Reconnections: "Stakes is High"

Kwesi Rollins
April 3, 2012

Part of our Reconnections blog series on disconnected youth.

A lyrical and literary look at how notes from the past reassert themselves today.

While channel surfing in a Seattle hotel room recently, I happened upon a gray-haired fellow playing folk guitar. As I listened, his lyrics stirred me. He was singing about his childhood friend, a young Latino high school dropout from Cupertino California. This friend ultimately joined the army, his solution for staying out of trouble. He died in Vietnam in 1967.  Could this story have ended differently if he had stayed in school?

A song from another era, but it brought me right to thinking about today. So many tragic stories of troubled youth have been put to music—literally soundtrack upon soundtrack of sorrows and missed opportunities. 

Much like varied lyrical twists, our language for describing the challenges facing boys of color has changed over time. Terms like “disconnected youth,” the  "opportunity gap,” and “the school to prison pipeline” have given us new ways to talk about negative conditions. 

These challenges often reflect realities we thought were long gone, like those in Ralph Ellison’s classic work Invisible Man or the conditions widely experienced by Black Americans under Jim Crow laws.

But of course the past isn't gone; new versions of old systems of discrimination reassert themselves as today’s opportunity gaps.  Systems that should be protecting our youth and preparing them to become productive adults too often end up shuttling them through a pipeline of unemployment, incarceration or worse.

COVER OF INVISIBLE

Accurately Counting the "Invisible"

Two new books take a fresh look at conditions facing boys of color—and while their titles hearken back to the experiences of prior generations, their content is straight up current.

In the Seattle Times, columnist Jerry Large has a thoughtufl review of the book, Invisible Men: Mass Incarceration and the Myth of Black Progress, by sociologist Becky Pettit. Pettit points out that much of our sociological reports on Americans are based on studies like the monthly federal Current Population Survey, which gathers data only from people living in households, not men in prison. Because black men make up about 40 percent of the prison population, taking them out of the equation changes how we see black people as a group. It's enough, Large writes, to reverse our sense that  high school dropout rates are declining among black boys. 

Similarly, in The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, author Michelle Alexander suggests that “People of color are classified as "criminals", which allows the unleashing of a whole range of legal discrimination measures (in employment, housing, education, public benefits, voting rights, jury duty, etc.).”

It is no stretch to consider that today’s incarcerated man of color was yesterday’s disconnected youth. 

In fact, the school to prison pipeline is one of the most important civil rights challenges facing our nation today, according to the ACLU, which explains: “The pipeline encompasses the growing use of zero-tolerance discipline, school-based arrests, disciplinary alternative schools, and secured detention to marginalize our most at-risk youth and deny them access to education.”

Bias in the Systems

"The everyday educational experience for many students of color violates the principle of equity at the heart of the American promise."

- Sec. of Education Arne Duncan

Over 20 years of research has documented racial bias in schools and other social service systems. 

This is especially true for youth with mental health needs. For example, in a 1991 study of racial bias in the mental health system, the characteristics of youth placed in a psychiatric facility were compared with those of youth placed in a corrections facility. Despite similar scores on the Child Behavior Checklist, Black youth were more likely to be incarcerated than their non-Black peers.  Native American youth are also overrepresented in the juvenile justice system.

A March 2012 report from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights—a report with the decidely unlyrical title of Part II of the 2009-10 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC)—finds that “minority students across America face harsher discipline, have less access to rigorous high school curricula, and are more often taught by lower-paid and less experienced teachers.” 

In response to this report, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan noted that "the undeniable truth is that the everyday educational experience for many students of color violates the principle of equity at the heart of the American promise."

Going even deeper, The New York Times' March 6, 2012 article, Black Students Face More Discipline, Data Suggests, reports that:

“Black and Hispanic students—particularly those with disabilities—are also disproportionately subject to seclusion or restraints. Students with disabilities make up 12 percent of the student body, but 70 percent of those subject to physical restraints. Black students with disabilities constituted 21 percent of the total, but 44 percent of those with disabilities subject to mechanical restraints, like being strapped down. And while Hispanics made up 21 percent of the students without disabilities, they accounted for 42 percent of those without disabilities who were placed in seclusion.”

Collaborating to build a Pipeline to Success 

On a more hopeful note, a number of successful efforts are addressing the opportunity gaps that often lead to youth being disconnected, and showing positive results.

In How Black Boys with Disabilities End up in Honors Classes While Others without Disabilities End up in Special Education, the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color asserts that: “Black males with and without disabilities can excel in schools that have adequate opportunities for diverse learners and a structure that supports personal and emotional growth and development”

A number of communities have found that increasing focus on cradle to career alignment of systems and supports along with an emphasis on providing quality early childhood learning experiences leads to improved outcomes for vulnerable youth across several indicators, including achievement.  

One example, the Community Schools strategy, is being utilized more and more across the country because children and their families are benefiting from deeper cross-sector collaboration and community engagement.  

We need to build on these successes.  If we don’t, we’ll continue to the pay the price of missed opportunity, wasted productivity and lost human lives.

“A skin not considered equal, a meteor has more rights than my people…”

These lyrics from a classic hip-hop song by De la Soul remind us that the ‘Stakes is High’.

De la Soul is right. They certainly are.

More from the Reconnections blog series:

Plugged In: The Escalera Program and Its Lasting Effects
Ana Hageage

Youth in the President's Budget
Kisha Bird

Half-Time in America: Time to Reclaim Disconnected Youth
Roberto Viramontes and Lindsay Torrico   

Full series 

 Share your ideas in the comment section below or to suggest a story for this series, email Caitlin Johnson, managing editor of SparkAction.


Kwesi Rollins is the director of leadership programs with the Institute for Educational Leadership, where he oversees programs to develop and support leaders with a particular emphasis on family and community engagement, early childhood education and community-based leadership development.  He has years of experience working with local communities and state agencies to improve multi-agency service delivery systems supporting children, youth and families. Working with young people is also a personal passion for Kwesi: among many honors, has been recognized as the Big Brother of the Year in the District of Columbia and is an ex-officio member of the Board of Directors of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the National Capitol Area, serving for seven years as Vice-President for Program Services.  You can email him at rollinsk@iel.org.

We invite you to share your thoughts with guest blogger Kwesi Rollins directory or in the Comment section below.

10

Comments

Very interesting blog, Kwesi. It reminds me of the history of the Jim Crow era in the south after the Civil War when black men were arrested and imprisoned on bogus or minimal charges in order to provide free or cheap labor for white farmers (prisoners were "rented" out for labor). There was a PBS special on this side of the Jim Crow era recently - it lasted until World War II, when black men could join the army and find a way out of the system.

I am having good time here on this website and i think it is great to be a part of something fresh.You did such a great job and i wish for more in future.Chennai EscortEscorts in Kolkata

Thank you for this thoughtful piece. It&;s not easy to weave together a broad historical perspective, current data, and a clear and compelling call to action. You provide a good model for doing just that.

This is best article. when I read your article more data one of other blog entry. So I like it. Much obliged to you for offering this article to us.Call Girls in Delhi ||Gurgaon Call Girls ||Call Girls in Gurgaon

Hi Kwesi,
First, thank you for highlighting the books, I&;ll put them on my book list. Secondly, what really struck me (not for the first time) reading through this piece, is the sheer number of unfortunate circumstances and realities that boys of color may face today. Structural bias in the system is just one example, but the most frustrating sometimes for me; systems should not work against those who face the most obstacles. Still, you offer a glimmer of hope in closing, which makes me wonder what it will take for everyone who contributes to the &;system&; to recognize it is probably within our collective capacity to advocate for a sustainable shift moving forward.

Its really bad news . "Black students with disabilities constituted 21 percent of the total, but 44 percent of those with disabilities subject to mechanical restraints, like being strapped down. And while Hispanics made up 21 percent of the students without disabilities, they accounted for 42 percent of those without disabilities who were placed in seclusion".

I am asics 70 lions jerseys ye-ars old an-d oakley sunglasses a dre beats born ugg a-gain polo ralph lauren Chris-tian, atlanta hawks jerseys I swarovski st-ill am mcm backpack emp-loyed and gafas oakley -blessed by- swarovski crystal God bottega veneta with jack wolfskin outlet online -good physi-cal longchamp health-. cheap basketball shoes I live the north face outlet a-lone michael kors outlet online sale with kate spade outlet -my nike.se four pandora charms ca-ts which a-re juicy couture my ipad mini cases fur-children a-s tory burch never coach usa ha-d human ki-ds tory burch handbags of michael kors my levis jeans o-wn. I michael kors v?skor atte-nd north face jackets the loc-al church oakley frogskins -here michael kors outlet online in th-e stone island mountain-s of converse shoes St.He-lena, Cali-fornia it -is michael jordan called -the "-Haven"-; it michael kors purses is tommy hilfiger online an- pandora jewellery australia Seven Day- belstaff mens jackets Adventist- Church giants jerseys he-re nfl jerseys on cheap oakley sunglasses the versace outlet -hospital c-ampus, alt-hough nike air max i cheap nba jerseys am- not ralph lauren a belstaff womens jackets adv-ents chargers jerseys it is- an parajumpers parkas open memphis grizzlies jersey d-oor church- and ralph lauren polo true nfl jerseys china -believers mbt womens shoes -as God ble-ssed michael kors outlet me mcm handbags an-d nike air huarache guided tommy hilfiger m-e jimmy choo here 4 y-ears under armour shoes ago portland trail blazers jersey a-s christian louboutin outlet he ecco shoes outlet guide-d me pandora bracelet to nike air force th-e kate spade handbags hospital- guciheaven outlet for nba jerseys emplo-yment cheap michael kors 11 y-ears ago a-nd cheap nfl jerseys the true religion jeans women hos-pital burberry online shop is a-lso red bottom Advent-ist nike store uk hospit-al coach factory online and oakley sunglasses 80%- Aventists- dansko shoes outlet working converse sneakers h-ere, pandora and s-uch dolphins jerseys a nike factory mira-cle burberry to be -able philipp plein to pr-ay asics outlet openly givenchy shoes outlet -and share michael kors -our reebok faith designer handbags -and washington wizards jersey tell o-thers of burberry outlet store J-esus and jordan retro G-od tommy hilfiger outlet whether- nike free 5.0 co-worker-s or patie-nts seahawks jerseys or fam-ilies/frie-nds hilfiger online shop of mavericks jerseys pat-ients. roshe run I barbour jackets s-truggle wi-th michael kors handbags depress-ion lacoste shirts but 49ers jerseys ha-ve veneta an oakley sunglasses cheap exce-llent nike huarache doct-or longchamp handbags right lunette ray ban h-ere oakley sunglasses at nike roshe run the- armani outlet online hospital montblanc -and sunglasses for women my mas-ter northface physic-ian red bottom God is- always north face canada at- nike air max my side.I am adidas 70 philipp plein clothing ye-ars old an-d giuseppe zanotti a ray ban wayfarer born a-gain ravens jerseys Chris-tian, I nike free run st-ill nike.dk am redskins jerseys emp-loyed and -blessed by- ferragamo God nike running shoes with converse outlet -good packers jerseys physi-cal cheap ray ban health-. I live a-lone michael kors outlet online with true religion -my adidas superstar four ca-ts true religion outlet which g by guess a-re rams jerseys my ferragamo shoes fur-children chiefs jerseys a-s michael kors uk never broncos jerseys ha-d human oakley ki-ds soccer shoes outlet of my thomas sabo jewellery o-wn. I atte-nd michael kors the loc-al church nike shoes -here polo ralph in converse chucks th-e moncler women jackets mountain-s of St.He-lena, Cali-fornia it -is air max 2014 called -the "-Haven"-; michael kors it is barbour jacket outlet an- minnesota timberwolves jersey Seven www.tommyhilfiger.nl Day- Adventist- Church he-re on the azcardinals jerseys -hospital reebok outlet c-ampus, alt-hough i fitflop shoes am- not ferragamo a adv-ents timberland outlet it cheap shoes is- nike mercurial vapor an polo outlet online open d-oor church- skechers outlet and adidas online shop true -believers uhren shop -as God coach usa ble-ssed adidas zx flux me nike roshe run an-d prada outlet guided indiana pacers jersey m-e oakley sunglasses here 4 y-ears marc by marc jacobs ago ralph lauren factory store a-s he guide-d michael kors handbags me to cheap oakley sunglasses th-e hospital- polo outlet store for easton bats emplo-yment cheap jerseys 11 giuseppe zanotti sneakers y-ears oakley sunglasses cheap ago adidas shoes a-nd the air max hos-pital is ralph lauren outlet online a-lso oakley sunglasses Advent-ist hospit-al airmax and fidget spinner 80%- new balance Aventists- working tods womens shoes h-ere, and michael kors handbags s-uch a mira-cle burberry sale to louboutin shoes be -able to michael kors outlet online sale pr-ay tory burch sandals openly colts jerseys -and barbour mens jackets share -our burberry outlet online faith -and tell o-thers of nba jerseys J-esus new balance outlet and prada shoes G-od ralph lauren outlet online whether- nike running shoes co-worker-s texans jerseys or cheap jerseys patie-nts or oakley fam-ilies/frie-nds nike free of adidas sneakers pat-ients. suns jersey I polo ralph lauren s-truggle levis outlet store wi-th depress-ion but ha-ve ray ban sunglasses an exce-llent warriors jerseys doct-or coach outlet store right hogan sito ufficiale h-ere prada outlet at polo ralph lauren outlet the- hospital burberry outlet -and my jimmy choo outlet mas-ter physic-ian saints jerseys God houston rockets is- always coach bags outlet at- ralph lauren my tommy hilfiger canada side.I am 70 ye-ars new balance shoes old an-d ray ban pas cher a nike running born a-gain nike roshe run Chris-tian, pandora canada I ray ban outlet st-ill guess bags am emp-loyed north face and coach outlet usa -blessed by- God moncler mens jackets with -good michael kors outlet online physi-cal ray ban outlet health-. coach bags outlet I ray-ban sunglasses live a-lone with barbour jackets -my four ny jersey ca-ts cavaliers jersey which fivefingers a-re ray ban wayfarer my nba jerseys fur-children a-s bcbg max never swarovski crystal ha-d ralph lauren online shop human rayban ki-ds roshes of my air jordan shoes o-wn. bcbg max azria I miami heat atte-nd the nike air max loc-al jordans for sale church -here in lac jersey th-e mountain-s mcm handbags of St.He-lena, hogan Cali-fornia it cheap jack wolfskin -is buccaneers jerseys called -the los angeles lakers "-Haven"-; it is ed hardy clothing an- Hermès Pas Cher Seven ugg australia Day- longchamp taschen Adventist- Church he-re bulls jerseys on the polo ralph lauren -hospital nike schoenen c-ampus, alt-hough ralph lauren outlet i hermes birkin bag am- cheap michael kors not milwaukee bucks jersey a adv-ents mizuno it polo ralph lauren outlet online is- coach outlet online an open vans outlet d-oor church- toronto raptors jersey and true salomon schuhe -believers -as red bottom shoes God ble-ssed me falcons jerseys an-d guided m-e babyliss flat iron here michael kors australia 4 y-ears barbour womens jackets ago new balance a-s he guide-d burberry outlet online me to th-e sacramento kings hospital- links of london charms for air max 2014 emplo-yment nike air max thea 11 y-ears purses and handbags ago kate spade bags a-nd tory burch the new orleans pelicans jersey hos-pital is a-lso north face backpacks Advent-ist pandora charms hospit-al and 80%- true religion jeans outlet Aventists- jordan shoes working michael kors bags h-ere, nike fu?ballschuhe and hilfiger outlet s-uch rolex replica a jaguars jerseys mira-cle ugg australia to vans shoes be adidas.se -able to pr-ay coach factory outlet online openly under armour outlet -and soccer shoes share bengals jerseys -our faith jordan shoes -and rayban tell mcm bags o-thers hugo boss outlet online of timberland J-esus vikings jerseys and uggs canada G-od whether- nike roshe run co-worker-s or dsquared2 patie-nts air max 90 or nike air max fam-ilies/frie-nds of adidas superstar pat-ients. eagles jerseys I hermes outlet s-truggle wi-th depress-ion cheap jerseys but ha-ve an exce-llent doct-or jets jerseys right h-ere at versace the- nfl jerseys hospital hornets jersey -and timberland boots my mas-ter calvin klein outlet physic-ian woolrich womens jackets God chrome hearts rings is- nfl jerseys always at- retro jordans my supra footwear side.I bears jerseys am 70 ye-ars old an-d michael kors bags a born a-gain belstaff jackets outlet Chris-tian, ray ban occhiali I michael kors uhren st-ill cheap jerseys am cowboys jerseys emp-loyed dre headphones and mont blanc pens -blessed skechers canada by- prada handbags God with mizuno running shoes -good nike huarache physi-cal burberry health-. I live true religion jeans men a-lone nike tn with -my oakley sunglasses outlet four ca-ts coach outlet which a-re my fur-children a-s orlando magic jersey never ha-d the north face human ugg boots ki-ds of steelers jerseys my rayban o-wn. burberry I asics gel atte-nd the eyeglasses stores loc-al church fred perry outlet -here mcm handbags in th-e nike.com mountain-s nj jerseys of St.He-lena, Cali-fornia michael kors handbags it coach factory outlet online -is called thomas sabo -the polo ralph lauren "-Haven"-; coach outlet online it fendi is prada an- michael kors outlet Seven nike air max Day- Adventist- hermes belt Church ralph lauren polo he-re ray ban zonnebril on christian louboutin the -hospital c-ampus, panthers jerseys alt-hough beats by dre headphones i browns jerseys am- utah jazz jersey not a patriots jerseys adv-ents adidas yeezy shoes it is- an oakley sunglasses open d-oor ugg australia church- fred perry polos and dsquared2 outlet true -believers -as puma online shop God salvatore ferragamo ble-ssed the north face me an-d bills jerseys guided detroit pistons m-e valentino outlet here hogan mens shoes 4 ray ban uk y-ears air jordan retro ago a-s 76ers jerseys he nike store guide-d me to nike shoes th-e burberry outlet store hospital- for timberland outlet emplo-yment coach outlet sale 11 y-ears uggs outlet ago polo ralph lauren a-nd the hos-pital air max thea is true religion outlet a-lso coach bags outlet Advent-ist iphone 4s cases hospit-al cheap jerseys and okc jerseys 80%- louboutin Aventists- working h-ere, and coach black friday s-uch longchamp a air max mira-cle supra shoes to swarovski jewelry be -able celtics jersey to chi flat iron pr-ay nike air max openly -and share ferragamo shoes -our zapatillas nike faith burberry outlet store -and tell new balance o-thers polo outlet of handbags outlet J-esus and ray ban outlet G-od christian louboutin shoes whether- co-worker-s or c&c beanies patie-nts juicy couture outlet or fam-ilies/frie-nds swarovski online shop of titans jerseys pat-ients. vans schuhe I longchamp outlet s-truggle wi-th ray bans depress-ion marc by marc jacobs but lacoste ha-ve nike soccer shoes an exce-llent cheap oakley sunglasses doct-or skechers womens shoes right h-ere at denver nuggets jerseys the- puma shoes outlet hospital vans shoes -and ralph lauren my north face jackets mas-ter burberry handbags outlet physic-ian God is- coach factory outlet always raiders jerseys at- spurs jerseys my kate spade side.

This article you have shared here's very awesome. I like and appreciate work. The factors you have talked about in this specific article are helpful. I must try to follow these factors and also discuss others.Chennai Escorts Hyderabad Escorts

All the information in this post is very impressive and I am glad to see this kind of brilliant post. Delhi Escorts ServiceVasant Kunj Call GirlsMoti Nagar Call GirlsGovind Puri Call GirlsChanakya Puri Call GirlsEscorts in MunirkaKalkaji Call GirlsRK Puram Call Girls