Defining the Black Agenda in a Post-Obama Era

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Journal of the Center for Policy Analysis & Research


Volume 1, Issue 1 (2018)




©2018 by The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved. Published by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. (CBCF) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization established in 1976. Our mission is to advance the global black community by developing leaders, informing policy, and educating the public. We provide research, recommendations, and analysis on a variety of issues and policies facing the global black community. Therefore, we refrain from advocating for legislation, lobbying, or displaying partisan bias in conflict with nonprofit stipulations. Subscription Information: The Journal of the Center for Policy Analysis and Research (print ISSN 2639-4138; online ISSN 2639-4146) is published every two years by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. To obtain copies of the journal, please contact the following address: Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. 1720 Massachusetts Ave, NW Washington, DC 20036 (202) 263-2800 (main) (202) 775-0773 (fax) Opinions expressed in CBCF publications are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CBCF, its staff, officers, directors of the CBCF or the individuals and entities that support CBCF and its research.



Ivory Toldson, PhD Quality Education for Minorities (QEM) Network Howard University


Menna Demessie, PhD Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc.


Elsie Scott, PhD Ronald W. Walters Leadership and Pubvlic Policy Center Howard University


Allison R. Brown, JD Communities for Just Schools Fund

Julianne Malveaux, PhD Economic Education

Niambi Carter, PhD Howard University

Roger Mitchell, Jr., MD DC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner

Alexandra Antohin, PhD Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc.

Errol Anthony Henderson, PhD Shayla Nunnally, PhD Pennsylvania State University University of Connecticut


Keith Jennings, PhD National Democratic Institute

Ravi K. Perry, PhD Virginia Commonwealth University

David Johns, MA National Black Justice Coalition

William Spriggs, PhD Howard University

Niaz Kasravi, PhD Avalon Institute

Reginald Tucker-Seeley, MA, ScM, ScD University of Southern California


CONTENTS FOREWORD. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 By Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee Chair, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. EDITORIAL INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 By Ivory Toldson, PhD, Editor-in-Chief NOTES FROM THE MANAGING EDITORS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 By Menna Demessie, PhD & Alexandra Antohin, PhD FROM EXCLUSION TO ELECTORAL EMPOWERMENT: THE CBC AND THE BLACK AGENDA . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 By Menna Demessie, PhD A DIGITAL ARCHIVE OF BLACK PUBLIC POLICY: THE CBC’S HISTORY IN THE CIVIL RIGHTS FIGHT. . . . . . 38 By Alexandra Antohin, PhD THE RON WALTERS FORUM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 RONALD W. WALTERS: SCHOLAR-ACTIVIST EXTRAORDINAIRE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51 By Elsie L. Scott, PhD MAKING REPARATIONS THE CIVIL RIGHTS ISSUE OF THE 21ST CENTURY. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60 By Robert C. Smith, PhD “I WILL GLADLY ACCEPT THE MANTLE OF ANGER”: DONALD TRUMP, WHITE NATIONALISM, AND THE CHALLENGE FOR THE CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68 By Adolphus G. Belk, Jr., PhD IS THE RISE IN POLICE MILITARIZATION A RESPONSE TO CHANGING DEMOGRAPHICS? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84 By Olugbenga Ajilore, PhD EXPANDING EARLY CHILDHOOD RESOURCES TO ADDRESS RACIAL DISPARITIES IN EDUCATION, EMPLOYMENT, AND INCARCERATION. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 109 By Carlton D. Jenkins, PhD & Stephanie S. Burrage, EdD REIGNITING THE CIVIC DIMENSIONS OF BLACK POLITICS: THE IMPERATIVE OF FOREGROUNDING ‘SYSTEMS’ WHEN CHALLENGING SYSTEMIC OPPRESSION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 121 By Tyson D. King-Meadows & Shakari Nichele Byerly THE IMPACT OF THE CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS ON THE EDUCATION OF BLACK PEOPLE IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 138 By Ivory Toldson, PhD GROWING OUR OWN: REFLECTIONS ON DEVELOPING A PIPELINE FOR MALE EDUCATORS OF COLOR. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .148 By Shannon R. Waite, EdD, Marcelle Mentor, PhD & Travis J. Bristol, PhD ZERO-TOLERANCE SCHOOL DISCIPLINE POLICIES AND BLACK GIRLS: THE (UN)INTENDED CONSEQUENCES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 167 By Terri N. Watson, PhD



FOREWORD By Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee Chair, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation

The Journal of the Center for Policy Analysis and Research is a multidisciplinary policy journal aimed to help identify new ways to connect and better engage policy makers more broadly. This journal will also allow us to work more cooperatively with each other in advancing the collective interests of African Americans and people of African descent. It is our objective to bring together policy experts, scholars, and practitioners who are vested in addressing interests vital to the African American community and arriving at policy solutions advancing equity, justice, and equal opportunity. More importantly, this journal will create a pathway to empower our community by locating black politics and research at the center of analyses in order to better understand and explain the factors, policies, and socioeconomic conditions affecting African Americans and people of African descent in the United States and across the globe. The CBCF continues to serve as s a catalyst for creating this change through providing leadership development and scholarship opportunities to educate the next generation of leaders. Our intern and fellowship programs are unparalleled and with the support of our corporate sponsors, we are exposing some of our brightest minds to the world of public policy and civic engagement at the highest levels of government. Given the CBCF’s unparalleled track record in shaping educational opportunity and outcomes for black youth across the country, the journal serves as a yet another opportunity to engage in critical discourse that ultimately impacts the next generation of leaders. At this critical moment in history, 50 years after Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, we must recognize the importance of sound analysis, history, and the realities of the racial divide that still plague the African American community. This journal provides us with the opportunity to analyze the progress achieved in the African American commu9

nity. The truth is the Dream Still Demands our labor for change and progress by reforming the criminal justice system and eliminating barriers to reentry; combatting voter suppression; expanding access to world-class education from pre-k through post-secondary level; expanding access to quality, affordable health care and eliminating racial health disparities; expanding access to 21st century technologies, including broadband; strengthening protections for workers and expanding access to full, fairly-compensated employment; expanding access to capital, contracts, and counseling for minority-owned businesses; and promoting U.S. foreign policy initiatives in Africa and other countries that are consistent with the fundamental right of human dignity. Therefore, it is imperative that experts with the knowledge, practitioners with the experience, and policymakers with the responsibility of representation utilize this journal as a resource toward our collective goal to advance equality, equity and justice for African Americans and all people. Although we are living in some very uncertain times now, your voice, contribution, and support of the Journal of the Center for Policy Analysis and Research will aid in the development of policies that will positively impact the African American community for the next 50 years and more. This journal is yet another tool the CBCF will use to assist in continuing the dialogue to share solutions with millions of Americans who are serious policy thinkers, organizers, and other various audiences wishing to approach policy solutions from different fields of expertise and disciplines. There is still much work to do and the CBCF is committed to provide the data and information to help alleviate many of the systemic problems we tackle every day. It is my hope you will read this journal and subscribe and contribute to future issues. We can make a difference. The DREAM STILL DEMANDS!


EDITORIAL INTRODUCTION By Ivory Toldson, PhD, Editor-in-Chief

In a politically polarizing climate, where our social media contacts unwittingly and intentionally circulate “fake news,” more than at any point in history, our nation’s survival depends on innovative approaches to informing the public through quality research. Traditionally, the academic community, policy thinktanks, and lawmakers have operated in separate spaces. While many policy organizations have robust methods for advocating issues to lawmakers, researchers, typically working at institutions of higher education, have been less effective at advancing their scholarship toward social change. Academic conferences and peer reviewed research publications contain countless studies that have implications for policy and practice. Researchers from multiple fields regularly present their studies on criminal justice system reform, education, politics, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and numerous other disciplines. However, policymakers rarely use this valuable research to inform policy debates or legislative actions. What causes the gap between research and policies is complex. The academic preparation to become a researcher involves many years of perfecting research methodology and statistics. As such, the style of many research publications places a premium on very complex methods, often obscuring any practical applications of their results. In fact, the merits of most research studies are judged on the sophistication of the research methods, rather than the potential of the study to advance social progress. Conversely, the fast pace and high-stakes nature of politics move many lawmakers to prefer very simple and concise information. Lawmakers and policy professionals need information that is palatable to the public and provocative enough to move people to act. Storytelling, anecdote, and simple percentages often help lawmakers more than the most 11

sophisticated research methods and statistical designs. However, a lot of the information that can be the most effective for lawmakers is also the most vulnerable to falsification and manipulation. To advance meaningful social change, the nation needs strategies to take the rigorous research germinating in academic institutions and frame it in a way that is useful to policy professionals and lawmakers. The editorial board and editorial staff of the Journal of the Center for Policy Analysis and Research ( JCPAR) is committed to bridging the gap between research and policy. We believe in the potential of academic research to enhance public awareness and inform policy solutions. We also understand the limitations of the current body of scholarship and are committed to creating a platform that prioritizes the social impact of the research. We believe in the peer-review process as a primary way to control the quality of research, but also understand that the peer reviewers must be diverse in backgrounds and perspectives in order to produce quality research. This inaugural issue of the JCPAR provides an important conduit between research and policy. The editorial board and editorial staff designed this scholarly peer-reviewed publication to be accessible to the general public without compromising the quality and integrity of the research. Research studies featured in this issue cover important topics such as racial disparities and education, police militarization, black civic participation, and includes a special focus on studies on black boys and girls. This issue also features a special section on Dr. Ron Walters, edited by Dr. Elsie Scott. This inaugural issue of the Journal of the Center for Policy Analysis and Research embodies the spirit of the Congressional Black Caucus. For more than a half-century, the Congressional Black Caucus has served as the conscience of Congress. The editorial board and staff, and the authors of this issue, are committed to using our knowledge and social capital to facilitate good and just actions on behalf of people who have historically and traditionally been marginalized in mainstream society. We are unapologetic in our quest to use research to uplift and inspire, and not objectify people who have been underserved. We are proud of this inaugural issue and excited about its potential to reshape political discourse and positively inform the legislative agenda.


NOTES FROM THE MANAGING EDITORS By Menna Demessie, PhD & Alexandra Antohin, PhD

The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF), established in 1976, is a nonprofit public policy research and educational institute with a mission to advance the global black community by developing leaders, informing policy, and educating the public. The vision, scholarship, and activism of Dr. Ronald Walters in advancing the liberation of black people was both groundbreaking, indispensable, and invaluable to the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and people of African descent in the United States and across the globe. In addition to the 100 plus articles and ten books Dr. Walter’s produced, he served as an advisor helping craft the blueprint of the CBC in shaping the Black agenda. In addition to his scholarship, his accomplishments were many, including his courage in leading what many arguably consider the first lunch counter sit-in in 1958 and his management of Rev. Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign in 1984 and 1988. Less known, but incredibly significant were his brilliant and successful efforts to improve the Democratic primary process through the adoption of proportional allocation of delegates responsible for a more fair process for all candidates and minority candidates in particular. His impact on the rules and regulations for the Democratic Party primary process not only improved Rev. Jesse Jackson’s presidential run the second time around, but provided minority candidates like Barack Obama with a real chance to become president. Dr. Walters was the quintessential example of scholarship in service with a deeply committed purpose to institutionalizing black politics and black politics scholars establishing an Academic Advisory Council of his colleagues at the CBCF. CBCF, known for its Leadership Institute in placing more black interns on Capitol Hill than any other organization in the country, was established to promote research, 13

programs, and policy analyses to combat systemic racial discrimination and empower the black community. Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings would later follow in the footsteps of Dr. Walters, establishing the Center for Policy Analysis (CPAR) during her tenure and positioning the CBCF to serve as a critical resource for the CBC and other thought leaders promoting empowerment, equality, and equitable policies to effectively combat racial discrimination. The Journal for the Center of Policy Analysis and Research ( JCPAR) has been born out of an effort to continue the legacy of scholars such as Dr. Ronald Walters, Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, Dr. Elsie Scott, and so many others in providing and centering scholarship and practice around black empowerment and policy issues of concern to the African American and global black community. What makes this journal standout from the rest is its mission and composition: a multidisciplinary platform exclusively focused on public policy issues related to black politics in the U.S. and abroad, written by scholars and practitioners for a general, non-specialist audience. The journal, to be published every two years, follows the standard of a peer-reviewed, social science publication. The editorial team is headed by our editor-in-chief, Dr. Ivory Toldson (QEM Network; Howard University), journal founder, Dr. Menna Demessie (CBCF) and co-managing editor Dr. Alexandra Antohin (CBCF). The editorial board is comprised of the following individuals: Dr. Allison R. Brown (Communities for Just Schools Fund), Dr. Niambi Carter (Howard University), Dr. Errol Anthony Henderson (Pennsylvania State University), Dr. Keith Jennings (National Democratic Institute), David Johns (National Black Justice Coalition), Dr. Niaz Kasravi (Avalon Institute), Julianne Malveaux (Economic Education), Dr. Roger Mitchell Jr. MD (DC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner), Dr. Shayla Nunnally (University of Connecticut), Ravi K. Perry (Virginia Commonwealth University), Dr. William Spriggs (Howard University), Dr. Reginald Tucker-Seeley (University of Southern California). The journal will be shared with policymakers, educators, practitioners, nonprofits, administrators, activists, and their communities. The Journal’s mission is to feature in-depth and innovative approaches to advance the study of the full spectrum of black identities, ethnicities and diasporas and how these perspectives inform representative governance and public policy; this inaugural issue also has a particular focus on the significance of the Congressional Black Caucus and advancing the collective Black agenda. We seek to establish a productive and intellectually stimulating space where substantive research on public policy and political processes is 14

produced, argued and publicly discussed by a broad range of contributors from a wide array of disciplines and sectors. We are especially committed to cultivating a forum for early-career professionals, with or without advanced degrees, whose studies have direct policy implications for programs and strategies at various levels of government and civil society that affect African American and minority communities. A special section is devoted to the legacy of Dr. Ron Walters, a preeminent scholar of black political studies, noted civil rights activist, and one of the founding architects of the Congressional Black Caucus. Dr. Elsie Scott, founding director of the Ronald W. Walters Leadership and Public Policy Center at Howard University, serves as the special sections editor. This inaugural issue is devoted to research and reflections of this particular political moment after eight years of the first black president. We received a strong and enthusiastic response to our call for papers in the summer of 2017, with nearly forty article proposals submitted for our special theme, “Defining the Black Agenda in the post-Obama era.” It is our intention to tease out the implications of the 2016 election as a major sea-change that will significantly challenge how we study and predict mainstream political behavior as the disconnect between representative leadership and social realities on the ground has long been a point of tension for African American communities. A defining statement from William A. Clay Sr., founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, that “Black people have no permanent friends, no permanent enemies…just permanent interests,” bears true today, as interest groups are forced to strengthen coalitions and working relationships to address key concerns over healthcare, environmental justice, education, police reform and local economic development. Politicians, practitioners, activists and other change-makers now have to contend and react to new elements, compositions, and behaviors of political representation. This journal would not be possible without the dedicated efforts of our editorial board and peer reviewers and we appreciate their contributions to this journal and their dedication to its cause. Special thanks to Dr. Ivory Toldson, our Editor-in-Chief, and Dr. Elsie Scott, our Special Sections Editor, two brilliant scholar activists and practitioners whose invaluable leadership has helped bridge the gap between academia and public policy in an effort to ultimately improve the lives of African Americans and people of African descent. Thank you to Amy Goldson who serves as CBCF’s general counsel; her historical expertise and enthusiastic support for the journal and decades of service to the CBCF are greatly appreciated. Thank you to Danielle LaVaque-Manty, our copy editor at the Univer15

sity of Michigan, and special thanks to our amazing graphic designer extraordinaire, Robel Kassa, for his artistic genius in producing an original cover for the journal, which captured the spirit of our theme and vision. We also sincerely appreciate Robel’s design and production of the journal in its entirety. Finally, we would like to recognize our team at the Center for Policy Analysis and Research (CPAR) for their assistance – Jay Arzu, Jasmine Braxton, Kyra Hudson, Naomi Smith, and Maurice Starks. Progress requires dedicated people at every level of production and appreciation requires lifting up the names of the people behind that progress, for they also responsible for the success of this journal. If Dr. Walters were alive today, he would ask, “What this journal has to do with the liberation of black people?” We remain confident in our answer that this journal has everything to do with the liberation of black people. The Journal of the Center for Policy Analysis and Research provides an unparalleled and necessary responsibility and opportunity for those of us privileged and purposed to have specialized in research and practice on and in black politics to share our knowledge and expertise in order to empower and liberate African Americans and people of African descent against the bondages of systemic racial inequality and racism and toward the full procurement of equality, justice, and freedom for all.

Menna Demessie, PhD Founder and Co-Managing Editor, CBCF


Alexandra Antohin, PhD Co-Managing Editor, CBCF


Racism has foiled the attempts to effect a set of liberal strategies of integration, affirmative action, race dialogues, and so forth, to conquer inequality, and thus it still shapes the opportunity structure of America, determining the life chances of Black Americans and other peoples of color. At all ends, it is possible to conclude either that the evidence of racism has escaped societal leaders such that they are oblivious to the pervasiveness, or that they are dedicated to an ideological direction of strengthening the legal and practical regime of white racial privilege. — Ronald W. Walters, The Price of Racial Reconciliation, 2008 ABSTRACT This article provides a historical overview of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and its significance in advancing the black agenda through electoral empowerment and public policy. Specific attention focuses on the evolution of the CBC since its formation in 1971 to present day and emphasizes the challenge of overcoming systemic racial discrimination over the past four decades. Policy advances articulated under Nixon and Reagan are also discussed within the context of a rebirth of the Southern strategy and heightened racial resentment under the Trump administration. The critical importance of the CBC’s symbolic and substantive representation in advancing legislation designed to meet the needs of millions of neglected citizens is revisited in light of CBC’s most recent policy report to the Trump administration entitled, “We Have A Lot To Lose: Solutions to Advance Black Families in the 2st Century.” Keywords: CBC, racism, public policy, black agenda 17

Defining the Black Agenda in the Post-Obama era requires an understanding of what the late political science scholar, Hanes Walton, termed “the political context variable” as it applies to the shaping of African American political behavior - the politics of the moment that explain the direction, formation, and nature of a political action, behavior, or movement (Walton, 1997). Since the inception of American democracy, black political mobilization and empowerment has been predicated on the realities of freedom denied, even after the Civil War Amendments were etched into the Constitution. African Americans were acutely aware of the nefarious morphing of racism and white supremacy, whether through “black codes” used to continue slave labor following the Civil War or through overt forms of violence perpetuated by groups such as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), a paramilitary group formed in 1865 that engaged in terrorist activities including the bombings of black churches and homes, lynchings, murders, and systemic denial of the basic citizenship rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. The Jim Crow era of segregation would subsequently reveal itself as yet another iteration of systemic racial oppression in which legislation was advanced to legalize and perpetuate social injustice, unemployment, poverty, inequitable education, poor health outcomes and housing, segregation, police brutality, voter suppression, and lack of protection by law enforcement or government in all aspects of African American life. As advancements for equal rights for African Americans began to threaten white power structure and political standing, efforts to perpetuate covert forms of racism took shape. For example, the explicit referencing of the Southern strategy in action by Lee Atwater, Republican advisor to Reagan and Bush, further explains the ways in which white supremacy and racial coding persisted given advances for civil rights: You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger” – that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger” (Carter, 1981). The Southern strategy, a tactic utilized by Republicans to capture the white vote through appeals to racism against African Americans, is indicative of society’s continued struggle to challenge the insidious nature of racism that continues to explain the backlash 18

to progressive policies and movements aimed at ensuring African Americans and people of color equality, justice, and equity of opportunity whether in civil rights, employment, housing, education, access to health care, voting, or criminal justice reform. The colossal devastation of two-hundred forty-six years of slavery followed by seventy-three years of Jim Crow cemented significant racial disparities across several socioeconomic indicators for generations to come. Additionally, while the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968 were seminal in redirecting America toward repairing the damage of past wrongs, their full implementation continues to be challenged by a long history of systemic discrimination. America still struggles to come to terms with the fundamental truth that race and racism continue to predict, with statistical significance, opportunity outcomes for African Americans and other racial minority groups. Under the Trump Administration, minorities, immigrant communities, and women in particular have felt the wrath of what they believe to be the rebirth of the Southern strategy, and not just with respect to voter suppression of minorities or manipulating white voter preferences through appealing to racism. The resurgence of racial animus and white nationalism in the American polity has only been further enhanced by Trump’s past and present racist and discriminatory rhetoric, which demonstrate a real and direct threat to several minority groups:


President Trump’s deplorable questioning of President Obama’s citizenship and eligibility as president known as the “Birther Movement”

Pejorative remarks about Mexican immigrants as criminals, drug dealers, and rapists

Publicized recording of President Trump’s willingness to grab women by their genitalia

Mocking a disabled reporter by the name of Serge Kovaleski

Insisting U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel could not be an impartial judge because he’s “Mexican American”

Explicit defense of white nationalists following their violent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, which resulted in the death of an anti-racist activist, Heather Heyer

The statement of Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries”

The unconstitutional declaration of a travel ban against Muslim majority countries

Calling NFL football players like Colin Kaepernick, “sons of bitches,” when they use their constitutional right to kneel down during the National Anthem to protest against police brutality

Moreover, the following actions on part of President Trump to engage in morally questionable behavior, in addition to undoing President Obama’s legacy to build allies around the world, and diversify the White House, have also been a source of great concern: •

The removal of the U.S. from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action also known as the “Iran nuclear deal “

The removal of the U.S. from the Paris Agreement to combat climate change

The removal of the U.S. from the U.N. Human Rights Council

The explicit praise and respect for leaders like North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin

The disregard of press and unwillingness to communicate with the public directly, but through twitter in 280 characters

The lack of racial diversity in the White House

The nepotism with respect to Trump’s appointment of his daughter and sonin-law as White House advisors

The deep cuts to critical social welfare programs for vulnerable communities

The isolationist foreign policy behavior that has marginalized our allies

Unfilled administration positions, including over 30 ambassadorships

The absolute inexperience of having never held elected office

Therefore, the Black Agenda in the United States continues to be defined by a theoretical positioning in society that still believes in the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but at the same time recognizes the implementation of the aforementioned rights have yet to substantially remedy disparities in wealth, employment, 20

criminal justice reform, school disciplinary action, etc. for African Americans. This juxtaposition of the paradoxical reality for African Americans not only gives credence to the double consciousness Dubois so eloquently captured in the Souls of Black Folk (1903), but also emphasizes that the fight to end institutional racism and white supremacy cannot be the responsibility of African Americans alone: It is not enough for the Negroes to declare that color-prejudice is the sole cause of their social condition, nor for the white South to reply that their social condition is the main cause of prejudice. They both act as reciprocal cause and effect, and a change in neither alone will bring the desired effect. Both must change, or neither can improve to any great extent. Only by a union of intelligence and sympathy across the color-line in this critical period of the Republic shall justice and right triumph (Dubois, 1903, 59). However, whether in Congress or in the community, African Americans have carried the burden of fighting against their own oppression and in so doing, developed a sophisticated and strategic approach to black empowerment and political representation. African Americans’ rejection of oppression, whether during slavery, Jim Crow, or the post-civil rights era, was in itself, a political act. One of the earliest iterations of black political mobilization in Congress was through the formation of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) in 1971, a seminal turning point in the black Civil Rights Movement from protest politics to an institutionalized approach to political participation. The first group created in Congress exclusively devoted to racial representation, the CBC emerged out of a critical shift in the Civil Rights Movement from an era of protest politics aimed at enacting relevant legislation to an era of institutional politics focused on engagement and upward mobility within the system of government. Although the institutionalization of the CBC within the Washington establishment requires its power to rest on the inner workings of the legislative process while also acting as a symbolic voice for the collective interests of African American members of Congress, the CBC has seized on and effectively leveraged its role as the representative body of a national black constituency with growing political power aimed at agitating the political process from the inside. Moreover, the shifting of the political landscape from the struggle for civil rights to a post-civil rights era grounded in securing the implementation of critical civil rights legislation has come to define the post-civil rights age. Additionally, the substantial progress that has been made in electing more black members


to Congress, and to the presidency with the 2008 and 2012 election and reelection of President Barack Obama, has garnered increased attention to electoral empowerment as a means to fight institutional racism while also representing the interests of African Americans on policy matters of consequence. FORMATION OF THE CBC The CBC was formed at a critical juncture as black organizations struggled to meet new civil rights challenges with innovative ideas able to sustain the clash between the integrationist versus nationalist strategies of black empowerment (McAdam, 1970, 183). The CBC was the embodiment and continuation of a kind of protest politics reminiscent of traditional grassroots activism, yet by virtue of its existence in Congress, was deemed more politically legitimate than the black radical movement. While the decline in black insurgency in the late 1960s left the Civil Rights Movement fractured, largely because of the disintegration of the previous unified push for justice and equality and because of growing disagreement about the direction of the movement and effective means to achieve its goals (McAdam, 1970, 183), the transformation of an organized protest politics from the streets to a movement working inside the halls of Congress was compelling. This politics of the moment allowed for a small group of nine African American members of Congress to create the Democratic Select Committee (DSC) in 1969 and to serve as the new wave of representative voices of black political protest in the post-civil rights era. This time, the voices were not from the masses but from black legislators who could articulate the interests of the masses and potentially effect change from a position of prescribed political power. The CBC served as a vehicle to galvanize the black vote in ways that would effectively overcome, or at least challenge, the political climate of racial polarization that led not only to Richard Nixon’s election, but also to his subsequent efforts to marginalize the CBC at the start of his presidential tenure (McAdam, 1970, 183). DEFINING A POST-CIVIL RIGHTS AGENDA The CBC’s defining of a civil rights agenda in a post-civil rights era was informed by the political context variable, which was driven, in large part, by the dramatic increase in black voter turnout and passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which changed the political landscape of the South and the nation.


Another contextual factor explaining the evolution of the CBC was “chronic opposition” from the Nixon Administration in the early 1970s. The erroneous presumption held by the white establishment and populace that civil rights legislation was actualized as soon as it became law, combined with frustration on part of African Americans who knew that this presumption was unrealistic, also contributed to heightened polarization along racial lines that ultimately translated into less political power for blacks. President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society initiatives in the late 1960s, which aimed to eradicate poverty and racial injustice, combined with the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, race riots across the nation, and the Vietnam War, resulted in a conservative backlash among white voters that made it challenging for CBC members to maintain a progressive and expansive civil rights agenda (McAdam, 1970, 194). Such hostility from the conservative right further propelled the CBC to establish its base within the social and political mores of the Democratic Party. The chasm within the CBC over the costs and benefits of participating in the National Black Political Convention in 1972 and supporting Rep. Shirley Chisholm's presidential run further challenged the CBC to operate more effectively as a cohesive entity (“Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007,” 2008). Faced with this reality, the CBC recognized its limited operational apparatus as a congressional caucus; however, its members also recognized their power to push a civil rights agenda at the level of electoral advancement, legislative implementation, democratic accountability, and symbolic representation. With no blueprint to follow, the CBC embarked on its self-declared mission to “promote the public welfare through legislation designed to meet the needs of millions of neglected citizens (“Origins of the Congressional Black Caucus,” 2006),” subsequently boycotting President Nixon’s 1972 State of the Union address and submitting to him a comprehensive proposal for governmental action on domestic and foreign issues: Our concerns and obligations as members of Congress do not stop at the boundaries of our districts, our concerns are national and international in scope. We are petitioned daily by citizens living hundreds of miles from our districts who look on us as Congressmen-at-large for black people and poor people in the United States (Singh, 1998, p. 95). The CBC developed a 61-point plan, known as the “Black Agenda,” that codified the CBC’s civil rights agenda as one that promised to curtail discrimination, increase black political incorporation, and procure equitable access to employment, fair housing, 23

health care, criminal justice, and entrepreneurship vis-à-vis federal enforcement of civil rights legislation. The CBC saw its role as the “Congress at large for 20 million black people” pertinent to the full inclusion of African Americans into the American polity (Barnett, 1975, 36). The “Black Agenda” called for: •

the eradication of racism within the United States and in its dealings with other nations;

the earning of a decent living, or the means to survive in dignity when work is not available;

decent housing for our families and equal access to the total housing market;

fair and impartial justice and adequate protection against drug abuse and crime;

the enforcement of civil rights and other constitutional guarantees through vigorous affirmative action by the government;

a fair share of the public funds used to support business and community development and full participation in determining how tax dollars are spent in our communities;

a guarantee by the federal government of ample health care for all citizens;

the protection of federal standards and guarantees in programs financed by federal funds; and

the full participation by the members of our communities in the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of government at every level (Barnett, 1975, 35).

The CBC agenda would eventually encompass a broad, collective strategy that worked in cooperation with black interest groups, organizers and constituents. Whether through CBC co-founders such as Rep. Walter Fauntroy and his efforts with the “Fauntroy strategy” of petitioning for home rule in Washington D.C. and identifying districts in the south with substantial black populations to support his bill, or implementing the “Mitchell Model” like CBC co-founder, Rep. Parren Mitchell, who worked with hundreds of advisers in business, banking, and law in advancing relevant legislation, the CBC co-founders established a robust foundation of collective engagement in crafting the Black Agenda. The collective strategy of the CBC had a defining legacy in institutionaliz24

ing its efforts of including the black populace in steering the Black Agenda. The political environment was ripe in the 1970s for an agenda that equated black empowerment with blacks being elected to office, albeit institutional and top-down. Thus, CBC members would become the surveyors of the black agitators against the opposition, and the promoters of advancement for the masses in the late 20th century. THE CBC AND THE BLACK AGENDA THEN AND NOW The symbolic shift in the Black Agenda was epitomized by the 1972 National Black Political Convention, which brought together a diverse group of activists, thought leaders and black elected officials (DeVinney, Bond, & Hampton, 2010). With approximately 8,000 black activists in attendance, the convention worked to operationalize the Black Agenda. The roadmap for the Black Agenda in the post-civil rights era was condensed from a 61-point plan in the Nixon era to a seven-point plan in the Carter era known as the “Seven Point Mandate,” which called for:


a full employment program that “guarantees the right to useful and meaningful jobs for those willing and able to work;”

welfare reform to include a “guaranteed annual income...not laden down with punitive counterproductive (forced) work requirements”;

comprehensive national health insurance;

tax reform to remove loopholes that permit wealthy individuals and corporations to pay no taxes or less than fair rates;

increased federal funding for higher education, elementary and secondary education, and vocational education, and support for busing as a “means to insure high quality education for children in integrated settings”;

minority business initiatives, including support for government set asides and a “one-year moratorium on federal loan repayments”;

support for international sanctions on South Africa; repeal of the Byrd amendment allowing the importation of Rhodesian chrome in violation of United Nations sanctions and support for the new International Economic Order, specifically assuring “just and stable prices for primary commodities” (Smith, 1998, 24).

Following the convention, numerous organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Urban League, and the Joint Center for the Political and Economic Studies worked with CBC members in various capacities to outline a roadmap for the Black Agenda in the post-civil rights era. Black elected officials formed localized groups such as the National Caucus of Black Elected Officials, the Southern Conference of Black Mayors, the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, and the National Caucus of Black School Board Members, which worked specifically within their prescribed position of power to affect civil rights legislation and implementation. Other groups like the National Association of Black Social Workers, TransAfrica, and the Congress of Black Churches were more issue-specific in their activism. In the 1970s and 1980s, the CBC launched several initiatives domestically and internationally that were met with opposition from the executive branch. President Nixon, often credited with signing affirmative action into law, was in fact silent on securing its implementation. For example, one of the federal programs to advance affirmative action was the Philadelphia Plan. Established in 1967 to racially integrate the building construction trade unions through mandatory goals for nonwhite hiring on federal construction contracts, little impact was ultimately made in racially integrating the skilled workforce because construction unions would lose control over the hiring process (Golland, 2018). Known as the Philadelphia Plan and Order No. 4, the legislation equalized employment practices regardless of race or gender and was a federal safeguard aimed at holding employers accountable for existing rampant racial and gender discrimination. However, Nixon never mentioned Order No. 4 and seldom mentioned the Philadelphia Plan after a battle in Congress in December 1969 to have it rescinded, and until September 1971, no contracts were cancelled nor were any contractors debarred (Yuill, 2006). In light of this, the CBC demanded stricter implementation and helped to ensure that the legislation went beyond mere symbolism and, in fact, produced results. Legislation making Martin Luther King Day a federal holiday, originally proposed by Rep. John Conyers in 1968, faced similar delays and obstacles before passage. Initially opposed to the measure, President Reagan finally signed the bill into law on November 3, 1983. In 1989, Conyers also introduced HR.40, calling for a commission to investigate reparations for slavery, and introduced the bill in every congressional session during his tenure. CBC’s collective strategy to represent the interests of millions of African Americans and people of African descent resonated from their perception of common fate. This 26

sentiment has been articulated most notably by political scientist, Michael Dawson, who coined the term “linked fate” to describe the ways in which black people view the interests of African Americans as a group directly tied to their own individual interests; thereby utilizing group interest as a proxy for self-interest (Dawson, 1994). This sense of linked fate also shaped CBC member engagement on the African continent. Their proactive leadership in pushing black liberation on the international front was guided by a racial group consciousness that, for example, led Rep. Charles Diggs, CBC co-founder, to travel to Africa several times throughout his career promoting liberation from the independence of Ghana to declaring his resignation from the US delegation to the United Nations in 1971 because of Nixon’s signing of the Azores agreement to boost economic relations with Portugal despite its colonial presence in countries like Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, and Cape Verde. During decolonization on the African continent, African Americans were leading the Civil Rights Movement. When I interviewed a CBC senior staff representative who worked with CBC members in the sixties, he explained how CBC members were motivated to fight for the interest of Africans by leading the effort to get Africa on the U.S. foreign policy agenda: Charlie Diggs [co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus] at this point had become a subcommittee chairman of the Africa subcommittee and he expressed a strong interest in Africa policy because Africa had never really been an area of particular interest to the United States. What we [the U.S.] did with regards to Africa was generally through colonial powers. If we had a problem with an English colony like Nigeria or Ghana, we’d go to London and talk with them about it. Africans started after World War II to become, and specifically in the sixties, become advocates for their own freedom. It was recognized among scholars and among policymakers that the United States needed to create a policy for the continent to directly relate to the newly independent states and not to depend on colonial states for our policy…. But Africa was a natural because the movement for self-determination had really struck a chord in the black community. People saw that as very much parallel to our own civil rights movement that was coming to a head in the sixties, that was the same struggle for freedom, and there was a welcome 27

– there was a desire to relate to the struggle for freedom in Africa and find a vehicle for the freedom fighters in Africa to relate to our civil rights struggle (Demessie, 2010, 31). For the CBC, the power of linked fate also extended to black people across the globe. As the sixties became a major turning point not only for African liberation, but also for the United States with respect to building bilateral relations with African countries and establishing direct communication with African leaders, CBC members used their political power to put African issues on their agenda along with their own issues of political incorporation and equal opportunity. The 1980s were also marked by severe famine and drought in Ethiopia and Sudan, which led Rep. Mickey Leland to establish and chair the House Select Committee on Hunger; in 1989, Leland died in a plane crash on an anti-hunger mission in Ethiopia. Additionally, between 1972 and 1986, the CBC introduced more than 15 bills aimed at ending apartheid in South Africa, beginning with Reps. William Gray’s and Ronald Dellums’ anti-apartheid legislation in 1972. Known as the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, this legislation “strengthened sanctions to include a full trade embargo and complete divestment from South Africa. President Ronald Reagan’s veto of the measure was overridden and the bill became law in October 1986” (Manning & Shogun, 2011). Rep. Shirley Chisholm and Delegate Walter Fauntroy launched similar civil rights initiatives with the creation of the CBC Task Force on Haitian Refugees to ensure the human rights of the refugees were protected. In fact, “American aid to Haiti doubled from $50 million in 1986 to $101 million in 1987, despite tight fiscal conditions” (Manning & Shogan, 2010, p. 9). CBC member engagement during the “Free South Africa Movement,” and genocide in Rwanda and Sudan also described the universal black agenda CBC members fought for: You had a generation that is very familiar with the protest and they continued the protest politics. The whole Free South Africa Movement was, well, not the whole of it, but certainly when it became most visible in the mid60s, it involved daily marches in front of the South African Embassy and arrests on a daily basis in order to empathize with Nelson Mandela and the [African National Congress] leaders who had been arrested and were in jail in South Africa, so the traditional civil rights demonstrations and arrests is what we recalled over the last couple of weeks and very symbolic, but also very much an indication of the generational change is that John Lewis was 28

the man who was most prominently arrested. There’s nobody in the caucus who was closer to the [Civil Rights Movement], and himself a legitimate leader of that movement that John Lewis, so he was acting out of that historical imperative. Beginning in the nineties, we began to see a more assertive CBC…But you had key leaders within the CBC who took the lead [when it came to Rwanda]… Congressman Payne was one of the senior members at that time in the committee. He traveled during the genocide. After the genocide he took the lead at committee hearings and the declaration. He was one of several [CBC] members who actually wrote a letter to Clinton at the height of the genocide. And many CBC members also took the lead during that period. The same thing on Somalia. Payne and I believe Alcee Hastings. That was important in many ways. Not only to talk about these issues, but to actually go there really didn’t get you much votes or didn’t get you much support in terms of your constituency. The same thing for Sudan. That was the first, you know, high-level delegation that actually went into a liberation area without the visa and without the permission of the central government. And they {CBC members} spent several days in the liberation area and southern Sudan. So that was important and as we moved forward, whether it’s Congo, whether it’s Nigeria, or South Africa, you see more and more CBC member active (Demessie, 2010, 36). The CBC spent the 1980s fighting against President Reagan’s spurious theory of trickledown economics, the racially discriminatory criminalization of black men with the “War on Drugs” in a period of declining drug usage, and the notion that African Americans were abusing social welfare programs and services (exemplified in his use of the term “welfare queen”). Rev. Jesse Jackson would emerge as a presidential candidate in 1984 and 1988 in response to Reagan’s policies and benefited from CBC’s leveraging of the black vote within the Democratic Party. The 1990s, which ushered in the presidency of Bill Clinton, posed difficult tasks for the CBC because of a Republican majority in both chambers of Congress, which led to Clinton’s willingness to compromise with the GOP. Many African American members dissented from key administration policies, such as portions of the 1993 Clinton budget, the North American Free Trade Agreement, relations with Haiti, and the controversial 29

nomination (and then withdrawal) of civil rights scholar Lani Guinier for Assistant U.S. Attorney General for Civil Rights. However, the CBC’s clout ensured that the president seriously considered the group’s point of view, and he often consulted the CBC regarding policy affecting African Americans (Perry & Parent, 1995, 200). Along with the dramatic increase in African American Members of Congress in the mid-1990s, including the first black woman to serve in the Senate, Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun, the Clinton years also reflected a record number of black presidential appointees. Moreover, Clinton’s successor George W. Bush’s cabinet appointments of Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice as the first African Americans to serve as Secretary of State, combined with Bush’s unilateral declaration to wage war in Iraq and his administration’s failure to adequately address Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of thousands of African Americans and the poor, challenged the CBC and the Black Agenda that much more to ensure black representation represented the majority of black interest. To that end, CBC members have increased their influence through party leadership and committee positions, with Rep. William Gray serving as Majority Whip in the late 1980s, Rep. John Lewis as Chief Deputy Whip in the 1990s, Rep. Charles Rangel as Chair of the Ways and Means Committee and Rep. James Clyburn as Majority Whip in the early 2000s, and later as the Assistant Democratic Leader in the U.S. House of Representatives. THE CBC AGENDA IN A POST OBAMA ERA The historic election in 2008 and reelection of President Obama in 2012 brought 131 million and 137.5 million voters to the polls respectively. As displayed in the PEW figure entitled, “Black voter turnout rate declined sharply in 2016, dropping below that of whites,” Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians had marked percentage increases in the 2008 vote while white voter turnout rate declined. By the time President Trump was elected in 2016, “black voter turnout declined for the first time in 20 years in a presidential election, falling to 59.6% in 2016 after reaching a record-high of 66.6% in 2012” (Krogstad, 2017). 30

President Obama’s signature achievement was the passage of the Affordable Care Act, providing healthcare coverage to millions of Americans. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, there were 28.6 million Americans without health insurance down from more than 48 million in 2010 (Bakalar, 2017) and among nonelderly Blacks, the number of uninsured fell by 1.8 million and the uninsured rate decreased from 17% to 12% as of January 2018 (Artiga and Foutz, 2018). Other noted achievements include his first bill of passage strengthening fair pay for women with the Lilly Ledbetter Fay Pair Act in 2009, the $787 billion allocated to recover from the recession with the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009, the passage of Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010, the signing of the Iran nuclear deal in 2015, the normalizing of foreign relations with Cuba, and the passage of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in 2012 to protected undocumented youth from deportation. With respect to targeted and explicit efforts addressing race, President Obama created “My Brother’s Keeper”, an interagency taskforce aimed at empowering young men of color who face barriers of equal opportunity, held what was referred to as a “beer summit,” inviting the police officer and Dr. Henry Louis Gates, the African American Harvard professor he profiled, to talk through their differences at the White House. President Obama also strengthened the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUS) to overcome discrimination in education and expand quality education, and most notably, passed the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010 that reduced disparities in drug sentencing between crack cocaine versus powder cocaine that produced a 100:1 ratio resulting in African Americans being put in prison with longer sentences compared to their white counterparts for the same drug offense. Obama’s effort aimed to address Reagan’s 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act ultimately responsible for perpetuating unfair and discriminatory criminal justice practices – an effort Obama advanced to combat the racially divisive policies inherent in the Anti-Drug Abuse Act and evolving out of the War on Drugs. The CBC in the 115th Congress ( Jan 2017- Jan 2019) is led by Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana. Under his leadership, the CBC’s agenda articulates a specific vision around engagement, equity, and economic empowerment. Efforts around supporting HBCUS, banning private prisons, protecting the right to vote, preserving the Affordable Care Act, access to quality education and clean air and water, supporting minority businesses and employment, and providing tax relief for middle class families and small businesses articulate a few specifics of the CBC’s agenda in a post Obama era. However, one of the CBC’s most significant symbolic and substantive achievements when Trump 31

came to office was the 125-page CBC report sent to President Trump entitled, “We Have A Lot to Lose: Solutions to Advance Black Families in the 21st Century” (Congressional Black Caucus, 2017). While the Obama era renewed a sense of hope, opportunity, and inclusivity for all Americans and especially African Americans, the subsequent campaign and election of President Trump, the ringleader of the birther movement questioning Obama’s citizenship, has demonstrated the extant challenge of racism and ignorance about the plight of African Americans. Following Trump’s campaign pitch to Black America in which he said, “You’re living in your poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58% of your youth is unemployed, what the hell do you have to lose?,” the CBC codified specific policy proposals explained in detail, which articulated the following: Voting Rights: The CBC calls on the Trump Administration to recognize the persistent discrimination against African Americans throughout this nation’s troubled history and employ policies and practices to restore these communities (Congressional Black Caucus, 2017, p.19). Criminal Justice Reform: The CBC calls on the Trump Administration to recognize the persistent discrimination against African Americans throughout this nation’s troubled history and employ policies and practices to restore these communities (Congressional Black Caucus, 2017, p.23). Economic Justice: The CBC calls on the Trump Administration to address the widening gap between the rich and the poor in this nation and create equal access to economic opportunities for all Americans. (Congressional Black Caucus, 2017, p.29). Education: The CBC calls on the Trump Administration to ensure every man, woman, and child has equal access to a quality education (Congressional Black Caucus, 2017, p.23). Workforce: The CBC calls on the Trump Administration to strengthen protections and improve opportunities for all American workers, while investing in a 21st Century workforce (Congressional Black Caucus, 2017, p.41). 32

Healthcare: The CBC, as the Conscience of the Congress, calls on the Trump Administration to ensure universal healthcare coverage for all Americans and abandon efforts to disrupt the current healthcare system as we know it (Congressional Black Caucus, 2017, p.47). Environmental Justice: The CBC calls on the Trump Administration to guarantee the most basic rights of clean air, water, and soil to every American (Congressional Black Caucus, 2017, p.50). Rural America: The CBC calls on the Trump Administration to revitalize rural America (Congressional Black Caucus, 2017, p.52). The relentless leadership of the CBC to codify and fight for the policy solutions documented in their report specifically speak to the interests of black families and the black agenda in the 115th Congress. In fact, CBC Chair Richmond has been outspoken in his efforts to hold Trump accountable directly on his past actions and commentary with respect to race; he has sent multiple copies of the CBC report and letters to Trump to engage on critical matters of interest to the White House. Although CBC leadership finally secured a meeting with Trump, policy matters that continue to devastate black and brown communities have yet to be addressed by the Trump administration. In fact, the executive summary of the CBC report explicitly addresses racial discrimination and Trump’s comments directly: Over the course of the 2016 Presidential election, time and time again, then-candidate Donald Trump asked the Black community at-large one question: “What do you have to lose?” The inquiry presupposed that the experience of all African Americans is so destitute that we have no reason to fear a Trump Administration. In fact, President Trump declared some African-American communities are worse than war zones, demonstrating a lack of understanding of both constituencies. The election has come and gone and the time for campaign rallies is over. Now, President Trump represents all Americans and must govern this nation for the good of all Americans, whether they are Black or White, rich or poor, conservative or liberal. So, as the Conscience of the Congress and voice of 78 million Americans and 17 million African Americans, 33

the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is obliged to answer President Trump’s question. The answer – African Americans have a great deal to lose under the Trump Administration and we have lost a lot already in a little more than the first 50 days. African Americans continue to face racism and discrimination that result in disparities across a wide range of issues, from equal access to a quality education, to police brutality and voter suppression. However, to consider the state of Black America without historical context denies the origins of the problems that continue to plague our communities, as well as the centuries long battle to bring our people to this point. We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors, people who built this country and its wealth while toiling, fighting, and dying for our collective freedom. To deny our history or surrender in the struggle for a more perfect union would dishonor their sacrifice. That is something we simply will not do. So we honor this opportunity to enlighten President Trump on the history and diversity of African Americans and offer bold policy solutions to advance our communities, and all Americans, in the 21st century. The CBC calls on the Trump Administration to strengthen voter protections and reform the criminal justice system from end-to-end. We call on this Administration to address the expanding wealth and income gaps between the rich and the poor in this country and strengthen the ladders that lift millions of Americans out of poverty. We call on the Trump Administration to commit to basic principles of humanity and decency, mainly that every child should have access to a high-quality education and every life deserves affordable, quality health care. The CBC calls on this Administration to improve the circumstances of the American worker and prepare our nation’s workforce for the challenges of the future. We call on the Trump Administration to guarantee that every American has equal access to clean air, water, and soil. Finally, we call on the Trump Administration to address the unique challenges in Rural America and help revitalize these often forgotten communities. If President Trump is sincere in his interest in advancing the Black community, this document should be the guiding post of his Administration (CBC 115th Congress, 2017, 4). 34

Since its inception, the CBC continues to advocate for justice and equality for African Americans and fight for policies aimed at eradicating racism and institutional discrimination. CBC’s viability and expansiveness also rests on its ability to grow in number. Currently, the 115th Congress has the largest group of black members of Congress in United States history having grown from 13 CBC members in 1971 to 48 CBC members in 2018. CBC members also include Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Cory Booker and Republican Rep. Mia Love. This growth in black congressional membership of close to 30% took almost 50 years to happen. At the same time, electoral gains for African Americans is only one form of empowerment, but a very important one when it comes to political representation and public policy. Despite the continued challenges of racial disparities in education, employment, health care, criminal justice reform, voting, housing, etc., the CBC continues to operate as the first racial minority group in Congress of its kind with an unchanged mission to promote public welfare through public legislation designed to meet the needs of millions of neglected citizens. Their efforts have been monumental in advocating black interests at the highest levels of government despite the challenges they continue to face to ultimately procure universal freedom and equality for those denied it. The CBC’s existence remains critical, necessary, and more important than ever in advancing the collective black agenda for African Americans and people of African descent. Dr. Menna Demessie is the Vice President of Policy Analysis and Research at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and adjunct professor at the University of California Washington Center. She is the founder and co-managing editor of CBCF’s Journal of the Center for Policy Analysis and Research.

REFERENCES Avoice (2006). Origins of the Congressional Black Caucus. Avoice virtual library project. Retrieved from http://www.avoiceonline,org/cbc/history.html Artiga, S., & Foutz, J. (2018, January 26). Health Coverage by Race and Ethnicity: Changes Under the ACA. Retrieved September 26, 2018, from https://www.kff. org/disparities-policy/issue-brief/health-coverage-by-race-and-ethnicity-changesunder-the-aca/ Bakalar N. (2017, May 22). Near 20 Million Have Gained Health Insurance Since 2010. Retrieved September 26, 2018, from health/obamacare-health-insurance-numbers-nchs.html 35

Barnett, M. R. (1975). The Congressional Black Caucus. Proceedings of the Academy of Political Science 32, 36-37. Dawson, Michael. (1994). Behind the Mule: Race and Class in African American Politics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Demessie, M. (2010). Navigating the Boundaries of Blackness: Congressional Caucuses, U.S. Foreign Policy, and African Affairs (Doctoral dissertation, University of Michigan). DeNavas-Walt, C., Proctor, B. D., & Smith, J. C. (2011). Income, poverty, and health insurance coverage in the United States: 2010. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau. DeVinney, J. A., Bond, J., Hampton, H., PBS Home Video., & Blackside, Inc. (2010). Eyes on the prize: America's civil rights years, 1954-1965. Alexandria, VA: PBS Home Video. DuBois, W.E.B. (1903). The Souls of Black Folk. Chicago, IL: A.C. McClurg. Golland, D. (2018). The Philadelphia Plan (1967 - ). Retrieved September 26, 2018, from Krogstad, J.M., & Lopez, M.H. (2017, May 12). Black voter turnout fell in 2016, even as a record number of Americans cast ballots. Retrieved from Lee Atwater’s Infamous 1981 Interview on the Southern Strategy [Interview by J. Carter IV]. (1981). The Nation. Manning, J. E., & Shogan, C. J. (2011). African American Members of the United States Congress: 1870-2011. Congressional Research Service. Retrieved from http://www. McAdam, D. (1982). Political process and the development of black insurgency, 1930-1970. Chicago: University of Chicago. Perry, H., & Parent, W. (1995). Blacks and the American political system. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida. Singh, R. (1998). The Congressional Black Caucus: Racial politics in the U.S. Congress. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. 36

Smith, R. (2018). Ronald W. Walters and the Fight for Black Power, 1969-2010. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. Smith, R. C. (1998). We have no leaders. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. United States Congress, Committee on House Administration. (2008). Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007 (House document, 108-224). Washington: U.S. G.P.O. Retrieved from GPO-CDOC-108hdoc224.pdf United States Congress, Committee on House Administration. (2008). The expansion, organization, and rising influence of African Americans in Congress, 1971-2007. Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007 (House document, 108-224). Washington: U.S. Walters, R. (2008). The Price of Racial Reconciliation. University of Michigan Press. Walton, H. (1997). African American power and politics. New York: Columbia University Press. Yuill, K. L. (2006). Richard Nixon and the rise of Affirmative Action. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.



ABSTRACT The Avoice Virtual Library Project (Avoice) is an educational program started by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation to chart the political contributions of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) since its inception in 1971. Its establishment was motivated by the urgent need to preserve archival documents and institutional memory and to help construct public histories of black political struggles and victories. A series of nine exhibits, with topics ranging from criminal justice to education, environmental justice, fair housing, and health care showcase policy issues and legislative behavior as promoted by the CBC and its broader coalitions. The CBC’s legacy is a story of activism, grassroots organization and a media-consciousness that engages the broader public. Materials displayed on the Avoice website, such as congressional correspondence, press releases, public meetings, outreach to constituencies, and in many cases member participation in marches and rallies, tell this story. The CBC and its members, many of whom were veterans of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, is an organization reflective of the roles African Americans have played in shaping democracy in the United States. The political position of the CBC as one of the most influential black-led institutions in the world draws an international readership to the Avoice website, indicating the impact of this unique institution’s service as a model of political strength and leadership. One of Avoice’s distinguishing features, as a virtual library of nearly 1400 items, is its focus on original sources that promotes a pedagogy and learning experience where visitors are directed to create personal commentary 1 38

Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc.

on the materials presented. As the demand for improving K-12 and university curriculums that lack accurate representations of African American histories continues to increase, projects like Avoice facilitate an environment where learners can be fully immersed in the rich and detailed movements of black leadership over the past four decades. Keywords: Congressional Black Caucus, black political archives, social justice, activism, digital learning There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives. Malcolm knew this. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew this. Our struggles are particular, but we are not alone. We are not perfect, but we are stronger and wiser than the sum of our errors…To learn from their mistakes is not to lessen our debt to them, nor to the hard work of becoming ourselves, and effective. —Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, 1982 INTRODUCTION In 2005, optimistic perceptions of racial progress suffered a devastating blow from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina’s attack on Louisiana and Mississippi. It was a national tragedy felt most acutely by Black Americans and had damaging effects to the state of Black citizenship. It was a “racialized disaster” (Lacewell-Perry, 2007) not only in its disproportionate effect on Black and poor communities but also because it reawakened the baggage of racial history in America. The broader psychological trauma of Hurricane Katrina for Black Americans was the perceptions of indifference, as played out in the media and the dismal governmental response: “They weren’t citizens but castoffs, evacuees turned effortlessly, in language and life, into refugees” (Dyson, 2006, p. 90). The outrage that Katrina spurred motivated a reevaluation of how to dismantle racial inequalities in America, inspiring movements such as Black Lives Matter (Bouie, 2015), and it reintroduced into the foreground the struggle for full civil rights for black Americans. Inspired by a slew of legislation and initiatives as part of the post-Katrina political and social reaction, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) launched the “Avoice Virtual Library Project” in 2006 at the Annual Legislative Conference’s Opening Press Conference. The project was described by Rep. Elijah Cummings as fulfilling a need to position the CBC’s historical work, contained in archives often relegated to the basements of former members, as part of the building blocks of the future, or in his words, 39

to “virtually take history out of those boxes and display it for the world to see” (Wilson, 2006, p. 5). Avoice is a distinctive kind of preservation project because it is a public record of legislative behavior and a demonstration of the cumulative nature of political reform. Furthermore, the digital archive highlights an important aspect of Black political studies: Legislating civil rights demands a broad and dynamic spectrum of activities and strategies of action, a model the CBC has honed through its forty-eight-year history. CBC founding member Louis Stokes locates the CBC vis-a-vis the civil rights era most cogently: We studied our role and realized that we were not civil rights leaders. We already had civil rights leaders who were doing their job on behalf of black people. We recognized that we were legislators, serving at the highest level of the U.S. government and that our role as legislators was to spread ourselves out as far as we could within the committee system of the House (as cited in Jones, 2012, p. 8). Avoice, a rare digital archive of public policy geared to advance the global Black diaspora, is duly a testament to African Americans’ impact and legacies of building and solidifying American democratic ideals and practices. MULTIDIMENSIONAL APPROACH TO LEGISLATIVE BEHAVIOR The CBC’s boycott of President Nixon’s State of the Union address in 1971 is often cited as the event that catapulted the institution to national prominence. The thirteen founding CBC members decided to sit out one of the most important occasions as part of a coordinated action against an administration that did not take their significance as an organization seriously. Instead of attending Nixon’s annual address, the CBC members held a press conference to underscore their rationale and to define the character and mission of the Black Caucus in their own terms. The CBC’s request for a White House meeting culminated in a document of sixty-one recommendations on behalf of their constituents and as “Congressmen-at-large for black people and poor people of the United States” (House Congressional Record, 1971, p. 8710). It was a noteworthy and dynamic act because it introduced a somewhat novel recourse for the status quo of political inaction—a counter-response. It also expressed one of the first instances of a formal and public articulation of a “Black Agenda” after the Civil Rights Movement. The crafting of new laws and amendments to existing legislation is a key aspect of addressing the Black Agenda. Acts ratified during the civil rights era, such as the Voting 40

Rights Act (VRA), Fair Housing Act, and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) were legal affordances that were seminal for correcting decades of discrimination and marginalization. CBC members have argued that these laws require consistent assessment and adjustment to address new barriers that emerge. Position pieces in the early era of the CBC consistently point to the fast rise and steep decline of social and economic gains by Black Americans transitioning out of the 1960s, which manifested most potently through inflation and unemployment (see CBC, 1974). Updating policies regarding access to education and living standards though legislative proposals such as No Child Left Behind (2001) and the HOME Act (2010; 2011) are a few examples of the CBC’s influence, either co-sponsored or shepherded through Congress by CBC members, to keep these issues front and center. Safeguarding voting rights through provisions such as improving federal election administration at the local and state levels and eliminating discriminatory practices (i.e. language barriers, disqualification due to a former criminal record), is one of the most dominant pillars of the Black Agenda and the CBC’s legislative work2. As civil rights legislators, the CBC not only focused on drafting bills to enact policy reforms, but also on communicating and bolstering the Black Agenda in mainstream society. The tactics employed for this objective have been varied and diverse. The domain of criminal justice has been perhaps the most dominant policy area throughout the CBC’s institutional history as well as the one that has generated the most multi-pronged effort. Legislative action through sponsorship of prison reform bills such as the Fair Sentencing Act (2010), which addressed racial disparities in punishment for cocaine use and its connected issue of drug reform, represent one strategic area of engagement. CBC presence and leadership on congressional committees, starting from the late 1970s when individual members gained seniority, has been another crucial means of jumstarting political change internally. Another technique has been giving public speeches and participating in rallies in Washington D.C. and members’ home districts against cases of harsh sentencing such as Free Kemba (1997) and the Jena Six (2007), as well as police brutality, most poignantly with Rep. Bobby Rush delivering a statement on Trayvon Martin wearing a hoodie on the House floor (see Avoice exhibit “Criminal Justice”). The CBC’s multidimensional approach to legislation illustrates coordinated and strategic behavior to harness political power in direct response to the Black Agenda3. 2

The VRA was last re-authorized by President George W. Bush in 2006 and was discontinued in 2011 in the Supreme Court decision Shelby v. Holder (see Avoice exhibit “The Voting Rights Act”).


For additional case studies of the CBC’s legislative action and public advocacy, see the “Anti-Apartheid” and “The Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Bill” digital exhibits (



A BLACK DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE AND BILL OF RIGHTS Throughout its history, the CBC has vocalized a wide-sweeping vision of civil rights. The following is one document, announced at the annual awards dinner in 1972, which highlights persistent public policy issues for African American leaders, such as unemployment, supporting access to education and entrepreneurship, and a humane and ethical response to foreign policy. PREAMBLE TO THE BLACK DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE AND THE BLACK BILL OF RIGHTS Millions of black Americans look to the thirteen black members of the United House of Representatives as their legitimate spokesmen on national issues…This imposes an awesome burden on our shoulders. Large numbers of black Americans have been subjected to intense hardships, have been denied their basic rights, and have suffered irreparable harm because the two major political parties have failed to firmly and honestly commit their powers and resources to equality and justice for all. It has become patently obvious…that black Americans will no longer tolerate insensitivity and lack of concern on the part of those who benefit from black involvement in the political process. .…The new political mood permeating black America makes it imperative that the Democratic party address itself to the hopes, aspirations, concerns and rights of black Americans – if that party expects to continue to receive the support of black voters…. THE BLACK DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE We, the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, being the highest elected black officials in the United States, responding to a mandate from millions of black Americans, and in conjunction with thousands of representatives from our national constituency, do hereby demand that the following Black Bill of Rights be implemented immediately.


…We insist that the Democratic party, in its official pronouncements and policies, and at its national political convention, dedicate itself to the doctrine that no American shall be denied the fundamental right to be equal. Black Americans are no longer petitioning for equal treatment, but are demanding from the Democratic party and its presidential nominee a full, honest, and unequivocal commitment to equality — in words, deeds, and most importantly, results… THE BLACK BILL OF RIGHTS If the RIGHT TO LIVE is assured for blacks and other citizens, the new Democratic administration must establish a FULL EMPLOYMENT program and REPLACE the present WELFARE SYSTEM WITH A GUARANTEED ANNUAL INCOME SYSTEM. …The number one priority on our view, is the creation of jobs to alter the present IMBALANCE IN THE NATIONAL UNEMPLOYMENT RATE….Confronting what is truly a national crisis, the Congressional Black Caucus calls for: 1. The establishment of a national monetary and fiscal policy designed to achieve continuous full employment and full production. 2. A direct attack on the high unemployment among minority groups and in minority communities, through public service job programs, training programs, quality education and a computerized comprehensive national employment service. 3. A systematic approach to solving the apparent tendency of full employment to cause inflation.... . . . Black Americans, like all Americans, have a RIGHT TO PEACE. If our right to peace and the right of black people on the continent of Africa to freedom from oppression are to be realized, the new Democratic administration must bring an IMMEDIATE and definite END TO THE WAR IN INDOCHINA and WITHDRAW ALL SUPPORT OF COLONIALIST or NEOCOLONIALIST FORCES ON THE CONTINENT OF AFRICA. . . . The RIGHT to a QUALITY EDUCATION is as fundamental as any in the Bill of Rights. America can afford every child a quality education. To finance quality education for all, we urge the inclusion


of specific tax reform recommendations in the Democratic party platform so that the cost of education will not continually be borne by the poor. . . . The RIGHT of every American to LIVE IN HUMAN DECENCY must not be abridged by federal passiveness. Citizens of the inner city, especially blacks, are confronted with increasingly deteriorating housing conditions. To remedy the current situations, we urge that your platform include a plank calling for: A. A new HOMESTEAD ACT, to make use of the billions of dollars worth of land now owned by federal, state, and local governments. B. The rebuilding of the inner cities—not the removal of the poor. . . . A major plank or any national platform must be GUARANTEED HEALTH DELIVERY SYSTEMS. The current inaccessibility of adequate health delivery to all Americans, lack of adequate or comprehensive health coverage and seemingly uncontrollable increases in health costs combine to relegate countless Americans to a state of insufficient medical care. ... To correct the present inequities and to fulfill the RIGHT of black Americans to the FREE ENTERPRISE SYSTEM, we urge that your platform include: A. A call for an increase in the number of black-owned businesses with supporting grants and loans from the federal government and major corporations. B. The establishment of a federal policy to set aside 15 percent of all government contracts exclusively for black-owned businesses. The goal of the Democratic party must be to eliminate the illegal sale of drugs and to treat those who are unfortunately hooked on drugs not as criminals but as people with serious health problems. To accomplish this we urge the inclusion in your platform of a plank that: A. Declares drug abuse and addiction a major national crisis. B. Requires the use of all existing resources to stop the illegal entry of drugs into the United States, including suspension of economic and military assistance to any country which fails


to take appropriate steps to prevent narcotic drugs produced or processed in that country from entering the United States unlawfully. ...The Democratic National Platform must call for black Americans receiving a proportionate amount of all appointed positions, up to and including the cabinet of the president of the United States. Furthermore, federal judgeships should reflect the percentage of minority residents in any given state or local jurisdiction. p215-218 Clay, W. L. (1992). Just permanent interests: Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1991. New York: Amistad.

REPORTING TO THE PEOPLE: THE ANNUAL LEGISLATIVE CONFERENCE Every September, in the heart of Washington D.C., more than 10,000 subject experts, industry leaders, elected officials and citizen activists gather for the CBCF’s Annual Legislative Conference, popularly referred to as “ALC,” to discuss contemporary issues affecting African Americans and to devise strategies to initiate their improvement. In the words of 2017 ALC Co-chair Rep. Robyn Kelly, “ALC has been a pillar for the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and the CBCF to engage today’s African American policy makers, activists, and community leaders on overcoming racial inequities and economic challenges” (CBCF, 2017). ALC has developed into a dedicated and vibrant space where members of the CBC can engage directly with the African American community at large, both as hosts of conference panels and as featured speakers, but also as active listeners poised to respond to dilemmas voiced by attendees. With over seventy policy forums scheduled over four days, each CBC member leads workshops referred to as “braintrusts” that focus on particular policy issues ranging from HBCUs and education to transportation, the judiciary, child welfare, financial services, health, veterans, Africa, and environmental justice. In these intimate settings, the conference participants, many of whom travel nationwide to attend, play a crucial role in discussing legislative issues in practical and ground-level terms. ALC, in the words of a civil rights professional from Kansas, is an opportunity to “meet like-minded, aggressive individuals who can share ideas and maximize our collective impact” (Banks, 2017, p. 4). The ethos of the conference is to harness the strength of collective power and organization towards informed solutions and coordinated action, and the variety of events and formats, including nationally televised sessions like the National Townhall, exemplify this objective. 45

Occasions such as the Phoenix Awards Dinner, the culminating event of the Conference, which pays tribute to the legacy and achievements of remarkable individuals who positively impact the African American experience (CBCF, 2015), also signifies the importance of lifting up exemplary figures and continuing to add to black history in America. The dinner was the original seed of the ALC tradition, initially a fundraising dinner and an occasion to collectively leverage talented African American artists and entertainers, athletes, politicians, business people, and noted intellectuals to strengthen the social reach and political representation of African Americans. With the formation of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation in 1976, a non-profit organization for research and educational opportunities, the conference expanded to include public workshops that would inform the Congress’s the policy priorities to emphasize the “importance of black involvement in every phase of American political life” (Madison 1979, p. 2). Today, the importance of ALC takes on added weight after the conclusion of two terms of President Barack Obama, and with the new political landscape that has emerged from those eight years. In response, the 2017 theme “And Still I Rise,” from Poet-Laureate Maya Angelou’s 1978 work, shifted the focus to generate persevering strength (Hamlin, 2017) as well as to argue for the productive exercise of vocalizing triumphs and gains yet to be achieved. CONCLUSION: THE CIVIL RIGHTS STRUGGLE AS A CONTINUUM ALC, a mass convening of black people concerned with black interests, is a reflection of the multidimensional strategies necessary for advancing a population affected by a myriad of interconnected issues. In large part, this conception of the Black Agenda is a reflection of the strategies of engagement that have been introduced by the CBC since its inception in 1971, as a group of civil rights legislators. The CBC and its members, many of whom were veterans of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, is an organization reflective of the roles Black Americans have played in shaping democracy in the United States. Furthermore, this foundational reality of civil rights as a continuous condition of struggles and contestation rather than as a statically contained historical era that ends in 1968, has been acknowledged in a growing pedagogical shift in American curriculums (MacLean, n.d.). Recent national controversies, such as gross textbook errors about the Trans-Atlantic slave trade (Fernandez & Hauser, 2015) and Civil War revisionism emergent through debates over the Confederate flag (Coates, 2015), highlight the demand for improving K-12 and university curriculums that lack accurate representations of Black American and other minority histories. Projects like Avoice facilitate an environment where learners can be fully immersed in the rich and detailed movements of black leadership over the past 46

four decades. As a virtual library of nearly 1,400 items, Avoice challenges visitors to focus on original sources and promotes a pedagogy and learning experience where visitors are directed to create personal commentary on the materials presented. Moreover, the process of crafting, refining, and putting into practice effective policies for Black Americans and the advancement of the global black diaspora is its own history worth remembering and learning from. Alexandra Antohin is the Senior Research and Program Manager at the Avoice Virtual Library Project, one of the nation’s largest online digital archives capturing black legislative behavior in the United States House of Representatives. She has organized national issue forums for black youth in cooperation with members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Her most recent program at the Annual Legislative Conference addressed the intersection of digital media and social justice and its impact on political representation. She also leads the foundation’s national Black history awards event, known as Heritage, every February. Dr. Antohin continues to raise awareness of the significance of digital archives as virtual resource tools to educate youth. She is currently working on the 10th online exhibit exploring the 48-year old Annual Legislative Conference, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Black Agenda. She is also the managing co-editor of the first multidisciplinary, peer-reviewed policy journal launched by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation in 2018. Dr. Antohin completed her doctorate in Social Anthropology at University College London and is currently a professorial lecturer at George Washington University.

REFERENCES Avoice (2006). Anti-apartheid. In Avoice Virtual Library Project. Retrieved from http:// Avoice (2011). The CBC & Criminal Justice. In Avoice Virtual Library Project. Retrieved from Avoice (2006). The Martin Luther King Jr., Holiday Bill. In Avoice Virtual Library Project. Retrieved from Avoice (2006). Voting Rights Act. In Avoice Virtual Library Project. Retrieved from http:// Banks, M. (2017, Sept. 21). Fresh faces, fresh passion at new attendee welcome. ALC Daily: Official Daily Newspaper of the CBCF Annual Legislative Conference. Bouie, J. (2015, August 23). If you want to understand Black Lives Matter, you have to understand Katrina. Slate. Retrieved from 47

and_politics/politics/2015/08/hurricane_katrina_10th_anniversary_how_the_ black_lives_matter_movement_was.html Clay, W. L. (1992). Just permanent interests: Black Americans in Congress 1870-1991. New York: Amistad. Coates, T. (2015, June 22). What this cruel war was over. The Atlantic. Retrieved from Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (2017, Jun 29). CBCF 47th Annual Legislative Conference [Press release]. Retrieved from Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (2015). With liberty and justice for all?: 45th Annual Legislative Conference souvenir journal. Congressional Black Caucus (1974). Summation of position statements presented to the President of the United States. Washington D.C. Dyson, M. E. (2006). Come hell or high water: Hurricane Katrina and the color of disaster. New York: Basic Books. Fernandez, M., & Hauser, C. (2015, June 5). Texas mother teaches textbook company a lesson on accuracy. New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes. com/2015/10/06/us/publisher-promises-revisions-after-textbook-refers-to-african-slaves-as-workers.html Hamil, H. (2017, September 28). Black Caucus challenges attendees to fix their own wetbacks. The Afro-American. Retrieved from Harris-Lacewell, M. (2007). Do you know what it means…: Mapping emotion in the aftermath of Katrina. Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society, 9(1), 28-44. House Congressional Record H8710-14. (1971). Statement to the President of the United States by the Congressional Black Caucus. Washington, DC: Congressional Black Caucus.


Jones, S. (Ed.). (2012). The conscience of the Congress: How the Congressional Black Caucus changed America. Washington, DC: Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. Lorde, A. (1984). Sister outsider: Essays and speeches. Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press. MacLean, N. The Civil Rights Movement: 1968–2008. Freedom’s Story. TeacherServe©, National Humanities Center. Retrieved from: tserve/freedom/1917beyond/essays/crm2008.htm Madison, A. L. (1979, Oct 4). From Capitol Hill: Blacks will no longer exchange votes for cheap recognition. The Washington Informer, p. 2. Payne, E. (1971, Jan 27). Nixon rapped on ‘disrespect’: Not relevant to blacks. Chicago Daily Defender, p. 4.

Wilson, T. (2006). Avoice Summary Paper [White paper]. Retrieved July 12, 2018, from Avoice: African American Voices in Congress: whitepaper.pdf


THE RON WALTERS FORUM The section begins with an introductory essay by Section editor Dr. Elsie Scott on why a special section of the Journal of the Center for Policy Analysis and Research should be devoted to Ronald Walters. It is followed by articles on two issues that were near and dear to Dr. Walters in his role as a scholar-activist. The first article, written by Dr. Robert Smith, is on reparations, and the second article, written by Dr. Adolphus Belk, is on white nationalism. Dr. Walters wrote about both issues, but they both have policy and political impact today. Both Smith and Belk were students of Dr. Walters, and had an opportunity to serve as research collaborators with him. Since one of the audiences for this journal is members of the Congressional Black Caucus and their staff, I have chosen to write about the CBC and Dr. Walters.



ABSTRACT Ronald W. Walters was a political scientist who bridged the gap between policy research and policy development, the gap between research findings and community action, and the gap between activism and academia. This article highlights some of the contributions Walters made through his research, writing, and speaking. Taking the stance that all research must be conducted with the ultimate aim of contributing to the liberation of black people, he produced a body of work that was not designed to earn him publications in mainstream journals. Instead, he wanted his writing to have efficacy and value, helping the everyday person understand complex public policy issues and helping to design a roadmap for liberating the bodies and minds of people of African descent throughout the world. Why devote a special section of the Journal of the Center for Policy Analysis and Research ( JCPAR) to Dr. Ronald W. Walters and his research? The JCPAR is a multidisciplinary journal with a focus on public policy issues related to black politics, domestic and international. Walters was a political scientist who conducted research on policy issues and participated in policy discussions and seminars2. He was interested in topics related 1

Director, Ronald W. Walters Leadership and Public Policy Center, Howard University, Washington, DC


Dr. Ronald W. Walters was an internationally renowned scholar and activist and an expert on issues affecting the African Diaspora. He published ten books, including his award-winning Black Presidential Politics in America: A Strategic Approach and over 200 articles. He served as advisor to the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus and was campaign manager and consultant for the Jesse Jackson for President campaigns in 1984 and 1988. He served as a part of the official U.S. delegation


to inequality and justice, including health disparity, economic equity, poverty, criminal justice and education policy. He did not merely conduct research and write books and papers that collected dust upon bookshelves; his research was focused on problem-solving and political change. The JCPAR includes “research and analyses on public policy issues related to black politics in the U.S. and abroad.” Walters was called a “race man” because the focus of his research was on issues related to the global black community. One of the books written about him after his death was What Does This Have to Do with the Liberation of Black People (Smith, Johnson & Newby, 2014). It was named such because he was known to ask his students and others what their research had to do with “the liberation of black people.” He felt that for research to be relevant, it had to be related to “black liberation.” This is one of the reasons why he spoke at so many conferences and meetings organized by black academicians and community activists. It is appropriate that a special section should be devoted to Walters because he did not confine his research and activism to the United States. His research included international studies (Africa), and his activism included engagement with issues related to U.S. foreign policy toward Africa and advocacy associated with African liberation. He earned his Ph.D. in International Studies with “The Formulation of United States Foreign Policy Toward Africa, 1958-1963” as his dissertation topic. He was also actively engaged in the African Heritage Studies Association (AHSA) and served as its third president. Walters was engaged with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) through his research, writing, mentorship, and oral presentations. He always made at least one presentation during the Annual Legislative Conference (ALC) and often helped organize sections of the ALC. One of his contributions, for example, was the development of the thematic concept of the 2007 ALC. In addition, he organized the Town Hall for one or more of the conferences. At the time of his death, he was working on a white paper for the 2010 ALC Town Hall, and he was scheduled to moderate it. He was always willing to speak to the Congressional and Emerging Leaders interns and to CBCF fellows, giving them tips on conducting research and being more that monitored the South African elections at the end of apartheid. In addition, he found time to serve on the boards of and as advisor to numerous civic and professional organizations, including TransAfrica (founding member), National Conference of Black Political Scientists, and the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. He wrote a weekly syndicated column that appeared in newspapers around the country, and he often provided commentary for print and electronic media in the U.S and globally. 52

professional. He felt obliged to discuss black history with each group of interns because he felt that each class seemed to know less about their history than the previous class. AFRICAN AND AFRICAN DIASPORA POLITICS AND U.S. POLICY TOWARD AFRICA AND THE AFRICAN DIASPORA Walters’s interest in African and African Diaspora politics and U.S. policy toward Africa and the Africa Diaspora led him outside the academy to engagement with activists. He worked with Representative Charles Diggs in planning and executing the first major African Liberation Day demonstrations in the United States in 1972. He became a part of the founding board of TransAfrica, a research, education and advocacy organization focused on Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America. The Free South Africa Movement grew out of TransAfrica. Walters not only conducted research on Africa and the Diaspora, he engaged in advocacy designed to bring down the system of apartheid in South Africa and promote more awareness of the history and current problems faced by people of African descent throughout the world. After apartheid was dismantled, Walters was selected as one of the independent election observers who went to South Africa to monitor the first free elections. Some of his early professional presentations were:


“Pan Africanism: Africa and the African Diaspora,” African Heritage Studies Association, Southern University, Baton Rouge, LA, 1971

Panelist, Paper, “Operationalizing Pan-Africanism,” State University of New York, Binghamton, New York, 1971

Panelist, Paper, “Conceptual Model for Comparative Black Politics,” Third Annual Conference of Afro-American Studies, Institute of the Black World, Atlanta, GA, 1971

Panel, Chairman, “United States Foreign Policy and Africa,” National Conference of Black Political Scientists, Atlanta, GA, 1972

Panel Chairman, “Politics and the Black Community,” Southern Political Science Association, Atlanta, GA, November 1972

Lecture, “U.S. Policy and Africa,” Council on Foreign Relations, New York, 1973.

His first book, published in 1987, was South Africa and the Bomb: Responsibility and Deterrence (Walters, 1987). After this book was published, most of his research and publications were more focused on U.S. policy issues, but his activism around Africa issues never waned. SCHOLAR-ACTIVISM AND THE CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS Walters labeled himself a “scholar-activist” at a time when many mainstream political scientists did not believe that one could be both a scholar and an activist. They felt that activism would compromise the objectivity demanded of scholars. Even now, some universities and individual professors frown on activism by college professors. In a 2015 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, a veteran writer stated, “Academics who champion causes may be gambling with their careers (Benderly, 2015).” Robert Smith states that Walters’s activism helped guide his research and publications (Smith, Johnson & Newby, 2014). Walters was able to maintain a healthy publishing outcome while avoiding many mainstream journals. His position as senior advisor to Representative Diggs placed him in a position to advise the first chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) in the development of the organization in 1971. The CBC was formed out of an informal group, the Democracy Select Committee (DSC), which the African American members had formed to maximize their voices around issues affecting the black community. Feeling the need for a more formal group as the number of black members increased, they formed the CBC. Walters’s background in African policy and Representative Diggs’s service as the chair of the House Subcommittee on Africa ensured that from its beginning, U.S. policy toward Africa would be a major focus of the organization. Walters later served as an advisor to Representative William Gray, who sponsored legislation that imposed economic sanctions against South Africa. In 1976, he helped the CBC organize the Black Leadership Conference on Southern Africa, using his role as president of the AHSA and his relationship with CBC members. The outcome of the Conference was verbal support for armed struggle in southern Africa. Furthermore, the African-American Manifesto on Southern Africa was adopted, calling for one-man, one-vote democracy for Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), South Africa and Namibia (Nesbitt, 2004). Although Walters did not continue to work in a paid position on Capitol Hill, he continued to serve as an informal advisor to the CBC. As the size of the Caucus grew, 54

he often helped its members find common ground on policy issues. He drafted policy position papers that helped members describe their positions and explain them in a way that other legislators and policy-makers could better understand. Notably, he advised the Caucus on African policy issues, congressional redistricting, voting rights, criminal justice reform, universal healthcare and a two-state solution in the Middle East. There is no written record of how the CBC brain trusts came about, but the concept behind the brain trusts was in line with Walters’s thinking. The CBC brain trusts were formed around key issues areas that affect the black community. Since the CBC saw itself as representing all black people, the brain trusts gave black people from throughout the country the opportunity to be engaged in legislative and policy development. They received legislative alerts and had the opportunity to meet persons with similar interests. Academics could prepare papers to be presented at brain trust meetings or to be circulated to other members. When Walters died, Representative John Conyers stated that he would miss Walters’s participation in the Criminal Justice Brain Trust. Walters also participated in the Political Participation and Foreign Affairs Brain Trusts as well as the Action Alert Network. His scholar activism placed him at the forefront of many policy discussions and helped him, perhaps more than any other political scientist, bridge the gap between policy makers and academics and between political activists and academics. He was able to analyze data and complex policy issues and write about his findings and conclusions in such a manner that laypeople and elected officials could use them in their work. One CBC member stated that he “had the uncanny ability to make otherwise complex issues seem as plain as day (Howard University & Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc., 2011, p. 12).” This skill made him the “go-to-man” in political, journalistic and community organizing circles. Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. probably expressed it the best when he stated that Walters was “as comfortable discussing the most complex aspects of policy and culture” as he was “laying out the nuts-and-bolts tactics of a political campaign— equal parts street-corner strategist and ivory-tower theorist (Howard University & Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc., 2011, p. 25).” At Walters’s funeral, Representative Maxine Waters lamented the fact that she would not have anyone to call to help her work through policy issues.


BLACK POLITICS Like his fellow political scientists, Walters wrote books and articles in line with his research interests and areas of expertise. Black politics was one of his main interest areas, and he has a body of work that supports that interest. In 1988, he published his award-winning book, Black Presidential Politics in America: A Strategic Approach (Walters, 1988), and he later wrote and published several other books and many articles on black politics3. As with his interest in the African Diaspora, Walters did not confine his interest in black politics to the academy. In 1972, Walters was the newly appointed chair of the Department of Political Science at Howard University when he was invited by Representative Diggs to staff the National Black Political Convention. The Convention would invite black people from throughout the country to come to Gary, Indiana to develop a national black agenda. Approximately 8,000 people accepted the invitation to the meeting where the theme was “unity without uniformity.” The National Black Agenda was adopted (“Gary Declaration,” n.d.), and Walters was one of the leaders who organized the Black Political Assembly that was charged with actionizing the items in the Agenda. Walters and others saw the Convention and its resulting organization as an opportunity to maximize black political power through bringing together all factions of the black community, from elected officials to former civil rights activists, black power adherents, community activists and students. One of the ideas discussed at the Convention was the development of a black political party. Walters later wrote about the concept of such a party in an article published in The Black Scholar (Walters, 1976). The Assembly met regularly and experienced some success at the local level in developing progressive black agendas and activity (Daniels, 1984), but it eventually dissolved after disagreements, primarily over political ideology. Walters was in the black nationalists’ faction of the Assembly, while others such as Imamu Baraka began to embrace communism and Marxism. Walters served as a strategic advisor to Rev. Jesse Jackson when he ran for President of the United States in 1984 and 1988. He and Jackson coordinated issues that other 3


For example, Barker, L.J. & Walters, R.W. (Eds.), (1989) Jesse Jackson’s 1984 Presidential Campaign: Challenge and Change in American Politics. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Walters, R.W. (2005). Freedom is Not Enough: Black Voters, Black Candidates, and American Presidential Politics. Lanham, MD: Rowan & Littlefield Publishers

candidates were not talking about, such as environmental racism, universal health care, gay rights, apartheid and nuclear weapons. He devised the strategy of proportional allocation of delegates in the Democratic Party presidential primaries. This strategy did not win the presidency for Jackson, but most likely was a factor in the successful presidential campaign of Barack Obama in 2008. In addition to his involvement in political activities, Walters wrote about and published books and articles on electoral politics. Perhaps his most popular work is his book, Black Presidential Politics in America: A Strategic Approach, in which he discusses how blacks have used presidential elections to exercise political power. He was also the author of a book about the Jesse Jackson campaign (Barker and Walters, 1989). He developed a framework for a national discussion on black issues. His paradigm was adopted by CBC members in the development of Black Issues Conventions to facilitate conversations and strategic planning for black community empowerment. He used a national stage to address black issues applicable in communities throughout the country. POLICY ISSUES There is not enough room to mention all the policy issues about which Walters wrote and spoke, and, in many cases, engaged in advocacy or educational activities to help the black community understand the issues and their impact. Poverty and social and economic inequality constituted a public policy area about which Walters was especially concerned. In 2005, he helped the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation plan a town hall on eradicating poverty. This was followed the next year by a policy discussion on “Poverty, Race and Policy,” with special emphasis on the impact of Hurricane Katrina and the levee breach on the poor people of New Orleans. He consulted with members of the Congressional Black Caucus who worked on poverty issues, including Representative Barbara Lee, who was active in the Out of Poverty Caucus, and Representative G. K. Butterfield, who represented a district with a high number of impoverished citizens. Perhaps his last advocacy trip was made to the Mississippi Delta in 2009 to draw attention to poverty there. He participated in the “Those Left Behind” Poverty Tour organized by Antoinette Harrell, a New Orleans community activist. He saw impoverished conditions that were extremely disturbing to him. He connected what he saw with the research he had been conducting on neo-slavery (Walters, 2015), saying that the tour exposed the continuing effects of slavery. He was scheduled to participate in a press 57

conference about the Mississippi conditions in August 2010 (one month before his death) but had to cancel due to illness. In 2004, he wrote the foreword to a book that presented the findings of a Kelloggfunded project that looked at the impact of welfare reform on promoting socio-economic hardships on immigrants (Kretsedemas and Aparicio, 2004). While some African Americans distanced themselves or took a silent approach to the negative impact of certain government policies on immigrants, this was not the case with Walters. One of his NNPA commentaries, written during the last year of his life, was on taking racism out of the immigration discussion (Walters, 2010). In addition to international issues, black politics issues and other issues mentioned in this article, Walters wrote about and advocated for equality for black people in a number of other policy areas. Two major topics of research and activism/advocacy concerns for Walters were reparations and white nationalism. These topics are still being debated in academic, political and social discussions and are worthy of being highlighted in this inaugural issue of the JCPAR. Articles prepared by Robert Smith and Adolphus Belk are included in this section. Smith and Belk were students of Walters and they each had the opportunity to work with him. Dr. Elsie L. Scott serves as the founding director of the Ronald W. Walters Leadership and Public Policy Center. She previously served as president and chief executive of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) and as the organization’s vice president for research and programs. Dr. Scott has served as executive director of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) and Deputy Commissioner of Training for the New York City Police Department. She has also held senior and supervisory roles in the police departments of Detroit and the District of Columbia, and with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. She has taught political science, urban studies and criminal justice at several universities, including Howard University, Rutgers University, the University of Central Florida and North Carolina Central University. She earned degrees in political science from Southern University-Baton Rouge, the University of Iowa and Atlanta University.

REFERENCES Barker, L.J. & Walters, R.W. (Eds.). (1989). Jesse Jackson’s 1984 Presidential Campaign: Challenge and Change in American Politics. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Benderly, B.L. ( July 30, 2015). “The value—and risk—of activism”. Science. Retrieved from 58

Daniels, R. ( July/August 1984). “The National Black Political Assembly: Building Independent Black Politics in the 1980s.” The Black Scholar, Vol. 15, No. 4, pp. 34-44. Gary Declaration, National Black Political Convention, 1972: The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed. (n.d.). Retrieved from gary-declaration-national-black-political-convention-1972 Howard University & Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. (2011). Dear Dr. Ronald W. Walters... A collection of tribute letters celebrating political scholarship and activism. Retrieved from Kretsedemas, P, & Aparicio, A. (Eds.). (2004). Immigrants, Welfare Reform, and the Poverty of Policy. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers. Nesbitt, F.N. (2004) Race for Sanctions: African Americans Against Apartheid, 1946-1994. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Smith, R.C; Johnson, C. & Newby, R.G. (Eds.), (2014). What Has This Got to Do with the Liberation of Black People?: The Impact of Ronald W. Walters on African American Thought and Leadership. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. Walters, R. (April 1976). “Strategy for 1976: A Black Political Party.” The Black Scholar, Vol. 7, No. 7. Walters, RW. (1987) South Africa and the Bomb: Responsibility and Deterrence. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books. Walters, R.W. (1988) Black Presidential Politics in America: A Strategic Approach. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press. Walters, R. (May 13, 2010) “Take Racism Out Of Immigration Reform.” NNPA Commentary. Walters, R.W. (2015). Fighting Neoslavery in the 20th Century: The Forgotten Legacy of the NAACP. Chicago, IL: Third World Press.



ABSTRACT This article advances Ronald Walters’s argument that reparations should be a priority item on the black policy agenda in the 21st century. The historical and moral case for reparations is made, and Walters’s concepts of the politics of empowerment, the politics of dignity and the politics of democracy as imperatives for reparations are introduced, and the “Drama of Mobilization” as a strategy to create a more favorable climate of elite and mass opinion is discussed. The article concludes with steps the Congressional Black Caucus might take to accelerate the process of organizing to make the issue a priority of the state. Ronald W. Walters, the “scholar-activist extraordinaire” for more than a half century, made reparations the cause of the last decade of his life. Walters’s interest in reparations goes back to the 1970s when he served as chair of Howard’s political science department; however, he begin to prioritize the issue in the 1990s when he became convinced that the only way to reverse the deterioration of the core black communities in the rural South and in urban areas was through comprehensive reparations (Walters, 2008). In the last decade of his life, Walters was actively engaged in mobilizing intellectual and political resources to make the issue a priority of the black community and its leadership and ultimately a priority of the state.

1 60

Department of Political Science, San Francisco State University.

THE HISTORICAL AND MORAL CASE FOR REPARATIONS Walters’s 2008 book, The Price of Racial Reconciliation, makes the historical and moral case for reparations in a “lengthy and well-documented Grand Narrative of Black American Oppression, focusing on the impact of slavery and the legacy of modern subordination on social progress” (Franklin, 2012, p. 7). Walters’ last article and book, published posthumously, also make compelling cases for reparations. In “The Impact of Slavery on 20th and 21st Century Black Progress,” Walters concludes, by extending the discussion of slavery into the 20th century, it identifies the real beneficiaries of this injustice to living persons and families whose wealth was created by enslaved African Americans, but which accrued to the plantation owners, industrialists and modern corporations that have been protected from accountability and remain functioning entities today. (Walters, 2012, p. 127) Fighting NeoSlavery in the Twentieth Century makes the case that slavery did not end, as Douglass Blackmon (2008) suggests, with World War II, but continued in isolated areas until the 1960s, and that for many blacks the persistence of slavery into the 20th century “formed the bedrock of factors that limited their economic and social progress in the 20th and 21st centuries” (Walters, 2015, p. xii). Ultimately, the point of the book was to “contribute intellectual resources” to the reparations movement as part of the process “of liberating peoples of African descent” (Walters, 2015, p. xi). Due to the scholarship of Walters and many others, the historical record is clear: Enormous damage was done to the African American community over the last two and a half centuries, and the moral case for repairing that damage is unambiguous (Boxhill, 2003; McCarthy, 2004). Even Congress and the ever cautious, race- avoiding Obama accepted the “theoretical” basis of the historical and moral case for reparations. In its 2009 apology for slavery, segregation and discrimination, Congress declared: African Americans continue to suffer from the complex interplay between slavery and Jim crow – long after both systems were formally abolished – through enormous damage and loss, both tangible and intangible, including loss of human dignity, the frustration of careers and professional lives, and the long-term loss of income and opportunity. (H. Res. 194, 2009)


In the last month of his presidency in an interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates, the writer and reparations advocate, Obama said Theoretically, you can obviously make a powerful argument that centuries of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination are the primary causes for all these gaps [between blacks and whites in wealth, education, employment]. That these were wrongs to the black community as a whole, and black families specifically, and that in order to close that gap, a society has a moral obligation to make a large, aggressive investment, even if it’s not in the form of individual reparations checks but in the form of a Marshall Plan. (Coates, 2017, p. 59) But morality is one thing, politics is another. For legal and political reasons, the Senate insisted on including a clause in the apology resolution stating that it could not be used to support claims for reparations against the U.S. government (Thompson, 2009). Obama also backed away from his historical and moral case for reparations, telling Coates, The political problems with turning this into a reality are manifold…. It would be better, and more realistic, to get the country to rally behind a robust liberal agenda and build on the enormous progress that’s been made toward getting white Americans to accept the principle of non-discrimination as a basic operating premise. (Coates, 2017, pp. 59-60) THE POLITICS OF REPARATIONS: EMPOWERMENT, DIGNITY AND DEMOCRACY In the current era of conservative, white nationalist politics, the likelihood of white America embracing a robust “liberal agenda” to tackle the black-white gap is no more likely than getting it to embrace reparations (Walters, 2003). Further, Walters believed that a liberal agenda along the lines of the New Deal – Great Society would be insufficient to close the gaps, empower the black community and create a truly racially equalitarian democracy (Walters, 2008, pp. 348-49). Thus, he urged black leaders to reject the limited vision of politics embodied in the Senate’s reservation clause and President Obama’s understandings of political reality. Instead he invoked the visionary leadership of Frederick Douglass and the abolitionist movement and of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. He argued that for the African American community, the imperatives of reparations should involve more than the static routines of the “realism” of short-term calculations of elections and party politics. 62

Since at the beginning of the 21st century the routine, the incremental liberal agenda advocated by Obama was going nowhere, it was the right time for blacks to embrace reparations as a long-term visionary strategy of community empowerment. In other words, since we were getting nothing, we should ask for everything. Recognizing that this would be a long struggle, Walters argued that the struggle itself was of value because it would contribute to the dignity of African peoples, which he argued was psychologically and culturally diminished by the failure of the state to confront its crimes and make restitution. The absence of restitution “feeds into the view that blacks will accept a place in America that is inferior to other groups which robs blacks individually and collectively of the dignity they lost” (Walters, 2008, p. 211). For Walters, reparations ultimately was essential to perfecting the American democracy: If reparations (or something equivalent) are not given, Blacks will remain largely dependent in American society, a posture that enables an ongoing demand upon the state for ameliorative public policies that will produce only incremental steps toward the goal of freedom. Democratic rights are simply insufficient to lead to true equality in a capitalist society where those rights can only be enjoyed if one possesses the means to realize them. Thus, reparations are a politics of democracy. (Walters, 2008, p. 169) THE IMPERATIVE OF THE DRAMA OF MOBILIZATION White elite and mass opinion are indifferent or overwhelmingly hostile to the idea of reparations, and virtually the entire leadership of both major parties and the establishment media reject the idea. Even the “radical” socialist Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator and 2016 presidential candidate, rejected reparations as “divisive” and unrealistic (Coates, 2015). Meanwhile, white mass opinion overwhelmingly opposed even the congressional apology for slavery, let alone reparations. This is not surprising to students of white attitudes toward the liberation of black people. Survey data are not available, but it is almost certain that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment were opposed by a majority of northern whites. Polls show most whites from the 1940s to the 1960s opposed fair employment practices, school desegregation, and equal access to public accommodations (Smith and Seltzer, 2015). It took militant social movements and decisive action by the state to alter those opinions and create the nominally racially 63

equalitarian society we have today. Walters anticipated that the same would be the case with reparations. Thus, he called for a mass movement to dramatize the issue as part of a strategy to change white elite and mass opinion. Whites, he argued, “will have to come to see the demand for reparations like they saw the demand for civil rights as morally legitimate” (Walters, 2008, p. 132). And they came to see it as morally legitimate because of the 1960s movement’s dramas of mobilization. “Detailed knowledge” he writes of the “damage done to Black Americans exists in a realm accessible to experts.” However, In the current attempt to mobilize support for reparations there has been no comparable public drama. No photographs, no videos, for example, have educated the public about the problem, the cause and the remedy. In any case, the lack of presentation of the cause, other than in newspaper stories, symposia and lawsuits—which while important, do not have a mass appeal—is debilitating. The absence of a dramatic dimension means that Americans do not have the opportunity to share the pain of subordination. (Walters, 2008, pp. 148-49) Again, Walters knew that “As long as the current conservative white nationalist government is in place—which not only rejects reparations, but promulgates policies that are destructive to Blacks—there is no chance the state will seriously consider reparations for past injustices” (Walters, 2008, p. 132). The work then of black leadership is to place this as a priority on the black agenda and then begin to plan strategies for the “Drama of Mobilization” akin to those employed by the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s. Then, when a “sufficient coalition” sympathetic to the idea finally emerges, if it does, the black community will be in a position to act as the Civil Rights Movement was at the advent of the liberal Kennedy-Johnson administrations. THE WORK OF THE CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS Walters did not lay out a detailed plan for reparations in terms of the nature, amount or duration of payments. However, he rejected the “check in the mail” approach of payment to individuals in favor of a “Black Collective” that would administer funds in a long-term Marshall Plan type program of reconstruction of black communities throughout the United States. It is the work of the Congressional Black Caucus, the civil rights organizations and black professional associations to develop the details of the reparations project, including the amount of the payment, its duration and the nature of the collective that would administer what has been labeled a “Reparations Superfund” (Franklin, 2012). 64

I should like to address here the work of the Caucus as the leading black political organization in the country. First, the Caucus should establish a permanent brain trust on reparations and hold a half-day session on the issue during each annual legislative weekend. Working with economists and historians, the brain trust should calculate a tentative amount of the debt and establish a timeline for payments to the collective. Working with political scientists and others, it should recommend the structure, composition and manner of selection of the members of the collective. Working with community leaders, scholars and policy analysts it should develop long- and short-term plans for economic development and reconstruction in housing, health and education. Finally, in collaboration with civil rights organizations, community groups, young people, student groups, churches and fraternal groups the brain trust should deliberate creative strategies for the drama of mobilization. As part of the drama of mobilization, members of the Caucus should hold town hall meetings in their districts on the issue and make regular use of special orders in the House to bring the issue to the attention of their colleagues in Congress, the media and the C-SPAN viewing audience. Making reparations the priority issue on the black agenda is “long overdue” (Henry, 2007). This was for sure the view of Walters, the scholar-activist extraordinaire who has been described as the W. E. B. DuBois of his time. He understood that the fight for reparations is likely to be a decades-long struggle with no guarantee of success. But he also understood this has always been the nature of the fight for the liberation of black people. Thus, he ended The Price of Racial Reconciliation with a rhetorical flourish: How could Frederick Douglass believe that the demand for the elimination of slavery would be fulfilled in his lifetime? How could A. Phillip Randolph believe that the March on Washington would actually challenge President Roosevelt to pen an executive order outlawing racial discrimination in the war industries? How could the NAACP know, when it decided to attack racial discrimination full force, that the doctrine of “separate but equal” would be undone by Brown v. Board of Education? And how could Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. know that the Civil Rights Movement would usher in the most extensive regime of civil rights legislation since the post-Civil War amendments to the Constitution? This litany demonstrates that the timing of the effort by Blacks in the context of social movements, together with changes in the majority 65

group’s sentiments and in political institutions, brought about unanticipated, fundamental change. Considering the historical expectations of generations of African Americans – and others in American society who value justice – what right do we have to refuse to make perhaps the most righteous demands for redress in the history of America? (Walters, 2008, pp. 212-13) Robert C. Smith, Professor of Political Science, San Francisco State University, is the author of multiple articles and books on African American leadership and politics, most recently Ronald W. Walters and the Fight for Black Power, 1969-2010. He also co-edited What Has This Got to Do With the Liberation of Black People?: The Impact of Ronald W. Walters on African American Thought and Leadership.

REFERENCES Blackmon, D. (2008). Slavery by another name: The re-enslavement of black Americans from the Civil War to World War II. New York: Doubleday. Boxhill, B. (1972). The morality of reparations. Social Theory and Research, 2, 113-22. Coates, T-N. (2017, January/February). My president was black. The Atlantic. Retrieved from Coates, T-N. (2016, January 19). Why precisely is Bernie Sanders against reparations? The Atlantic. Retrieved from Bernie-sanders-reparations/424602/ Franklin, V. P. (2012). Introduction: African Americans and movements for reparations. Journal of African American History, 97, 1-12. Henry, C. (2007). Long overdue: The politics of racial reparations. New York: New York University Press. H. Res. 194. (2009). Text of resolution apologizing for the enslavement and racial segregation of African Americans. Retrieved from bills/110/hres194/text McCarthy, T. (2004). Coming to terms with our past: On the morality and politics of reparations. Political Theory, 32, 750-72. 66

Smith, R. C., & Seltzer, R. A. (2015). Polarization and the presidency: From FDR to Barack Obama. Boulder, Co.: Lynne Rienner. Thompson, K. (2009, June 15). Senate unanimously approves resolution apologizing for slavery. Washington Post. Retrieved from Walters, R. W. (2003). White nationalism, black interests: Conservative public policy and the black community. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. Walters, R. W. (2008). The price of racial reconciliation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Walters, R. W. (2012). The impact of slavery on 20th and 21st century black progress. Journal of African American History, 97, 110-30. Walters, R. W. (2015). Fighting neoslavery in the twentieth century: The forgotten legacy of the NAACP. Chicago: Third World Press. Williams, L. (1994, July 26). Blacks press case for reparations. New York Times. Retrieved from



ABSTRACT This essay draws on Ronald W. Walters’s research on White nationalism to analyze: (1) Donald Trump’s emergence as a political force, (2) the ideological underpinnings of his campaign and how it won the White House, and (3) Trump’s pursuit of a policy agenda adverse to the interests of Black Americans. It argues that Trump, in formulating a White nationalist call to “Make America Great Again,” offered allegedly disaffected Whites a new Deconstruction—a chance to dismantle important Obama-era policies and practices that advanced some of the interests of Black Americans. Trump is now working to deliver on that promise, particularly in the area of criminal justice policy. As an organization dedicated to advancing Black interests and defending Black advancement, the Congressional Black Caucus has an obligation to fight back against the “policy racism” of the new administration.

Keywords: White nationalism, policy racism, Donald Trump, Barack Obama, the Tea Party, birthers, the new Deconstruction

1 68

Department of Political Science, Winthrop University.

I’m very angry because our country is being run horribly, and I will gladly accept the mantle of anger. Our military is a disaster. Our health care is horror show. Obamacare, we’re going to repeal it and replace it. We have no borders. Our vets are being treated horribly. Illegal immigration is beyond belief. Our country is being run by incompetent people. And yes, I am angry…until we fix it, I’m very, very angry…I’m angry because our country is a mess. — Donald Trump, January 14, 2016

White Nationalism has produced ‘policy racism’—that is, the White Nationalist movement created an ideology which has had a decisive impact upon the political system, producing elected and appointed officials as policy makers who utilized this ideology to foment institutional racism within the courts, the Congress and the executive branch. (Walters, 2003, p. 250) INTRODUCTION Few analysts anticipated that a real estate mogul turned television star would become president of the United States. Even fewer people predicted he would get there running a campaign that blatantly appealed to racial animosities. If he were alive to observe the 2016 presidential contest, Dr. Ronald Walters would have likely contended that there was a strong chance that Donald Trump could win. Why? The answer is provided by Walters’s research on racism. Black Americans are oftentimes derided for practicing “identity politics” and injecting race into places it does not belong. Some have even suggested such politicking was to blame for Trump’s victory (Eberstadt, 2017; Gray, 2017; Lilla, 2016; Shivani, 2017). Yet, for all the handwringing about Blacks “playing the race card,” race, in general, and White racial identity, most especially, have long been at the center of American politics. In White Nationalism, Black Interests: Conservative Public Policy and the Black Community, Walters sharply noted, “It would be illogical to assume that a powerful phenomenon such as White racism has only a social or cultural impact and does not have political manifestations” (2003, p. 22). Moreover, while some hailed the rise of Barack Obama as the dawning of a post-racial age—something even Obama cautioned against—the blowback against Obama, his coalition, and his policies was swift and severe (Belk, 2014; Obama, 2017; Wingfield & Feagin, 2010). 69

This essay draws on Walters to analyze: (1) Trump’s emergence as a political force, (2) the ideological underpinnings of his campaign and how it won the presidency, and (3) Trump’s pursuit of a policy agenda adverse to the interests of Black Americans. It argues that Trump, in articulating a White nationalist call to “Make America Great Again,” offered supposedly disaffected Whites a new Deconstruction—a chance to dismantle important Obama-era policies that advanced some Black interests. As president, Trump is now working to deliver on that promise, particularly in the area of criminal justice policy. The paper closes with a consideration of what this means for the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) as a body dedicated to advancing Black concerns and defending Black advancement. Speaking to a mostly White audience in Michigan, candidate Trump said to Black Americans, “You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed—what the hell do you have to lose?” (LoBianco & Killough, 2016). Given his actions on issues like policing, sentencing reform, and incarceration, it appears Black folk have a lot to lose. Ergo, the CBC has an obligation to fight back against the “policy racism” of the Trump administration. UNDERSTANDING WHITE NATIONALISM White Nationalism, Black Interests elucidates how racism has evolved since the Civil Rights era. Walters (2003) defined White nationalism as that radical faction of the American conservative movement that seeks to sustain White advantage by subordinating racial minorities. White nationalists are people or associations that knowingly or unknowingly advocate for policies that inflict harm upon communities of color. Lastly, Walters explained that White nationalist movements tend to emerge when White racial resentment—triggered by increased competition from minorities—combines with economic stagnation. The dominant tendencies of radical conservative mobilization include heightened racial consciousness, a feeling of alienation from government, and a sense of power deflation or vulnerability. White nationalist movements are typically organized by figures promising to oppose encroachment on the superordinate status of Whites or to restore Whites to their rightful position. Once empowered, such uprisings use their authority “not only against the state but also against the presumed clients of the state who are perceived to constitute the ‘offending culture’” (Walters, 2003, p. 22). This assault on minority groups and progressive policies is “policy racism.” In essence, political institutions are used to formulate policies that punish targeted groups, alter their purportedly abhorrent behavior, 70

and “otherwise produce racially disparate outcomes…” (p. 250). Next, we examine how White nationalism influenced Election 2016 and fashioned a new agenda hostile to the interests of Black Americans and others similarly situated. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN (MAGA): WHITE NATIONALISM IN ELECTION 2016

From Real Estate to Rabble-rousing: Trump and the Birther Conspiracy Staunch conservative opposition to President Obama emerged soon after his inauguration. The Tea Party arose in early 2009 partly out of fury over the $700 billion Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (a George W. Bush initiative) and $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Belk, 2012; 2014). Arguing that they were “taxed enough already,” many Tea Partiers focused their ire on federal spending. Others expressed racial hostilities by displaying protest signs depicting Obama as a monkey or implying his true motivation was to enslave Whites. They also questioned Obama’s legitimacy, arguing he was Kenyan-born and therefore ineligible to be president. This became known as the “birther” conspiracy, and Donald Trump was one of its most fiery proponents. “[Obama] doesn’t have a birth certificate, or if he does, there’s something on that certificate that is very bad for him…that where it says ‘religion,’ it might have ‘Muslim.’ And if you’re a Muslim, you don’t change your religion,” Trump stated (Krieg, 2016). He did not abandon these accusations until 2016. With nearly twenty percent of Americans identifying as Tea Party members in 2010, the movement was large enough to have a significant impact on the political system (Zernike & Megan Thee-Brenan, 2010). While it failed to topple Obama, it helped Republicans regain control of the House of Representatives and reduce the Democratic majority in the Senate, thereby bringing the president’s legislative productivity to a halt. Furthermore, it gave Trump a national political audience, thus creating an opening for a presidential campaign. THE MAKING AND MEANING OF MAGA The Tea Party was molded by White nationalism. The data show its adherents were overwhelmingly White, male, conservative, distrustful of government, and furious over the direction of the nation. They were highly critical of Obama and were more likely than others to say his policies aided Blacks over Whites (Belk, 2014). The movement 71

had a significant impact on Election 2010, yet it did not deliver the presidency in 2012, as Obama defeated former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Following that loss, it seemed GOP leaders might move further right and nominate a candidate with stronger conservative credentials to excite their base. Instead, faced with a crowded field going into Election 2016, they backed former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who enjoyed a substantial fundraising advantage over his rivals, having raised over $100 million in the first half of 2015 (Palmer & Parti, 2015; Tantani, 2015). Rank-and-file Republicans, though, remained irate with career politicians for demanding their votes but not delivering on their promises. This was especially true of hardliners who fit the Tea Party profile. As the primaries continued, Trump won those disgruntled Republicans and secured the nomination by winning 13.3 million total votes (Doran, 2016). The Trump campaign was also molded by White nationalism. Although he ran an anti-establishment campaign like prior Tea Party-influenced insurgents (Silver, 2016), Trump’s messaging was decidedly White nationalist. Stoking feelings of White alienation and anger, he promised to “Make America Great Again.” Reaching back to Ronald Reagan in 1980, Trump argued that the nation was in decline and needed a strong leader to make things right (Tumulty, 2017). Even in the face of evidence to the contrary, he maintained that Obama tanked America’s economy, compromised its border security, and rendered the country vulnerable to terrorism. At rallies across the Rust Belt and Deep South, in interviews, and on Twitter, Trump vowed to restore sectors of the economy that once supported working-class Whites and reinvigorate communities neglected by Washington. He also spoke against people of color, immigrants, and Muslims in ways that were openly bigoted—a major departure from the use of coded racial appeals (Desjardins, 2017; Lopez, 2014). Trump enhanced his standing with Whites by eschewing political correctness, even though MAGA meant different things to different people. For some Whites, it tapped into a longing for the Reagan years, but for others it was a beckoning toward the 1950s (Sanger-Katz, 2016). MAGA even resonated with avowed White supremacists like David Duke and Richard Spencer, both of whom were ecstatic when President Trump placed blame on “both sides” for violence in Charlottesville, Virginia—initiated by White nationalists—that resulted in dozens of injuries and one fatality (Wang, 2017). In short, MAGA hit the mark with Whites at a time when many of them had come to believe they did not enjoy societal advantages, but were victims of discrimination, as shown in Tables 1 and 2.


Table 1. Percent of Whites Who Believe That Discrimination Against Whites Exists Today All Whites


White Republicans


Whites without college degree


Non-LGBTQ Whites


White Democrats

Whites with college degree LGBTQ Whites

28 38 40

Whites who annually earn… under $25,000


$50,000 to $74,999


$25,000 to $49,999 $75,000 and above

64 48

Whites who live in… Rural areas


Suburban areas


Urban areas South




61 67 52 51 43

Source: NPR, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Discrimination in America: Experiences and Views of White Americans, 2017. Total N = 902 White U.S. adults


Table 2. Percent of Whites who Report Various Experiences of Discrimination Among Those Who Do vs. Do Not Believe Discrimination Against Whites Exists White Americans who believe discrimination against White people… Does exist (55% of whites)

Does not exist (43% of whites)

Applying for jobs



Applying to or white attending college



Personal Experiences of Discrimination institutional discrimination

Percent of whites who say they have been personally discriminated against because they are white when… Being paid equally or considered for promotions Interacting with police

Trying to rent a room or apartment or buy a house Trying to vote or participate in politics

19 14 9 7

5 5 1 1

Percent of whites who say, because they are white, they or a family member have been… Unfairly treated by the courts









Been threatened or non-sexually harassed



Been told or felt they would not be welcome in neighborhood building or housing development





Unfairly stopped or treated by the police



individual discrimination

Percent of whites who say… Someone referred to them or a group they belong to using slurs or other negative words about their race or ethnicity

Someone made insensitive or offensive comments or negative assumptions about their race or ethnicity People have acted afraid of them because of their race or ethnicity Percent of whites who say, because they are white, they or a family member have… Experienced violence

Been sexually harassed



Source: NPR, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Discrimination in America: Experiences and Views of White Americans, 2017. Total N=902 White U.S. adults


ELECTION 2016: INSIDE THE NUMBERS According to the Census Bureau, 61.4 percent of the voting-age population reported voting in Election 2016, a figure not statistically different from 2012 (File, 2017; Frey, 2017). Yet, the numbers also show that White voter participation increased from 64.4 percent in 2012 to 65.3 percent in 2016, while Black turnout plummeted from 66.6 percent to 59.6 percent. Altogether, voter turnout by people of color declined from 56.1 percent to 52.7 percent. This proved critical in swing states like Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Whereas some of the decline might be explained by Obama’s absence from the ballot, it also followed the implementation of new voter identification laws in the wake of Shelby v. Holder. In 2012, only four states required identification to vote (Lee, 2016). Today, thirty-four demand such verification. Media coverage of the election oftentimes stressed Trump’s appeal to working-class Whites. However, commentators who viewed MAGA as appealing only to less educated or lower-income Whites failed to grasp the movement that birthed Trump. Polling data revealed that Tea Partiers were not downtrodden blue-collar workers, but mostly middle- and upper-class Whites with household incomes above $50,000 (Belk, 2014). Similarly, MAGA resonated with Whites of higher social status. Data on Election 2016 show Trump performed well with a variety of White voters, including those with college degrees (See Table 3). In addition, 41 percent of White millennials voted for Trump, a group much less likely to describe him as racist when compared to millennials of color (Fowler, Medencia, & Cohen, 2017; Cohen, Fowler, Medencia, & Rogowski, 2017). Lastly, researchers have found that White Trump voters were driven less by economic anxiety and more by racial resentment (Tesler, 2016). This was true even for younger Whites who supported Trump. Table 3. Election 2016 Vote by Race, Sex, and Educational Attainment Race and Sex

White men… White women…



Candidate Clinton



without a college degree




without a college degree




with a college degree with a college degree

39 51

53 44

5 3

Black men… Black women… Latinos… Latinas…

without a college degree




without a college degree




with a college degree with a college degree

without a college degree with a college degree

without a college degree with a college degree

80 92

16 6





63 66

31 27

1 1 3 3 3 3

Source: The Washington Post, Election 2016 Presidential Exit Poll

MAGA FOR WHOM? THE CHALLENGE OF TRUMP-ISM FOR BLACK AMERICANS AND THE CBC Ronald Walters’s research helps explain both Donald Trump’s emergence on the national political stage and the ideological foundations of his presidential campaign. Born of the Tea Party and birther movements, he eschewed coded language in favor of overt White nationalist appeals. Today, a majority of Whites believe they are the victims of discrimination, even though they struggle to provide evidence to back their claims. Trump played on White alienation and anger—promising to “Make America Great Again” and restore their deflated social status. As president, Trump is now orchestrating a new Deconstruction—a policy program adverse to the interests of Black Americans and other people of color. This is especially true with criminal justice policy. Walters described a troublesome law enforcement practice when he wrote, Racist police have been tolerated in many cities because they have been regarded as the first line of defense against Black or Hispanic violence. Thus people who themselves may never have joined a racist group or carried out racist acts have benefited from the social control exacted by police and racist organizations. (2003, p. 24-25) Black Lives Matter activists have labored this point, demanding new procedures and practices following police killings of unarmed civilians, many of them people of color. Their protests, coupled with black and brown members of Congress calling for reform, led the Obama Justice Department to conduct investigations into police agencies in places like Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland. Trump, however, ran on “law and order” and wants to see the controversial “stop-and-frisk” initiative go nationwide (Barba76

ro, Haberman, & Alcindor, 2016; Collinson & Jarrett, 2017). Also, with former Alabama senator Jeff Sessions as his Attorney General, Trump instructed the Justice Department to drop investigations into police departments accused of racial misconduct and instead focus on “Black identity extremists”—a clear response to increased Black political activism (“Black Identity Extremists,” 2017). Obama had taken a new approach to sentencing policy. The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 reduced the crack-cocaine versus powder cocaine sentencing ratio created by the Anti-Drug Abuse Acts of 1986 and 1988 (Abrams, 2010). Those laws required that a person convicted of crack possession receive the same mandatory-minimum prison term as someone with 100 times the same amount of powder cocaine. As linchpins of the “War on Drugs,” they subjected thousands of Blacks to longer sentences, as Blacks accounted for 80 percent of those convicted for crack offenses. These laws also swelled the prison population, thus making America the worldwide leader in incarceration (Belk, 2003). The 2010 law adjusted the ratio from 100-to-1 to 18-to-1. Subsequently, the number of sentenced inmates nationwide fell from 1,613,740 at year-end 2009, to 1,525,900 at year-end 2015, the smallest number since 2005 (Carson & Anderson, 2016; West, Sabol, & Greenman, 2010). The incarceration rate dropped from 502 per 100,000 U.S. residents in 2009, to 458 per 100,000 in 2015, the lowest since 1997. President Trump, on the other hand, is committed to bringing back the drug war, with Attorney General Sessions recently announcing a crackdown on marijuana—even in states that decriminalized the drug ( Jarrett, 2018). Finally, the Obama White House moved to end federal use of private prisons after an audit found that such facilities suffered more problems than their government-run counterparts (Sullivan, 2016). Since the mid-1980s, companies like the Corrections Corporation of America and the Geo Group have contracted with the federal and state governments to house inmates. The practice raised serious concerns, from the classification and treatment of inmates, to overcrowding, to security failures. In August 2016, the Justice Department announced that it would allow existing private prison contracts to expire as a first step toward ending the federal government’s use of private facilities. Attorney General Sessions rescinded that directive six months later (Wilber, 2017). Some of the industry’s leaders made large contributions to pro-Trump super PACs, and one held its annual meeting at one of the president’s resorts (Brittain & Harwell, 2017). In closing, during the 1980s the Democratic Leadership Council sought to recalibrate the party by making it more moderate (Hale, 1995). In doing so, they invoked 77

“lazy” welfare recipients or “super predators” in conversations about welfare policy and anti-crime policy, respectively, mirroring Republicans. That discourse shaped actual policies that inflicted harm on communities of color, namely the Violent Crime Act of 1994 and the Welfare Reform Act of 1996. In lobbying for these measures, President Bill Clinton outflanked the CBC by enlisting big-city Black mayors and ministers to lobby CBC members to drop their opposition to his legislation (Williams, 1998). Once enacted, the laws further destabilized black and brown communities and facilitated mass incarceration. This time around, the CBC must develop a sounder strategy to confront the radical conservative movement represented by Trump. Former U.S. Representative and CBC founder Bill Clay once proclaimed that what was good for minorities was good for America and that Blacks had no permanent friends or enemies, “just permanent interests.” He added, “We must learn to use the art of retaliatory politics—reward our friends and punish our enemies” (Clay, 1972, 38). The CBC must take heed, as the interests of Black Americans require defending. Adolphus Belk Jr. is a professor of Political Science and African American Studies at Winthrop University. His research and teaching interests include the politics of mass incarceration, race and ethnic politics in the United States, public policy, and American government.

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Belk, A. G. Jr. (2014). Usurper-in-chief ? White nationalism, the Tea Party movement, and President Barack Obama. In R. C. Smith, C. Johnson, & R. Newby (Eds.), What has this got to do with the liberation of black people: Essays in honor of Ronald W. Walters (pp. 189-26). Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Brittain, A. & Harwell, D. (2017, October 25). Private-prison giant, resurgent in Trump era, gathers at president’s resort. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www. Carson, E. A. & Anderson, E. (2016). Prisoners in 2015. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from Clay, W. L., Sr. (1972, October). Emerging new black politics. Black Word. Retrieved from Cohen, C. J., Fowler, M., Medencia, V. E., & Rogowski, J. C. (2017). The ‘woke’ generation? Millennial attitudes on race in the U.S. GenFoward Project. Retrieved from Collinson, S. & Jarrett, L. (2017, August 29). Trump embraces law and order agenda. CNN. Retrieved from Desjardins, L. (2017, August 22). Every moment in Donald Trump’s long and complicated history with race. The NewsHour. Retrieved from Doran, W. (2016, July 8). Donald Trump set the record for the most GOP primary votes ever. But that’s not his only record. Politifact North Carolina. Retrieved from donald-trump-set-record-most-gop-primary-votes-eve/ Eberstadt, M. (2017, October 27). The primal scream of Identity politics. The Weekly Standard. Retrieved from 79

Federal Bureau of Investigation, Counterterrorism Division. (2017). Black identity extremists likely motivated to target law enforcement officers. Retrieved from File, T. (2017). Voting in America: A look at the 2016 presidential election. United States Census Bureau, Social, Economic, and Housing Division. Retrieved from https:// Fowler, M., Medencia, V. E., & Cohen, C. (2017, December 15). Why 41 percent of white millenials voted for Trump. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https:// Frey, W. H. (2017). Census shows pervasive decline in 2016 minority voter turnout. The Brookings Institution: The Avenue. Retrieved from the-avenue/2017/05/18/census-shows-pervasive-decline-in-2016-minority-voter-turnout/ Gray, B. J. (2017, November 13). Racism may have gotten us into this mess, but identity politics can’t get us out. Daily Intelligencer. Retrieved from Hackman, M. (2016, January 14). Donald Trump: “I will gladly accept the mantle of anger.” Vox. Retrieved from Hale, J. F. (1995). The making of the new Democrats. Political Science Quarterly, 110(2), 201-232. Jarrett, L. (2018, January 4). Sessions nixes Obama-era rules leaving states alone that legalize pot. CNN. Retrieved from Krieg, G. (2016, September 16). 14 of Trump’s most outrageous ‘birther’ claims—half from after 2011. CNN. Retrieved from donald-trump-birther/index.html


Lee, J. C. (2016, November 3). How states moved toward stricter voter ID laws. The New York Times. Retrieved from elections/how-states-moved-toward-stricter-voter-id-laws.html Lilla, M. (2016, November 18). The end of identity liberalism. The New York Times. Retrieved from the-end-of-identity-liberalism.html Lipsitz, G. (2006). The possessive investment in whiteness: How white people profit from identity politics. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. LoBianco, T. & Killough, A. (2016, August 19). Trump pitches black voters: “What the hell do you have to lose?” CNN. Retrieved from politics/donald-trump-african-american-voters/index.html Lopez, I. H. (2014). Dog whistle politics: How coded racial appeals have reinvented racism & wrecked the middle class. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. National Public Radio, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health (2017, November). Discrimination in America: Experiences and views of White Americans. Retrieved from content/dam/farm/reports/surveys_and_polls/2017/rwjf441554 Obama, B. H. (2017, January 10). President Obama’s farewell address. Retrieved from Palmer, A. & Parti, T. (2015, June 15). Jeb’s smooth money machine. Politico. Retrieved from Sanger-Katz, M. (2016, April 26). When was America greatest? The New York Times. Retrieved from Shivani, A. (2017, September 2). Time to give up on identity politics: It’s dragging the progressive agenda down. Salon. Retrieved from com/2017/09/02/time-to-give-up-on-identity-politics-its-dragging-the-progressive-agenda-down/ 81

Silver. N. (2016, May 4). Why Republican voters decided on Trump. FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved from Sullivan, E. (2016, August 18). Obama administration to end use of private prisons. The NewsHour. Retrieved from Tanfani, J. (2015, July 9). Jeb Bush announces unprecedented fundraising haul of $114 million. The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from Tesler, M. (2016, November 22). Views about race mattered more in electing Trump than in electing Obama. The Washington Post. Retrieved from Tesler, M. & Sears, D. O. (2010). Obama’s race: The 2008 election and the dream of a post-racial America. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press. Travis, S. (2011, February 14). Tea Party at second anniversary: What happens next? CNN. Retrieved from anniversary/index.html Tumult, K. (2017, January 18). How Donald Trump came up with ‘make America great again.’ The Washington Post. Retrieved from fb6acf5e-dbf7-11e6-ad42-f3375f271c9c_story.html Walters, R. W. (2003). White nationalism, black interests: Conservative public policy and the black community. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press. Wang, A. (2017, August 13). One group loved Trump’s remarks about Charlottesville: White supremacists. The Washington Post. Retrieved from West, H. C., Sabol, W. J., & Greenman, S. J. (2010). Prisoners in 2009. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from 82

Wilber, D. Q. (2017, February 23). Justice department rescinds order phasing out use of private prisons. The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from politics/washington/la-na-essential-washington-updates-justice-department-rescinds-order-1487893081-htmlstory.html Williams, L. F. (1998). Race and the politics of social policy. In M. Weir (Ed.), The social divide: Political parties and the future of activist government (pp. 3417-463). Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution Press. Wingfield, A. H. & Feagin, J. (2010). Yes we can? White racial framing and the 2008 presidential campaign. New York, NY: Routledge. Zernike, K. & Thee-Brenan, M. (2010, April 14). Poll finds Tea Party backers wealthier and more educated. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes. com/2010/04/15/us/politics/15poll.html



ABSTRACT From 2006 to 2015, local law enforcement agencies received over $2 billion worth of military surplus through the Pentagon’s 1033 program. Agencies have received surplus military items, such as grenade launchers, armored vehicles, and body armor. This paper seeks to understand whether changes in racial and ethnic diversity have led to the recent rise of military surplus acquisitions through this program. Using a panel data censored regression model, the results offer evidence of a positive relationship between ethnic diversity and police militarization, specifically with the acquisition of vehicles and protective gear through the 1033 program. Another result is that counties with a larger Latino population are associated with greater police militarization. These results are a concern because the deployment of military items could potentially have harmful effects that may have disproportionate racial and ethnic impacts. One policy that can be implemented is to have local authorities restrict the types of military surplus acquired and limit the uses of acquired items. The dynamics emanating from racial and ethnic diversity are complex, but the question is important in understanding diversity’s role in policing and local law enforcement. Keywords: police militarization, race, ethnic fragmentation, 1033 program

1 84

Department of Economics, University of Toledo. This work was generously funded by the Charles Koch Foundation. All errors are my own.

Policy Recommendations

Law enforcement agencies should be intentional about the acquisition of surplus items from the 1033 program.

Agencies should be certain that surplus acquisitions are not driven by rising ethnic populations, particularly the Latino community.

The community should have a say and some oversight regarding the types of items agencies want to acquire.

Restrictions on the acquisition of military surplus and on the deployment of these items can go a long way towards establishing trust between the community and law enforcement. INTRODUCTION

Images of police in American towns with high-tech weaponry, body armor, and tanks normally observed in war-torn nations have raised questions regarding the purpose of heavily arming civilian police. Law enforcement agencies have engaged in similar military behavior rather than community policing. It has been argued that this blurring of the lines between the military and police is the outcome of the militarization of local law enforcement (den Heyer, 2014; Kraska, 2007). The acquisition of military-type equipment has led to military-style tactics, such as the establishment of SWAT teams and no-knock raids (Balko, 2013). Instead of using such equipment reactively, police agencies use it proactively, sometimes making fatal mistakes (ACLU, 2014). This increasing police militarization has become a concern for local communities, especially since the Ferguson protests in 2014. Broadly, when a civilian police force models itself on the military, deploying associated material resources, cultural norms, operational tactics, and organizational structures, this is defined as police militarization (Kraska, 2007). Material resources refer to the presence of military technology; cultural norms refer to the adoption of military language and values; operational tactics refer to the use of military-type tactics; and organizational structures refers to the normalized use of units, such as SWAT teams or task forces. Law enforcement agencies can acquire these items through a variety of programs (Rahall, 2015).


The Pentagon’s 1033 program enabled law enforcement agencies to acquire surplus military weapons to combat threatening situations at a low cost. Law enforcement agencies must request items approved by a state officer and the Law Enforcement Support Office staff (state officers are appointed by the governor). Preference is given to counter-drug and counter-terrorism units. One such surplus item that has received significant attention is the Mine Resistant Armored Protected (MRAP) vehicle, developed in 2000 to protect soldiers from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Iraq. Many localities, including school districts, have acquired MRAPs through the 1033 program. The program is a popular one because local agencies can acquire these items with little cost. Although law enforcement agencies have had access to military surplus items for many years, there has been a recent surge in their acquisition. Figure 1. Total Acquisitions from the 1033 Program, 1990–2014

Source: Author’s calculations from data accessed from the Pentagon’s website

As shown in Figure 1, agencies have only recently begun to avail themselves of the 1033 Program. An initial increase in acquisitions in 2006 was followed by steady increases beginning in 2010 and a large spike in 2013. Coyne and Hall (2014) argue that budget cuts at the state and local levels, along with the increasing sophistication of criminals, drive this phenomenon. In addition, there has been a “boomerang effect,” where foreign military intervention through the so-called “War on Terror” has led to increased domestic 86

surveillance, as terrorism is not limited to foreign soil. Thus, social control methods executed overseas are imported back home. However, there may be other mechanisms driving this increase. Both the “War on Drugs” and “War on Terror” have been associated with specific demographic groups. During the 1980s, the “War on Drugs” tended to target African-Americans and Latinos in urban communities (Provine, 2011), while after 9/11, the “War on Terror” has focused on Arab populations, but also targeted groups linked to immigrant communities (Harris, 2006; Sivanandan, 2006). Therefore, an empirical question arises as to whether the rise in police militarization is a response to changing demographics. Changing ethnic diversity does not necessarily lead to increased police strength; some communities become more diverse and ethnic groups are able to integrate with the majority population. In this study, we estimate the effect of ethnic diversity—as measured by the fragmentation index—on police militarization, for a panel of United States counties between 2008 and 2014. Our paper explains why police departments may expand their size through the acquisition of surplus military items during a period of time when crime rates are falling (Friedman, Grawert, & Cullen, 2017). The results provide evidence of a positive relationship between ethnic diversity and police militarization, specifically with the acquisition of vehicles and protective gear through the 1033 program. THE KERNER COMMISSION REPORT AND “TOUGH ON CRIME” POLITICS The motivation for this study comes from events that occurred more than 50 years ago. Several major riots erupted during the summer of 1967, most notably in Detroit, Michigan, and Newark, New Jersey. In response to these civil disorders, President Lyndon B. Johnson convened a commission to study what happened, why it happened, and what could be done to fix the problem. The Kerner Commission issued its report on February 29, 1968 (Kerner, 1968). This scathing report questioned the efficacy of existing structures and institutions. The report argued that African-Americans had been excluded from economic progress due to “pervasive segregation and discrimination,” and blamed white people for the conditions that led to the riots. As stated in the report’s summary, “White racism is essentially responsible for the explosive mixture which has been accumulating in our cities since the end of World War II.” Specifically, the report referred to negative racial attitudes and behaviors, and the concentration of poverty in urban enclaves, leading to poor outcomes for African-Americans. The report made several recommendations regarding education, housing, governance, and 87

policing. Several of the recommendations related to policing seemed to predict future issues between communities of color and police in the 21st century. One specific recommendation was not only unheeded, but also taken in the reverse direction. To reduce the outbreak of civil disorders, the recommendation stated, “Develop guidelines governing the use of control equipment and provide alternatives to the use of lethal weapons.” Local law enforcement agencies have increased their use of control equipment in many instances, especially through the Pentagon’s 1033 program, without providing alternatives to the use of lethal weapons. The conditions that had precipitated civil disorder, outlined in the report, have continued in the past fifty years. Under the guise of “law and order,” there has been a push towards being tougher on crime. In reference to the Kerner report, Gamal (2016) argues, “The government could have addressed social inequity as the root cause of the riots. Instead, government officials capitalized on racialized fear and anxiety to give the police more power, more weapons, and more authority” (p. 993). The steady rise in incarceration rates and stringent sentencing policies reflects this. Many scholars have tested theories on partisanship and political context as the reasons for this increase. They argue that the political climate is driving these “tough on crime” policies through two mechanisms: citizen preferences and partisan tactics (Kent & Carmichael, 2015). If citizens have a strong preference for reducing crime, politicians will respond by allocating more resources for crime control. In this case, politicians are responding to the will of the people. Partisan tactics focus on agenda-setting and using political persuasion to drive electoral results. In this case, politicians frame their agendas so that citizens will want to elect “tough on crime” politicians. Scholars have found that these forms of partisan tactics have been the purview of the Republican Party (Beckett, 1997; Scheingold & Scheingold, 1992). Both Jacobs and Carmichael (2001) and Smith (2004) find that state partisan control of government by Republicans is a significant factor in rising imprisonment rates. Stucky, Heimer, and Lang (2005) show that Republican political strength is a significant factor in imprisonment rates when there is greater electoral competition. Yates and Fording (2005) find that Republican control of executive and legislative branches positively impacts imprisonment rates, especially for African-Americans. Spelman (2009) finds that Republican political strength does not affect imprisonment rates, but it does positively affect capital expenditures for prison construction. Another “tough on crime” strategy has manifested in the size of police forces. Although this research focuses on race-related factors (Carmichael & Kent, 2014; Helms, 2007; Holmes, Smith, Freng, & Muñoz, 2008), 88

other scholars have examined the class-based determinants of police size (Zhao, Ren, & Lovrich, 2014), showing that Republican political strength is positively correlated with police size ( Jacobs & Helms, 1997) and corrections spending ( Jacobs & Helms, 1999). Given the rising incarceration rate and larger police forces, it is plausible that the acquisition of military surplus through the 1033 program is a result of the political climate in a state, especially if that climate is supportive of “tough on crime” policies. DATA AND METHODOLOGY Through the Pentagon’s 1033 program, law enforcement agencies can acquire surplus military items at little cost. These agencies acquire military items to be prepared for combat situations involving a variety of threats. These threats include terrorism-related activities, gang-related activities, and drug-related activities. The argument is that there has been an increase in these threats, despite statistics showing that crime rates have fallen over the past twenty years. However, a perceived increase in these threats could still drive the acquisition of surplus items. Thus, the empirical model should include variables relating to the demand for police services and perceived threats. Perceived threats can come in the form of minority population size. The relationship between a minority population and perceived threats follows from the Minority Threat hypothesis, which posits that increases in the minority population threaten existing economic, political, and social structures, and in response, powerful social groups exert control over minorities through increased police services ( Jackson, 1989). This effect is a consequence of individuals holding stereotypes of ethnic minorities, primarily African-Americans and Latinos, as criminals (Pickett, Chiricos, Golden, & Gertz, 2012). This also follows from the Kerner Commission Report, which suggested that whites held negative racial attitudes. The conventional wisdom is that there exists a positive relationship between the size of the minority population and the level of police strength. We can view police militarization through the 1033 program as a proxy for police strength. Acquiring military surplus increases police resources, and consequently, police strength. Data on the acquisition of military surplus items comes from the Pentagon’s website,2 which provides information on all acquisitions by local law enforcement agencies by state. In 2014 alone, nearly $1 billion worth of property was transferred from the federal government to local agencies. The dependent variable is the quantity of surplus items 2 89 The Defense Logistics Agency operates the program.

acquired by all law enforcement agencies. Military surplus for each agency is aggregated to the county level and normalized by converting the amount into surplus per 100,000 people. This variable captures the scale of militarization at the county level. As every type of item is available to police departments, we break down the surplus measure into four categories by type: weapons (including explosives), vehicles (both tracked and wheeled), surveillance, and protective gear (including body armor). The primary explanatory variables measure racial (African-American) and ethnic (Latino) group shares.3 In addition, the distribution of ethnic groups in the county may be important. To account for heterogeneity of the ethnic groups within the county, we use the fragmentation index (Fragmentation Index), which is the probability that two persons chosen at random from a given population will be of a different race or ethnicity. The calculation is shown below. (1)Fragmentation Index = 1 -

Rπ , 2 i

where πi is the proportion of the population belonging to ethnic group i4. Higher values of Fragmentation mean that the population is more heterogeneous; therefore, the probability that two random individuals chosen from this population will be of different ethnicities is greater. This is the most common measure of racial and ethnic diversity (Alesina & La Ferrara, 2005). Optimally, we would like to include a measure of segregation; however, there is a lack of ethnic group data at geographies lower than the county level over time. To test the “tough on crime” hypothesis, we use government ideology scores taken from Berry, Fording, Ringquist, Hanson, and Klarner (2010)5. The ideology score is taken from congressional roll call votes where more than 2.5% of the legislators disagreed. Ideology has a range from zero to 100, with higher values of the index representing liberalism and lower values of the index representing conservatism. Studies have shown a positive correlation between ideological conservatism and greater willingness to be tough on crime (Enns, 2014; Jacobs & Carmichael, 2001; Percival, 2010; Yates & Fording, 2005). As conservative lawmakers understand that a policy stance of being tough on crime can benefit 3

We only use African-American and Latino groups because these groups have a direct link to the Minority Threat Hypothesis.


We include all ethnic groups: White, African-American, Native, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Latino.


This is the revised version, updated through 2014.


their campaigns, and therefore, would want to support greater police militarization, we expect a negative relationship between conservative ideology and surplus acquisition. In addition to ethnicity and ideology, other explanatory variables include socioeconomic characteristics, expounded by studies on the demand for public goods (Poterba, 1997). These variables include percentage of males between the ages of 18 and 24, median household income, unemployment rate, population density, crime rate lagged one year, and number of agencies within the county. These factors may drive bureaucrats to acquire surplus military items to provide for public safety. We can also interpret these control variables as the cost of providing police services to meet the constituent demand. For example, households with greater incomes have more to protect, and thus, would demand more police services. The number of agencies can account for the supply of police services. Another supply side variable is the availability of surplus items, where we include the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan at the end of each year (Peters, Schwarz, & Kapp, 2017). We obtained this demographic data from the Census Bureau. The crime rate and agency count are from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports. A sample of 3,132 counties over seven years provided 20,9976 observations. Table 1 provides the descriptive statistics. Table 1. Descriptive Statistics All Counties

Surplus Only

Std. Dev.








13.24 (15.9%)

45.72 (54.9%)




2.82 (1.7%)

9.73 (6.0%)




Dependent Variables Surplus Acquisitions per 100,000 Surplus Categories Weapons Vehicles


Protective Gear

1.49 (4.6%)

5.14 (15.9%)


29.32 (4.5%)

101.28 (15.5%)











Explanatory Variables Ethnic Fragmentation % African-American 6 91






The total number of observations does not aggregate to 21,924 because several counties in the UCR dataset did not report crime rates.

% Latino







% Male






Population Density










Government Ideology





Controls Unemployment Rate Median Income Crime Index

Number of Agencies Number of Observations







2,526.68 20,997








125,635 150


Note: Share of total surplus in parentheses

The first column provides the summary means and the second column restricts the sample to counties with agencies that acquired military surplus. Approximately 30% of counties across the panel have agencies that acquired military surplus. Counties that acquired surplus are more ethnically diverse, have higher crime rates, are denser, and have higher median incomes. Examining the breakdown of surplus by category, we find that the majority of acquisitions are weapons, followed by vehicles and protective gear. EMPIRICAL RESULTS This section provides estimates of the effects of ethnic diversity on the acquisition of military surplus items through the Pentagon’s 1033 program. As many counties during the sample period did not acquire any surplus military items, we consider a panel data censored regression model with fixed effects the most appropriate method to use.7 The empirical specification is given in (2). (2)Surplusit = ait + b1FragmentationIndexit + b2Xit + mtt + di + eit If surplus acquisition is driven by increases in racial and ethnic diversity, we expect to have a positive and significant coefficient. County-level fixed effects (di) are added to account for time-invariant factors particular to the counties. mtt is the level of forces in Afghanistan at the end of each year. Average marginal effects (AME) were calculated 7


The panel nature of the data refers to the fact that we have data for many counties over time. The model is estimated using the STATA command pantob ( html#Pantob ). The procedure follows from Honore (1992).

using the formula from Honore (2008), in which the coefficient is multiplied by the share of counties that had agencies acquire military surplus. All the variables are in logarithms. Table 2. Effect of Ethnicity on Total Surplus Military Acquisition8

Fragmentation Index % African-American % Latino % Male Population Density Median Income Unemployment Rate Crime Index Number of Agencies Government Ideology U.S. Forces

Pooled OLS

Fixed Effects (FE)

Conditional FE Logit

Panel Censored





















(0.03) (0.21) (0.20)









8.293 1.890























(0.02) (0.01) (0.09) (0.69) (0.02)

(0.03) (0.72) (0.28) (1.00) (0.02)

(0.04) (1.07) (0.51) (1.76)

(0.06) (2.04) (0.89) (3.25)


















(0.04) (0.02) (0.04)

(0.12) (0.03) (0.05)

(0.04) (0.07)

(0.08) (0.13)

Legend: + p<0.10; * p<0.05; ** p<0.01; *** p<0.001; standard errors reported in parentheses.



The first column provides the results of a pooled ordinary least squares (OLS) model, a method of estimating the relationship between two variables. The second column shows the results of a fixed-effects (FE) panel regression, which is similar to OLS but includes one time invariant parameter for each county and for each year. The third column shows the results of a conditional fixed effects logit model, where the binary dependent variable takes a value of one, if the county acquired any surplus and a value of zero, if the county acquired no surplus during that year. The fourth column shows the results of the panel censored regression model with fixed effects, which accounts for the fact that many counties did not acquire surplus items and therefore enter the model as zeroes.

The results show that neither diversity nor the share of ethnic groups are significantly correlated with surplus acquisition, after controlling for the panel nature of the data, multiple zeroes, and the inclusion of fixed effects. The control variables show support for the “tough on crime” hypothesis; counties in states with more liberal legislators have fewer acquisitions. Counties with higher young male populations and higher median incomes have fewer acquisitions. Counties with higher unemployment see more acquisitions. Finally, with the drawdown of troops overseas, we see greater acquisitions of military surplus. Our measure of police militarization was the total number of items requested by local law enforcement agencies through the 1033 program. Although this term gave us the scale of militarization, it included items that would not necessarily be associated with police behavior and police activity. Some of these items included clothes washers, shredders, lawn mowers, and exercise equipment. Thus, in the next set of models, we estimate the effect of ethnic diversity on the four categories of military surplus outlined in Table 1. Each model estimated is a panel-censored regression with county fixed effects.9 Table 3 provides the results. Table 3. Effect of Ethnicity on Militarization by Type of Item

Fragmentation Index % African-American % Latino




Protective Gear

-1.363 [-0.39]

8.613 [2.49]

3.452 [0.999]

13.013 [3.77]

24.449 [7.08]

-34.334 [-9.94]

21.52 [6.23]

-28.321 [-8.20]

-14.606 [-4.23]

65.450 [18.95]

101.839 [29.48]

131.337 [38.02]


(26.66) (15.76)







(2.72)*** (35.91)


Legend: + p<0.10; * p<0.05; ** p<0.01; *** p<0.001; p-values reported in parentheses; Marginal Effects reported in brackets, calculated using the formula from Honore (2008); Controls listed in Table 1 are included but not reported;Complete results are reported in the Appendix.

The results show a significant impact of ethnic diversity on most of the specific components of police militarization. Higher levels of ethnic fragmentation are positively associated with acquisition of vehicles and protective gear. A 10% increase in fragmenta9 94

In Appendix Table A2, the results of the same model estimated using conditional fixed-effects logit model are provided. The results are similar to the results in Table 3.

tion leads to a 2.5% increase in vehicle acquisition and a 3.8% increase in protective gear acquisition. The effects are similar, though greater in magnitude, for the Latino share. A 10% increase in the Latino population leads to a 19% increase in vehicle acquisition and a 38% increase in protective gear acquisition. Higher levels of African-American population are only mildly associated with vehicle acquisition and this effect is negative. The results from Table 3 explain the null finding in Table 2, as a majority of the surplus acquisitions were weapons. Ethnicity did not have any significant effect on total surplus acquisitions. The results of Table 3 show the effect of diversity on the size of surplus acquisitions by type. However, the acquisition of weapons dominates the share of surplus of some counties, while others acquire an even share of the items. In Table 1, we see that on average, 55% of surplus acquisitions are of weapons, followed by vehicles and protective gear. The results of Table 4 will show whether counties that are more ethnically diverse acquire more of one type of item than other types of items. The dependent variable is the percentage of total surplus acquisition that is of a specific item type (weapons, vehicles, surveillance, protective gear). Table 4. Effect of Ethnicity on Militarization by Type of Item Share of Total Surplus

Fragmentation Index % African-American % Latino




Protective Gear

-0.050 [-0.01]

2.368 [0.69]

0.195 [0.06]

1.788 [0.52]

1.818 [0.53]

-8.978 [-2.60]

-0.620 [-0.18]

-4.353 [-1.26]

-10.255 [-2.97]

18.563 [5.37]

4.776 [1.38]

17.929 [5.19]

(0.22) (3.77)


(0.32)*** (5.67)


(0.46) (7.39) (4.94)

(0.26)*** (4.06)

(3.60) ***

Legend: + p<0.10; * p<0.05; ** p<0.01; *** p<0.001; standard errors reported in parentheses; Marginal effects reported in brackets, calculated using the formula from Honore (2008); Controls listed in Table 1 are included but not reported; Complete results are reported in the Appendix.

The results in Table 4 are similar to those in Table 3; however, the significance has diminished with surveillance items. In addition, the Latino share is negatively correlated with weapons acquisitions, which may be driven by the greater acquisition of vehicles and protective gear. A 10% increase in the Latino population leads to a 3% decrease in the weapons share of surplus acquisition, but a 5% increase in the share of vehicles and protective gear.


Given the significance of vehicles and protective gear, we want to estimate a model that focuses on the type of vehicle and body armor. We partitioned the category of vehicles into tracked vehicles and wheeled vehicles. Tracked vehicles include the MRAP, the tanks that have been the poster child of militarization. These images are prevalent during protests, especially protests against police violence. Furthermore, we see police wearing body armor during these protests. If ethnicity is a factor, it is possibly driven by police response to protests, and the results would bear this out. Table 5. Effect of Ethnicity on Militarization for Vehicle Types and Body Armor Vehicles (Tracked)

Fragmentation Index % African-American % Latino

Vehicles (Wheeled)

Body Armor

(5.68) -54.721 [-15.84]

4.610 [1.33] (2.10)* -66.001 [-19.11]

15.939 [4.61] (5.60)** -48.618 [-14.08]

169.310 [49.02] (127.20)

19.527 [5.65] (22.21)

267.489 [77.44] (57.41)***

-0.737 [-0.21]




Legend: + p<0.10; * p<0.05; ** p<0.01; *** p<0.001; standard errors reported in parentheses; Marginal effects reported in brackets, calculated using the formula from Honore (2008); Controls listed in Table 1 are included but not reported; Complete results are reported in the Appendix.

Results from Table 5 show that ethnicity is not a factor with tracked vehicles; however, it is a factor for body armor and wheeled vehicles. These magnitudes are much larger for body armor than the broader category of protective gear. These models have large standard errors, probably due to the small numbers of these items. LATINO POPULATION AND POLICE MILITARIZATION The results in the previous section showed that the Latino population is a significant driver of surplus military acquisition. Understanding the distribution of this population in the U.S. makes us wonder whether geography plays a role in militarization. There has been emphasis on deporting undocumented individuals, primarily those from Central and South America (Golash-Boza, 2015). Possibly, counties bordering Mexico may be driving the results. Table 6 provides the results for models where we interact the share of Latino population with region dummies.10 10 A dummy variable is a dichotomous variable that takes the value of one, if the county is in a given region 96

Table 6. Interactive Effects of Latino Population and Region on Militarization by Type

% Latino % Latino x Midwest % Latino x South % Latino x West




Protective Gear

-24.521 [-7.10]

-47.447 [-13.74]

8.468 [2.45]

48.341 [14.00]

-53.439 [-15.47]

58.268 [16.87]

58.285 [16.87]

-94.645 [-27.40]

16.631 [4.81]

130.159 [37.68]

165.569 [47.94]

133.776 [38.73]

40.337 [11.68]

115.036 [33.30]

68.698 [19.89]

92.142 [26.68]

(25.16) (33.27) (27.49) (34.63)

(15.52)** (43.78)

(21.41)*** (29.56)***

(54.87) (61.38)

(66.99)* (59.55)

(89.18) (93.13) (94.73) (92.94)

Legend: + p<0.10; * p<0.05; ** p<0.01; *** p<0.001; standard errors reported in parentheses; Marginal effects reported in brackets, calculated using the formula from Honore (2008); Controls listed in Table 1 are included but not reported; Complete results are reported in the Appendix.

The findings in the table show that the Latino population in Southern and Western regions drives vehicle acquisition, while the Latino population in the Southern region drives acquisition of surveillance gear. A 10% increase in the Latino population in Southern states leads to a 38% increase in vehicle acquisition and a 48% increase in the acquisition of surveillance equipment. A 10% increase in the Latino population in Western states leads to a 33% increase in vehicle acquisition. Further refinement of this analysis to incorporate geography enables the interpretation of the effect of the Latino population on police militarization. When considering police behavior and the Latino population, we immediately think of immigrant enforcement. While the discussion has relevance to stories about Immigration and Control Enforcement (ICE) raids, the deportation of undocumented immigrants was occurring long before the Trump administration. In addition, the Latino population is subject to higher levels of policing in combating drug enforcement and gang activity, in conjunction with immigration enforcement (Lassiter, 2015; Johnson, 2015). CONCLUSION This study used a recently compiled database from the Pentagon to estimate the relationship between military surplus acquisition and demographic and socioeconomic and zero, if it lies outside that region. We include a region dummy variable for counties in the Midwest, the South, and the West. The Northeast region is excluded to avoid multicollinearity problems. 97

characteristics across a panel of U.S. counties. This is one of the first studies to empirically evaluate the determinants of police militarization. It focuses on the relationship between the racial and ethnic structures of counties and the level of militarization of agencies within those counties. This study found evidence of a positive relationship between ethnicity and certain types of militarization, which aligns with the literature on race and police force growth (Sever, 2001). There is a positive relationship between ethnic diversity and the acquisition of vehicles and protective gear. Counties in the South and West with larger Latino populations also saw a greater acquisition of vehicles and protective gear. The concern over police militarization arose from images of the Ferguson protests in August 2014. The results showed that ethnic fragmentation and the Latino population are positively correlated with the acquisition of military surplus through the 1033 program. While these results may signify police response to protests, there is a second explanation. A report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which analyzed over 800 SWAT deployments between 2011 and 2012, found evidence of militaristic policing and found that these deployments disproportionately targeted communities of color (ACLU, 2014; Nunn, 2002). This report found that officers who take part in these raids typically wear body armor. Finally, there was evidence of a “boomerang effect,” where social control methods employed overseas return to domestic regions (Coyne & Hall, 2014). In all the specifications, the size of U.S. forces in Afghanistan had a negative effect on surplus acquisition. This is an intuitive result, as a surge in overseas wars lowers the supply of military items available; however, there is an increase in supply after the drawdown of troops. This study has several limitations. The first is the recency of the time period—from 2008 to 2014. While the program began in 1990, surplus acquisition did not really occur until 2006, and this time period may be too short to account for any real changes in demographics. Studies on race and police force usually use decennial Census data (Ajilore, 2015; Carmichael & Kent, 2014). In the literature on race and police force, both racial and ethnic inequality have been shown to be important factors in explaining police size. Owing to data limitations, we were unable to test this relationship. Segregation may further illuminate the conflict between communities of color and law enforcement (Kent & Carmichael, 2015). Another limitation is that this time period coincided with the Great Recession, which caused significant budget problems with state and local municipalities. The rise in surplus acquisition may have been due to the lack of resources for law enforcement, since the 1033 program allows agencies to acquire these items at very low cost. This is an avenue for future research. 98

This study contributes to the literature on race and policing by analyzing factors that can explain the recent rise in police militarization. This is an important issue because the increasing militarization of police can lead to a blurring of the lines between the mission of law enforcement and the mission of the military. We must caution ourselves on discussions of police militarization. Militarization is not only limited to the acquisition of excess surplus material, but also includes the creation of specialized task forces dedicated to drug activity, gang activity, and terrorism. This is also observed in the rise of Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams. Our research must focus on all types of militarization and its impact on local communities, particularly communities of color. While media scrutiny has shed light on these activities and politicians are taking notice, the government’s response to militarization is not yet consistent. More research on why we see an increase in militarization as well as the impact on policing outcomes will help inform policies. Dr. Olugbenga Ajilore is an Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Toledo, where he has been since 2003. His research interests lie within Public Finance and Demographic Economics where he examines multiple components of state and local spending through the lens of ethnic diversity. Ajilore’s current work studies the impact of ethnic diversity in policing outcomes, race, police militarization, and the use of lethal and non-lethal force. His has been published in numerous journals such as the Review of Black Political Economy, Economics and Human Behavior, the Review of Economics of the Household, Economics Bulletin, the Atlantic Economic Journal, and the Journal of Regional Analysis and Policy. Ajilore currently serves as President (2018) of the National Economics Association. Ajilore received his Ph.D. in Economics from Claremont Graduate University and his A.B. in Applied Mathematics and Economics from the University of California at Berkeley.

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APPENDIX TABLES Table A1. Effect of Ethnicity on Militarization by Type of Item

Fragmentation Index % African-American % Latino % Male Population Density Median Income Unemployment Rate Crime Index Number of Agencies Government Ideology U.S. Forces




Protective Gear























16.145*** 0.166


(26.66) (15.76) (0.07) (2.48) (1.11) (3.63)


(17.77) (16.07) (0.06) (2.19)

(33.50) (27.19) (0.11) (3.62)

(35.91) (27.97) (0.11) (4.25)










(2.92) (0.07)




(1.66) (6.04) (0.17) (0.54)

(1.92) (6.47) (0.21) (0.46)









(0.09) (0.14)

(0.10) (0.13)

(0.15) (0.24)

Legend: + p<0.10; * p<0.05; ** p<0.01; *** p<0.001; standard errors reported in parentheses.





(0.17) 0.274


(0.17) (0.24)

Table A2. Effect of Ethnicity on the Acquisition of Surplus Items by Type of Item Conditional FE Logit Fragmentation Index % African-American % Latino % Male Population Density Median Income Unemployment Rate Crime Index Number of Agencies Government Ideology U.S. Forces

Protective Gear













































(10.70) (7.06) (0.04) (1.14)

-0.355 (0.54) (1.88) (0.06) (0.17) (0.04) (0.08)


(19.66) (15.25) (0.06) (1.98) (0.91) (3.40) (0.12) (0.24) (0.09) (0.12)



(23.88) (16.91) (0.07) (2.48) (1.12) (3.78) (0.15) (0.31) (0.09) (0.15)

4.940** (1.52) 5.347

(26.36) (21.35) (0.07) (2.69) (1.19) (4.19) (0.15) (0.33)

Legend: + p<0.10; * p<0.05; ** p<0.01; *** p<0.001; standard errors reported in parentheses.


(0.10) (0.16)

Table A3. Effect of Ethnicity on Militarization by Type of Item Share of Total Surplus

Fragmentation Index % African-American % Latino % Male Population Density Median Income Unemployment Rate Crime Index Number of Agencies Government Ideology U.S. Forces




Protective Gear






















(3.77) (2.84)





(3.56) (0.02)







































(0.03) (0.06)









(0.73) 0.022







(0.05) (0.02)


Legend: + p<0.10; * p<0.05; ** p<0.01; *** p<0.001; standard errors reported in parentheses.


Table A4. Effect of Ethnicity on Militarization for Vehicle Types and Body Armor

Fragmentation Index % African-American % Latino % Male Population Density Median Income Unemployment Rate Crime Index Number of Agencies Government Ideology U.S. Forces Mean (S.D.) of Dep. Var.

Vehicles (Tracked)

Vehicles (Wheeled)

Body Armor






















(76.33) (57.41) (0.27)






















0.005 (0.10)

0.014 (0.14)

0.598 (16.39)

(12.68) (3.25)

(19.03) (0.37) (1.17) (0.36) (0.61)

(2.13) (1.14) (4.53) (0.50) (0.25) (0.07) (0.18)

(7.42) (3.81)

(11.54) (1.06) (1.84) (0.31) (0.52)

Legend: + p<0.10; * p<0.05; ** p<0.01; *** p<0.001; standard errors reported in parentheses.


Table A5. Interactive Effects of Latino Population and Region on Militarization by Type

% Latino % Latino x Midwest % Latino x South % Latino x West Fragmentation Index % African-American % Male Population Density Median Income Unemployment Rate Crime Index Number of Agencies Government Ideology U.S. Forces




Protective Gear







(25.16) (33.27)







-94.645 (93.13)














(27.49) (34.63)







(94.73) (92.94)




























(26.73) (0.07) (2.49) (1.10) (3.65) (0.16) 0.334


(18.14) (0.06) (2.27) (0.95) (2.95) (0.07) (0.26)

(35.04) (0.11) (3.98) (1.65) (6.18) (0.18) (0.54)


(36.22) (0.11) (4.36) (1.94) (6.55) (0.22) (0.46)









(0.09) (0.14)

(0.10) (0.13)

(0.15) (0.24)

(0.17) (0.24)

Legend: + p<0.10; * p<0.05; ** p<0.01; *** p<0.001; standard errors reported in parentheses.



ABSTRACT In this study, we advocate for an expansion of state and federal resources for comprehensive early childhood education. This expansion could help reduce gaps in access to early childhood education based on socioeconomic characteristics. In addition, this expansion could help to address national skills gaps as well as reduce the cost and impact of the school-to-prison pipeline. Expanding funding for early childhood education is in alignment with national efforts to revitalize the P-20 pipeline to meet the needs of a dynamic labor market and ever-changing knowledge-based economy, which particularly impacts groups traditionally facing employment challenges, such as African Americans (Austin, 2008). Early childhood programs can have positive effects on social adjustment outcomes, educational levels, and employment (Chambers et al., 2010). As such, expanding access to early childhood education has the potential to enhance social mobility in the United States through addressing historical and contemporary concerns about programs not serving enough of the nation’s poor children. Keywords: early childhood educational programs, preschool education, early reading proficiency, school-to-prison pipeline 1

Robinsdale Area Schools


Robinsdale Area Schools


Policy Recommendation This study makes one policy recommendation—expand federal and state funding for early childhood educational programming. Expanding funding for early childhood education will positively impact the academic achievement of all students and help disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline. This expansion in funding will increase access to early childhood education, which would help reduce poverty and enhance long term economic competitiveness. The expansion of federal monies should take place through one of two existing sources: additional funding of Title I, which would be reserved for implementing early childhood educational programming; or increased funding of the Preschool Development Grants program. Moreover, the expansion of state monies should come from targeted expansions in general fund appropriations. We endorse a multifaceted approach to providing early childhood programming, which includes private schools and daycare centers. However, the bulk of the expansion in federal and state funding should be distributed to public schools, where (according to the U.S. Department of Education) more than 90% of the nation’s K-12 students enroll. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (2018), early childhood education participation levels are much greater for students from families with greater educational endowments. In 2016, the following participation levels for four-year-old students were realized based on parents’ educational levels: 54% (Graduate Degree); 41% (Bachelor’s Degree); 35% (Associate of Arts Degree); 37% (Some College); 33% (High School Diploma); 30% (less than High School Diploma). Therefore, funding should be increased, at both the federal and state levels, in a manner which does not engage in arbitrage with existing funding for early childhood educational programming or programs serving the nation’s most vulnerable students (i.e. students eligible for free and reduced lunch or special education services). In addition, distributing most of the expansion in funding to public schools would allow enhanced coordination of curriculum and other resources in the educational pipeline for a clear majority of the nation’s students. INTRODUCTION Access to a quality education may be as important to the quest for a more equitable society today as the Brown v. Board of Education ruling was to the United States nearly sixty-five years ago. To ensure greater access to a quality education, our nation must stand 110

with leaders such as Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and make a greater investment in early childhood programs (Van Berkel, 2017). Enhancing funding for early childhood has the potential to enhance national economic competitiveness, reduce educational inequities, and disrupt the expansion of the school-to-prison pipeline. Expanding funding for early childhood education aligns with research that suggests that redirecting resources into early childhood programs enhances high school graduation rates, which could save the nation billions of dollars spent on trying to solve crime through incarceration (Donohue & Siegelman, 1998; Cox, 2015). There is a clear linkage between participating in early childhood educational programs and early reading proficiency, which impacts high school graduation rates as well as the likelihood of future incarceration. Early childhood programs have been found to positively impact early reading proficiency (Isaacs, 2010). Being able to read well by the end of third grade is a strong predictor of high school graduation (Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2010). Not having a high school diploma is a major factor in the probability of future incarceration, particularly for African American males (Kearney & Harris, 2014). This study reviews arguments in the research literature on early childhood programs to examine the case for expanding state and federal resources. The results suggest that increased funding of early childhood education is warranted as an investment to reduce educational gaps based on socioeconomic characteristics; long-term national skills gaps; and the cost and impact of the school-to-prison pipeline. This study is in alignment with national efforts to revitalize the P-20 pipeline to meet the needs of a dynamic labor market and ever-changing knowledge-based economy, which particularly impacts groups traditionally facing employment challenges, such as African Americans (Austin, 2008). HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENTS IN EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION Since the 1930s, public financing for child care and early childhood education in the United States has widely fluctuated (Cohen, 1996). These programs and services have often been funded in an ad hoc fashion, which represents a missed opportunity to create sustained and universal access (Cohen, 1996; Cohen, 2015). For example, Head Start, which is the most continuous early childhood program, has never moved to entitlement status, and faces new committee hearings every few years to be reauthorized for funding (Cohen, 1996). The history of early childhood education in the United States can be marked as beginning in World War II when women replaced enlisted men in munitions produc111

tion. Since this time, there has been a growing awareness of linkages between children’s social-emotional and cognitive development, despite modest initial goals related to providing affordable childcare. Historically, political economy dynamics related to early childhood education have often reinforced the nation’s structural inequities. In fact, some experts argue that ignoring these dynamics will involve pretending children from low socioeconomic backgrounds do not face an estimated 30 to 45 million-word gap at age three compared to their more economically advantaged counterparts, a disparity which is exacerbated by lack of access to print materials in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas (Hart & Risley, 1995; Neuman, 2001; Neuman & Celano, 2001). Emergency nursery schools were established in late 1942 through federal and local money allocated by an amendment to the 1940 Lanham Act, which authorized war-related government grants (Cohen, 2015). In establishing childcare services in communities contributing to defense production, these programs reorganized child-rearing to enable women’s paid labor in the domestic economy to help fortify the United States against its foreign enemies. The enormous program resulted in daycare centers being administered in every state except New Mexico. Spending on the program between 1943 and 1946 exceeded the equivalent of $1 billion today. Each year, approximately 3,000 childcare centers served roughly 130,000 children. By the end of the war, an estimated 550,000 to 600,000 children received some care from Lanham Act programs, although the Department of Labor estimated that Lanham funds made it to only about ten percent of the children in need (Cohen, 2015). There were also many disparities unaddressed by the program. Long before white, middle-class women entered employment in wartime munitions factories, many minority women worked outside of their homes, and poor women did not have the economic means to avoid participating in the labor force (Thompson, 2013). The history of funding for early childhood programs represents many missed opportunities to win our nation’s ongoing fight against poverty, given their potential return on investment. As such, our nation should prioritize investing in the long-term economic competitiveness and social development of our nation through expanding funding for early childhood programs. This expanded funding for early childhood education might provide more societal benefits compared to lower-yielding competing initiatives such as the military and prison industrial complex (Cox, 2015; Dillon, 2009; Mongeau, 2016). For example, the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 estimate of the highest state per-pupil cost (just over $20,000 per year) was significantly lower than the Federal Register’s 2015 112

estimate of the average per-inmate cost (nearly $31,000 per year). The linkages between early childhood participation, early reading proficiency, and high school graduation suggests the efficacy of funding early childhood, especially considering the nearly 70 percent chance African American males without high school diplomas will be imprisoned by their mid-thirties (Kearney & Harris, 2014). Assisting children’s early development is important. The fate of children is largely determined by developing relationships, motor, and language skills during their earliest years (Mongeau, 2016). As such, our nation should ensure that all children have the experiences needed to become healthy and productive adults by expanding funding for early childhood education for three- and four-year old children. However, the United States continues to remain below the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average for participation in early childhood education. Our level of national educational investment in the first five years of children’s lives places the United States decades and dollars behind the rest of the developed world. In fact, the nation ranked thirty-fifth in a 2012 OECD ranking among developed economies. DISRUPTING THE SCHOOL-TO-PRISON PIPELINE Enhancing access to early childhood programs entails providing more comprehensive and sustained funding moving forward. Such funding could be beneficial to more students becoming proficient early readers, which is a predictor of high school graduation. As such, this funding could help disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline, which is often perpetuated by minorities, especially African Americans, being plagued by poverty and lack of education (Cox, 2015; Heckman, 1998). Dillon (2009) makes the connection between education, poverty, and incarceration, arguing that about one in every ten young males who drop out of high school goes to jail or juvenile detention, versus a rate of one in 35 for young male high school graduates. Dropping out of school in the United States damages economic and social prospects for multiple generations, particularly among African-American families. In fact, the incarceration of a parent has been listed as one of the traumatic events that make individuals more likely to experience depression (Murphey & Cooper, 2015). As such, educational interventions must occur earlier and be more sustained to effect change (Hart & Risley, 1995). The United States can disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline by expanding funding for early childhood education, which could prevent the continual jeopardizing of the futures of our most marginalized individuals, families and communities (Gonzalez, 113

2014). Policymakers should make a conscious national decision to shift spending outlays from federal detention to early childhood programs. This type of thinking aligns with the research of Osher, Quinn, Poirier, and Rutherford (2003), which argues that the school to prison pipeline can be disrupted by making investments in programs and initiatives such as preschool, which yields $7.16 in benefits for every $1.00 invested in the form of lower spending outlays and increased tax revenues. THE PROMISE OF INVESTING IN HIGH-QUALITY EARLY CHILDHOOD PROGRAMS Early childhood interventions enrich the environments of children and have positive short-term and long-term educational, social, and economic impacts. For example, Conti, Heckman, and Pinto’s (2015) examination of the long-term impacts on health and healthy behaviors of the Perry Preschool Project and the Carolina Abecedarian Project found support for the potential of early life interventions to prevent disease and promote health. Moreover, Schweinhart et al.’s (2005) examination of midlife outcomes of the Perry Preschool project’s program and non-program participants found that the returns to the public on its initial investment were substantial. These findings from studies of two landmark early childhood educational programs are in alignment with subsequent research from Chambers, Cheung, Slaving, Smith, and Laurenzano (2010) and Bartik (2015), who found that high-quality early childhood programs produce a return on investment of at least $2 for each $1 spent. The benefits found by Bartik were positive human capital development effects on child participants and their parents having enhanced productivity due to the availability of affordable, early childhood child care. To further conceptualize the potential impact of increased early childhood funding, it is illustrative to define how high-quality early childhood programs impact the development of children. The research literature suggests that these programs impact academic skills as well as social-emotional development. For example, research by Chambers et al. (2010) suggests that comprehensive early childhood programs focused broadly on cognitive development and academic skills have positive effects on both social adjustment outcomes and educational and employment levels. This suggests that these programs could enhance the productive capacity of the workforce of the future by positively impacting technical as well as soft skills. As such, these positive effects lead Barnett and Belfield (2006) to suggest that preschool education has the potential to enhance social mobility in the United States, while lamenting that current programs do not serve most of the 114

nation’s poor children. Moreover, Magnuson and Waldfogel (2005) argue that universal enrollment in high-quality center-based childhood or preschools for low-income children could narrow black-white reading gaps by more than 20 percent. DURATION OF THE BENEFITS OF HIGH-QUALITY EARLY CHILDHOOD PROGRAMS Although much research extols the benefits of investing in high-quality early childhood education, consensus is still emerging about how long the positive impacts last. Duncan and Magnuson (2013) reviewed existing early childhood education programs and summarized results from a large body of evaluations. They argue that many programs appear to provide at least a short-term boost to cognitive ability and early school achievement. Further, Conti et al. (2015) find that long-term follow-up studies on a handful of well-known programs show longer lasting positive effects on such outcomes as greater educational attainment, higher earnings, lower rates of crime, and better health outcomes. The lag period between funding early childhood educational programs and realizing the benefits from those programs may present a barrier to policymakers embracing a more significant investment in early childhood education. Most of the benefits are longterm while the costs of funding the programs are immediate, biasing the political system against making such investments (Dickens, Sawhill, & Tebbs, 2006). However, expanding funding for early childhood education programs represents a societal investment, which can generate future returns. For example, a RAND Corporation (2008) analysis of economics research on early childhood programs argued that early childhood programs can generate government savings that repay their costs and produce societal returns (including reduced criminal justice system costs) that outpace most public and private investments. Research on the Perry Preschool Project, for example, found substantial returns on investment after examining participants’ mid-life outcomes (Schweinhart et al., 2015). The percentage of three- to five-year-olds enrolled in full-day preprimary programs increased from 32 percent in 1980 to 58 percent in 2010 (National Center for Education Statistics, 2012). Preprimary programs are groups or classes that are organized to provide educational experiences for children and include kindergarten, preschool, and nursery school programs. However, despite this trend and research extolling the economic and social benefits of expanding funding for high-quality early childhood educational programs, some skepticism among policymakers still exists. In fact, Interlandi (2018) 115

argues that the expansion of early childhood educational programs has been diminished by current federal indifference, as evidenced by the elimination of preschool funding increases in the president’s proposed budget. Interlandi’s concerns align with research by Donohue and Siegelman (1998) that suggests that society should redirect money spent on incarceration towards social programs such as early childhood education targeted to the most at-risk youth, rather than increasing the prison population, to abate crime. Cox (2015) provides calculations that suggest that some of this funding could be paid for in the long run through interventions which, for example, increase the national black male average freshman high school graduation rate to match the white male average. Cox suggests that reaching this goal would lead to yearly savings of over $30 billion in crime. In addition, Hart and Risley (1995) argue that the magnitude of the differences in children’s relative cumulative experiences by age three will be difficult to overcome without expanding access to early childhood education, causing ongoing generational poverty. RESEARCH FINDINGS AND POLICY IMPLICATIONS This systematic review of the research literature yields several findings. First, inequitable access to early childhood educational programs has been an issue in the United States for approximately eighty years. Second, increasing funding for early childhood educational programs can yield substantial returns. Third, policymakers should view expanding funding for early childhood educational programs as a high-yield investment. More funding is needed for early childhood educational programs if the United States is to prioritize making high-yield investments in fighting poverty and inequality over making low-yield investments in the military-prison-industrial complex. Neuman (2001) contends that an educated democracy requires the interaction of knowledge acquisition with other cognitive processes. Gaining these skills starts early, which suggests that educators and policymakers have a vested interest in expanding access to early childhood educational programs. Our nation would reap many benefits from less reluctant and more consistent financial support of these programs (Van Berkel, 2017). Dr. Carlton D. Jenkins has served as Superintendent of Robbinsdale Area Schools (Minnesota) since 2015. Previously, he served as Chief Academic Officer of the Atlanta Public School System; Superintendent of Saginaw, Michigan Public Schools (2010-2014); and Executive Director of Secondary Leaders 116

and High School Principal in the Beloit, Wisconsin Public Schools (2006-2010). Dr. Jenkins has also had extensive experience as a building-level educational leader as High School principal, Columbus, Ohio; and Middle School Principal and Associate High School Principal, Beloit and Madison, Wisconsin. Dr. Stephanie S. Burrage has served as Assistant Superintendent for Robbinsdale Area Schools since 2017. Previously, Dr. Burrage had a broad range of experiences in suburban, rural and urban schools in both Minnesota and Michigan. She most recently served as Assistant Superintendent for Wayne Regional Education Service Agency in Michigan. Dr. Burrage is an experienced instructional leader with an extensive, successful background as a superintendent, CEO, principal and teacher in K-12 and at the university level.

REFERENCES Abdullah-Al-Mamun, M. (2012). The soft skills education for the vocational graduate: Value as work readiness skills. British Journal of Education, Society & Behavioural Science, 2, 326-338. Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2010). Early warning! Why reading by the end of third grade matters. Retrieved from Austin, A. (2008). What a recession means for black America. Economic Policy Institute. Retrieved from Barnett, W. & Belfield, C. (2006). Early childhood development and social mobility. The Future of Children, 16, 73-98. Bartik, T. (2015). Early childhood programs as an economic development tool: Investing early to prepare the future workforce. W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. Retrieved from wifis31c03.pdf. Cappelli, P. (2014). Skill gaps, skill shortages and skill mismatches: Evidence for the US. National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved from w20382.pdf Chambers, B., Cheung, A., Slaving, R., Smith, D., & Laurenzano, M. (2010). Effective early childhood education programmes: A systematic review. Best Evidence Encyclopedia. Retrieved from 117

Cohen, A. (1996). A brief history of federal financing for child care in the United States. The Future of Children, 6, 26-40. Cohen, R. (2015, November 18). Who took care of Rosie the Riveter’s kids? The Atlantic. Retrieved from Conti, G., Heckman, J., & Pinto, R. (2015). The effects of two influential early childhood interventions on health and healthy behaviors. National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved from Cox, R. (2015). Where do we go from here? Mass incarceration and the struggle for civil rights. Economic Policy Institute. Retrieved from Dickens, W., Sawhill, I., & Tebbs, J. (2006). The effects of investing in early education on economic growth. Brookings Institute. Retrieved from wp-content/uploads/2016/07/200604dickenssawhill.pdf Dillon, S. (2009, October 8). Study finds a high rate of imprisonment among dropouts. New York Times. Retrieved from 09dropout.html Donohue III, J., & Siegelman, P. (1998). Allocating resources among prisons and social programs in the battle against crime. The Journal of Legal Studies, 27, 1-43. Duncan, G. & Magnuson, K. (2013). Investing in preschool programs. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 27, 109-132. doi:10.1257/jep.27.2.109 Gonzalez, M. (2014). Could universal pre-k disrupt the school to prison pipeline? The Century Foundation. Retrieved from Hart, B., & Risley, T. (1995). The early catastrophe: The 30 million-word gap by age 3. American Federation of Teachers. Retrieved from files/periodicals/TheEarlyCatastrophe.pdf Heckman, J. (1998). Detecting discrimination. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 12, 101116.


Interlandi, J. (2018). Why are our most important teachers paid the least? New York Times Magazine. Retrieved from Isaacs, J. (2009). Impacts of early childhood programs. Brookings Institute. Retrieved from isaacs.pdf Jacob, R. & Parkinson, J. (2015). The potential for school-based interventions that target executive function to improve academic achievement: A review. Review of Educational Research, 85, 512 –552. doi:10.3102/0034654314561338 Kearney, M. & Harris, B. (2014). Ten economic facts about crime and incarceration. Brookings Institute. Retrieved from Magnuson, K., & Waldfogel, J. (2005). Early childhood care and education: Effects on ethnic and racial gaps in school readiness. Future of Children, 15, 169-196. Mongeau, L. (2016, July 12). Why does America invest so little in its children? The Atlantic.Retrieved from Murphey, D. & Cooper, P. (2015). Parents behind bars. Child Trends. Retrieved from pdf Neuman, S. (2001). The role of knowledge in early literacy. Reading Research Quarterly, 36, 468-475. Neuman, S., & Celano, D. (2001). Access to print in low-income and middle-income communities: an ecological study of four neighborhoods. Reading Research Quarterly, 36, 8-26. Osher, D., Quinn, M., Poirier, J., & Rutherford, R. (2003). Deconstructing the pipeline: Using efficacy and effectiveness data and cost-benefit analyses to reduced minority youth incarceration. New Directions for Youth Development, 99, 91-120. doi:10.1002/yd.56 RAND Corporation. (2008). What does economics tell us about early childhood policy? Retrieved from RAND_RB9352.pdf 119

Schweinhart, L., Montie, J., Xiang, Z., Barnett, W., Belfield, C., & Nores, M. (2005). Lifetime effects: The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study through Age 40. Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope Educational Research Foundation. Thompson, D. (2013, November 6). The workforce is even more divided by race than you think. The Atlantic. Retrieved from archive/2013/11/the-workforce-is-even-more-divided-by-race-than-youthink/281175/ Toldson, I. (2011). Breaking barriers 2: Plotting the path away from juvenile detention and toward academic success for school-age African American males. Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. Retrieved from BreakingBarriers2.pdf. U.S. Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics. (2018). Digest of Education Statistics, 2016 (NCES 2017-094), Chapter 1. Retrieved from https:// U.S. Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics. (2012). The condition of education. Retrieved from U.S. Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics. (2018). The condition of education. Retrieved from Van Berkel, J. (2017, August 4). More children headed to pre-k this fall after state adds nearly $50 million for early learning. Minneapolis Star Tribune. Retrieved from



ABSTRACT This article examines attacks on voting rights protections since Shelby County v. Holder (2013) to highlight a “systems view” of public policy formation and to explain why black political engagement in the 21st century must no longer privilege presidency-centered approaches to governance if blacks want to advance the cause of universal freedom. Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion in Shelby County v. Holder (2013), many black advocacy organizations rightly called upon President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to act against malfeasance in election administration and against voter identification laws that were likely to have racially disparate effects. Opponents of the decision seemingly did not respond to equally intense calls for higher levels of voting, canvassing, and political philanthropy during the subsequent election cycles. While most Americans embrace sporadic engagement and attune to high-profile contests, blacks pay a heftier price than do whites for doing so because racial inequality makes certain populations especially vulnerable to shifts in social welfare policy. A systems view accentuates the constellation of factors shaping policy rather than singling out particular actors. A systems view of protecting black interests must draw attention to two things: one, how a 1

Department of Political Science, University of Maryland, Baltimore County.


Department of Political Science, University of California, Los Angeles.


multifaceted, holistic, and habitual civic engagement strategy plan provides more points of leverage than does one favoring federal elections; and two, why the effects of certain electoral outcomes can ripple across time and space. Black advocacy organizations should promulgate a systems view of engagement given the necessity of enhancing black internal and external efficacy in the post-Obama Era. Keywords: civic engagement, voting rights protection, voter ID laws, downstream effects, systems view Policy Recommendations


In the wake of heightened skepticism about the benefits of voting and given the prominent role of social media platforms, civic organizations should intensify efforts to promote policy-relevant civic awareness campaigns that specifically engage persons 16 to 35-years old.

Social and traditional media personalities should develop new strategies to raise public awareness about forestalled legislation in Congress that would address deceptive practices, that would equalize access to voting technologies, and that call for automated voter registration.

Organizations should develop stronger recruitment tools to get young blacks involved in the administrative aspects of “election protection”—understanding the impact of poll workers, election judges, and election officials on election outcomes—so that young blacks see “election protection” as more than hotline reporting and reports of electoral malfeasance.

Civic organizations should leverage every opportunity to work with state election officials to advocate for election reforms that lower barriers to participation for youth voters and members of the rising electorate; for example, we recommend consideration of national legislation that would allow young people to pre-register at the ages of 16 and 17 (with their registration becoming active on their 18th birthday) as a way of enhancing the socialization and incorporation of youth into the political system.

Black advocacy organizations should explore formal partnerships with professional associations within the social science disciplines to develop teaching modules, research collaborations, and summer institutes that emphasize a direct connection between high-salience social justice issues, such as law enforcement accountability, access to quality education, environmental jus-

tice, affordable housing, and prison reform, and “down-ballot” contests, such as those for District Attorney and state Attorney General, and the quality of black socioeconomic life. INTRODUCTION While many black activists, voters, and political figures currently decry the two major facets of the American constitutional system – separation of powers and federalism – as barriers to the substantive change they rightly seek, on closer examination it is the interdependence of governmental units and political leaders that is the key to stymieing the corrosive effects of racism on the black socioeconomic condition. Heralded and anonymous civil rights leaders of today and of yesteryear understood and understand, respectively, that challenging systemic oppression requires unpacking the constitutive components of political, social, economic, and cultural power differentials. That orientation to think, to strategize, and to act in ways that acknowledge the interlocking and symbiotic nature of oppressive structures was prominent (although not always ubiquitous) during much of the black protest, black suffragist, and Black Power activities of the mid-to-late twentieth century. Briefly put, practitioners and scholars of black politics could ill afford to adopt any other orientation if they accepted the premise that the goal of black politics was to advance universal freedom—“a freedom that encompasses natural rights, civil rights, and social rights”—while rejecting freedoms based solely on the sovereignty to control or do harm to others or “the freedom of might makes right” (Walton and Smith, 2012). But, as many scholars have documented, some within black politics did ignore intersectionality (Crenshaw, 1991), did ignore the heterogeneity in black ideological thought (Dawson, 2003), did promote what Cathy Cohen calls “secondary marginalization” (Cohen, 1999), and did weaponize “black respectability” to shape the ways in which communities engaged in political activity, understood public policy, and talked about black ideological heterogeneity (Harris-Lacewell, 2004; Harris-Perry, 2013). Caught in the thralls of these forces which, as Cathy Cohen observed, tried to police the “boundaries of blackness” and of black politics, black disenchantment about the strategies used to secure universal freedom was not unexpected. And, set alongside other forces that weakened the American social safety net, perpetuated racial and class disparities, and seemed to privilege partisan theatrics over finding common ground, it was logical for many Americans to disengage from politics and to reject affiliation with the two-party system (Putnam, 2000; White, 2012). This enabled the most attentive, ideologically committed, and politically active voters and donors to deepen their hold on primary elections, midterm elections, and contests down the ballot. 123

That a relatively small portion of the American electorate holds a disproportionate sway over its political landscape despite challenges from grassroots agitators—from Occupy Wall Street3 to the Fight for Fifteen4—and despite reform efforts within the two major political party organizations is unsurprising. Nor is it unsurprising that the 2008 presidential election of Illinois U.S. Senator Barack Obama did not usher in an era of “post-racialism” or that the 2012 reelection of President Obama did not destabilize the potent link between race and economic anxiety. That many voters in the 2016 presidential election cycle embraced non-traditional candidates and political outsiders, some of whom overtly railed against politicians they would have to work with to secure legislative victories, was unsurprising. Yet, what remained surprising throughout the 2012 – 2016 election cycles and what remains surprising today is the ease with which proponents of disengagement tacitly invoke patriotism and civic duty to explain their position: Contemporary popular narratives about politics and about voting persistently exalt disengagement as noble or obligatory—the former idea presents not voting as a virtuous protest against corruption and exclusion, whereas the latter idea presents not voting as a necessary rescission to punish bad behavior. We find these narratives problematic. Holding aside our unwavering support for the right of Americans not to vote (and to do so without fear of conscription or monetary penalty), we take a decidedly different perspective on the cumulative effect of black disengagement on the black socioeconomic condition in America. That is, we assert that disengagement and sporadic engagement (i.e., non-habitual voting; political activity that is largely confined to voting, and political activity that is limited to influencing a small configuration of election contests) is problematic for under-represented Americans in general, and more specifically detrimental for the representation of black interests in the post-Obama Era. Furthermore, we contend the following: First, narratives that proselytize black disengagement traffic in the language of a “presidency-centered” view of American politics 3

Beginning in September 2011 and originating from New York City’s Zuccotti Park in the city’s financial district, the Occupy Wall Street movement was a series of leaderless protests, squat-ins/camp outs, and marches denouncing income inequality. See Heather Gautney, “Occupy Wall Street Movement,” The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Social and Political Movements (Malden, MA: Wiley, 2013).


The Fight for $15 is an ongoing workers’ rights movement throughout the United States aimed at both raising the minimum wage to $15 and protecting the right to unionize. While the ‘Fight for $15’ originated as a rallying cry supporting the rights of New York City service industry workers in 2012, the fight clearly harkens back to the campaigns for jobs, justice, and equality of the Civil Rights Movement. See


that largely presents Congress as a subordinate institution, if not an enabling institution that services the whims of the party holding the Oval Office; second, viewing American constitutionalism through a “presidency-centered” prism places a premium on the primary and general election season in ways that sidestep the import of the two prior general election cycles; and third, strengthening American attachment to a “presidency-centered” model of governance is counterproductive to advancing or protecting black interests. We examine attacks on voting rights protections since the Supreme Court majority opinion in Shelby County v. Holder (2013) to illustrate a key fallacy within a “presidency-centered” model of governance. We then examine Census data on black registration and turnout and examine black attitudes toward engagement in the 2016 election cycle to promote a “systems view” of advancing and protecting black interests. Finally, we recommend that black advocacy organizations do more to promulgate a “systems view” of engagement in order to both counteract threats to black internal and external efficacy in the post-Obama Era and reignite what we see as the civic dimensions of black politics. SHELBY COUNTY V. HOLDER AND THE LIMITS OF PRESIDENCY-CENTERED BLACK POLITICS Much has been written about the Supreme Court’s majority opinion in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder (2013) and about how the Court’s decision affected voting rights. We will not revisit that literature here, but we will briefly point out three facets of the decision that support the “presidency-centered” view of American constitutionalism and support the proselytization of disengagement. First, the Court majority invalidated congressional actions in 2006 that amended and reauthorized provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that both retained the coverage formula provision (Section 4) that gave operative force to the federal preclearance regime in the law (Section 5) and established the number of years covered jurisdictions would have to comply with federal oversight over their election-related policies (King-Meadows, 2011). Congress had conducted twenty-one hearings and had amassed a record of over 15,000 pages during the 2006 legislative process. The final 2006 VRA bill also had amassed the largest level of bipartisan support provided to prior reauthorization and amendment plans: The House passed the measure 390-33 and the Senate passed the measure 98-0; President Bush signed the law in July 2006. But the 2013 Supreme Court was unpersuaded by the evidence Congress had amassed; the Court asserted that Congress had not effectively complied with the Court’s prior interpretation of the Fifteenth Amendment and what that interpretation required Congress to do when creating legislation to enforce the Amendment. The Court 125

majority in Shelby wrote, “The Amendment is not designed to punish for the past; its purpose is to ensure a better future.” The Court majority also wrote that Congress could not “rely simply on the past” and that Congress had not identified “those jurisdictions to be singled out on a basis that makes sense in light of current conditions” when Congress differentiated the states via the 2006 amendment and reauthorization actions. In effect, the Court used the Shelby County case to reanimate long-held skepticism about race conscious policies and to exhume arguments that the “federalism costs” associated with the extraordinary provisions were too high for a system premised on district-level and state-level constitutionally constrained representative democracy (King-Meadows, 2011). Second, in the aftermath of the Shelby County decision, a number of states moved forward with plans to propose or enact stringent laws and procedures governing access to the ballot, with many of those states opting for voter identification laws (see Figure 1). Enactment of these laws was swift, as were the lawsuits challenging enactment; many challengers rightly pointed out that such laws would not have survived the preclearance regime (e.g., some states may have been unable to deflect claims that their ballot access laws did not or would not have racially disparate impacts). Third, proponents of strengthening the VRA and of a congressional repudiation of Shelby County, like the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC)—collectively known as the “Congressional Tri-Caucus”— were unable to persuade their legislative colleagues to take up the two challenges. Each challenge had its own set of political and operational uncertainties. Some observers applauded the Shelby County decision as a victory for federalism and a repudiation of black claims that covered jurisdictions were perpetual bad actors. Other observers lambasted the decision as both a threat to congressional authority and a thinly veiled repudiation of the federal preclearance regime itself—the Court had invalidated the formula determining where the prophylactic would be applied; it did not invalidate the preclearance regime. Nonetheless, civil rights organizations noted that the Court had essentially set aside a proactive arrangement designed to vet proposed changes in favor of a reactive arrangement wherein constituents would have to show harm.


Figure 1: Timeline of Voter Identification Law Enactments, 2000-2016 Source: Authors’ adaptation of data from National Conference of State Legislatures: research/elections-and-campaigns/voter-id-history.aspx#Chart

Many black advocacy organizations also rightly called upon President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to act against malfeasance in election administration and against voter identification laws that were likely to have racially disparate effects. Holder did act. 5 However, a myriad of circumstances muted the energy aimed at mobilizing members of Congress to act, e.g., redistricting, polarization, party brand management, majority party control over the House legislative process, executive-Senate conflict over judicial nominees, foreign policy debates, the 2013 recess, concentrated racial poverty, campaign finance debates, and the 2014 campaign season. In the end, black voters and their allies simply did not occupy enough leverage points across the American constitutional system to influence a majority of members in both parties to act. Blacks rightfully looked to President Obama to protect black voting rights; however, President Obama 5


For example, in August 2013, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it would file a lawsuit against the State of Texas over the voter photo identification law (SB14) seeking a declaration that the provision violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act as well as the “voting guarantees of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments”. The DOJ also filed a Section 2 claim against the Texas 2011 congressional and assembly redistricting plans, and the DOJ requested that Texas’ redistricting and voter identification plans be subject to the Section 3 “bail-in” provision of the Voting Rights Act to remedy “persistent, intentional discrimination in voting within the state.” In September 2013, the DOJ took similar action to challenge voting changes in North Carolina per Section 2 and requesting Section 3 bail-in.

could not realistically deliver a more permanent solution. Because the Court put the onus on Congress to modernize Section 4, the locus of control over voting rights policy essentially shifted back to the states. Absent formidable influence over state levers of power, black voters and their allies were left vulnerable to the whims of governors and state assemblies. Absent influence over the selection, appointment, and confirmation of judges, black voters were doubly vulnerable. The key fallacy in viewing American politics through the “presidentialism” prism is that the president is and will remain the dominant political actor amongst a constellation of actors and across varied levels of government (Diamond, 1999; Nelson, 2008). For some scholars, American presidentialism is a mix of wishful thinking, misplaced nostalgia, and distortion of the Constitution and democratic theory, and is a troubling reflexive response to authoritarianism near and far (c.f. Nelson 2008). For other scholars, American presidentialism cannot be disconnected from citizen angst over congressional deliberation and partisan gridlock. If a president’s power ultimately rests on the power to persuade, a president needs a narrative which will inspire and cajole; a narrative that promises retribution for defection and reward for allegiance; a narrative that mobilizes allies across branches and parties. In essence, to be effective, a president must acknowledge being situated within a system whereby Congress and the presidency share power and responsibilities—a view of executive-legislative relations that Mark Peterson (1993) describes as “tandem institutions [which constitute] the major components of the American legislative decision-making system.” Public policy outcomes are therefore the outgrowth of repetitive negotiations across and within branches of government rather than the outgrowth of a president’s power to outright dominate the legislative branch. Put differently, “tandem institutions” means that no branch always holds the subordinate position—the interconnectedness of actors, veto points, and multidimensional preferences requires nimbleness. More important, because “tandem institutions” is an anathema to American “presidentialism” (Diamond, 1999; Nelson, 2008), “tandem institutions” also explains the ascendancy of American-style “parliamentarism” (Mann & Ornstein, 2016). The latter, as a style of governance, offers no incentives for bipartisan compromise. Not only does Congress’s majority-rule framework privilege ideological polarization, brand loyalty, and strict control over committee behavior in Congress, partisans demand that politicians affiliating with their party display fidelity to the party brand and the party platform. To borrow the language of principal-agent theory, constituents (as principals) must select, monitor, reward, and punish multiple politicians (as agents) if they seek to wield iterative political influence within an American-style “parliamentary” system. Institutions and practices therefore that effectively 128

dilute the reach of black voters, the attention of black voters, the acumen of black voters, or the ability to elect candidates of choice service the goal of de jure disenfranchisement even if no black voter is formally denied the right to vote. A SYSTEMS VIEW OF PROTECTING BLACK INTEREST We champion a “systems view” of American politics because it does two things: One, a “systems view” foregrounds the multiple actors and iterative aspects of wielding political leverage to protect one’s interests; two, a systems view encourages constituents to see voting as one civic engagement strategy among many. Set alongside the work of Hanes Walton (1988), Linda Faye Williams (2003) and Charles S. Bullock and Charles M. Lamb (1984), the insights of management theory, biology, organizational leadership, sociology, and ecology adeptly underscore why a “systems view” approach to black politics can help avoid the fallacy of presidentialism and the dangers of presidentialism. Mele, Pels, and Polese (2010) summarize “systems theory” as follows: “Systems theory is an interdisciplinary theory about every system in nature, in society and in many scientific domains as well as a framework with which we can investigate phenomena from a holistic approach” (p. 126). The authors continue, “The systemic perspective argues that we are not able to fully comprehend a phenomenon simply by breaking it up into elementary parts and then reforming it; we instead need to apply a global vision to underline its functioning” (p. 126). As such, a system, like a presidential democracy containing (or one contained within) a party system that also has other actors who can wield power to make policy (e.g., legislators, state officials, and local leaders), is a “complex institutional constellation with interaction effects” (Kaiser, 1997, p. 423). Because the interactions between policy makers matter, those interactions can shape the “conditions under which [civil rights] policy goals are not achieved and the reasons for such failures” (Bullock and Lamb, 1984 p. 2). Stakeholders controlling one or multiple veto points within the American institutional constellation can employ strategies that strengthen or weaken voting rights enforcement (King-Meadows, 2011; Walton, 1988; Bullock & Lamb, 1984), that stabilize or destabilize social stratification, and that constrain or expand coalitions (Williams, 2003). A “systems view” of black political participation calls attention to the cumulative negative effects of not voting in one election or of not voting for specific offices. These are downstream effects.


Figure 2: Trends in Voter Turnout, 1980-2016 by Racial Group Source: American Community Survey:

A quick look at Census data on voter turnout underscores how downstream effects can materialize in unexpected ways. The information in Figure 2 shows a trend of punctuated participation across each racial group. The racial gap in turnout disappeared in 2008, but it reappeared in subsequent elections. An analysis of data from the Current Population Survey Voting and Registration Supplements reveals a generational gap in participation and significant decline in participation during midterm elections. In 2012, 49 percent of voters aged 18-24 reported having voted. In 2014, that dropped by 30 percentage points. In 2012, 72 percent of voters aged 45 to 64 reported having voted. In 2014, only 48 percent of this age cohort reported having voted (a 24 percent decline). The decline between 2012 and 2014 was 31 percentage points for voters 25 to 44 (from 65 percent to 34 percent). According to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures, the following number of seats were in contention during the 2014 election cycle: 435 U.S. House; 36 U.S. Senate; 36 gubernatorial; and 6,049 state legislative seats. NCSL also reported that there were more than 150 ballot questions put before the voters. Many of those 36 Senate contests were in states with hefty black populations, including Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Delaware, North Carolina, Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, South Carolina, and Texas. Because the Senate is critically important in shaping 130

the composition of the federal judiciary and the composition of the bureaucracy (via the Advice and Consent clause in Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution), non-voters in senatorial elections concede their power to voters and give up one type of opportunity to affect the direction and content of public policy at Time 1 (say 2015) and at Time 2 (say 2016). Moreover, voters in 2014 were able to shape the composition of influencers within the two major party organizations who would help shape the party platform at the presidential nominating convention. Take, as an example, the role of “superdelegates” in the 2008 and 2016 Democratic National Convention. A 2014 Democratic voter in Virginia who voted for the successful Democratic senatorial candidate positioned that candidate to have a prominent voice, vote, and impact during the 2016 presidential nominating convention that summer. Put differently, that person who voted during the 2014 U.S. Senate contest rode the multiplicative and interactive effect of that decision into the 2016 contest for the Democratic presidential nomination. Imagine that! A 2014 November vote for one office helped shape who would be nominated for a different office in July 2016. Conversely, a registered Democratic voter who sat out in 2014 did not have the same degree of leverage in shaping the 2016 presidential nominating contest or the party platform. Here we are not saying that the Democratic non-voter was devoid of leverage— of course she may have voted in the primaries or may have engaged in other ways—all we are pointing out here is that voting and not voting matter in ways that often go underappreciated. Votes cast during gubernatorial elections have a similar story. Non-voters concede one type of power to influence state policy, to weigh in on nominations to the federal district court, and to affect the composition of state boards and commissions. Map 1 depicts the geographic distribution of voter ID laws in 2018. It is important to note that the location and content of the more stringent laws, demarked by darker states, track with some jurisdictions originally covered by the coverage formula and the preclearance regime that the Shelby County decision invalidated and set in suspended status, respectively. Notably, the enactment of these laws steadily accelerated post-2000, precisely when the trajectory of black turnout began to climb, and exploded after Shelby with a number of states delaying introduction or enactment of stricter forms of voter id legislation in anticipation of the Shelby decision. While many observers concede that the 2008 Supreme Court ruling in Crawford v. Marion County may have accelerated the pace at which these laws were adopted, observers also note the correlation between a state’s sociodemographic makeup and the enactment of these laws.


Map 1: Types of Voter ID Laws in Effect in 2018 Source: Authors’ adaptation of data from National Conference of State Legislatures: research/elections-and-campaigns/voter-id.aspx#Table%201

Finally, we proffer a “systems view” perspective to underscore why voters (and donors) must give greater attention to how particular types of engagement may reinforce each other. The results in Table 1, taken from an analysis of black respondents on the 2016 Collaborative Multiracial Post-Election Survey, illustrate generational differences in perceptions of the importance of voting and engaging in other civic activities aimed at influencing political decisions. The first cluster of results shows that only 56.8 percent of blacks aged 18 to 35 years old (i.e., the Post-Millennial and Millennial Generations) believed that voting was the most important or more important than most activities compared to 71.7 percent of blacks aged 36 to 51 years old (i.e., Generation X). Overall, older blacks were more likely than their younger counterparts to see voting as the most important compared to other political activities. An interesting similarity across generations 132

emerges when looking down the third column, Mean Civic Engagement Score. The mean scores for the generations were 2.8 (Post-Millennial and Millennial), 2.7 (Generation X), 3.2 (Baby Boomer Generation), and 4.3 (Silent and Greatest Generation). Respondents in each generation who embraced voting as the most important activity were more likely to have higher Mean Civic Engagement Scores than did respondents with a different opinion. Notably, all respondents who saw voting as “not important at all” were also less likely to engage in other ways. Table 1: Generational Differences in Black Perceptions of the Importance of Voting and Participation in Civic Engagement Activities Outside Voting, 2016 CMPS Generation

Percentage (Number)

Mean Civic Engagement Score

Most Important

34.3 (401)

3.2 [2.9,3.6]

As Important as Other Activities

23.1 (270)

2.5 [2.1,2.9]

Post Millennial and Millennial Generation More Important than Most Not as Important

Not Important at All

Generation X

22.5 (263) 11.5 (134) 8.6 (100)

3.3 [2.9,3.6] 1.9 [1.4,2.5] 1.6 [1.3,2.0]

Most Important

52.3 (463)

2.9 [2.7,3.2]

As Important as Other Activities

17.5 (155)

2.3 [1.9,2.7]

More Important than Most Not as Important

Not Important at All

Baby Boomer Generation Most Important

More Important than Most

As Important as Other Activities Not as Important

Not Important at All

Silent and Greatest Generation Most Important

More Important than Most

As Important as Other Activities Not as Important

Not Important at All

19.4 (172) 5.3 (47) 5.5 (48)

3.2 [2.7,3.6] 1.7 [1.0,2.4] 1.6 [1.0,2.2]

69.1 (632)

3.6 [3.3, 3.8]

8.5 (78)

2.2 [1.6,2.9]

15.6 (143) 3.3 (30) 3.5 (32)

2.8 [2.3,3.4] 2.4 [1.1,3.7] 1.6 [0.3,2.8]

76.4 (96)

4.1 [3.3,4.9]

3.8 (5)

5.0 [1.6,8.3]

16.7 (21) 0.6 (1) 2.4 (3)

5.3 [3.5,7.2] 0.0 [0.0,0.0] 3.8 [3.3,4.3]

Notes: Results are for registered and non-registered black respondents. The importance of voting was derived from the question, “How important do you think it is to vote, compared to other political activities?” The 133

Civic Engagement Score was derived from summing “yes/no” answers to these questions: In the last twelve months, have you (1) Discussed politics with family and friends? (2) Worked for a candidate, political party, or some other campaign organization? (3) Contributed money to a candidate, political party, ballot issue, or some other campaign organization? (4) Worn a campaign button, or posted a campaign sign or sticker? (5) Contacted an elected representative or a government official in the U.S. in any way—such as through writing a letter, emailing, calling, or in person—about a policy or issue you care about? (6) Contacted in any way, such as by letter, telephone, internet, or in person, a government office about a problem you have or to get help or information? (7) Worked or cooperated with others to try to solve a problem affecting your city or neighborhood? (8) Discussed a candidate or political issue on social media like Facebook or Twitter? (9) Attended a protest march, demonstration, or rally? (10) Signed a petition regarding an issue or problem that concerns you? (11) Boycotted a company or product for political reasons? (12) Attended a meeting to discuss issues facing the community? Confidence interval of means reported in brackets. Source: 2016 Collaborative Multiracial Post-Election Survey (CMPS), Black sample, weighted N.

The recommendations that follow are intended to help readers counteract threats to black internal and external efficacy in the post-Obama Era and to help organizations reignite the civic dimensions of black politics:


In the wake of heightened skepticism about the benefits of voting and given the prominent role of social media platforms, civic organizations should intensify efforts to promote policy-relevant civic awareness campaigns that specifically engage persons 16 to 35-years old.

Social and traditional media personalities should develop new strategies to raise public awareness about forestalled legislation in Congress that would address deceptive practices, that would equalize access to voting technologies, and that call for automated voter registration.

Organizations should develop stronger recruitment tools to get young blacks involved in the administrative aspects of “election protection”—understanding the impact of poll workers, election judges, and election officials on election outcomes—so that young blacks see “election protection” as more than hotline reporting and reports of electoral malfeasance.

Civic organizations should leverage every opportunity to work with state election officials to advocate for election reforms that lower barriers to participation for youth voters and members of the rising electorate; for example, we recommend consideration of national legislation that would allow young people to pre-register at the age of 16 and 17 (with their registration becoming active on their 18th birthday) as a way of enhancing the socialization and incorporation of youth into the political system.

Black advocacy organizations should explore formal partnerships with professional associations within the social science disciplines to develop teaching modules, research collaborations, and summer institutes that emphasize a direct connection between high-salience social justice issues, such as law enforcement accountability, access to quality education, environmental justice, affordable housing, and prison reform, and “down-ballot” contests, such as those for District Attorney and state Attorney General, and the quality of black socioeconomic life.

Dr. Tyson King-Meadows is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and the Associate Dean for Research and College Affairs of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He also holds affiliate appointments in the Department of Africana Studies, the School of Public Policy, and the Maryland Institute for Policy, Analysis, and Research. His research foci include public opinion, congressional politics, racial diversity in representation, voting rights, and black political behavior. His books include When the Letter Betrays the Spirit: Voting Rights Enforcement and African American Participation from Lyndon Johnson to Barack Obama (2011); Devolution and Black State Legislators: Challenges and Choices in the Twenty-first Century (with Thomas F. Schaller, 2006); and African American Leadership: A Reference Guide (2015). Dr. King-Meadows has held research appointments at the University of Ghana, Harvard University, Princeton University, and Johns Hopkins University. In 2012-2013, Dr. King-Meadows was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association where he served as a full-time staffer with the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on the Judiciary. Dr. King-Meadows is a former president of the National Conference of Black Political Scientists and currently serves in various leadership capacities throughout the discipline of political science. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from North Carolina Central University and graduate degrees in Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Shakari Nichele Byerly is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where she studies voting behavior, public opinion, political communication, and black politics. She is currently working on two projects. The first is a study of the role collective memory of the voting rights struggle plays in motivating voting behavior among black voters across generational cohorts. The second is a critical discourse analysis of media representations of public opinion across race, gender, and class, and the implications these representations have on agenda-setting within the context of U.S. political campaigns and elections. Ms. Byerly is a former Manager of the California Governance Project at the Center for Governmental Studies, is a former Fellow with the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California (USC) Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences, is a former California State Assembly Fellow, and is currently an advisor to the California Legislative Black Caucus. Ms. Byerly holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the UCLA Meyer and Renee Luskin School of Public Affairs and a Bachelor’s Degree, Cum Laude, in Government from Dartmouth College.


REFERENCES Barreto, M. A., Frasure-Yokley, L., Vargas, E. D., & Wong, J. (2017). Collaborative Multi-racial Post-election Survey (CMPS), 2016 [Data file]. Los Angeles, CA. Retrieved from Barreto, M. A., Frasure-Yokley, L., Vargas, E. D., & Wong, J. (2018). Best practices in collecting online data with Asian, Black, Latino, and White respondents: Evidence from the 2016 Collaborative Multiracial Post-election Survey. Politics, Groups, and Identities, 6(1), 171-180. Retrieved from 1419433 Bullock, C. S. & Lamb, C. L. (1984). Implementation of civil rights policy. Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company. Cohen, C. J. (1999). The boundaries of blackness: AIDS and the breakdown of black politics. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. Stanford Law Review, 43(6), 1241-1299. Dawson, M. C. (2003). Black visions: The roots of contemporary African-American political ideologies. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Diamond, L. (1999). Developing democracy: Towards consolidation. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University. Harris-Lacewell, M. V. (2004). Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday talk and black political thought. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Harris-Perry, M. V. (2013). Sister citizen: Shame, stereotypes, and black women in America. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Kaiser, A. (1997). Types of democracy: From classical to new institutionalism. Journal of Theoretical Politics, 2(4), 414-444. King-Meadows, T. D. (2011). When the letter betrays the spirit: Voting rights enforcement and African American participation from Lyndon Johnson to Barack Obama. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield.


Mann, T. E. & Ornstein, N. J. (2016). It’s even worse than it looks was: How the American constitutional system collided with the new politics of extremism. New York, NY: Basic Books. Mele, C., Pels, J., & Polese, F. (2010). A brief review of systems theories and their managerial applications. Service Science, 2(1-2), 126-135. Nelson, D. D. (2008). Bad for democracy: How the presidency undermines the power of the people. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. Peterson, M. (1993). Legislating together: The White House and Capitol Hill from Eisenhower to Reagan. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. Walton, H. (1988). When the marching stopped: The politics of civil rights regulatory agencies. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. Walton, H., & Smith, R. C. (2012). American politics and the African American quest for universal freedom (6th ed.). New York, NY: Longman. White, J. K. (2009). Barack Obama’s America: How new conceptions of race, family, and religion ended the Reagan Era. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press. Williams, L. F. (2003). The constraint of race: Legacies of white skin privilege in America. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press.



ABSTRACT This article delineates the Congressional Black Caucus’ (CBC) contribution to the education of black people in the United States, from its inception in 1971 to present. The CBC was founded when the legal segregation of Black people in education recently ended with Brown versus the Board of Education. However, widespread discriminatory practices threatened educational equality for African Americans. This article describes the cultural climate and context influencing the CBC’s earliest policy positions on education. The article also gives an overview of the CBC’s actions and educational agenda during the final quarter of the 20th century. Finally, the article outlines more recent educational policy positions of the CBC during the first two decades of the 21st Century. Keywords: African Americans, Public schools, Congressional Black Caucus, School desegregation, No Child Left Behind Act, Racial integration, Higher education, Educational policy Policy recommendations 1. Continue to evaluate and refine the the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), the Higher Education Act of 1965, and the TRIO programs, in every iteration, making sure that the parameters and mandates protect the educational rights of African Americans. 138

2. Fully enforce federal level educational mandates of the legal right to an individualized educational program, free and appropriate public education, fair discipline, and the least restrictive environment, to prevent backchannels used to discriminate against Black people in education. 3. Academic scholars should regularly monitor, support and advise on the educational actions of conscious members of Congress, including relevant bills, budget negotiations, and support and objections to executive-level educational programs. INTRODUCTION For most of the period between Reconstruction and the creation of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) in 1971, discriminatory practices in public and private education were legal. Most states in the southern region of the United States, which comprised the Confederacy during the Civil War, operated segregated schools, which were found to be legal by the Supreme Court Case, Plessy v. Ferguson (Deever, 1994). Although Plessy v. Ferguson mandated that schools be “separate but equal,” segregated states offered substandard educational facilities and resources to Black students. In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Brown v. Board of Education (Araiza & Medina, 2011) held that separate schools were fundamentally unequal and illegal because they forced inferior education on students because of their race. After the Brown (1951) decision, severe civil unrest erupted in U.S. states that were operating segregated schools and colleges. Black people, and nonblack people who supported integration, suffered violence, harassment, and intimidation for attempting to comply with federal mandates (Leeson, 1966). During this time, many Black civil rights leaders emerged to raise public awareness of the pervasive discriminatory practices and open defiance of federal educational mandates. Often through military action, the federal government under the Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy presidential administrations had to force the integration of public schools (Santoro, 2008). Several civil rights leaders, and many citizens, were murdered for their role in the fight against racial discrimination. After President Kennedy was assassinated, President Lyndon B. Johnson, in collaboration with many Black members of Congress and civil rights leaders, continued efforts to protect Black people from unlawful maneuvers by many educational institutions to maintain discriminatory practices (Santoro, 2008). During the Great Society pro139

grams, legislation was crafted to create programs and resources so that Black people could recover from over a century of discrimination and over 400 years of slavery. Specific legislation that passed during this period included the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), the Higher Education Act of 1965, and the TRIO programs, which were designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds (West, 1968). Several years later, in 1969, the “Democratic Select Committee” was founded by a group of Black members of the House of Representatives, including Representative Shirley Chisholm of New York, Representative Louis Stokes of Ohio and Representative William L. Clay of Missouri (Barnett, 1975). The CBC was founded in 1971, six years after Congress passed the boldest legislative initiatives to resolve educational inequities in the history of the U.S. and four years after President Johnson appointed Thurgood Marshall to the U.S. Supreme Court (Barnett, 1975). New legislation provided the legal basis for affirmative action programs and antidiscrimination lawsuits. However, the Black community was also experiencing uncertainty and consternation due to civil unrest. Reverend Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968, sparking race riots in 44 cities, and persistent racial inequities deepened many Black peoples’ cynicism toward government (Toldson, 2007). A new wave of Black leaders began to emerge who questioned the efficacy of integration and nonviolent resistance, setting the stage for the Black power movement. In 1972, under the chairpersonship of Representative Louis Stokes, the CBC sponsored the National Policy Conference on Education for Blacks (Congressional Black Caucus, 1972). The major speakers at the conference were Representative Louis Stokes, Kenneth B. Clark, Arthur A. Fletcher, Mayor Carl B. Stokes, Nathaniel R. Jones and Vivian W. Henderson. The initial purpose of the conference was to discuss problems with implementing the educational mandates of Brown (1954); however, the attendees also debated the merits of integration versus separate education for Black children. In his introductory remarks, the conference chair, Representative Augustus F. Hawkins stated, “It is possible and desirable to promote Black studies, cultural enrichment, pride in one’s history, and community control within the framework of quality, integrated education.” He was forthright with his opinion that “separatism as a goal is impractical, genocidal, and self-defeating”; however, he conceded the complications of integrating schools in the U.S. In the years immediately following, the CBC played an active role in crafting and passing the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974, which was codified into the 140

ESEA (Murakami, 2009). The purpose of the Equal Educational Opportunities Act was to establish a comprehensive prohibition of racial, ethnic and gender discrimination in schools. The Act also required school districts to intervene when they become aware of any discriminatory practices, including segregation. EDUCATION AND THE CBC IN 1975 – 2000 As the nomenclature of the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power Movement subsided in the late 1970s, the U.S. continued to struggle with issues related to racial inequities in schools. During that time, many CBC members believed that integrating schools pursuant to the Brown (1954) decision was vital to improving educational outcomes for Black students. “Busing,” the practice of transporting students from predominately Black neighborhoods to schools in predominately White neighborhoods was the primary means to achieve racial diversity in schools. At the time, busing was a controversial practice that conservative politicians almost universally admonished. Many proBlack activists also rejected methods of forced integration. However, most members of the CBC strongly advocated busing. Carl Stokes once said, “To the liberal Whites who say ‘Carl, I am for equality of education, I am a liberal, I am not a racist, but I am against busing,’ I say to them, those are two irreconcilable positions” (Congressional Black Caucus, 1972). Busing has persisted for more than a half-century and has helped to integrate many schools. However, rapid demographic shifts from “White flight” and changes in the racial makeup of schools due to White students transferring to private schools resulted in the re-segregation of many schools. Many school districts were segregated by school type, with public schools becoming more than 90 percent Black and private schools being more than 90 percent White. These same trends also created racially segregated schools in urban areas in the Northeast, Midwest and West. By the 1980s, many neighborhoods and schools across the United States were racially segregated, and there were few federal interventions to encourage states to revise ineffective busing routes to improve integration (Kean, 1978). The 1980s were also characterized by an escalation of urban violence stemming from emerging international drug markets that reached poor Black neighborhoods through a breach in the borders created by President Reagan’s support of the Contras in Nicaragua (Agar, 2003). Many critics of integration and social safety nets propagandized violence, the crack epidemic, and the rise in single parent households to disparage social reform programs, including affirmative 141

action, accusing them of being ineffective and creating an unnecessary tax burden on middle-class households. This was a hostile political environment, which motivated the CBC to develop new priorities for education. Throughout the late 1980s and the 1990s, the CBC shifted its attention away from a rigid focus on integration and toward promoting quality education for students in disadvantaged communities. In 1989, the CBC backed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), legislation that mandated fair treatment of children with intellectual, emotional, developmental, or physical disabilities (Office of Special & Rehabilitative, 2010). The law established many aspects of education required today, such as the legal right to an individualized educational program, free and appropriate public education, fair discipline, and the least restrictive environment. In 1997, Representative Maxine Waters outlined a CBC legislative proposal to provide grant funds to rebuild public schools and increase access to technology (Dervarics, 1997). In the 1990s, the CBC also reaffirmed its commitment to affirmative action and higher education. In 1998, Representative James Clyburn outlined a plan for the CBC to push for federal funds to renovate historic buildings at HBCUs (Devarics, 1998). EDUCATION AND THE CBC AT THE TURN OF THE CENTURY In the early 2000s, the CBC began to scrutinize efforts by the federal government to use high-stakes tests to examine school progress and allocate funding. In 2001, the CBC was in the unique position of arguing against federal intervention in education, when its members spoke out against a reauthorization of the ESEA called “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) (Edney, 2001). NCLB set federal standards for education based on “Adequate Yearly Progress.” The CBC was concerned that NCLB disregarded social and emotional aspects of learning, based funding decisions solely on standardized tests, and penalized schools that were in the most need of aid. However, the CBC supported some aspects of NCLB, such as mental health provisions and instruction based on scientifically based research. Throughout the 2000s, the CBC continued to support a range of legislation aimed at providing support of underrepresented students without excessive intrusion from the federal government. In 2001, the CBC eschewed many special interest groups to work with Cuban President Fidel Castro to offer free medical education for 500 low-income minority students in the U.S. at the Latin American School of Medical Sciences in Havana, Cuba (McCarthy, 2001). In 2002, under the leadership of Representative Donna 142

Christensen, the CBC supported the Dropout Prevention Act. In 2004, Representative Bobby Scott led efforts to pass amendments to the IDEA to add safeguards to ensure that children with disabilities were provided excellent, as opposed to adequate, education. EDUCATION AND THE CBC DURING PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA’S ADMINISTRATION In the late-2000s to the mid-2010s, the CBC worked with the presidential administration of Barack Obama to improve education. Some of the initiatives were aimed at mitigating adverse effects of NCLB by allowing states to “opt out” of certain provisions (Banchero, 2012). Several members of the CBC have proposed bills to amend ESEA, which is still NCLB in its current form. The CBC has been particularly vocal about the disparate impact that NCLB has on predominately minority schools. CBC member Chaka Fattah proposed changes to ESEA to improve resource equity, which included the Fiscal Fairness Act and the Student Bill of Rights ( Jones, 2010). The CBC, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the Congressional Asian Pacific Caucus issued a joint letter to explain the amendments (Dervarics, 2011). The CBC also opposed private school vouchers by working with the Obama Administration to end the D.C. Opportunity Act, which was created under the Bush Administration to provide scholarships to low-income children in Washington D.C. for tuition and other fees at participating private schools. The CBC noted that the program diverted tax revenue away from D.C.’s public schools, which educate more than 90 percent of all of its Black students, for a very small percentage of students to attend very expensive private schools. The CBC has been mostly neutral in their position on charter schools. In support of the Obama Administration, the CBC has supported two educational bills that have become law. In 2009, the CBC supported “Race to the Top,” a contest to spur educational innovation and reforms in state and local school districts (Achieve, 2009). The CBC’s support was contingent upon funding addressing the disproportionate expulsion of boys of color. In 2010, Representative Donald Payne sponsored Promise Neighborhoods. Promise Neighborhoods is an approach to providing children and youth with academic and developmental support and ensuring that they are fully engaged, both in the classroom and through activities designed to foster resilience and deepen their appreciation for their environment (Whitehurst, Croft, & Brookings Institution, 2010). 143

EDUCATION AND THE CBC AFTER PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA In the one and a half years that President Obama has been out of office, the CBC has been at the forefront of efforts to prevent the Trump administration from enacting policies that lead to discriminatory practices and disparate funding for schools educating black students. The CBC issued an official response to President Trump’s inaugural address to express concerns about the lack of qualifications of the president’s appointment for Secretary of Education. CBC members also condemned the Trump administration’s sensationalization of “inner cities” problems without proposing meaningful solutions to advancing equality in education. Educational priorities that the CBC expressed early in Trump’s administration included advancing STEM education, promoting workforce development, ending the school-to-prison pipeline, and promoting post-secondary success. Supporting HBCUs was also mentioned as a priority when the CBC condemned a proposed elimination of the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, which could negatively impact more than 55,000 HBCU students (US Official News, 2017). Several months into the Trump presidency the CBC released an official statement condemning the budget proposal from the White House, which proposed to cut 54 billion dollars in domestic spending. Many of the spending cuts were from educational initiatives, including Gear Up and TRIO programs. The CBC has also condemned Secretary Betsy DeVos’s rescinding of many of President Obama’s Department of Education guidance documents (Snyder, 2018). These documents were aimed at protecting the rights of students of color and students with disabilities from unfair educational practices, including overly punitive discipline. CONCLUSIONS Today, the CBC has shifted away from its past unwavering support of federally enforced integration. This attitude coincides with the CBC displaying greater scrutiny of federal impositions on education, which started with resistance to the strict mandates of NCLB. The CBC is also more open to local control over education, community schooling, and building equity in racially homogeneous or stratified school districts, and has become more vocal on issues affecting the educational experiences of nonblack students, including supporting veterans against Republican efforts to phase out the G.I. Bill, and protecting LGBT students against bullying and discrimination.


The CBC has evolved its ideology to reflect the principle that the role of government is to ensure that public schools provide an excellent education to all students by supplementing schools in impoverished areas with resources to build and maintain school-based activities. The CBC has also been active in combating a trend of schools using more punitive measures to deal with students’ misbehaviors or other shortcomings. Zero-tolerance disciplinary policies, law enforcement personnel at schools, and metal detectors are a few measures that seem to conflict with a normal educational experience, particularly for Black males. Historically, the CBC has favored a more active role of the federal government in regulating fairness and access to education and believes the government should provide resources to create strong public schools for all U.S. citizens. These views have often conflicted with more conservative beliefs that the federal government should have limited involvement in education and that states should have autonomous control over their respective educational laws and priorities. Many of the CBC’s educational views are shaped by a history of state-sponsored repression in the United States, which relegated Black people to substandard educational facilities throughout the Jim Crow era, as well as present day structural inequities that create barriers to educational resources across race and social class. Dr. Ivory A. Toldson is the president and CEO of the QEM Network, a professor of counseling psychology at Howard University, and the editor-in-chief of The Journal of Negro Education. Previously, Dr. Toldson was appointed by President Barack Obama to devise national strategies to sustain and expand federal support to HBCUs as the executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (WHIHBCUs). He also served as a senior research analyst for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and a contributing education editor for The Root, where he debunked some of the most pervasive myths about African-Americans in his “Show Me the Numbers” column.

REFERENCES Achieve, I. (2009). The historic opportunity to get college readiness right: The Race to the Top Fund and postsecondary education. Race to the top: Accelerating college and career readiness in states. Retrieved from


Agar, M. (2003). The story of crack: Towards a theory of illicit drug trends. Addiction Research & Theory, 11(1), 3-29. doi:10.1080/1606635021000059042 Araiza, W. D., & Medina, M. I. (2011). Constitutional law: Cases, history, and practice (4th ed.). New Providence, NJ: LexisNexis. Banchero, S. (2012). No-child law faces wave of opt-outs. Wall Street Journal - Eastern Edition, 259(49), A6-A6. Barnett, M. R. (1975). The Congressional Black Caucus. Proceedings of the Academy of Political Science, 32(1), 34-50. Congressional Black Caucus, W. D. C. (1972). National Policy Conference on Education for Blacks: Proceedings, March 29-April 1, 1972, Washington, D.C. Deever, B. (1994). Living Plessey in the context of Brown: Cultural politics and the rituals of separation. Urban Review, 26(4), 273. Dervarics, C. (1997). CBC priorities include education grants. Black Issues in Higher Education, 14(8), 9. Dervarics, C. (2011). Federal K-12 Education programs face obstacles to renewal. Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, 28(6), 6-6. Devarics, C. (1998). New Congressional Black Caucus leader pledges support for education. Black Issues in Higher Education, 15(21), 8. Edney, H. T. (2001). At White House, Flake lauds Bush education plan as Black Caucus waves a red flag. New York Amsterdam News, 92(16), 24. Jones, J. (2010). In NCLB Renewal, a push for equity funding to ensure achievement gains. Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, 27(10), 8-8. Kean, M. H. (1978). Metropolitan desegregation: The problems persist. Retrieved from Leeson, J. I. M. (1966). Violence, intimidation and protest. Desegregation. Retrieved from McCarthy, M. (2001). Cuba offers free medical education to US minority students. Lancet, 357(9256), 616. 146

Murakami, E. (2009). Educational leaders’ challenges in creating equitable opportunities for English language learners. International Electronic Journal for Leadership in Learning, 13(3). Office of Special, E., & Rehabilitative, S. (2010). 29th Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the “Individuals with Disabilities Education Act,” 2007. Volume 1. Retrieved from Santoro, W. A. (2008). The Civil Rights Movement and the Right to Vote: Black Protest, Segregationist Violence and the Audience. Social Forces, 86(4), 1340-1414. Snyder, S. (2018, July 3). Will Trump administration’s directive on race-based admissions have impact on colleges locally? Retrieved from philly/education/trump-race-admissions-colleges-20180703.html Toldson, I. A. (2007). COINTELPRO, Federal Bureau of Investigations; Black Panther Party. In W. Rucker & J. Upton (Eds.), The Encyclopedia of American Race Riots. Connecticut: Greenwood Press. US Official News. (2017). Washington: A response To President Trump’s inaugural address and New Deal for African Americans. Washington, DC: Library of Congress. West, E. H. (1968). Progress toward equality of opportunity in elementary and secondary education. Journal of Negro Education, 37(3), 212-219. Whitehurst, G. J., Croft, M., & Brookings Institution, B. C. o. E. P. (2010). The Harlem Children’s Zone, promise neighborhoods, and the broader, bolder approach to education. Retrieved from



ABSTRACT The New York City Men Teach (NYCMT) program is the nation’s boldest recruitment initiative and is designed to increase the ethnoracial and gender diversity in New York City public schools’ educator workforce. The following research questions are examined in this article: 1) What types of school-level conditions support Anchors’ (NYCMT program participants) continuous improvement? 2) What types of school-level conditions influence an Anchor’s decision to stay at the school/in the profession? 3) How effective are the induction and ongoing services Anchors receive in supporting them to teach in their current schools during their first year of teaching? 4) How do students and their caregivers describe Anchors’ role in improving students’ learning and social and emotional development? The purpose of this article is to share reflections based on data collected during the inaugural study of the New York City Department of Education NYC Men Teach Program (NYCMT). The article will discuss the methodology, the literature used to ground the study, and how the study’s findings informed the provided policy recommendations. Keywords: teacher diversity, male teachers of color, culturally responsive education, pipeline programs for males of color 1

Division of Educational Leadership, Administration, and Policy, Fordham University


Assistant Professor, The College of New Rochelle


Graduate School of Education, University California, Berkeley


Policy Recommendations The following are findings associated with this study: 1. High-quality professional development can positively influence teachers’ practice and provide impactful professional development for teachers. 2. The New York City Department of Education should implement racial and gender awareness training. 3. Male teachers of color are strong role models for all students, not solely students of color. 4. Finally, the authors explored potential societal implications for districts seeking to develop similar programs. INTRODUCTION In 2011, the Center for American Progress, a nonpartisan research and educational institute, published two reports that contributed to the national discussion on the importance of an ethnoracially diverse workforce: Teacher Diversity Matters (Boser, 2011) and Increasing Teacher Diversity (Bireda & Chait, 2011). Both reports spoke to the demographic mismatch between the nation’s students and its teachers. While more than half of the country’s students are of color, only approximately 12% of the nation’s teachers self-identify as people of color. In 2010, the federal government began to develop initiatives calling for the diversification of the national pool of teacher candidates (Bireda & Chait, 2011, p. 1). Congress introduced two bills with the goal of increasing the number of teachers of color. While neither bill passed, several members of the House of Representatives identified teacher diversity as a significant issue. This demonstrates that Congress recognized the lack of teacher diversity as a national issue and one that required the allocation of resources through drafting legislation. BACKGROUND Researchers continue to describe the importance of a diverse teacher workforce given the growing number of students of color in U.S. public schools (Goings & Bianco, 2016; White, 2016). As of fall 2014, Black and Latino students comprise 41% of the 149

public school population nationwide and, according to the data, will make up 44% of the total number of public school students by 2026. However, similar data indicate that Black and Latino teachers make up just over 14%, while Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American and teachers who self-identify with two or more races comprise an additional 3.4% of public educators nationally (National Center for Education Statistics, 2017). This information raises concerns about recruiting teachers of color because data also show that these teachers are disproportionately employed in urban and high-poverty schools (U.S. Department of Education, 2016). In January of 2015, Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City (NYC), set the stage for the boldest comprehensive recruitment initiative in the country. Mayor de Blasio made a commitment to identify and recruit 1,000 men of color to teach in the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE)—the largest urban school district in the nation—by 2018. In the NYCDOE, Black and Latino students comprise 66.9% of the student population, with an additional 18.1% of students who identify as Asian or two or more races bringing the total proportion of non-White students to 85% for the district (NYCDOE, 2017). Conversely, 60% of teachers in NYC are White (Rich, 2015), and male teachers of color account for 9.2% of all teachers in the NYCDOE (NYU, 2017). To address this disparity between teachers and students, Mayor de Blasio launched the NYC Men Teach Program (NYCMT). The purpose of this initiative—a collaboration between the NYCDOE and Young Men’s Initiative through the Office of the Mayor—was to develop a program that builds a pipeline for men of color to enter the teaching profession. The goal of NYCMT is to provide targeted professional development for novice male teachers of color, which will increase these teachers’ capacity to deliver high-quality instruction to their students. Additional goals of the program are to build a sustained pipeline of diverse male applicants as well as to remove the barriers that many male applicants of color experience when attempting to pursue a career in education. One aim of the NYCMT Research Team was to support the district’s efforts at continuous improvement by providing feedback about the program’s progress, as well as to make policy recommendations. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE The NYCMT program is a pipeline program focused on expanding the ethnoracial diversity of teachers in the NYCDOE and improving the quality of education for students by supporting its Community Anchors (program participants) through struc150

tured, intentional, and focused professional development (PD). Research has indicated that high-quality PD improves teacher performance in the classroom; while male teachers of color have additional needs, tailoring PD to meet these needs will improve their performance in the classroom (Darling-Hammond, Hyler, & Gardner, 2017). High-Quality Professional Development Research has shown that high-quality teacher PD can improve teacher practice and student learning (Moolenaar, Sleegers, & Daly, 2012). Researchers defined high-quality PD as follows: content-focused and sustained, incorporates active learning, supports collaboration, uses models of effective practice, provides coaching and expert support, and offers feedback and reflection (King & Bouchard, 2011). Effective PD is needed to help teachers learn and refine the pedagogies required to teach challenging content, critical thinking, complex problem-solving, effective communication and collaboration, and self-direction (Darling-Hammond, Hyler, & Gardner 2017). Such high-quality PD can take many forms: school-based (Gersten, Dimino, Jayanthi, Kim, & Santoro, 2010), district-based (Buczynski & Hansen, 2010), and webbased (Allen, Pianta, Gregory, Mikami, & Lun, 2011). However, research has also shown that many PD initiatives appear ineffective in supporting changes in teacher practices and student learning (Bryk, Sebring, Allensworth, Easton, & Luppescu, 2010). A goal of the NYCMT program is to deliver effective, relevant, and content-focused PD that intentionally aims to meet the needs of male teachers of color serving urban students. The goal of the NYCMT program is to provide targeted and customized PD, which will support novice teachers’ social and emotional development, as well as their practice. Finally, Darling-Hammond, Hyler, and Gardner (2017) offered seven features of effective PD: 1. is content focused; 2. incorporates active learning utilizing adult learning theory; 3. supports collaboration, typically in job-embedded contexts; 4. uses models and modeling of effective practice; 5. provides coaching and expert support; 151

6. offers opportunities for feedback and reflection; and 7. is of sustained duration (p.4) Differentiating PD for Male Teachers of Color The Boston Teacher Residency Male Teachers of Color Network (Bristol, 2015), a monthly professional development initiative to help male teachers of color, served as one model for NYCMT. The group’s purpose was to address the unique social and emotional needs of male teachers of color and equip them with the skills to improve learning for culturally diverse students. Acknowledging that men of color are often alone in their schools, or are one of two or three such teachers in the school building, requires that we differentiate PD which meets their needs. To date, little empirical research has explored how PD designed for teachers of color influences these teachers’ practice and their students’ social and emotional development. Given this gap in the literature, we explored the following research questions: 1. What types of school-level conditions support Community Anchors’ continuous improvement? 2. What types of school-level conditions influence a Community Anchor’s decsion to stay at the school/in the profession? 3. How effective are the induction and ongoing services Community Anchors receive in supporting them to teach in their current schools during their first year of teaching? 4. How do students and their caregivers describe Community Anchors’ role in improving students’ learning and social and emotional development? METHODOLOGY Qualitative Analysis The research team utilized the qualitative method (Vagle, 2010) and conducted semi-structured interviews with program participants or Community Anchors, NYCMT Mentors, school building administrators (mainly principals or supervising assistant principals), students, and parents and/or guardians. Additionally, the researchers conducted observations in the classrooms of the Community Anchors. 152

The researchers utilized purposive sampling, first selecting a small sample of participants that reflected the ethnoracial composition of the program participants to select the Community Anchors. Then, school building administrators were also recruited to participate in the study. The researchers attempted to capture a diverse representation based on participants’ race and gender when selecting NYCMT Mentors. After selecting the Mentors, the researchers interviewed two or three of the Community Anchors they supported and subsequently reached out to the school building administrator of each Anchor. Each of the building administrators in the study was the hiring manager and rating officer for a participating Community Anchor. Some supervised the Community Anchor directly while others asked assistant principals to supervise. Similarly, each of the students in the study had a Community Anchor as a teacher. Data Sources To answer the research questions, data were drawn from two rounds of semi-structured interviews (Seidman, 2006) with Mentors (n=10) and Community Anchors (n=20); one round of focus group (Patton, 1990) student interviews (n=50); and observations of Anchors’ classrooms and Mentor-Anchor mentoring sessions. To identify Mentors, we selected a representative sample of all Mentors based on background characteristics, specifically ethnoracial and gender identity, and years of experience. After interviewing Mentors, we selected two of their assigned Community Anchors. Similar to our selection of mentors based on background characteristics, we identified first-year Community Anchors to reflect program participants’ ethnoracial identity (i.e. American Indian, Asian, Black, Native American, and Latino). Additionally, we selected Community Anchors who represented a range of grade levels and subjects taught. Finally, we conducted focus groups with a subset (approximately two or three) of Community Anchors’ students. We selected one male student who shared the same ethnoracial identity as his teacher and one or two students whose gender and ethnoracial identity differed from those of their teacher. The purpose of this approach to student sampling was to explore how demographically similar and different students described their teachers’ capacity to shape their learning and social and emotional development. The researchers conducted 65 hours of observations and interviewed 53 participants, including 13 Mentors, 11 administrators, 26 Community Anchors, and three students. In addition to interviewing Mentors, Community Anchors, and students, we also spent two days conducting classroom observations for each Anchor. We also observed two 153

NYCMT Mentor-Anchor mentoring sessions. Data from these observations allowed us to capture how Mentors work to support Community Anchors’ practices and professionalization. Data Analysis We began our analysis by reading and rereading the interview transcripts and Contact Summary Forms (Miles & Huberman, 1994) to develop a sense of the overall meaning of the qualitative data (Creswell, 2009). Next, we drew on a three-tiered ‘open coding’ procedure: conceptualization, categorization, and naming of categories (Bryman 2004; Weis & Fine, 2012). Using NVivo, a qualitative data analysis software, we organized collected data for analysis by, first, establishing interrater coding (Campbell, Quincy, Osserman, & Pedersen, 2013). The created codes allowed us to ascribe meaning to the collected data (Miles & Huberman, 1994). Based on our data collection and analysis strategy, we present our findings for each of our four research questions below. FINDINGS Research Question 1: What types of school-level conditions support Community Anchors’ continuous improvement? Finding 1. The data revealed that the following school conditions contributed to Community Anchors’ capacity to improve their practice: •

having a school-based mentor;

receiving content-focused coaching;

having regular content team meetings;

receiving regular and consistent feedback on their teaching practices from an administrator; and

having an administrator model instructional practices.

This is aligned with previous research (Darling-Hammond et. al, 2017) which outlined effective PD for all teachers.


Finding 2. Administrators of color and White administrators had different perceptions of the school-based experiences of male teachers of color. This finding was aligned with research indicating that teachers of color have different needs and their PD and supports should be tailored to meet their needs (Bristol, 2015). Research Question 2. What types of school-level conditions influence an Anchor’s decision to stay at the school/in the profession? Finding 1. At the culmination of Year 1, 17 out of 26 Community Anchors who participated in this study intended to return to their schools the following year. The Community Anchors who intended to return cited positive relationships with students, colleagues, and administrators as reasons they chose to return to their school. For the Community Anchors who did not want to return, three did not wish to return to their schools but intended to stay in the NYCDOE and find jobs at other schools within the district. Those Community Anchors who chose to leave cited poor administrative leadership as influencing their decisions. Research Question 3. How effective are the NYCMT induction and ongoing services Anchors receive in supporting them to teach in their current schools during their first year of teaching? Finding 1. Of the Community Anchors who participated in this study, 10 out of 26, or roughly half, described having regular interactions with their NYCMT Mentors. The interactions reported by the Community Anchors were classroom observations, meetings at a coffee shop, and/or meetings via Google Hangout. These Community Anchors indicated that they felt regular interaction with their NYCMT Mentor improved their practice and helped them attend to their students’ social and emotional needs. Finding 2. The teachers who applied and were selected to serve as Mentors for the NYCMT program indicated that attending their ongoing PD improved their own pedagogical practices in addition to assisting them in supporting their assigned Community Anchor. Finding 3. Community Anchors and NYCMT Mentors communicated that their inability to connect with each other in person at the start of the school year diminished their personal engagement in the NYCMT program. While Mentors indicated that they were persistent in following up with their Community Anchors, they also reported finding it challenging to connect with assigned Community Anchors who may have been overwhelmed as first-year teachers. 155

Research Question 4. How do students and their caregivers describe Anchors’ role in improving students’ learning and social and emotional development? Finding 1. The students of one Community Anchor described their teacher’s capacity to improve their learning and attend to their social and emotional development. Additionally, an administrator highlighted that Community Anchors served as positive role models for both male and female students. POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS Based on these findings above, we provide the following policy recommendations that have the potential to drive continuous improvement in NYCMT. Policy Recommendations for Research Question 1: Finding 1 •

The NYCDOE should coordinate and streamline Community Anchors’ school-based and NYCMT mentoring.

All Mentors in the NYCDOE should be required to attend the NYCMT program Mentor training.

Community Anchors receive one Mentor from the district who should be both the UFT-designated school-based mentor and the mentor affiliated with and trained to support Community Anchors by the NYCMT program.

Taken together, these recommendations will establish consistent practices across the district and will also set expectations for the level and quality of PD that will directly influence pedagogy and influence student learning. Finding 2 •

The NYCDOE should implement racial and gender awareness training for all administrators.

The purpose of this training is to have hiring administrators reflect on how they manage internal beliefs and implicit bias that may surface during the hiring process. These reflections include how administrators ensure that discrimination is minimized and how they hold themselves accountable for surfacing and managing their prejudices. An additional key component of this training should also make it clear that increasing 156

the ethnoracial diversity of the educator workforce and having high-quality teachers are not mutually exclusive. Policy Recommendation for Research Question 2: •

If the NYCDOE is committed to sustaining the efforts of this initiative, then efforts to retain Community Anchors should also address improving school working conditions, namely administrative leadership.

The NYCDOE must provide principals, particularly those who lead schools with large concentrations of historically marginalized students, with additional resources to improve the conditions for teaching and learning.

The NYCDOE should design a professional development series for principals with less than three years of experience. This PD must include strategies for supporting novice teachers.

Retention is a problem in the field of education on a national level (Bireda & Chait, 2011). When considering the specifics around the demographics of the targeted population of this men-of-color initiative, research has indicated that such teachers tend to leave the profession within years (Bristol & Mentor, 2018). As NYCMT continues to expand, significant attention must be paid to retaining these teachers by focusing on improving the teaching, learning, and working conditions of schools, which will directly impact the teaching experience of male teachers of color. Policy Recommendation for Research Question 3: Finding 1 •

The NYCDOE should catalogue the best practices used by NYCMT Mentors. Practices should be used as a resource for administrators and schoolbased mentors who are supporting novice male teachers of color and, potentially, novice female teachers of color.

Cataloguing the best practices that demonstrate potential and promise in positively influencing pedagogical practices for male teachers of color will not only add to the body of literature on how to best support the instructional knowledge and pedagogical practices of these teachers, but may lead to improving the pedagogical practices of all teachers who work in schools with similar student demographics. Research has shown 157

that male teachers of color are hired at higher rates to work in schools with significantly high Title I and free and reduced lunch populations (Albert Shanker Institute, 2015). Finding 2 •

The NYCDOE should incorporate the guiding principles around the NYCMT’s professional development for all ongoing PD for novice and veteran teachers. The NYCMT program provides tailored PD to their Community Anchors that is grounded in the principles of: •

culturally responsive education,

restorative practices, and

mastery-based learning.

The NYCDOE should adopt these principles as aspects of good pedagogical practice and begin to thread components of them into all PD offered districtwide. Additionally, combining and/or co-developing PD with the NYCMT program will align the varied PD offered throughout the district. Finding 3 •

The NYCDOE must organize face-to-face meetings and activities between NYCMT Mentors and Community Anchors prior to the start of the school year.

This will facilitate the opportunity for the Mentors to begin supporting Community Anchors prior to the start of the school year and help Anchors’ perceive their Mentors as a resource rather than as sources of additional compliance tasks they must complete to receive additional support from the program. Policy Recommendation for Research Question 4: Finding 1 •

The NYCDOE should continue to call attention to increasing the number of well-trained male teachers of color in order to benefit both boys and young men of color as well as all students.

Research on the significance of teacher diversity has consistently highlighted the ability of teachers of color to serve as role models for students of color, and specifically, 158

the ability of male teachers of color to serve as a role model for male students of color. Comments from the students and an administrator highlighted the important role that male teachers of color can play in the lives of their female students who may not have opportunities to have positive and appropriate interactions with males of color in authority outside of school. Additionally, the researchers note the important influence of male teachers of color have on all students, including those who are not students of color, is often overlooked and is a potential area for future study. FUTURE IMPLICATIONS FOR NYCMT The NYCMT program is a targeted recruitment initiative designed to diversify the field of education across both gender and race/ethnicity. This study has several implications for the field of education: 1. An unwavering commitment and authentic belief that diversity in race/ethnicity, gender, experience, socio-economic status, and thought can influence and improve the quality of education offered to students in the nation’s public schools. 2. There must be a national shift away from associating discussions of diversity with forced compliance-related tasks that cloud the pool of high-quality candidates. 3. To sustain this initiative and others like it, we must improve the quality of education offered to current students who will grow up to replenish the pipeline. Currently, the NYCDOE is providing PD for principals around Culturally Responsive Education (CRE) (separate and apart from the NYCMT program) as the district has begun to recognize that this concept holds immense potential for authentic change in both teaching practice and student achievement. It will be crucial that any district seeking to pilot a similar initiative commit to adopting these principles as tenets that ground and serve as the foundation of the design of the program. Each of the conditions emerged from the data collected during Year 1 of the NYCMT study. The researchers expect that additional implications will emerge as the study continues to expand. They offer the implications listed above as factors to consider when initiating discussions about the need for a program like this in a district.


CONCLUSION The purpose of this article was to share reflections based on data collected during the inaugural study of the NYC Men Teach (NYCMT) program. The authors discussed the methodology and grounding literature of the study, then shared findings and policy recommendations for the NYCMT program that other districts interested in this work may consider. The following are the more pertinent findings and associated policy recommendations according to each of the four research questions explored in this study: Research Question 1: What types of school-level conditions support Anchors’ continuous improvement? Finding 1 1. The data collected during the first year of the study aligned with the literature around the need for developing high-quality, impactful professional development for teachers. Recommendations 1. The NYCDOE should coordinate and streamline Community Anchors’ school-based and NYCMT mentoring. 2. The NYCMT program mentor training should be a part of all mentor training for the NYCDOE. 3. Whenever possible, the NYCMT program Mentor and the UFT-designated school-based mentor should be the same person. Finding 2 1. Data indicated that perceptions regarding the school-based experiences of male teachers of color varied between administrators of color and White administrators. Recommendation 1. Data suggested that the district should implement racial and gender awareness training which will require administrators to reflect on how they manage their personal beliefs and cover bias that may surface during the hiring process.


Research Question 2: What types of school-level conditions influence an Anchor’s decision to stay at the school/in the profession? Finding 1 1. Program participants who intended to remain in the profession after Year 1 cited positive relationships with their students, colleagues, and administrators as contributing to their decision to stay. Recommendations 1. Improving working conditions for novice teachers should become a priority if the NYCDOE is invested in retaining and sustaining the efforts of this and similar initiatives. 2. Principals who lead schools with large concentrations of historically marginalized students should receive additional resources to improve the quality of teaching and learning in those schools. 3. Principals with less than three years of experience should receive a specific PD series designed to support them as they support their teachers, specifically their novice teachers. Research Question 3: How do students and their caregivers describe Anchors’ role in improving students’ learning and social & emotional development? Finding 1: 1. Students who did not identify ethnoracially with one Community Anchor described how their teachers were able to improve their learning and attend to their social-emotional needs. Recommendation 1. The NYCDOE should continue to highlight the benefits of diversifying the teaching pool for all students, both female and male students of color as well as White students.


In this article, we sought to review the first year of the NYCMT program. The answers given by the participants in their interviews are not meant to be representative of all men of color in the study or across the research spectrum. Moreover, participants were also heavily influenced by whether they felt fellow teachers and administrators supported them at their schools. Although some of the participants’ experiences were similar, it is not possible to generalize the findings of this study to all members of the same population. Many of the participants spoke to issues of race, having been silenced or marginalized in the education arena, and to the continued need to recruit and support men of color so they are successful in their roles as classroom teachers. Each man in this study spoke to these points based on his unique and individual experiences. To address the experiences of these participants, we presented our recommendations for research, policy, and practice. It is important to note that specific conditions have contributed to the success of the NYCMT program. Districts interested in duplicating or developing similar initiatives should be aware of the following observations the researchers made during Year 1. It is key that before a school district embarks on an initiative like the NYCMT program, senior administrators should believe in it and be willing to commit time, attention, and monetary resources, and prioritize such an effort. In the absence of a commitment from key administrators, such an initiative will run the risk of becoming a fad, trend, or veiled and empty initiative that reflects the state of education for a period. Mayor de Blasio committed $16 million dollars, created an office, and assigned a deputy mayor and a deputy executive director to work through the city’s Young Male Initiative Office in conjunction with the NYCDOE in order to research and develop this initiative. Additionally, in 2013, the NYCDOE began more widely exploring the benefits of restorative justice practices, which are increasingly being utilized in schools throughout the district. Nationally, we must shift and change the lens regarding initiatives focused on diversity. In the field of education, there are state mandates regarding an individual’s ability to become a teacher. Engaging in discussions on how to ensure diversity while ensuring that students have access to high-quality teachers does not negate or change the states’ requirements around certification. The male teachers of color involved in this study have all graduated from college, are currently enrolled in or have graduated from master’s programs in teacher education, and have taken and passed all required certification exams that are mandated to teach in the state of New York by the New York State Education Department (NYSED). According to the NYSED, if these candidates are certified, they 162

are of high quality. Until this shift occurs on a national level, all districts that embark on this journey must understand and be committed to this notion as a core and fundamental belief to move the work forward. If this is not a core belief, it will be difficult to shift mindsets and help hiring managers uncover their own implicit biases, which can create barriers to the success of a program like the NYCMT. Finally, initiatives such as the NYCMT program are only sustainable if we have male teachers of color who are interested, available, and eligible to enroll in it. This program is designed to assist and support this population in overcoming hurdles such as the costs of certification and coursework as well as lack of knowledge about available resources designed to help all individuals who seek to become teachers. Districts and school systems must be intentional about the strategies they use to improve the quality of instruction in their schools. Finally, systems must address conditions in schools that influence not only males of color to leave the profession, but also students of color to drop out and enter the criminal justice system. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The researchers would like to acknowledge the NYC Men Teach Program for its commitment to improving the program and for seeking feedback that directly influences the program. We would also like to thank New York City Deputy Mayor Richard Buery and the Young Men’s Initiative, specifically W. Cyrus Garett and Ifeoma Ike, for their financial commitment to this initiative. Dr. Shannon R. Waite is the main author of this article and is currently employed at Fordham University as a Clinical Assistant Professor. Prior to coming to Fordham, Dr. Waite worked in various positions in the NYC Department of Education (NYCDOE). In her last position, she focused on increasing the visibility of the programs and leadership opportunities offered by OOL in the NYCDOE as well as increasing the quality and broadening the diversity of the applicant pool. Dr. Waite is a current Mayoral appointee to the Panel for Educational Policy in the NYC Department of Ed. Her research interests include topics on diversity, human capital, culturally relevant leadership, and hyper-segregation and its connection to the school-to-prison pipeline. Dr. Marcelle Mentor is an Assistant Professor of Education at the College of New Rochelle. Dr. Mentor was responsible for conducting all the interviews with each Anchor involved with this study and each of the students and parents involved with this study, and she interviewed Mentors who were selected to participate as well. Dr. Marcelle Mentor, a South African native, is an assistant professor of education at The College of New Rochelle. Her academic interest focuses on Critical Race Theory, with an emphasis 163

on Black Masculinity. Her teaching philosophy is based on the concept of Ubuntu, which is a Southern African ethic or humanistic approach which focuses on the fact that we are people through the existence and interaction with and from other people. Dr. Travis J. Bristol, Assistant Professor at University of California Berkeley University, is the Principal Investigator leading the NYC Men Teach Research Team and was responsible for composing the research team, writing the grant that supported this work, designing this study, and interviewing Mentors who informed the team’s selection of the Anchors and school building administrators for this study. Dr. Bristol has received awards from the NAEd/Spencer Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the AERA. His research has appeared in several peer-reviewed journals, including Urban Education, Urban Review, Gender and Education, Education Policy Analysis Archives, and the Journal for Multicultural Education.

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Bryman, A. (2004). Social research methods. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Buczynski, S. & Hansen, C. B. (2010). Impact of professional development on teacher practice: Uncovering connections. Teacher and Teacher Education, 26, 599–607. Campbell, J. L., Quincy, C., Osserman, J., & Pedersen, O. K. (2013). Coding in-depth semi-structured interviews: Problems of unitization and intercoder reliability and agreement. Sociological Methods and Research, 42(3), 294-320. Creswell, J. W. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (3rd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage. Darling-Hammond, L., Hyler, M. E., & Gardner, M. (2017). Effective teacher professional development. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute. Gersten, R., Dimino, J., Jayanthi, M., Kim, J. S., & Santoro, L. E. (2010). Teacher study group: Impact of the professional development model on reading instruction and student outcomes in first grade classrooms. American Educational Research Journal, 47(3), 694-739. Goings, R. B., & Bianco, M. (2016). It’s hard to be who you don’t see: An exploration of black male high school students’ perspectives on becoming teachers. Urban Review, 48, 628. King, M. B., & Bouchard, K. (2011). The capacity to build organizational capacity in schools. Journal of Educational Administration, 49(6), 653-669. Retrieved from Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Moolenaar, N. M., Sleegers, P. J. C., & Daly, A. J. (2012). Teaming up: Linking collaboration networks, collective efficacy, and student achievement. Teaching and Teacher Education, 28(2), 251-262. National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). (2017, May). Racial/ethnic enrollment in public schools. Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved from https://nces.


New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE). (2017, December 27). NYC Data. New York City Department of Education. Retrieved from Accountability/data/default.htm New York University. (2017). How many male teachers of color work in NYC? New York University. Retrieved from Patton, M. Q. (1990). Qualitative evaluation and research methods (2nd ed.). Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Rich, M. (2015, April 11). Where are the teachers of color? New York Times. Retrieved from: Sebastian Cherng, H. Y., & Halpin, P.F. (2016). The importance of minority teachers: Student perceptions of minority versus white teachers. Educational Researcher, 45(7), 407-420. Retrieved from Seidman, I. (2006). Interviewing as qualitative research: A guide for researchers in education and the social sciences (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Vagle, M. D. (2010). Re‐framing Schön’s call for a phenomenology of practice: A post‐intentional approach. Reflective Practice, 11(3), 393-407. White, T. (2016). Teach for America’s paradoxical diversity initiative: Race, policy, and black teacher displacement in urban schools. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 24(16), 1-42. Wise, L., & Fine, M. (2012). Critical bifocality and circuits of privilege: Expanding critical ethnographic theory and design. Harvard Educational Review, 82(2), 173-201. U.S. Department of Education (USDOE). (2016). Title I: Defining a highly qualified teacher. Retrieved from



ABSTRACT This policy brief reviews selected research on zero-tolerance school discipline policies. Zero tolerance is an approach utilized to exclude students from their learning environment. For more than 40 years, education researchers have documented the disproportionate application of zero-tolerance school discipline policies against Black children. Research aimed to address this disparity is centered, by and large, on race and the experiences of Black boys. This practice overshadows and further marginalizes Black girls, who experience both race and gender bias in schools. The purpose of this policy brief is to review selected research on zero-tolerance school discipline policies and to expand our understanding of the ways in which these polices negatively affect the schooling experiences of Black girls. It concludes with specific recommendations that are intended to encourage meaningful conversations, strategies, and solutions to reduce the disparate impact of zero-tolerance school discipline polices on Black children in general and Black girls in particular. Keywords: Black girls; zero tolerance; social justice; #blackgirlsmatter; school discipline

1 167

Department of Leadership and Special Education, The City College of New York

Policy Recommendations •

Abolish all zero-tolerance school discipline policies.

Actively recruit and train teachers of color, especially Black women.

Utilize uniform race and gender conscious frameworks in school discipline policies.

Mandate culturally responsive teaching. INTRODUCTION

There is no concrete definition of the term “zero tolerance” (Skiba & Knesting, 2001). The words were first used in the criminal justice system by United States (U.S.) attorney Peter Nunez for a program he created in 1986 to seize vessels found to contain any amount of drugs. The Attorney General lauded Nunez’s “zero-tolerance” approach and in 1988 mandated that anyone caught entering U.S. borders with even trace amount of drugs would, in addition to forfeiting their vehicles and property, be prosecuted in federal court (Skiba & Knesting, 2001). By 1989, in an effort to curtail violence and drug usage, school districts in New York, California, and Kentucky adopted a zero-tolerance approach to their discipline policies and “mandated expulsion for drugs, fighting, and gang-related activity” (Skiba & Knesting, 2001, p. 19). Today, every school in the U.S. has zero-tolerance discipline policies that result in mandatory expulsion (Curran, 2017). Zero tolerance was introduced into school discipline policies to promote safe school communities. However, in addition to providing safe conditions, schools must function as loving and caring communities (Rivera-McCutchen, 2012) centered on trust (Rivera-McCutchen & Watson, 2014). Unfortunately, schools are hostile spaces for most Black children. They are not safe, loving, and caring communities centered on trust. Schools are spaces where Black children first experience the effects of racism (see Robert v. City of Boston, 1850; Brown v. Board of Education, 1954; San Antonio School District v. Rodriguez, 1972, and Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, 2007). The purpose of this policy brief is to review selected research on zero-tolerance school discipline policies and to understand the (un)intended consequences of these policies on Black children, specifically Black girls. This review is intentionally narrow in its focus and has a racialized and gendered perspective. First, the zero-tolerance approach 168

is discussed. Then, research that highlights the (un)intended consequences of zero-tolerance school discipline policies is reviewed. Next, federal, state, and district-level efforts to reduce the use of zero-tolerance school discipline policies are queried. This is followed by a brief explication of restorative justice and a recent study of its function in two New York City high schools. Last, this policy brief concludes with specific recommendations to improve the schooling experiences of Black children and is purposely centered on Black girls. THE ZERO-TOLERANCE APPROACH In 1994 the federal government enacted the Gun Free Schools Act (the Act). This legislation marked the first time a zero-tolerance approach was mandated in public schools. The Act reads: Each state receiving Federal funds under any subchapter shall have in effect a State law requiring local educational agencies to expel from school for a period of not less than 1 year a student who is determined to have brought a firearm to a school, or to have possessed a firearm at a school, under the jurisdiction of local educational agencies in that State, except that such State law shall allow the chief administering officer of a local educational agency to modify such expulsion requirement for a student on a case-by-case basis if such modification is in writing. (20 U.S. Code § 7961) In short, under the Act, any state that receives federal dollars is required to expel students who either bring a gun to school or are found in possession of a gun on school grounds. Note: the mandate was later revised to include “any weapon” (Kafka, 2011, p.2). While initially intended to prevent violence in schools, many states and school districts expanded the zero-tolerance approach required by the Act. They included “both major and minor violations” of the school disciplinary code in order to send a message that certain behaviors will not be tolerated on school grounds (Skiba et. al, 2010). This expansion of the Act has led to ambiguity in codifying zero-tolerance school discipline policies (Curran, 2017). Put another way, under the Act, states and school districts have employed a zero-tolerance approach to exclude students from school for age-appropriate misbehaviors and infractions that were not included in the original intent of the federal mandate. This broad-based approach to school discipline makes it hard to establish a uniform set of zero-tolerance school discipline policies. 169

For more than 40 years, education researchers have documented the disproportionate application of zero-tolerance school discipline policies against Black children (Skiba, Arredondo, & Rausch, 2014). Black children make up less than 16 percent of the student body nationwide yet represent 39 percent of the students who are suspended from school (U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2018). Skiba and his colleagues concluded that the overrepresentation of African American children in school discipline data is a result of the pervasive and systematic bias found in schools. Research aimed to address this disparity is centered, by and large, on race and the experiences of Black boys (e.g., Noguera, 2008; Smith & Harper, 2015; Toldson & Lewis, 2012). This practice overshadows and further marginalizes Black girls, who experience both race and gender bias in schools (Crenshaw, Ocen, & Nanda, 2015). THE PROBLEM WITH ZERO-TOLERANCE SCHOOL DISCIPLINE POLICIES AND BLACK GIRLS In Florida, a 16-year-old honor student was expelled because of a botched science experiment (Klein, 2013). In South Carolina, a school resource officer threw a 16-year-old to the floor for disobedience (Ford, Botelho, & Colon, 2015). In Chicago, an eight-yearold was arrested at her elementary school for having a tantrum (Kaplan, 2013). The Black girls in each of the aforementioned incidents experienced the (un)intended consequences of zero-tolerance school discipline policies. Black girls are more likely to be punished under zero-tolerance school discipline policies than White, Hispanic, and Asian girls in all 50 states (National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), 2017). And, in comparison to White girls, Black girls are six times more likely to be suspended from school and account for one of three school-related arrests (NWLC, 2017; U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, 2014). Zero-tolerance school discipline policies have (un)intended consequences for Black girls. Crenshaw, Ocen, and Nanda (2015) defined zero-tolerance school discipline polices as “school or district-wide policies that mandate predetermined, typically harsh consequences or punishments (such as suspension or expulsion) for wide degree of rule violation” (pp. 48-49). Studies have qualitatively and quantitatively demonstrated the racialized and gendered experiences of Black girls under zero-tolerance school discipline policies (e.g. M. Morris, 2016; E. Morris & Perry, 2017). Many of the zero-tolerance school discipline policies Black girls are punished under are subjective and include infractions such as defiance, aggressive behavior, and dress code violations (Blake, Butler, 170

Lewis, & Darensbourg, 2011). This is problematic as the standards with which Black girls are judged are culturally exclusive and serve to promote White-gendered standards (Ispa-Landa, 2013; Watson, in press). Over the last 20 years, research centered on African American girls’ schooling experiences has steadily increased (e.g. Archer-Banks & Behar-Horenstein, 2012; Blake et. al., 2011; Ispa-Landa, 2013; Lei, 2003; E. Morris, 2007; M. Morris, 2014, 2016; Watson, 2016). E. Morris (2007) conducted a two-year ethnographic study in a middle school and observed the ways in which teachers (both Black and White) encouraged Black girls to adopt a “docile form of [white] femininity” (p. 490). Lei (2003) and M. Morris (2012) described how Black girls were forced to choose between being considered a “good” girl (acting “White”) or being thought of as a “bad” girl (acting “loud” and “ghetto). Lei (2003) explained that the “loud black girls” at Hope High (a pseudonym) used their perceived “loudness” as an act of resistance in the face of patriarchy. She offered, “The very image of ‘those loud black girls,’ which was/is reiterated to maintain the regulative ideals of raced and gendered norms, may be the one most powerful challenge to those ideals” (p. 169). Race matters in schools. Black girls are perceived as being “less innocent” and “aggressively feminine” in comparison to their White counterparts (Epstein, Blake, & González, 2017), and even when they experience academic success, they are still subject to “bad girl” stereotypes (Archer-Banks & Behar-Horenstein, 2012). Hines-Datiri (2015) discussed the ways age-appropriate misbehaviors committed by students of color become criminalized by school personnel due to their lack of experience with diverse cultures. She noted, “Minor acts committed by students of color become criminalized by school staff who hold discriminatory beliefs due to their lack of racially diverse experiences, and overtly subjective conceptualizations of what is deemed culturally appropriate behavior by students of color” (p. 128). In 2017 the National Center for Education Statistics reported that more than half of the 50.7 million children who attend U.S. public schools identify as non-white, while 80 percent of the nearly four million teachers identify as White. This cultural mismatch is further complicated for Black girls based on the intersection of race and gender (Crenshaw, 1991). Watson (in press) detailed how Whiteness and femininity were codified in school discipline policies and served to disenfranchise Black girls as both their race and gender were considered incompatible with schooling. The abovementioned finding is evident in school discipline data (see NWLC, 2017). Permuth and Mawdsley wrote, “Pol171

icies are manifestations of the choices society has made about its future” (2006, p. 141). Hence, zero-tolerance school discipline polices operationalized by White teachers, with little to no experience with children of color, embody racialized and gendered norms that intentionally exclude Black girls from their respective school communities. Recently, two policy reports substantiated the disparate treatment of Black girls in the places that we call schools. In Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced, and Underprotected, Crenshaw and her colleagues (2015) utilized national data and personal interviews with girls of color who attended public schools in New York City and Boston to better understand their nuanced realities. They highlighted the impact of “push-out” policies on Black girls, along with other girls of color, and proffered the following recommendations: •

Expand existing opportunities to ensure the inclusion of Black girls and other girls of color in policy research, advocacy, and programmatic interventions.

Ensure an equitable approach to funding that supports the needs of women and girls as well as those of men and boys.

Develop robust protocols that ensure that school personnel enforce all students’ right to an environment free of sexual harassment and bullying.

Review and revise policies that funnel girls into the juvenile justice system.

Devise programs that identify the signs of sexual victimization in order to support girls who have been traumatized by violence.

Advance and expand programs that support girls who are pregnant, parenting, or otherwise assuming significant familial responsibilities.

Urge the U.S. Department of Education and other information gathering institutions to take the necessary steps to refine statistical reporting on disciplinary matters while disaggregating achievement data along racial and gender lines.

Develop the public will to address the challenges facing Black girls and other girls of color through elevating their experiences and engaging stakeholders to become actively involved in their welfare (pp. 41-43).

In Unlocking Opportunity for African American Girls: A Call to Action for Educational Equity, the National Women’s Law Center (2014) shared the work of Black girl pioneers 172

(Sara Roberts, Linda Brown, and Barbara Rose Johns) who fought for equitable schooling conditions. The researchers also included a toolkit to improve the educational outcomes of all students ( THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT RESPONDS TO ZERO-TOLERANCE SCHOOL DISCIPLINE POLICIES Black boys and girls (respectively) are disproportionately punished under zero-tolerance school discipline policies (U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, 2014). In an effort to address this disparity, on January 8, 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education released a school discipline guidance package ( This collaborative set of guidelines included the following four components: •

“Dear Colleague Letter on the Nondiscriminatory Administration of School Discipline”

“Guiding Principles: A Resource Guide for Improving School Climate and Discipline”

“U.S. Department of Education Directory of Federal School Climate and Discipline Resources”

“Compendium of School Discipline Laws and Regulations for the 50 States, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico”

While this resource package contains many of the needed tools to address the inherit bias found in school discipline policies and practices, it does little to ameliorate the specific challenges Black girls encounter under zero-tolerance school discipline policies. Curran (2017) performed a document analysis wherein he compared zero-tolerance school discipline laws and policies to mandatory expulsion laws and policies across federal and state laws, district policies, and media portrayals. He explained that a nationwide reform of zero-tolerance school discipline polices was not an easy feat, as zero-tolerance laws and policies were rare. In contrast, laws and policies that mandated expulsion were common. Curran (2017) also found that while 43 states did not refer to their school discipline policies as “zero tolerance,” seven states utilized the specific language in their respective policies. This lack of congruence, coupled with the fact that educational agencies employ zero-tolerance school discipline policies inconsistently and in subjective ways 173

(see Skiba & Knesting, 2001; Skiba et al., 2010, 2014), makes it hard to establish uniform zero-tolerance school discipline policies. Nevertheless, President Barack Obama’s administration mandated that school districts and schools revise their use of zero-tolerance school discipline policies. In a 35page document, school districts were required to maintain records for all school-based discipline (e.g. infractions, searches, suspensions, expulsions, and arrests). In addition, schools were encouraged to foster positive learning environments, set clear expectations and consequences for students, and most importantly, ensure fair and equitable disciplinary processes ( The New York Times reported that civil rights groups were pleased with the new federal guidelines offered in response to the disparate impact of zero-tolerance school discipline policies. Deborah J. Vagins, senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington legislative office, called the prescribed course of action “timely and important” (Rich, 2014). Currently, school districts throughout the nation are attempting to respond to the federal mandate. The efforts of two districts are detailed in the following paragraphs. TWO SCHOOL DISTRICTS RESPOND TO THE FEDERAL MANDATE New York City’s Department of Education (NYCDOE) and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the nation’s largest and most diverse school districts, implemented bold changes to their discipline guidelines based on disproportionalities in suspensions for students of color and the 2014 federal mandate. The revisions are explained below. New York City In 2015 and 2016, NYCDOE produced two procedural documents, Safety with Dignity and Maintaining the Momentum, in an effort to decrease the use of zero-tolerance school discipline policies, improve student behavior, and promote safe learning environments. Included in the initial 32-page document were directives that required school leaders to obtain written permission from the Department’s Office of Safety and Youth Development before a student in Kindergarten through Second grade could be suspended, and before any student could be suspended for “defiance.” Furthermore, students were no longer able to receive a Superintendent’s Suspension, which can span from six days to one year, for physical fights (NYCDOE, 2015). Following the release of the first document, NYCDOE’s Leadership Team convened several times from February 2015 through 174

February 2016 to examine best practices in the city’s 1,800 public schools as well as those used in other states and school districts. Based on these conversations, a second and final document produced eight recommendations to promote effective school reform as well as safe and equitable schools ( Los Angeles LAUSD began to rethink its approach to zero-tolerance school discipline policies in 2012 when it stopped issuing infractions for truancy (Times Editorial Board, 2014). Then, in 2013, the district banned school suspensions for “willful defiance,” a broad-based infraction that included everything from excessive talking to dress code violations (Rott, 2013). A year later, California’s longest serving and current Governor, Jerry Brown Jr., signed an identical bill into law. Additionally, in 2014, instead of sending students to juvenile court for non-serious offenses (e.g. physical fights, minor vandalism, and petty theft), the district mandated that they receive in-school counseling and administrative disciplinary actions (Times Editorial Board, 2014). The latter consists a range of actions, including parent conferences, lunch detention, after-school detention, and/or suspension from a social or an extra-curricular activity. Finally, LAUSD mandated that every school within its boundaries use restorative justice practices by 2020 (Associated Press, 2015). MOVING AWAY FROM ZERO-TOLERANCE SCHOOL DISCIPLINE POLICES Districts and schools that serve large populations of students of color are turning to restorative justice practices to reduce the use of zero-tolerance school discipline policies (Losen, 2014). Restorative justice practices are varied and focus on repairing relationships rather than punishing offenders (Sellman et. al., 2014). Restorative circles are a central component of restorative justice: this is where victims, offenders, and community members meet and wherein reconciliation conferences are conducted (Guckenburg, Hurley, Persson, Fronius, & Petrosino, 2015). During these conferences students are encouraged to acknowledge their wrongdoing, express remorse to the individual(s) harmed, and are subsequently welcomed back into the school community (Ashley & Burke, 2009). While restorative justice sounds palatable in theory, it emulates practices found in the carceral continuum (Shedd, 2015) that consistently plagues communities of color. Lustick (2017) conducted a study of the restorative justice practices in two New York City high schools during the 2014 – 2015 academic year. Each of the schools em175

ployed a dean (an African American man and woman) who was charged with carrying out the restorative justice process. Based on principal interviews, Lustick discovered that the deans were purposefully selected to establish and maintain warm and nurturing relationships with students. This practice negates the underlying premise of restorative justice in schools. To explain, Lustick wrote, “I also saw how these deans stood in for teachers who could not fully connect or understand their students, especially when discord erupted” (p. 19). Importantly, a primary function of the practice of restorative justice in schools is to encourage healthy relationships amongst the school community (Payne & Welch, 2015). This is simply not feasible when teachers neither understand nor have sympathetic or enriching relationships with the students charged to their care. In 1935 W. E. B. Du Bois, a noted African American scholar and sociologist, asked the question, “Does the negro need separate schools?” His answer was, in part, yes. Du Bois explained that separate schools were needed for Black children: Just so far as they are necessary for the proper education of the Negro race. The proper education of any people includes sympathetic touch between teacher and pupil; knowledge on the part of the teacher, not simply of the individual taught, but of his surroundings and background, and the history of his class and group. (p. 328) For Du Bois, in order for teachers to be effective, they must be knowledgeable of their students’ culture and history. In many schools, this finding is not a reality. As noted, public schools are racist institutions and are among the first places Black children experience bias. Paradoxically, based on the Court’s ruling in the landmark school desegregation case, Brown v. Board of Education (1954), many people of color believed Brown would provide them with access to equal educational opportunities (Patterson, 2001). RECOMMENDATIONS In many ways, like the Brown decision, the zero-tolerance school discipline policies that grew out of the Gun Free Schools Act of 1994 have had (un)intended consequences for Black children. Black boys and girls remain overrepresented in school discipline data despite federal, state, district, and school-based efforts to reduce the use of zero-tolerance school discipline policies. Woefully, for many Black girls, schools are hurtful places where they are “overpoliced and underprotected” (Crenshaw et. al., 2015; Morris, 2016) by the very people who should love, care for, and support them. Until recently, research and 176

policy efforts to address the disproportionate impact of zero-tolerance school discipline policies focused on race and gender, specifically on Black males. The following recommendations are intended to encourage meaningful conversations, strategies, and solutions to reduce the disparate impact of zero-tolerance school discipline policies on Black children in general and Black girls in particular:


Abolish all zero-tolerance school discipline policies. Many states and school districts expanded the zero-tolerance approach required by the Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994. They included “both major and minor violations” of their respective school disciplinary codes. This broadbased approach to school discipline makes it hard to establish a uniform set of disciplinary policies and practices. Moreover, the broad-based approach used in zero-tolerance school discipline policies has had (un)intended consequences for Black girls.

Actively recruit and train teachers of color, especially Black women. There is a cultural mismatch between most teachers and Black girls. The teaching force is overwhelmingly White and White-gendered norms serve to disenfranchise Black girls as both their race and gender are considered incompatible with the school community. The disparate impact of zero-tolerance school discipline policies substantiates this claim. Black girls need the support of teachers of color, especially Black women, if schools are to become loving and caring communities centered on trust.

Utilize uniform race and gender conscious frameworks in school discipline policies. Despite the efforts of federal, state, and district-level educational agencies, school discipline policies are employed inconsistently and subjectively. In order to improve student behavior and to promote safe, caring school communities centered on trust, educational agencies must utilize uniform race and gender conscious frameworks in school discipline policies.

Mandate culturally responsive teaching. Far too many teachers have little, if any, knowledge of Black culture and of the contributions of Black people, especially Black women, to society. As a remedy, school leaders should mandate that all teachers practice culturally responsive teaching. If teachers are to build relationships centered on care and trust with Black girls, they must acknowledge the rich cultures and experiences Black

girls bring with them into the classroom. Culturally responsive teaching is a viable tool to help bridge the cultural divide between most teachers and Black girls. CONCLUSION Education reform efforts have largely focused on holding districts responsible for the use of zero-tolerance school discipline policies against students of color. For one, zero-tolerance school discipline policies should be abolished. Moreover, research points to the importance of teachers of color, Black women in particular, in closing the discipline gap as zero-tolerance school discipline policies are founded in White-gendered norms and are contrary to Black girls’ very being. Last, culturally responsive teaching is a promising remedy to disrupt the (un)intended consequences of zero-tolerance school discipline policies and to bridge the cultural divide between White teachers and Black girls. In conclusion, it must be noted that federal mandates, state and district-level directives—including restorative justice initiatives—are unable to remedy racism. If teachers and school leaders are sincere in their efforts to address the (un)intended consequences of zero-tolerance school discipline policies that hinder the educational outcomes of Black girls, they must first recognize that Black girls are whole and complete human beings. It is only then that they will be able to construct, with them, loving and caring school communities centered on trust. Terri N. Watson is Assistant Professor in the Department of Leadership and Special Education at The City College of New York. A Harlem native, her research examines the practices of urban school leaders and the impact of school reform initiatives on children and communities of color. Dr. Watson is currently engaged in a grant-funded longitudinal study of the leadership practices in a large predominately Latinx and Black high school. Through this research-practice partnership, she works closely with the school’s leadership team to strengthen parent engagement and school-community relations in ways that support student success. Her scholarship may be found in the following journals and books: The Journal of Negro Education, Journal of Cases in Educational Leadership, The School Community Journal, Leadership and Policy in Schools, Journal of Ethical Educational Leadership, and in the books, Confronting Racism in Higher Education: Problems and Possibilities for Fighting Ignorance, Bigotry and Isolation (Information Age Publishing), Bridging Theory & Practice: Pedagogical Enactment for Socially Just Education (Backalong Books), Racially and Ethnically Diverse Women Leading Education: A World View (Emerald Publishing), and Educational Leadership and Music: Lessons for Tomorrow’s School Leaders (Information Age Publishing).


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This publication is important in bringing together policy experts, scholars, and practitioners who are vested in addressing interests vital to the African American community and arriving at policy solutions advancing equity, justice, and equal opportunity. This journal is yet another tool the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) will use to assist in continuing the dialogue beyond the ALC and to share solutions with millions of Americans who are serious policy thinkers and even for those who have not participated in the Annual Legislative Conference but are leaders in their communities. There is still much work to do and the entire CBC in partnership with the CBCF are committed to developing bold and ambitious policies to help alleviate many of the systemic problems we tackle every day. It is my hope you will read this journal and subscribe and contribute to future journals. We can make a difference. The DREAM STILL DEMANDS.

congresswoman sheila jackson lee

Chair, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc.

Journal of the Center for Policy Analysis & Research

PRINT ISSN: 2639-4138 ONLINE ISSN: 2639-4146


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