Floyd D. Weatherspoon
Permission pending: Floyd D. Weatherspoon, Racial Justice and Equity for African-American Males in the American Educational System: a Dream Forever Deferred, 29 North Carolina Central Law Journal 1 (2006). (221 Footnotes Omitted)
The plight of African-American males to achieve racial justice and equity in this country continues to deteriorate at an alarming rate. The American justice system has permitted and in some cases sanctioned the marginalization of African-American males as full citizens. *2 The basis for the denial of racial justice and equity for African-American males is caused, in part, by the intersection of their race and gender (black and male).
African-American males are disproportionately represented in every aspect of the criminal justice system, from being racially profiled, stopped, arrested, prosecuted, sentenced, incarcerated, and *3 placed on death row. Indeed, the overrepresentation of African-American males in the criminal justice system negatively impacts their ability to gain meaningful employment, health care, to exercise their ability to vote, and to obtain a quality education, if any education*4 at all. At the root of many of these issues is a discriminatory criminal justice system which targets African-American males for punishment. There is a direct correlation between the failure of African-American males to obtain a quality education and their overrepresentation in the criminal justice system. Just as insidious as our criminal justice system, public school systems are warehousing African-American male students for future placement in the criminal justice system. In other words, public school systems indirectly supply the criminal justice system with African-American male students who have dropped out of school or have been suspended or expelled. Further, public school systems have failed to provide an effective, adequate, and non-discriminatory education system, as mandated by Brown v. Board of Education. Without a quality education, African-American males are forever relegated to the level of second class citizens in American society.
It was the hope and dream of African-Americans that the Supreme Court decision in Brown would have resulted in the end of separate and deplorable schools for African-American students. However, for many African-American students, the failure of Brown to ensure quality and equity in education can be seen in every aspect of our public educational system. In particular, African-American male students are disproportionately assigned to the sports curriculum or *5 special education classes. For example, starting in kindergarten, African-American males who have above average athletic skills are nourished and developed to play sports through high school. Often, this over-emphasis on sports is at the expense of their education. In addition, African-American males are disproportionately suspended and expelled from school, and are systematically excluded from advanced and college prep classes. Moreover, African-American males who are perceived to have educational deficiencies are assigned to special education classes or ignored and passed on through the system. African-American males consistently represent the highest dropout rates for high school students. Even though public school systems are well aware of the status of African-American male students, they are ignored, neglected, labeled, stereotyped, and written off as dysfunctional.
This article will explore how the failure of Brown to ensure quality and meaningful education for African-American male students is the major impetus for racial injustice and inequity that African-American male students endure. Part II of this article describes the initial impact that the Brown decision had on ending the segregation of public schools. Part III reveals how public schools have returned to segregated institutions. Part IV explains how the Brown decision has failed to ensure equity and quality education for African-American males. This section will also document the present deteriorating status of African-American males in public schools. Lastly, Part V, the conclusion, provides a brief discussion on remedies to enhance the status of African-American males in public educational systems.
*6 In this article, I have not attempted to set forth an exhaustive list of remedies and strategies to enhancing the status of African-American males in public schools. Instead, I only briefly cite a few possible remedies. It is hoped that this article will engender further dialogue and research on enhancing the status of African-American males in public schools.