Statistics on the Inequities Facing
Baltimore’s African-American Youth
A Response to Anti-Black Youth Rhetoric
By Rudolph Lewis
Below is a report of what's happening to Baltimore's young people. Startling statistics! I send these out
partially as a response to
E. Ethelbert Miller's flippant remark "I
don't want to follow kids."
In that piece maybe he meant well. Maybe he
intended to inspire his generation to be more active in
fighting back against the Right-Wing takeover of
everything American. But in doing so, it seemed to me he
piled on with and encouraged more stereotypical
responses to black youth in our communities. His
comments were reposted on E-Drum recently and
then there were other responders who chimed in
with E's point of view.
not suggesting that Mosley should not be criticized for
some positions he takes in his essay "A New
Black Power": his call for
young people to lead the revolt against their oppression
call for a black party. From my view Mosley's essay
good sound ideas, as far as they go, especially his
encouragement of black youth political activity. Last
week, here in Baltimore we had a three-day
protest led primarily by Baltimore High School students
against proposed "reforms" to Baltimore education. These are top-down reforms, led
and suggested by hired efficiency experts and local
black politicos, primarily interested in personal
comfort and in political office. These reforms had
nothing to do with participatory democracy and the
necessary reforms and support of black education.
These reforms have more to do with the state trying to save
money rather than putting the needed resources into black
education. There were few adults involved in protesting
against this dumbing down of black education. Few
teachers, no teachers union, few of the responsible
leaders of the City Council or black state delegates or
parents led this revolt, or joined in
wholeheartedly. Most stood on the sidelines and many
teachers and politicos tried to prevent students from jointing
the protest. These students took their destiny in their
own hands, for the benefit of black education for all
students and those students to come. This image of
"kids" is too often obscured for those more negative
ones we find on TV news and in films.
Though I am not against Mosley's big ideas organizing, it is
usually the small, loosely connected associations that
do most of the necessary on the ground work. And they
are not doing this work to get paid, like our big-time
operators and public intellectuals. Those students
protesting at City Hall took their social responsibility
They should be applauded and supported.
am sure all of us can name many like minded young people, who ain't just out for the
"bling." One such young person that
I greatly admire, and whose lead I would follow, is a
student at UMBC. I just met him recently. He looks like
he's about 16 years old. His name is Rodney Foxworth,
Though distant in age, I think I have a fairly good
relationship with him.
think he's smart as a whip. He has been writing for the
local City Paper.
We have posted a few pieces of his on ChickenBones.
Keep in mind MLK was not all that old when he began his
political career. Also remember those high school
kids who were involved in the civil rights struggle in
Prince Georges County, Virginia and in Cambridge,
Maryland, and in Alabama and other Deep South cities who
went to prison, who faced the dogs and the fire
hoses--they were teens. Also, Carmichael
wasn't that old
when he left Howard and went South.
Check the writings of Rodney Foxworth: A
Report on a Gathering at Red Emma's and
Naïve Political Treatise. It is these
kinds of young people I think Mosley had in mind. It is
these young people who should indeed be encouraged, supported,
and followed. We need fewer of the cute responses that E is
putting out in disparagement of young people. Maybe we
can't put together the big organization kind of thing
that Mosley calls for, even if they are necessary. But
we can work more effectively and efficiently in our
loose associations, and with young people like Rodney
Foxworth. And maybe through these relationships we can get where
Mosley think we should be.
relationship of the supporters of ChickenBones
is one instance of a loose association. Their donations
and their suggestions and correspondence have been priceless.
And they aren't all black, and they aren't all of E's
generation. Another ongoing relationship has been
between ChickenBones and E-Drum that
has continued for five years. Kalamu ya
with his E-Drum and his Breath
of Life has set an extraordinary model for us to follow. He has
worked tirelessly in providing services for us all for
over seven years--no money was charged.
And the ongoing relationship I have had with a
number of writers, including Kalamu,
Louis Reyes Rivera,
Jeannette Drake, Amin Sharif and
many others, is also in that mold. I think we have established a model that
should be replicated across the country. Let a thousand
ChickenBones bloom! Let a thousand loose
associations pop up and thrive to counter the
Conservative and White Nationalist propaganda machines.
These kinds of relationships between activist persons of
different generations can also be established.
can more effectively make use of cyberspace, that is,
beyond self promotion. We can move in a
concerted way, as Jonathan Scott suggests in his
on Political Education,
to restructure the brains of Americans, so that we can see
matters more clearly beyond the obfuscation of issues
by the right wing, mainstream media, and Republicrat
Again, check out the statistics below. Rodney Foxworth sent them
to us. The State and too many of its citizens make
on Black Youth by their stereotypes of our "kids." I'd
like to hear more from E on this subject and issue. We
should not join the Right and the White Nationalists in
their anti-black youth rhetoric. We should be
looking for more and more ways we can support youth
responses to their social and class oppression. We must move away from our own personal stardom,
our narrow class and age perspectives. We
have to be more gracious and giving of ourselves, for the greater
good of our larger communities, and for America.
* * * *
The Inequities Facing Baltimore’s
Statistics Show that
African-American Youth Are:
SUSPENDED MORE OFTEN
During the 2000-01 school year, 1
in 6 African-American students was suspended in
Baltimore City schools. African-Americans from Baltimore
alone account for almost 20% of the state's suspensions.
ARRESTED MORE OFTEN
76% of Baltimore's children are
African-American and are 20% White. But African-American
youth make up 88% of Baltimore's juvenile arrests, while
white youth account for only 11% of juvenile arrests.
PUNISHED MORE OFTEN
Once Baltimore youth are arrested,
formal proceedings are commenced against
African-Americans (91%) more often than Whites (10%).
PUNISHED MORE HARSHLY
Of Baltimore's youth sent to secure
detention facilities, African-Americans make up 94%, and
White youth constitute only 6%.
INCARCERATED MORE OFTEN
Maryland has one of the nation's
highest rates of racial disparity in incarceration. More
than 5.6% of the state's African-American men were
incarcerated in 2000.
More than 9 out of 10 youth charged
as adults in Baltimore City are African American, they
are almost twice as likely to go to prison as white
An African-American man in Maryland
is 10.2 times more likely to be incarcerated than a
White male. Maryland locks up a disproportionate number
of African-American youth:
African-American youth are 32 % of
the Maryland's youth population, but represent 64 % of
detained youth, and 72 % of youth committed to Maryland
state facilities after adjudication.
African-American youth represent
the overwhelming majority of youth at the Cheltenham
youth facility (82%). Nationally, as well as here in
Maryland, recidivism rates for institutions are abysmal:
8 out of 10 youth will be re-arrested following release
from an institution. Only 20 percent of all youth remain
arrest free. And yet Maryland commits 70 percent of its $200
million dollar juvenile justice budget to institutional
and residential programming.
1. Suspension, Expulsions,
and Health Related Exclusions, Maryland Public Schools,
2000-2001, by the Maryland State Department of Education's Division of Planning,
Results, and Information Management (January 1, 2002).
2.Annual Statistical Report,
Fiscal Year 2000, by the Maryland Department of Juvenile
Justice, March 2002.
3. Hobbling a Generation:
Young African American Males in the Criminal Justice
System of America's Cities: Baltimore, Maryland, by
Jerome G. Miller, National Center for Institutions and
Alternatives, September 1992.
4. Punishment and Prejudice,
by Human Rights Watch, 2000.
5. Youth Crime/Adult Time: Is
Justice Served? Prepared for the Building Blocks for
Youth initiative by Jolanta Juszkiewicz, Pretrial
Services Resource Center, October 2000.
6. And Justice for Some.
Prepared for the Building Blocks for Youth initiative by
Eileen Poe-Yamagata and Michael Jones, April, 2000.
7. Maryland Department of
Juvenile Justice Cheltenham Youth Facility: Youth
Profiles and Population Projections, Annie E. Casey
Foundation and National Council on Crime and
Delinquency, Richard G. Wiebush et al., February 1996.
Furnished by Rodney
Advocates for Children and Youth (ACY)
* * *
Comments on Student Protest at Baltimore's
By Rodney D. Foxworth, Jr.
March 3, 2006
I'm just about fed
up with this nonsense, and I've been out of Baltimore
City Public Schools since 2002. I'm going along with my
cousin to tomorrow's protest. The state is clearly
missing the point. These students know that they are
gettin' the shaft, 'cause they've been getting the shaft
for the past 12 years. For example, this Sun
report notes that the school system is built to house
125000 students, but only has an enrollment of 85000.
Tell me, if they had enough space to shut down schools,
why are some classrooms saddled with in excess of 30
The Sun once
reported that Pimilico Middle had classrooms with as
many as 40 students! How are they using all this space!
And now the state rep is saying he's concerned that the
student protestors are missing too much time from
school. Never mind the fact that well over 50 percent of
Baltimore students don't even graduate. The majority of
the protestors are amongst the more academically
talented students in the city, and he's talkin' about
them missing some school time. Hello? If these kids
don't do any pushing, then who will? Ok, I've done my
March 3, 2006
I have been home
for a few moments, and I am allowing my body to defrost.
It was a chilly one today. I'll be giving a more
detailed report/impression of today's events once I get
my thoughts together and warm up. I'll give you my
initial impression, and I would like to mention this
first: The ENTIRE three day strike was organized by a
group of students. High school students. This means
that their ages ranged between 13 and 18. Impressive if
you ask me.
Was the event disorganized a bit? Yes. Could it have run
more smoothly? Yes. But none of that matters. These kids
actually sat down with O'Malley today, face to face.
After that, one of the student activists, in response to
O'Malley' claim that capping classrooms to 20 students
was "unreasonable," this student called O' Malley a
coward. It was clear that some of the protestors were
there simply to miss school, but a great deal of them
were committed and well informed. Dr. Andre Bundley gave
a 5 minute Jesse Jackson impression, rhyming and what
have you. But the kids ran this whole thing, with
minimal adult intervention. This, I think, is very
impressive and it should give us all hope. It was a good
showing and I'm proud of all those involved. We all
March 4, 2006
Already Doug Duncan
has politicized the recent school protests, and I
suppose that he would be foolish as a politician to not
do so. Politicians are interested in money and votes,
and a logical person might assume that this event and
the whole debacle of the schools would divert votes away
from O'Malley. But this won't be the case. The student
protestors have already identified O' Malley as a
coward, now it is time for their parents to realize that
he is, after all, an ambitious politician.
Now, his buddy
Brian Morris has laid blame at the feet of Duncan for
"fighting in 1997 to preserve state funding formulas
that benefited Montgomery but 'were depriving Baltimore
students of their constitutionally mandated education.'"
He also wants Duncan to redirect monies from Montgomery
County schools to the BCPSS. Of course, the Baltimore
voters will be pimped by both O'Malley and Duncan, and
this is to be expected. But what is disheartening is
that these students have managed to organize themselves
in a better fashion than their parents. Too many harped
that the kids should not have missed school time to
conduct this protest.
If we were
collectively concerned about these kids' education, more
of us might have been out their in support of them, or,
have organized an event ourselves. Over 50 percent of
the students don't graduate, 74 percent if you're a
black male. And yet missing three days of school raises
the ire of some people? I personally think that these
kids are capable of doing a "bottom-up" approach to
organizing. That is, they are capable of politicizing
their parents. They need help of course. Conceivably,
the students represent something in the way of 85,000
votes. I know that this is too large a number; it is
likely far lower than this. And I understand that what I
call for sounds idealistic, but what else can we do?
Continued protests won't do it, as it has failed before.
meetings and voicing your opinion won't do it either,
that too has failed. I know this because I've been there
with my mother in the past few years. Alternative
methods have to be developed, no more playing soft ball.
Appeals to conscience seem to have no place in today's
politics. Kids are able to convince their parents into
buying them $300 IPods and $150 shoes. Can they too sway
their vote? One of the protestors was right to observe
that those without children in the school system ought
not have a say about what happens with the schools. How
O'Malley got into
office with the black vote, and he can be kept out of
the governor's office if he doesn't get the black vote.
Can he defeat Duncan in the primary without the black
vote? This is how, I thank, we need to come to the table
of politicians. You can't simply hope that they will do
right by you, you have to barter, and votes are
currency. But O'Malley is smart. He knows that black
Baltimoreans will still vote for him. Why wouldn't they?
We aren't exactly shoving the idea down the throats of
Baltimore parents that he or any other politician is
indifferent to their kids. You have to force their
collective hand. Power concedes nothing.
I know that this is
naive and simplified and scatter shot, but I am just
rambling and what else can be done to prevent this
continued mis-education of our youth? They are being ill
prepared for anything in this world. This is something
that we can organize around, using the student
protestors as the impetus, or rather, the student
protestors using us. They have the talent,
commitment and the organizing skills that most of the
city's parents might never acquire in two lifetimes.
They know that the
powers-that-be have no vested interest in them. As
Mosley suggested, we need to listen to the young. And
this time, they weren't telling us about "bitches,"
"hoes," and material goods, they were telling us that
the city and the state and all those involved are not
giving them a fair shake. This is what they were telling
us as they chanted "We deserve a fair fight, education
is our right" in the streets. It's about time we start
listening and come up with ideas and strategy to assist
them along the way.—Rodney
You state that this is a condition particular to
Baltimore, but I read a book, Zero Tolerance, that
gives examples and clearly indicates this scenario is
repeated from coast to coast. The weapons violations,
unruly behavior and the overrepresentation of Black
youth in "special" classes are indicative of a well
throughout plan being implemented. And the worst aspect
may be that profits from institutionalization or long
term employment gained through high incarceration levels
are the driving motive.—Charles Henry
It was not my intent to say that this situation is just
in Baltimore. Matter of fact, it is replicated
throughout the nation. It is a national policy. I refer
you also to Ron Walters' book,
White Nationalism, Black Interests ,Chapter 7, "The
War on Blacks: Criminalizing a Race." And you
should also check out Chapter 8 of the same text,
"Attacking Black Access to Education." It deals with
K-12 as well as colleges and universities.
But I think we need to put forth local situations in
order that the argument is more specific, more personal,
more immediate. Wherever you are, you probably should do
You make some
really good points, Rudy. We have to be very
careful about generalizing about any group of
people—young, old, Black, Asian, women, men, White,
Gays, etc. There are some wonderful, committed
young people out there who are our future hope; there
are also some crack-headed, criminalized young people
out there; between those two extremes, there is a
majority of young folk who are just trying to survive,
to live to see another day. We must have
compassion for all of them and try to help in any way
that we can.—Miriam
posted 7 March 2006
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posted 22 July 2008