You get the hell out, Science.
You may want to sit down before you read this next sentence: Black people are often treated differently than white people. Wait, you already knew that? Well, that's probably because you're such a savvy, informed, and above all sexy reader of only the finest publications. But sometimes those publications focus only on the way adults are treated, while forgetting to look after the children. Yes, the reality of everyday life for black youth can get equally bizarre ...
You've heard of Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case which determined that racially segregated schools were unconstitutional. Now, it didn't solve America's race problems overnight, but it was progress.
After public schools started integrating and the all-black schools closed, a third of black teachers lost their jobs. That's, uh ... less than ideal. Even today, only 18 percent of U.S. teachers are people of color, with only 7 percent identifying as black. This is a bigger deal than it sounds (and it sounds pretty big), since the race of a teacher often affects the fate of their students. One study found that when black and white teachers evaluated the same (black) student, white teachers were 40 percent less likely to believe that student would graduate from high school. Meanwhile, when low-income black students have at least one black teacher in their elementary school, it reduces the probability that they will drop out of high school by 29 percent. The results are even better for black male students from "persistently low income" families -- the dropout rate falls by 39 percent.
Then there's the "giftedness gap." 4 percent of white students and 6 percent of Asian students are in gifted programs, while only 2 percent of black students and 3 percent of Hispanic students make it in. Although there could be various socioeconomic reasons for this, researchers found that black children with black teachers were as likely to get into these programs as white children. In a nutshell, black children having black teachers makes them better, more successful students.
You mean Dangerous Minds was flawed?
You get the hell out, Science.
If we've learned anything from Broadway musicals -- and we haven't -- it's that hair is important. And black hair is especially important. It's been used against people as a tool of oppression, held up as a symbol of culture, or simply stuffed under a hat, depending. So what happens when black children come up against school dress codes instituted by white people?
Good things? We hope it's good things.
Nope! At Mystic Valley Regional Charter School in Massachusetts, staff gave 15-year-old twins Mya and Deanna Cook detention, banned them from prom, kicked them off the school's sports teams, and threatened them with suspension. Their crime: wearing hair extensions to class. The school said that extensions, along with makeup and nail polish, were against the dress code, in order to "reduce the wealth disparity among students." Yep, whenever we see someone with braids, our working-class lifestyle is shaken to its very foundation.
In another case, a Kentucky high school sent parents an updated dress code policy which stated that "[Hairstyles] that are extreme, distracting, or attention getting will not be permitted. No dreadlocks, cornrows, twists, mohawks, and no jewelry will be worn in hair" as well as "afros more than two inches in length." You might recognize almost every item on that list as a common black hairstyle. Most of them are just low-maintenance, low-cost alternatives to other hairstyles. The dress code all but forces black girls to straighten their hair to conform to the "right" way. Or at least, something that rhymes with "right" ...
If you were paying attention in those mandatory third-grade assemblies, you know that tobacco is too-bad-co. Well, for white kids, at least. Various studies in larger cities, like LA and Boston, found that tobacco advertisements were more prevalent in African American neighborhoods. In fact, studies found that there were 2.6 times as many tobacco ads per person in areas with an African American majority, as compared to white areas.
In Boston, researchers found a higher density of tobacco retailers near schools in minority neighborhoods. In California, as the black population of a school rises, so too does the ratio of menthol cigarette advertising.
It doesn't help that tobacco and cigarette retailers in black areas are less likely to check IDs. And sure, when you're 16, that's Jerry the cool cashier -- but to the rest of the world, that's a worrying trend.
Research shows that we perceive black girls as older, and therefore needing less nurturing and protection, than white girls their age. They were also perceived as more independent and knowledgeable about sex. Surely nothing bad could come of that ...
Applying adult standards to unprepared children has a few dire side effects, one of which is that schools are more likely to punish their black students. Another study showed that black girls were 3.6 times more likely to receive out-of-school suspension. Black boys are also perceived as older, are more likely to be thought of as guilty, and more frequently face police violence. A good example is Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old whom police opened fire on two seconds after arriving on the scene after a gun threat was called in.
The police officer stated that he thought Tamir was at least 18 years old, and further saw him as a physical threat. We would take this opportunity to mock that cop for being so instantly and mortally terrified of a 12-year-old boy, but that boy is now dead.
While we have definitely had huge issues in the past with black representation in children's books, things are getting better (kinda). But one strange problem persists: No matter what color the main character of the book is, the cover will almost definitely depict a white person.
Take the book Liar, which is about a biracial African American girl who wears her hair "naturally."
Bloomsbury USA Childrens
That is clearly a white girl with straight hair. Now, "biracial" comes in a lot of packages, but that wasn't what the author envisioned. The publisher had to change the cover after both the author and fans complained.
Bloomsbury USA Childrens
The Crimson Moon series features another biracial protagonist, yet the covers all sport a white model who might be getting a tan as the series progresses.
St. Martin's Paperbacks
Then there's Daughter Of The Centaurs, which takes place in Africa and features a character clearly described as having dark hair and skin.
Random House Books
So if you're a nonwhite teen and want to read a book about someone a bit like you, good news! Those are out there. But, uh ... good luck finding it in the bookstore. Wait, that was stupid and reactionary of us -- good luck finding it on Amazon.
Follow Alyssa on Twitter, because she needs more followers. Joel Kirk resides in the San Francisco Bay Area, and is amused when people compare his features to those of actor John Boyega.
We're not even kidding, those books were kind of a pain to find on Amazon. We'd also like to recommend I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou because there's a lot of important stories about growing up black in it.
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