Below is a transcript of episode five of By Every Measure, Radio Milwaukee’s new podcast exploring systemic racism in various sectors of Milwaukee, looking closely at how those systems were formed and how they can – and need – to be changed.
we begin this episode of By Every Measure, talking about systemic
racism and education, I want to share a personal story with you. When
I was in second grade, living in Charleston, South Carolina, I had an
incident, I guess you’d call it my first incident, with racism, that
I remember. I was handing my paper in to the teacher who was an older
white lady. And right when I handed the paper in to her, right under
her breath, I hear her say the N word to me. And that stuck with me.
I didn’t even tell my parents till later in life, till probably my
college days that I told them that.
it was kind of traumatic for me and doing this podcast brought up
that memory again. But thinking about that, I’m thinking about all
the instance that students and kids that look like me had to deal
with in schools, going beyond just being called the N word. Being
handcuffed by police, being expelled for minor incidents. That is
also traumatic and that occurs across the country.
in this episode, we’re talking about systemic racism in education.
Not just outcomes or test scores, we’re talking about bias among
teachers, the school-to-prison pipeline, how Black students are
treated differently than white students when it comes to discipline;
and we also are going to look at how schools are funded. All of this
was studied more than 50 years ago in the Kerner Commission, which we
have talked about in other episodes in this podcast.
I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever.
the Kerner Commission, they recognized the disparity between Black
and white students in America over 50 years ago. And they made
several recommendations, which alas, were never followed.
little more than a decade before the Kerner Commission, there was
Brown vs Board of Education. You probably learned about this in
school. A 1954, US Supreme Court decision that rules segregation
unconstitutional and in violation of the 14th amendment.
easy to think that was years ago. I wasn’t even born. Right? But it
wasn’t really that long ago. Remember Ruby Bridges? She was a young
Black girl who became the face of school integration and had to be
walked into school by federal marshals. Now she’s only 66 years old,
younger than my parents. But back then, she was in the national
spotlight as a child, dealing with hatred.
is what white Americans were saying about school integrations.
for both races is best. Segregation has and is working in the South,
which contains two thirds-
were protests all over the country over busing programs meant to
integrate schools into the 1970s, in places like Boston. Here’s some
archive audio from WBZ-TV to give you a sense of how intense these
00:03:19] They were throwing eggs at the window and trying to hit
people with them.
when we was in school, they was throwing glass at Black people and
the audio you just heard was from the 1970s. But the issue of bias
and prejudice in schools persist today. Black children are five times
as likely as white children to attend schools that are highly
segregated by race. And that is according to the Economic Policy
Institute in a 2017 report. While segregation is technically illegal,
the truth is it’s still happening all over the country, including
right here in Milwaukee and cities like it.
where we’ll start with Reggie Jackson.
is it, if someone says, “Well, you’re separate but equal, what’s
the problem?” Right? What does segregation really do to a Black
community and Black students?
was a teacher for eight years; and you’re separate, but you’re
certainly not going to be equal, in any respects. They were building
brand new schools on the south side for white families and didn’t
build many at all on the north side. It took a great deal of
pressure. It took boycotts by students to put pressure on Milwaukee
Public Schools to build those.
the most important impact that segregation policies have is that the
way we fund schools is based on property taxes. So as we created
these segregated, all white spaces in certain parts of Milwaukee and
in the suburban communities, what you find is that the property
taxes, because of the value of the home, increased. The whiter the
neighborhood got, the higher the property values got. The less white
a neighborhood got, the lower the property values went. And so what
you end up having is a very unbalanced system where our suburban
school district’s funding is significantly higher than within the
why when you go to the suburbs, you’ll see much nicer and newer
school facilities compared to the schools in Black neighborhoods,
which in Milwaukee is the central city. More tax base and more
man, I’ll tell you, Tarik, when I go out to the suburbs that you
don’t go to schools; you go to campuses. Right? You go to the campus
of the schools and they’re so different. So different than the
schools in the city of Milwaukee. We have a lot of really old school
buildings in Milwaukee and you know this as well as I do, Tarik, that
if you go to a school that looks really good and modern and has
wonderful facilities, it makes you kind of feel good about yourself.
Like, “Man, I’m going to get a really good education here.”
then you go to one of the schools in Milwaukee, that’s maybe an old
raggedy building where the air conditioner doesn’t really work that
well when it’s hot; the heat doesn’t work that well when it’s cold;
the windows don’t close properly so there’s a lot of cold air blowing
into the building. Two of the schools I worked at, those were major
issues that they couldn’t figure out how to fix the window so we
wouldn’t be cold in the classrooms. So we literally had to sit in the
classrooms with jackets.
it makes a big difference for the students as well as the staff, and
the parents recognize it, too. That’s why so many Black parents,
Hispanic parents are always trying to get their kids out to the
suburban school districts.
talk about discipline, like a lot of studies about how Black
students, especially Black girls, young women are disciplined
unequally and basically, this also kind of leads into the
school-to-prison pipeline. So talk to me about how discipline in
schools is treated between the races.
Yeah. There are huge disparities across the country in disciplinary
outcomes for particularly between Black and white students. Black
kids are much more likely to be suspended and expelled from schools
than their white peers for participating in the same type of age
appropriate behavior. But the other side is because of unconscious
bias and even some conscious bias by white teachers, because the
majority of teachers in the country are white; most of them are white
females. When you have Black students, particularly Black boys,
they’re much more likely to be sent to the principal’s office,
written up, suspended, eventually expelled.
was a national study about this in 2016 done by the US Department of
Education office for Civil Rights, that showed Black boys were more
than three times more likely to be suspended one or more times
compared to white boys, basically 18% versus 5%.
girls, on the other hand, the difference between how they’re treated
is that they are treated in a less nurturing way. There’s a big study
done called Black Girls Interrupted several years ago; and what it
showed was that there’s this general assumption that Black girls are
older than what their age is, that they assume that they know more
about sex than they do, that they’re less in need of nurturing than
their white peers. And so if people assume you’re less in need of
nurturing and emotional support, then they’re going to be less likely
to do that for you.
as you can see, these differences in discipline are well observed,
studied, and analyzed; and bias starts early, as early as preschool.
Yale University Child Study Center did a study on this back in 2016
and found even more proof of bias and education at a very early age.
Here’s how study went.
these are young children. Had them sit at a table and had some toys
and things on the table and have them play. And he asked the group of
educators, he used Black and white educators, a little bit of
everybody. And he said, “I want you to watch the video of these
children. And I want you to look for signs that are precursors to
their misbehaving. So look for those little signs that they’re about
to do something they’re not supposed to do.” Right?
so the teachers sat and they watched this video, but what the
teachers didn’t know was, number one, that these young children were
actually trained actors. They did nothing. There was no misbehavior
at all in the videos. I mean, they were trained to do everything the
right way. But what the other thing was, the surprising thing was
that the computer screen the teachers are looking at, they actually
had a device on it that track their eye movement.
it saw exactly where the eyes were looking. So you had a little Black
boy, a little Black girl, a little white boy, and a little white
girl. And when they looked through the data for all of these
teachers, they found very consistently that a majority of the time,
the teachers’ eyes were on that little Black boy. And so it showed
that bias that’s there.
bias was across every race of teachers that they tested. It wasn’t
just the white teachers that had this bias. The Black teachers did as
well. So these are things that are kind of built into this into our
unconscious minds where we have different expectations for Black kids
than we do for white kids.
no matter what, if you’re a Black student, you’re more likely to be
disciplined at school more often and more harshly. And it’s not just
being called to the principal’s office. Schools are calling the
police. In fact, nationwide Black boys are, again, three times as
likely to be arrested at school as their white male peers and Black
girls are one and a half times as likely as white boys to be
arrested. According to that same government study, there’s a police
presence in many Black schools.
That’s a big problem. Part of what the challenge is with schools
calling police. So the reason that we have police in schools, people
kind of forget this is that back in the early ’90s, there were a
multitude of school shootings around the country. Almost every
several months, there was another big school shooting and this lasted
really through the late ’90s, early 2000s, there were several high
profile school shootings.
what’s interesting about those school shootings that no one really
talks about, Tarik, is that they were always white kids that was
shooting up their schools. But you put in metal detectors where the
Black kids are and the Hispanic kids are. No Black kids are running
into the school with a gun and having a list of kids they want to
because of those school shootings, there was this, “Oh, we got
to do something. We got to protect the students. We got to protect
the staff. We got to put police in the schools. We’ve got to have
zero tolerance policies.”
is known as zero tolerance policies were developed in the ’90s after
government passed the gun-free schools act back in 1994. The policy
requires students to be expelled for bringing a gun to school.
However, schools started using idea of broken window policies, a
popular concept that if you crack down on minor violations, serious
crimes would be prevented. And you start seeing students being
expelled for minor incidents like smoking cigarettes, swearing, or
even such a minor incident as cutting in line during lunch.
you begin to have way more police contact. The students are having
the police called on them on a pretty regular basis. I even saw this
in schools that I worked in. Police are called when students are
misbehaving. Now, instead of calling the parents and having the
parents come up to the school and then getting their kids straight,
“Oh, well, we’ll get a call the police.”
we all know that the police are accustomed to dealing with adults.
They’re not accustomed to dealing with children. They don’t
understand, like many teachers, what normal behaviors for different
age groups are; and they’ll come and they’ll put kids in handcuffs.
And studies have shown that if you are expelled from school, if you
are suspended multiple times from school, if you have any contact
with the police while you’re in school, you are much, much more
likely to end up going to prison at a later time of your life.
Multiple studies have shown that any police contact as a student,
you’re much more likely to go to prison.
being exposed to the criminal justice system at a very young age,
Black and Brown students that have contact with police face stress,
trauma, and anxiety that creates mental health problems and hurts
their educational performance. The school-to-prison pipeline starts
way earlier than you might think. Reggie shares this story from
Florida back in 2017. You might’ve seen it in the news where police
were called on a very young Black girl.
six year old Black girl was… She did some stuff in class, I guess
she struck one of the teachers, but it’s a six year old. So, I mean,
you can’t cause a whole lot of harm when you’re six year old. But
anyway, she struck one of the teachers and they called the police on
this little girl. Right? And so, there’s the police body cam video of
this incident. So the police come into the school.
She’s going to have to come with us now.
Kaia, you got to go with them, baby girl.
up. Stand up. Come here. Come over here.
are those for?
this little girl is in the office and the officers come in and
they’re talking to her and they literally make her stand up and they
put the plastic cuffs on her, and they literally take this little
girl out to the police car and put her in the police car and take her
to the police station. And the whole time she’s begging and pleading
and and crying.
don’t want to go to the police car.
don’t want to?
please. [inaudible 00:15:09]
mean, she’s begging and crying. I mean, this is a really difficult
video to watch. It’s so sad. But the worst part of the video is when
they come back in, when the officers come, comes back in and he’s
talking to the administrators at the school and then the people who
call the cops and they’re, like, “Was that really necessary?”
And the officer’s, like, “Yeah.” And then he starts to brag
about how many kids, over the course of his life, he has arrested in
youngest I’ve ever arrested was seven.
young? Seven is the youngest?
is the youngest. She’s eight, isn’t she?
six? Now she has broken the record. She broke the record.
mean, this guy’s going on and on. It’s, like, dude, really? And of
course he gets suspended from his job because he didn’t follow the
protocol. You’re not allowed to arrest a student under the age of 12
without express permission from your superiors at the police station.
So, if your Sergeant or Lieutenant, whoever says, “Yeah, go
ahead and arrest that six year old,” you can do it; but you
can’t do it without them telling you.
Reggie said, that audio is tough to take. But beyond having police in
schools, there’s also another issue. Something that generally isn’t
in the classroom. There’s been a lot of studies and memes and stuff
about you kind of brought a little bit of having a teacher that looks
like you, a Black teacher, a Brown teacher, that students of that
same race will do better in school. Right?
was a question. I see a lot of questions. Like, “When’s the
first time you had a Black teacher?” I didn’t have a Black
teacher till I went to Howard University.
can you talk to me about the data and about that? And why is the case
of having a teacher, a Black teacher of Black students is better for
the Black student?
think it’s about the culture. When you are from the same culture as
the students are, you are going to be a automatically culturally
responsive teacher. This is one of these things in education. What
you hear a lot, of talk about culturally responsive engagement of
students. Right? And what that literally means is that white parents
need to get to know a little bit more about the cultures of Black
kids and Hispanic kids and Asian American kids, Native American kids,
because they don’t know enough about those cultures to communicate
really well and interact with those students in a really, really
if you are from their culture, you listen, you know; from your
personal experience, you know how to communicate better. And there is
a level of respect. I’ve seen this myself. I’ve seen Black kids be
completely disrespectful to white teachers, and then leave that class
and go to the next class with a Black teacher and be like the little
angels in the classroom. Right?
there is a dynamic of white teachers who are, they showed their fear.
Right? And listen, kids are like little psychologists, Tarik. They
know who they can take advantage of. They recognize it, man. And if
they can take advantage of you, they will take advantage of you.
Because that’s what kids do. Right?
so what you have is you have a majority of the teachers are white.
Most of those are white females. So this is what you have. You go to
any college. It has a school of education. And you go into those
classrooms where people are going to school to become teachers. And a
lot of these young white women want to go to the school to become a
teacher. And they go to these what they call urban schools, which I
hate the term urban, which is just a code word for Black or Latino
go into these schools and they come in with a white savior complex,
thinking that they’re going to save these little kids; they need
somebody to save them. They don’t; they just need somebody to teach
them. And then as soon as the Black kids disrespect them, they don’t
know how to handle it. They’re, like, “Oh my goodness.”
literally seen young white teachers leave classrooms in tears,
crying, like the first or second day of school. I had a teacher that
I worked with, Tarik, at one of the schools I worked at. And this
woman literally, as we were having the meetings leading up to classes
starting over the summer. It was a couple of weeks where we’re doing
professional development and stuff. She was very outspoken about how,
“I know I can work with these types of kids,” and blah,
blah, blah. She’s just going on and on about how she’s going to be
super teacher. Right? And, “I have all of the skills necessary
to communicate and culturally responsive,” blah, blah, blah,
she’s going on and on like she was going to be the greatest.
going to be teacher of the year her first day in school. Right? She
didn’t even last a week. She quit after like four days. And you know
why she quit? Because the kids saw through her right away. They’re,
like, “You’re the fakest such and such,” and so and so; and
they were calling all kinds of names because she was fake and they
realized she was fake and they called her out on it and she didn’t
know how to handle it, so she quit, literally four days into the
you also have some Black teachers that are just as bad as the white
ones when it comes to being horrible to Black kids and calling them
out of their name and stuff like that. So it’s very problematic. And
I think when it comes to having teachers who look like you, people
complain, “Well, why these Black people told me they need to
have more teachers that look like the Black kids and Hispanic parents
are saying the same thing?”
guess what. White people don’t have to say that because most of their
teachers’ going to be, they’re going to be white so they don’t have
to complain that we need more white teachers. Have you ever heard
anybody say, “We need more white teachers in the school”?
You’ve never heard anybody say that. Right? Because you just know
that most of the teachers’ going to be white.
if it was the other way around, if we went out to some suburban
school district and 70% of the teachers were teachers of color, I can
guarantee you some white parents will have some issues with that.
They’d be up in arms like, “Well, I can’t believe this. They
have all these Black teachers and these Spanish speaking teachers. I
don’t know if they’re going to be as good,” but we complain
about it and there’s something wrong; but white people, they’re all
up on the second part of By Every Measure, we’re exploring solutions,
including two programs that are actively working to increase
representation in the classroom. Danae Davis, executive director of
Milwaukee Succeeds, joins us next as she shares her ideas on how to
dismantle systemic racism in education.
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we’re back, on By Every Measure. In every episode, we’re talking to
local leaders who are working on solutions, and each of the systems
we have discussed on this podcast; and these solutions aren’t just
limited to Milwaukee. Some of them could be scaled to other cities
across the country that face similar issues as Milwaukee. We hope
that by talking about them in this podcast, we can get the word out
across the country.
I would like to introduce you to Danae Davis, who runs a nonprofit
organization called Milwaukee Succeeds. It’s focused on equity in
K-12 education, specifically convening other entities to work better
together to improve educational outcomes for students throughout
part of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, and it is one 70
communities who are part of a national network called StriveTogether,
our space or universe is early childhood through young adults. And
because of the huge disparities that are based on race, ethnicity,
and income, our primary centered focus is around racial equity.
Danae talks about students in Milwaukee, she often calls them her
babies. It’s such a human way to say it; to show that these kids in
our city right now, they’re our future, all of them. So I want to
talk about, let’s start off with discipline because it seems like
it’s ingrained from teachers, the principals to policies, to treat
especially youth of color differently when it comes to discipline
issues. And I think that affects, down the line, graduation, college,
careers, everything; it affects longterm of their whole life.
Tarik, you are bringing up something that’s really near and dear to
me in so far as, honestly, the examples go all the way back to
kindergarten. I think the solution is two things. One is, we don’t
need police practices to be a part of the solution in our schools,
whether they are childcare centers or K-12 elementary, middle or high
school. That is not what we need.
we need are social workers and psychologists and nurses and better
programs that engage parents in a partnership with how do we teach
better development practices with our children and our babies. But
the bottom line is we have to understand that they are babies and
children and young people. We’ve got to start there and not act as
though they are adults because they’re not.
I would say that one solution is we don’t need to institute police
practices as a means of addressing issues around that typically are
represented in disciplinary and expulsion.
go inside the schools. Another thing I’ve read in articles is about
diverse teachers, representation matters, and teachers that if a
Black student has a Black teacher, they’re likely to perform better,
go to college, do all the things, like be more successful.
And let me just say yes. And I’m going to tell you a little bit of a
story. So, as I mentioned, the role of Milwaukee Succeeds, one of the
programs that we have, that we brought to Milwaukee, very proud to,
it’s something called Leading Men Fellows.
the Leading Men Fellows program, basically was a cohort of 10 young
men who are fresh out of high school, so between ages of 18 and 21,
let’s say. Predominantly African American, some Latinx, and they’re
trained in the summer; and then they’re placed as sort of [inaudible
00:26:10] in early childcare centers, basically supporting the
reading capability and literacy of three, four or five year olds.
These young men, they didn’t have teaching on their radar in terms of
what they want to do when they grow up.
didn’t have good impressions about teachers. They had way too many
teachers who verbalize their displeasure with their jobs. In other
words, they didn’t really want to teach these kids and they didn’t
see anybody who looked like them in a classroom. There, they saw in
their engagement with these babies, such progress based on the
responsiveness of A, these young men looking like them; and B,
because these men came from a place of love and nurturing and caring.
these kids would be able to write their names. They’d be able to
spell. They just were like sponges in their ability to read because
of those two factors. Now I know that’s an anecdotal experience, but
I’ll tell you, it is absolutely truly reflective of why we need to
support the teacher pipeline and growing Black and Brown.
mentions another local organization that is laser focused on that,
City Forward Collective, which is working to create a pipeline to
increase the number of Black and Brown teachers in Milwaukee.
Something that’s clearly needed here and across the country.
even if we have better representation in classroom, there are still
many other problems that need to be solved with access. That takes us
to our next topic. COVID-19, and how that ties back to education with
e-learning and the digital divide.
seen, for example, the Oakland public school decided to go big.
Right? Like, let’s do, $13 million. Give every kid, every single kid
computer, wifi, and corporations got involved in a big way. Twitter
CEO gave $12 million of their $13 million goal. Is this what we need?
Corporations to step up in this area? Because at the end of the day,
this benefits them. If you get parents digital literate, you get
people with wifi, not just hotspots. You give people real computers
and all that. Not only helps the kids learn, but that also helps the
Right. I love your analogy. And I think that it can’t be small. So,
Milwaukee’s tendency is to… Small, itself. So whatever the solution
is, we’ll just give you a chunk of what’s needed and then wonder why
it doesn’t work. You know what I mean? So in this case, and I applaud
the Milwaukee Public Schools Foundation. I know City Forward
Collective is doing a similar fundraising effort for charter and
choice schools, but who’s not running into being part of the solution
are the internet providers themselves.
whether it’s Oakland or Chicago is another model where, even [Dane
00:29:24] County for that matter, where the providers are at the
table and figuring out how to reduce the costs associated to a
family’s access to wifi, high speed internet, without penalizing you
because you didn’t pay a bill. You know what I mean? Which is, to my
knowledge, is in discussions, but the sense of urgency, I’m not
feeling on the part of Spectrum and AT&T for example, or Charter.
So, I think that leadership in Milwaukee needs to insist that these
providers be a part of the solution.
as you know, I went to HBCU, Howard University.
You lucky person. My son didn’t go. He went to Tennessee State.
role of HBCU, I feel like I got something that I probably would’ve
never got going to a PWI, a predominantly white institution, like UW
Madison, or Georgia Tech, where I’m from, Atlanta. If I had some of
that experience at the K-12 level, from Howard, I might be different.
Right? Even more wealth, more whatever. Right?
definitely would be more wealthy, but you wouldn’t be more brilliant
because you already are brilliant.
thanks. But yeah, I was thinking about that. I’ve seen Amazon’s Jeff
Bezos’ ex wife gave forty million dollars to Howard, all this stuff.
The HBCUs, one, because there’s none in the Midwest, do you think
they have a role or should they have a role or should they get more
funding to play a role in the K to 12 realm for Black students or
even the Latino institutions as well?
yes, yes, yes, and yes. What is gained, as you know, being an alum of
Howard, is that’s where your foundation comes from. Your knowledge
and belief and your support in a foundational way is born out of your
HBCU experience. And every HBCU graduate that we all know wears that
probably. Somehow or another. You know what I mean? When they tell
you they went to college, you’d say, “Oh, I know that.” You
know what I mean?
I think that that’s the evidence of why that would be very helpful in
our K-12 system in Milwaukee, what you’ve just said. But again, we
are probably going to be more successful if we figure out, grow our
own type of pipelines in the meantime. And whether grow our own means
that they go to an HBCU to get their degrees, and then come back
here, we’ve got to do multiple facets.
we change the reputation of this city to one in which Black people
are known to not only survive, but thrive to not be able to
demonstrate that with enough people, it’s going to continue to impede
our ability to change the racial demographics within our K-12 school
here’s a recap of some of the solutions we talked about in this
episode of By Every Measure. First shutting the valve of the
school-to-prison pipeline. One way to do that is reduce or eliminate
a contact students have with police; only calling the police, only
when absolutely, I mean, absolutely necessary.
bold in terms of closing the digital divide. Get companies,
corporations, and internet service providers at the table to remove
the barriers to e-learning access for all students especially now
during this pandemic. This next one is very important.
organizations like City Forward Collective and the program Danae
mentioned, Leading Men Fellows. Both are actively involved in
recruiting Black and Brown teachers and helping schools move toward
better representation in the classroom. We’ll provide more
information about these efforts and our discussion guide for this
finally, thinking big. These are big ideas which can’t be attacked
with patchwork action. Funding public schools in a way we do now,
based on property taxes, has gotten us exactly to where we are today.
will close out with one more thought from Reggie that ties everything
up and helps show why thinking bigger is long overdue.
if we still built cars the way we built cars in 1920. Would you want
to drive a car that was built the same way they built cars in 1920
with no seatbelts? Right? We would never, we would never build cars
in that same way again. Right? But when it comes to education, we
basically still teach in the same way we did a hundred years ago, 150
years ago. The model hasn’t changed.
up on the next episode of By Every Measure, we’re talking about the
most precious resource anyone has. Their health. It’s no surprise
that Black people face a much worse outlook when it comes to their
health by lots of different metrics. Preventable death, infant
mortality, and higher rates of certain illnesses.
we also face bias in the healthcare system itself. These disparities
are literally life and death. We’ll break it down next time on By
By Every Measure is hosted by Tarik Moody and Reggie Jackson. Executive produced and edited by Nate Imig, with additional production support from 88Nine program director, Jordan Lee; marketing director, Sarah McClanahan; marketing coordinator, Erin Bagatta; web editor, Evan Rytlewski; audio producer, Salam Fatayer; executive director, Kevin Sucher; content marketing manager, Amelinda Burich; community engagement manager, Maddy Riordon; and imaging manager, Kenny Perez. Handcrafted sonic inspiration from The License Lab; and our sincere thanks to our members for making all Radio Milwaukee content possible.