Well, this is embarrassing. Having hit the “send” key on my last submission, I thought something looked odd with my numbers. I in fact entered a wrong number to come with a 6% suspension/expulsion rate for white students (vs 17% for blacks) – it should’ve been 3.5%, which means a factor of five times more blacks receiving this level of punishment than whites instead of three.
So, are the facts pointing to racism as the primary problem that needs to be addressed? I don’t think so. I’m still working on the hypothesis that it’s attitudes and behavior kids are bringing to the school, which are significantly shaped by their living arrangements. Specifically, whether there is a father around to moderate behavior and act as a positive role model.
For one thing, looking back at the census data among kids living with only a mother, while blacks are three time more likely to be in a mom-only household, if you look at the “Never Married” category (vs. widowed, divorced, separated), the numbers are 32.6% of black children vs. 5.3% of white kids. A factor of six. So again, if you accept the possibility that never having a father in the house could result in higher rates of bad behavior, especially among boys, there’s more here than in the default assumption of intrinsic racism.
Of course, that doesn’t make the problem easier to solve. In fact, it makes it harder. You can’t swoop in, identify, and punish some narrow-minded bigots. You’d have to change behavior that every facet of the welfare industry is set up to reward. Good luck with that.