STUDY: Report Explores How Institutional Racism Derails Education for Black Boys

By Kenrya Rankin Oct 12, 2015

A new report examines the ways structural racism impacts male black students’ ability to access educational and economic opportunity in the United States, and proposes sweeping recommendations to counteract its effects.

Prepared by the American Federation of Teachers’ (AFT) Race Equity Task Force, the report, “Reclaiming the Promise of Racial Equity in Education, Economics and Our Criminal Justice System” focuses on how the AFT can most effectively engage its 1.6 million-member union to not only advocate for racial equity at large, but make changes at the classroom level that will impact the everyday lived experiences of black male students. As part of the task force’s work, the members drilled down in three areas—educational justice, economic justice and criminal justice—using data gathered during plenary sessions with experts. 

The report details many obstacles that black boys encounter as they attempt to gain an education, from zero-tolerance policies that cause a disproportionate number of suspensions and expulsions, to declining numbers of black educators, to generational poverty that leads to larger debt loads for those who make it to college.

“This report offers concrete steps to create schools where parents want to send their children, where students—particularly boys of color—are engaged, and where educators want to work,” AFT president Randi Weingarten said in a press release sent to Colorlines. “It focuses on ways to end the institutional racism that pervades our criminal justice system, and on ways to challenge the systems that give one-percenters obscene advantages. We must do everything in our power to make sure that black lives matter in every classroom, on every street and in every court in America. This report is a step in transforming our country for the better and in using this moment to start transforming ourselves.”

The report detailed recommendations for initiatives at the national, state and local levels, including:

  • Increase access to high-quality universal pre-K
  • Replace zero-tolerance polices with those that center around restorative justice and enforce them fairly
  • Fund alternatives to out-of-school suspensions that will provide educational opportunities for black male students 
  • Work to identify, recruit, develop and retain black male educators and staff
  • Provide cultural competency training to help faculty and staff identify personal biases
  • Craft strategies to help more black males obtain post-secondary education
  • End militarization of police forces
  • Abolish mandatory minimum prison sentences for nonviolent drug crimes

Per the report, AFT will integrate the recommendations into its organizational mission, works, goals and advocacy.