Black female students are facing two huge institutional challenges as racism and sexism converge in a way that mean stiffer punishments for them.
A new study from the African American Policy Forum (AAPF) and Columbia Law School Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies, has found that Black girls were suspended six times more than White girls for the 2011-2012 school year. The organizations looked at data from the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights to see how racism and sexism was affecting young Black women in school.
The findings don’t exactly line up with the notion that Black girls are thriving in school these days.
“The problem is that rhetoric surrounding this issue frames it as … ‘boys of color are the most left behind.’ But actually depending on what you’re looking at, that’s not necessarily true,” AAPF Executive Director Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw told The Huffington Post. “The rate of racial disparity in girls’ suspensions … is higher for girls than boys.”
Kimberlé, who also teaches as Columbia does acknowledge that Black males do get suspended more when looking at the raw numbers. However, the number of Black girls that got suspended is still astounding. In New York alone, Black girls accounted for 9,076 instances of suspensions, expulsions and police referrals. That’s more than 10 times the amount of such punishments for White girls, which clocked in at 884. For reference, Black males made up 13,823 similar cases.
Alana Cooper was one such student that got in trouble with authorities at her school and suffered harsh punishment. She was suspended several times last school year even though she was fighting back against bullies that were picking on her. “With zero tolerance, they don’t try to hear you,” she told HuffPo. “I never knew that racism lies within the school system too, and it surely does.”
As a result of the suspensions, Alana’s morale suffered and her gpa slipped from 90 (A-) to 85 (B).
A rep for the New York City Department of Education mentioned that the city has adjusted its policies to use suspensions and expulsions as extreme measures that are only to be used as last resorts. That answer is not satisfactory to Kimberlé.”Separate but unequal focus is not what we’re looking for,” she said. “Separate but unequal didn’t work in respect to race, it doesn’t work in respect to gender, and it especially doesn’t work when looking at the intersection of race and gender.”