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A new study released today that found that nearly one in every six black students in the country’s public schools are suspended from school during the school year.

That rate stays true for North Carolina, where 16.3 percent of black students (just under one in six) were suspended in the 2009-2010 school year, according to the analysis of federal education data by the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Deroches Civiles at University of California-Los Angeles.

The report, “Opportunities suspended: the disparate impact of disciplinary exclusion from school,” used data from school districts around the country, including North Carolina data that reflected more than 90 percent of all students in the state.

Also highly concerning in North Carolina was the 18 percent rate of suspend Native American students in the state.

(Chart made from the UCLA data)

 

North Carolina recently reported a four-year graduation rate that topped 80 percent, the first for the state and hailed as a success by education leaders. But black and American Indian students lagged behind that with 73.7 percent and 74.5 percent graduation rates, respectively.

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By now, many of you have probably already heard of the unfortunate Wisconsin shooting at the Sikh temple. The gunman Wade Page, who lost his military career due to a history with alcohol, has ties to North Carolina and held White supremacist views.

It’s difficult when these things happen and we learn from his friends that Page was “a very kind, very smart individual — loved his friends. One of those guys with a soft spot,” who had problems dealing with alcohol, was a loner, lost multiple jobs, and had his home in Fayetteville foreclosed on. And while that all paints him to be almost a sympathetic figure, a lot of people, including myself, are really just filled with frustration and anger both towards him and for him. Why would he see taking lives of others as a solution to any of his problems (if that was what it was)? And why do we perpetuate a racist and xenophobic society, one equally unkind to the socioeconomically distressed, that would drive him to such hateful actions?

And it’s in thinking about all these strong emotions that I find it amazing to see such a calm, peaceful, friendly, welcoming response from the Sikh community:

And it gives me hope.

 

Send in the mirrors.  Obviously there’s a shortage, judging by the lawmakers and district attorneys who acknowledge racial bias in the justice system in neighboring counties, but never in theirs.

The North Carolina Racial Justice Act, which simply allows defendants in capital trials to present another piece of evidence that race was a significant factor in their case, is up for a concurrence vote in the Senate today.  

Senators are being asked to restore the bill’s original intent of securing fairness in the ultimate punishment. It strips out amendments inserted by Senators eager for the state to resume executions, and whom still voted against the bill even after their amendments were added. 

The Racial Justice Act has been subjected to a cruel, years-long political game among legislators wary that their votes might make them vulnerable in an election year.  But more than most questions put before our lawmakers, this bill is about life and death judgments. Lawmakers have long ignored racial prejudices and assumptions that are typically unspoken and infinitely present in capital sentencing.

In the last year, three innocent black men were released from death row. It’s bad enough that those men served a combined 41 years in prison on death row, but they would have been executed without the state’s court-imposed moratorium on the death penalty.

Today blacks make up 20 percent of the state’s population but 60 percent of those on death row.

It’ll take Senators willing to put away the politics for a day, and who have the conviction to take a hard look in the mirror before voting, to push percentages like that into the history of another era.

 

 

For more information on the NC Racial Justice Act – Senate Bill 461, please visit www.ncmoratorium.org.

NC Racial Justice Act Video 

To contact a Senator to urge support for the bill, link to

http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1576/t/6273/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=27713

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Carolina Justice Policy Center is a partner group of the NC Coalition for a Moratorium on Executions.

Death Row Exonerees Levon 'Bo' Jones, Jonathon Hoffman, Glen Edward Chapman & Prison Exoneree Darryl Hunt

Death Row Exonerees