I know those girls because I’ve taught those girls.
They’re the ones who are loud, indignant and if you listen to them, they’re quite often right in their message although wrong in their approach. Smart, too. They knew the school was letting them down and could tell when a teacher didn’t care. They fight with words as easily as with their fists. They cut class if they don’t like you and work like the dickens if they do.
“Women of color are more likely to push back on things or they are going to talk a certain way and you have to understand what they are saying. You have to know how to deal with and not be upset with or be offended by it . . . . [The girls] are going to question you. It’s not that they are being disrespectful. It’s they just want to know”.
They’re the ones like P, a student I had who none of her other teachers seemed to notice. These were good, young black teachers who worked hard with the students and it was odd that they didn’t notice P. She rarely came to school but when she did, she would quietly do her work. I found out that every 6 months or so, she was living in a new home because her mother couldn’t care for her children. P had a limp because she had a bone that never set right.
“AT-RISK YOUNG WOMEN DESCRIBE ZERO-TOLERANCE SCHOOLS AS CHAOTIC ENVIRONMENTS IN WHICH DISCIPLINE IS PRIORITIZED OVER EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT.”
I remember C, the girl who took an attitude with me because I called out to her from the back of the library, said I yelled at her and she wasn’t accepting that behavior. How she became one of my special students, I’ll never know.
These are the girls who gave me this gray hair. These are the girls whose faces I could look into and see my neighbors and my cousins in their features. Their lives were too often beyond me. It’s these girls who let me know I would never be a writer because their short lives has more stories than all my years ever would.
I’ve stepped away from the news lately. In the morning, instead of the Today Show I’ll watch the most recent episode of General Hospital while I get ready for work. When Dajerria was dragged across the lawn by a police officer in Texas, I never watched the video, nor have I seen footage of 18 year old Shakara being thrown from her school desk. I have looked at the still images and thought “yeah”, not in affirming way, but in a way of knowing what it’s like to be in a school where teachers are afraid of black girls and where discipline is turned over to armed men.
“INCREASED LEVELS OF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND SECURITY PERSONNEL WITHIN SCHOOLS SOMETIMES MAKE GIRLS FEEL LESS SAFE AND LESS LIKELY TO ATTEND SCHOOL.”
I’ve read that Shakara’s mother recently passed away and the girl had just gone into foster care. She’s a quiet child.
The #BlackLivesMatter movement was prompted by the brutal murders of black boys in the streets and even then, there was an undercurrent, a muffled cry calling out the names of black women who were also being killed. And dragged across lawns. Hanged in jail cells. And thrown out of school chairs.
I wonder how many crimes against our girls have gone untold. How many girls think they don’t matter, that no one cares?
This silence about at-risk girls is multidimensional and cross-institutional. The risks that Black and other girls of color confront rarely receive the full attention of researchers, advocates, policy makers, and funders. As a result, many educators, activists, and community members remain underinformed about the consequences of punitive school policies on girls as well as the distinctly gendered dynamics of zero-tolerance environments that limit their educational achievements.
Why on a blog about diversity and literacy? Because, diversity is about social justice and there clearly is too little justice for our young girls. Social justice, hell humanity, recognizes our connected responsibility to these children. Because these schools are failing our girls when they’re calling armed security guards to remove children from chairs. Because we need to get our girls literate so that they can effectively navigate the world around them. Our gilrs will DEVOUR books that resonate with them. They are SPONGES. But, with no mirrors, they cannot see their own beauty.
“Because girls may not be perceived as problems or “in crisis,” their needs for affirmation may be overlooked, leading some girls to gravitate toward unproductive pathways or to simply fall through the cracks.”
source of all my quotes today:
Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected