Originally published at PA TImes

Students at a local high school recently defaced, sexualized and brutalized a Black doll during a football game. To add further insult, students posted their brazen acts on an Instagram page (now deleted) contemptuously labeled, “Shaniqua.shs.” I cannot begin to imagine what Black students at that high school must have and continue to experience due to the egregious behavior of their peers. What kind of environment would produce a young person who would fail to recognize the potential harm their actions could cause? 

Let’s be clear; the acts perpetrated by these students are racist and were committed by individuals who do not have love, compassion or care for Blackness. These young people will inevitably show up in college campus classrooms, maybe even public administration classrooms. Those of us who stand in front of these classrooms must have a deep understanding of the root cause of racialized outcomes and be prepared to address issues of race (and racism) and how they manifest in classrooms, affect learning and create a continual stain on United States society. Yet, countless teachers show up for work ill-prepared to engage in difficult dialogues or act in response to racist actions or intercede to abate racialized outcomes. 

The United States does not have a social contract with Black Americans. The founding documents of these United States deemed Black Americans lesser than their white counterparts. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 did much to mandate access to basic rights. Still, it did little to address the sentiment and disdain palpable throughout the country in response to efforts to integrate society. Advancement in a highly racialized society warrants a public sector that recognizes historical and contemporary insults and requires intentional actions undergirded by equity-minded practices. 

Far too often, characteristics of Blackness are viewed as an un-American subculture that fails to assimilate into mainstream society. Blackness is not a monolithic culture, but rather a manifestation of the many ways in which Black folks individually and collectively express themselves. Yet, various aspects of Black culture are threatened by those who attempt to synonymize Blackness with a ghettoized subculture that is the ire of many Americans. Under these auspices, policy and decision-makers create anti-Blackness policies (e.g., targeting Black hair and styles of dress) and allow discriminatory practices (e.g., names) to persist. As such, policymakers and public sector personnel play a role in how Black folks experience society. From police violence, to racial profiling to seemingly entrenched disparities, real harm is being caused in how public sector personnel conduct themselves and implement public policies. 

Continue reading at PA Times

Photo credit: David Rodriquez/The Salinas Californian