Liane Rozzel is a senior policy associate for juvenile justice at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which develops solutions to build a brighter future for children, families, and communities.
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Making Sure Black Girls Matter
WE HAVE SEEN some of their stories on the news and social media: Black girls, some as young as 5 and 6 years old, criminalized and harshly punished in school settings.
For example, Desre’e Watson, a Florida child, and Salecia Johnson in Georgia, both 6-year-old kindergarten students, both handcuffed and arrested by police for having emotional meltdowns—temper tantrums—at school. Or last year, the South Carolina teen flipped over in her desk and thrown across the room by a sheriff’s deputy for refusing to put away her cell phone or leave her algebra class, and, incredibly, Niya Kenny, the distraught classmate who recorded the incident on her phone and was arrested as well (though charges were later dropped).
When these and other outrageous examples of harsh punishment of school children come to public attention, they are seen as part of the school-to-prison pipeline that disproportionately pushes youth of color—especially African-American youth—out of school and toward the justice system. These problems often are seen as primarily affecting males, and initiatives to address them focus on improving outcomes for black boys. In her book Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools, Monique Morris makes the case that the specific experiences and treatment of black girls in schools and society are different from those of black boys and merit systematic attention and remedies tailored to create opportunities for black girls to thrive.
Pushout examines the intersection of black girls’ experiences as both girls and black youth. The book spotlights the persistent “one-dimensional stereotypes, images, and debilitating narratives” that threaten black girls’ survival and lead them to what Morris terms “school-to-confinement pathways.” Morris, president and cofounder of the National Black Women’s Justice Institute, stresses that she is not attempting to pit oppressed identities—black males and black females—against each other. Instead, she systematically unpacks the particulars of black girls’ experiences to explain why “individuals, communities, and all sorts of institutions have an obligation to understand why the pushout of black girls ... goes unchallenged.”
From the Archives: November 1984
WOMEN IN almost every culture and segment of society experience violence ... that is directed specifically at them as women. In the United States, women of color—Latina, African American, Asian, and Native American—experience violence that is specifically focused against them because of both their race and their gender. When misogynist violence combines with racism, the result is a unique and deadly threat to women of oppressed races. ...
Women of different races and economic backgrounds have begun to join together in a movement to end the violence that endangers them all. The women of color who are involved in this movement, however, bear witness to the barriers that hinder such cooperation. Prominent among them is the misunderstanding or ignorance of the particular ways that both individuals and institutions perpetrate violence focused against women of color. It is clear from the historical and current experiences of women of color that racism is an inextricable factor in this violence. They reject, therefore, analyses that blame only sexism and patriarchal structures for violence against women. The problem of misogynist violence can only be fully addressed when the experiences of all women are incorporated into the perspective of the movement for change. Both racist and anti-women stereotypes and attitudes must be overcome before society can become a safe place for all women.
From the Archives: August 1983
A Deadly 'Snowstorm'
A New Direction for Juvenile Justice
'These Are Our Children'
State of Emergency
On August 27, the day before he was scheduled to lead a march on Pollsmoor prison, where black political leader Nelson Mandela is serving a life sentence, Rev. Allan Boesak was arrested by South African police under a law that allows for indefinite imprisonment without charges or trial.
Chemist takes stand on nerve gas research.
A nuclear strategist follows his faith out of the Air Force.
Racism and violence against women.
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