When School Feels Like Jail
The Marshall Project

I think Rock’s point re. the tough-love mix of fear and resentment among black staff and administrators is very important from a “community trauma” point of you, and it traces to a long history of systematic and often violent exclusion. The state (e.g., County govt., State and Federal) has dirty hands here as it’s complicity in black youth and community underdevelopment in MS and beyond goes back — with little to no interruption — for generations.

In a book on the rise, fall, and lasting remnants of Jim Crow Juvenile Justice (Black Child Savers), for example, I discuss how MS and states across the country simply refused to invest in black youth and community development — denying access to rehabilitative ideals and resources — until Brown forced their hands by the late 1960s. Corporal punishment selectively targeting black boys and girls was popular here too; whipping was seen as a distinctly appropriate tool for the descendants of enslaved people, into the 1930s and 40s (for the “slavery ended long ago” crowd). These practices were rooted in white supremacist denials of black humanity, that black people incl. children were equally capable of moral and intellectual development (today these may be more implicit) and political marginalization of representative black community leaders (to whom black lives have always mattered).

For all its warts, the more inclusive idea of juvenile rehabilitation was ‘restorative justice’ before that expansive concept and practice emerged in the U.S. mainstream. Soon after racial integration of juvenile justice we saw inclusive/restorative commitments give way to retributive/exclusive agendas of juvenile social control, especially where black youth are concerned.

In terms of immediate solutions, well-supported restorative approaches in schools and communities seem crucial. More fundamentally, opposition to explicit or implicit white preferences, and a policy response to centuries of black youth/community divestment and dis-accumulation (i.e., trans-generational exclusion), seems essential to addressing underlying issues, including the community trauma I elude to above.