In a recent blog I told the story of Janet Yellen, chair of the Federal Reserve Bank, who spoke about economic inequality without mentioning any of the problems in our economic system that produce and reinforce that inequality. There is a good deal of discussion of inequality these days but not many people are willing to look at the real causes of it.
A while ago, The Nation magazine reported some terribly distressing facts about one other source of economic inequality, the role that racism plays in the lives of children of color in this country.
The nation's report rested on government figures published by the US Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights. Here are some highlights from that report:
"Black students accounted for 18% of the country's pre-K enrollment, but made up 48% of preschoolers with multiple out-of-school suspensions.
Black students were expelled at three times the rate of white students.
Black girls were suspended at higher rates than all other girls and most boys.
A quarter of the schools with the highest percentage of black and Latino students did not offer Algebra II.
A third of these schools did not offer chemistry.
Less than half of American Indian and native Alaskans high school students had access to the full range of math and science courses.
Black, Latino and Native American students attended schools with higher concentrations of first-year teachers.
Black students were more than three times as likely to attend schools where fewer than 60% of teachers meet all state certifications and licensure requirements."
These stark facts help us understand the history of many young black men. In a recent book, On the Run, Alice Goffman reports that many of the young black men who are in serious difficulties with the law first ran afoul of the government when they were 10 or 11 or 12 years old. The fact that black children in preschool are already singled out for punishment and expulsion explains their early conflict with the police.
They clearly never had a chance.