By Joshua Turner
Education is often stated to be the key to success, however, this statement lacks validity. In reality, a high quality of education is the key to success. But within the status quo, our educational system is one that traumatizes, conditions, and condemns our Black students into mediocrity and death. This not only happens through our subpar curriculum but through the conditions of the facility itself. One of the biggest things we ignore in education is the role of our environment. Our environment has strong implications on our thought process and is a clear sign of how we are valued by those with influence. This means that if we are learning in a facility that has lackluster conditions, it teaches us that we are not valued. I would argue that mis-education is one of the worst forms of traumatization because it seems to condition and wire your brain in such a way that trauma associated with self compromise, mediocrity, being discounted and a slew of others become normal, while converse experiences become abnormal and are perceived by the individual as scary and it traumatic.
Economic Disenfranchisement and Education
“Go to school bullet holes in the locker; Uuh Trauma.” – Trauma, Meek Mill
Economic disenfranchisement lies at the heart of our scarcity zones and has heavy implications on our education system. In underinvested communities you’ll find schools that correspond to a low quality of education and poor overall conditions for Black and Brown communities. This is evident in our very own city where we still have to close our schools due to a lack of heat or air conditioning, and water fountains cannot be used due to lead poisoning. When our students are cycling through schools with subpar conditions, while our White neighbors are mostly attending private schools with the latest technology, it reveals that we still have separate and unequal education. According to a 2013 study conducted by Pew Research, they found that the median income of white neighborhoods was 13 times greater than Black neighborhoods, which corresponded to a poor quality of education.
This sends a clear sentiment that impacts of Pre-Brown v. Board of Education still exist and that “Blackness” is second hand to Whiteness which then fosters the belief that the denial of your Blackness is the key to success. This conditioning of self hate and compromise is traumatic, although this happens every day, there is nothing normal about a child realizing that our society looks at them as a second-class citizen. There is no logical reason why a child should be expected to perform at their peak, academically, when the facility is falling apart, lead contaminated, without heat or air conditioning, unequipped to meet their basic needs in or outside of academics, has culturally unresponsive curriculum, and over crowded classes. These conditions are clear signs to our students that their education and success is not valued, as learning in their schools is already a war in and of itself, excluding the hardships that face them outside of the classroom. The process of synthesizing this information in your brain alone is traumatic aside form the adverse experiences that come along with it. In our schools we teach denial of self: denial of the Black identity and the acceptance of failure and mediocrity.
Furthermore, our government exacerbates the problem by undercutting funding for these schools. According to a 2011 report from the U.S. Department of Education, over 40 percent of schools in low income areas do not receive a fair portion of state and local funds, enlarging the existing gaps and crippling future generations from achieving success. Although these disparities are not hidden, they have not been rectified and have operated as a root cause and primary source of influx to gun violence in Black and brown communities. Our students have been subjected to war in the same place that is meant to uplift and foster them for success.
School to Prison and Grave Pipeline
“There would be no lynching if it did not start in the school room” — Carter G. Woodson, The Mis-Education of the Negro
The current output of this system has created pipeline from our schools to prison and, more often than not, the grave. As a result of a poor quality of education, zero tolerance policies in our schools, inability to assess and address the needs of Black and brown children and economic disenfranchisement in Black and brown communities, the conditioning and learning of self hate and denial of the Black identity dropout rates tend to be higher, increasing the risk factors for involvement with the criminal justice system at an early age.
The NAACP conducted a research study where they matched zip codes with high incarceration rates and the study revealed where there were high rates of incarceration, there were low performing schools. This showed a direct link between our schools (low quality of education) and our prisons. What is even more egregious is that our government perpetuates this system. In the same areas where new prisons are built, often times, you can find a broken education infrastructure. Not only are we putting children in cages on our borders, we are preparing our Black and brown children for newly built cages within our country. Our education system’s true curriculum is one that is meant to read our students to prison and the grave. It is one that traumatizes and alters the way of thinking and behaviors of our students through direct senticle neglect, denial and abuse.
The U.S. Department of Justice released a report on those incarcerated in 2003 which indicated that 44 percent of Black people and 53 percent of brown people did not graduate high school or obtain a GED. In 2016, Georgia released a report that showed over half of their incoming prisoners did not have a high school diploma or a GED. Black and brown students are dropping out at an alarming rate, making them more likely to commit crimes due to their lack of appeal to the job market, and increasing their risk factors for incarceration and or death (by gun violence).
These systems of institutionalized racism are operating in such a way where the results of the birth lottery can operate as a death sentence or an abundance of arbitrary privilege exempting you from this industrial genocide. The Illinois Criminal Justice Authority conducted a study on three groups of current, returning and former prisoners (sample size: 379,275 people, 54 percent black, 56 percent in 15–24 age range) what they found was in the 15–24 age range for all 3 groups 73 percent were killed in firearm related homicides. Why is it that our leaders know that these issues exist, yet they continue to allow the systematic killing of Black and brown people? Why is it that our current system proliferates perpetual trauma which has poisoned the Black body within our country. It’s because the destruction of the Black body is trivial.
Joshua Isaiah Turner is a community organizer and developer, and a civil rights activist. He is co-founder of Students Demand Action Baltimore, an organization against gun-violence, and is a member of Everytown Demands Action for Gun Safety’s national advisory board.
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