Racism and Shootings

With the massacre in Parkland, Florida and the recent shooting in Indiana, there has been more emphasis on the topic of school shootings in the past year. In response to this issue, Donald Trump has suggested the idea of arming teachers as the preventative action. Even though many may see this as a way to protect students, guns in the hands of teachers could bring potential risk to students of color who fear for their safety.

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When the concept of guns is added to their fear, it further divides classes among racial lines. Teachers should not be armed in the case of school shootings due to racial discrimination faced by students of color.

There are clear racial disparities in school discipline that lopsidedly affect students of color. More than likely, a white student committing the same actions as a black student does not face the same consequences. According to a Department of Education report, black students nationally are three times more likely to be suspended than white students (2012). This can indicate a racial bias, making them be seen and labeled as troublemakers, resulting them to be harshly punished. With racial bias present, it would expose people of color to a hostile learning environment. This is a result of Institutionalized Racism, the idea that biases are hard-wired? into the educational system that reproduce racial inequalities (Jackson, 2005). This could explain why African American students make up 15 percent of school enrollment, but account for 33 percent of school arrests (Department of Education 2012). It comes back to the idea that students of color are disciplined at much higher rates than white students. Whether it is zero tolerance policies or school officers, the harshest discipline falls back on black students, as they are viewed dangerous, regardless of actual behavior.

Because minority students are overrepresented as receivers of discipline, a study done by sociology professors Charles Crawford and Ronald Burns stated that black students reported lower levels of safety compared to white students. This idea of the risk of their safety would give more fear to students of color, and when the concept of guns is added, it further divides classes among racial lines. Antonio Travis, a member of Black Men Rising, a black youth organization in New Orleans, states his school feels like a prison training camp and does not feel safe as a black student surrounded by armed teachers (Bigard,2018). Crawford and Burn’s study on school violence does note that regular reports of racial tension in schools contributed to various types of violent behaviors. This can suggest that education structures for students of color plus interactions with law enforcement can result in something fatal for the student. In the heat of a crisis, the scenario of a white teacher shooting a black student will occur. This does not mean that teachers would use their weapons to discipline black children, but it is a precedent for this physical escalation between the confrontation of young people of color and armed authorities. What would happen to these confrontations when there is a presence of guns? This is the main occurrence that can be seen often as a pattern in the Black Lives Matter movement. In the cases of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, white police officers responsible for their deaths were not charged with any crime, or taken to trial. Zimmerman was not charged for Trayvon Martin’s death as it was justified as a security threat on Zimmerman’s neighborhood watch. In 1998, the American Public Health Administration released a policy statement on the disproportionate impact of police violence on people of color (Garcia and Sharif, 2015). The relevance of the statement shows that this same trend has continued over 20 years later, showing in that these scenarios, harsh discipline driven by racial attitudes, can manifest on a larger scale such as with thousands of armed teachers possessing variable levels of training and temperament. Due to the fact that racial tension and inequality appear to have a positive relationship with school crime that includes violence, if a gun is placed into the wrong hands, it can give the holder of the gun the power to commit racially driven actions that can be justified as disciplinary, along with them just doing their job.

It is important to note that racial discrimination most of the time relies on the diversity of the school, as there is statistically a significant difference between a school that is predominately white and one that is rather a minority school. A minority child at a predominantly white school will face more racial discrimination than in a predominate minority school. Racial and ethnic composition of schools appears to be related to student safety, as student victimization rates are much lower for students who are in schools with more of the same race as peers.

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