In Focus: Youth of Color
Oct 29, 2013 | Permalink »
A Strengths-Based Look at the State of the Black Child
"Being labeled ‘at risk' is like being voted least likely to succeed. For where there is no faith in your future success, there is no real effort to prepare you for it," says Carol Brunson Day, one of the many experts to contribute commentary to the National Black Child Development Institute's (NBCDI) latest publication, Being Black Is Not a Risk Factor: A Strengths-Based Look at the State of the Black Child.
All too often, black children are defined by the risks associated with their skin color.
While the challenges of black children and black families are real, NBCDI seeks to change the narrative of the limitations and deficits of black children and instead look at the strengths, opportunities and resilience that black children and their families possess. The report includes essays that focus on utilizing strengths to improve outcomes for black children, highlights examples of black children succeeding, and includes data that provides information on how black children and families are doing.
From early childhood to young adulthood, Being Black is Not a Risk Factor identifies the ways that black children and youth benefit from the strengths and resilience of their families and communities and offers a starting point for a national conversation on how black children can be supported to achieve their very best in a culture that has placed many impediments in front of them.
Data can tell many stories. The narrative we don't often hear, but data support, is that black children are more likely to be enrolled in preschool than white children (75 percent of black 4-year-olds, compared to 69 percent of white 4-year-olds); more than 3 in 4 young black children have at least one working parent; and 79 percent of young black children are read to by a family member regularly.
We must not define children by the risk factors associated with their skin color. All children deserve the means to keep themselves healthy, to be provided with stable environments, and to have access to high-quality education to achieve their life's potential. The challenges of black children are critical to understand because they convey the urgency of the need for policymakers and communities to help create a new future for children of color. But that future should be built on children's strengths and communities' successes, not disparities. After all, being black is not a risk factor.
CLASP is pleased to have contributed data analysis to this publication.
Aug 02, 2013 | Permalink »
Where Do We Go From Here? Solutions in the Wake of Trayvon Martin & George Zimmerman
I was in Florida visiting my family, less than 100 miles from Sanford, when the verdict was delivered declaring George Zimmerman not guilty. I remember feeling numb, then sick to my stomach. My reaction was intensified by the fact that I was with the African American males who matter the most to me: my husband, a dark-skinned man with a booming voice and larger-than-life personality; my younger brother, a six-foot, one-inch man with an easygoing spirit who works in corporate America by day and the music scene by night; and my eight-year-old son, an inquisitive young man who is one of my life's greatest joys. As I looked at them, hot, angry tears flowed down my cheeks. I shut off my phone and the television. I didn't want to see any news stories, talk to anyone, or read any blog posts or tweets. I just wanted to be alone with my anger and grief. I needed that time and space to process the verdict and its implications.
Later, when I listened to President Obama's response to the verdict, I imagined that he, too, needed that same kind of time. As the leader of a nation, the President is required daily to process situations quickly and decisively, and to make statements about the nation's position and next steps, almost immediately. But this time was different. As an African American man and father, I am sure this case hit home and struck a chord in ways no other policy or issue has during his presidency. President Obama said, "Trayvon Martin could have been my son[...] Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago." One must understand that the killing of Trayvon Martin and the "not guilty" verdict of George Zimmerman hit African Americans like the knockout blow of a heavyweight fighter. African Americans like our President.
President Obama acknowledged some important truths in his speech about the Zimmerman verdict-truths no president has ever stated so plainly. First, America's criminal laws are applied unevenly, resulting in racial disparities in "everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws." In 2010, the Sentencing Project found that African Americans were incarcerated at a rate 5.6 times higher than that of whites. Research shows that this trend was exacerbated by the "war on drugs" that began in the 1980s. In 2010, Congress passed and President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced the sentencing disparities for crack versus powder cocaine. This legislation came about, in part, because of research that showed both versions of the drug were essentially the same. Prior to the passage of this law, 80 percent of those sentenced for dealing crack cocaine were African American.
So, where do we go from here?
Jun 28, 2013 | Permalink »
Supreme Court Sends Affirmative Action Case Back to Lower Court
By Kisha Bird
Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its much-awaited decision on the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (UT) case. This challenge was brought by a white student, Fisher, who claims she was denied admission to UT due to an admissions policy that considers race. For months, advocates of racial justice and supporters of affirmative action anxiously waited for this decision as it would have major implications for racial preferences in admissions to public colleges and universities, as well as for the broader legacy of affirmative action.
In a seven to one decision, the Court neither rejected nor endorsed the race-based admissions policy at UT and sent the case back to a lower court, citing that not enough scrutiny had been given to the University of Texas' admissions program. With this ruling, the Court upholds previous decisions-including Grutter v. Bollinger-which affirmed the University of Michigan Law School's affirmative action program and held that diversity is a compelling interest for public universities and that race can be used as a factor in admissions.
The Constitutional Law Scholars, in a joint statement, notes that the Court's Fisher decision ultimately determined that "admissions programs that consider race as one of many factors in the context of an individualized consideration of all applicants can clearly pass constitutional review" and that the decision "makes clear that promoting diversity in higher education can justify race-conscious admissions policies when they are carefully designed and consider race only as part of a flexible and individualized review of all applicants." In sending the case back to the lower court, the Supreme Court further clarified how courts must determine if an admission policy passes muster. In a statement issued earlier this week, UT President Bill Powers called the decision encouraging. Vowing to continue to defend the University's admission policy, he expressed confidence that it would satisfy the strict standards prescribed by the court.
Last summer, CLASP joined the Kirwan Institute and a national coalition of black male achievement initiatives (BMI) in urging the Supreme Court to uphold the admissions procedures of the University of Texas. In the BMI amicus brief, we advocated for the Court to examine the low numbers of African American males currently enrolled at select universities, citing that studies of college diversity seldom consider information about both race and gender. Black males are "especially vulnerable to exclusion from postsecondary educational opportunities without every available constitutional tool to include them." It is important to improve post-secondary and college attainment for all African-Americans, but great gender disparities exist. Among U.S. residents, Black females are far more likely to have earned a post-secondary degree-accounting for 68 percent of associate's degrees, 66 percent of bachelor's degrees, 71 percent of master's degrees, and 65 percent of all doctor's degrees awarded to Black students. [i]
Holistic race-conscious admission policies help in allowing young black males to gain access to selective colleges and universities and are a critical tool in helping colleges and universities identify student talent and population groups that have been traditionally excluded from opportunities for higher education advancement. CLASP is encouraged by this ruling and is hopeful that the American university community maintains a commitment to affirmative action policies and ensuring diversity.