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The dissuasion of African-American students begins in the class, not on the streets

It is no secret that America has a race problem. More specifically, there is a conception (in the context of education and conflict) that the black youth of America, because of their unsteady familial and communal life, often develop behaviour which leads to them being suspended or expelled from school, opening the door for them to engage in illicit violent activities on the streets. However, a study from the Yale Child Study Centre has come to refute the claim that their behaviour is the sole reason for this.

In 2016, researchers from Yale gathered 135 pre-school teachers from around the country, asking them to watch a video of 4 students in class (one white girl, one white boy, one black girl, and one black boy) to identify when any of them misbehaved. In reality, the children were actors, there was no misbehaviour, and the device on which the teachers watched the video was equipped with an eye tracking software which revealed some not-so-shocking results. An overwhelming majority of teachers spent the entire video solely focusing on the black children (more specifically, the black boy), waiting for misbehaviour that was never going to happen.

This study also had a second level. In this, the teachers were provided with a hypothetical student file which contained either a stereotypical white or black name, an offence the student had committed, and made-up details of a troubled family and community life. Again, an overwhelming majority appeared sympathetic in the punishment they suggested for the white students, while there was an empathy deficit in the case of the black students, despite details of a troubled life. Surprisingly, even black teachers showed this same disposition, as it almost seemed like knowing about the life of these students made all teachers more sympathetic towards the white students and unsympathetic towards the black students

This seems all too relevant in a landscape where over-the-top unjustified instances of police violence have started to take place in schools. Whether it’s Ahmad “the clock kid” or any of the hundreds of students of colour who are thrown in the back of cruisers over the most irrational claims, the effects are highly detrimental (and traumatising for the youngsters involved).

Not only is this reflected in the judicial system of the country (where black people are given harsher sentences for crimes that white people would get a slap on the wrist for) but it also shows that this conception begins not on the streets, but in the classroom. Most importantly, it shows the dire need for teachers receiving proper training on the topic of prejudice.

I am also attaching a link to the findings of the study down below if anyone wishes to read up on it.

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