
Charter School Controversy
Rise in Hate Crimes