It’s happened twice, once at the beginning of my trip and again as my time in New Orleans draws to a close.

A small child – in both cases a black boy – randomly wandered up to me and gave me a big hug (at kneecap level), in each case to the embarrassment of their respective mothers.

The first time, I thought it was cute, but the second time, it made me think…

What will become of these adorable beings who come to us with such wide open hearts?

Statistically, the answer is not good.

Child advocates are calling it the “School to Prison Pipeline” and at this point it’s hard for me to see any meaningful moral distinction between how New Orleans and Louisiana treats its black and “minority” children and how the Nazis treated its Jewish ones.

Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC) states:

“Since Hurricane Katrina our School System has drastically changed, and in many cases NOT for the better, because many of our student’s rights are being violated by the School to Prison pipeline.”

The American Friends Service Committee published the following on this issue:

What is the School to Prison Pipeline?

In a 2006 report the NAACP explained that the School to Prison Pipeline refers to “the various policies…that push children out of school and hasten their entry into the juvenile, and eventually the criminal justice system, where prison is the end of the road.”

Many of these policies are codified in our school system under various phrases like “Zero-Tolerance” school policies that turn more and more to law enforcement involvement as sources of discipline for school children.

What are the facts of the issue?

  • Last year (2007) the Recovery School District in New Orleans expelled 3.5% of the student population. The national average is 0.2% (that’s well over TEN TIMES the national rate)
  • Louisiana has the highest rate of incarceration of children in the United States – 387 per 100,000 residents
  • Louisiana also has the highest number of children in adult prisons in the United States
  • The vast majority of youth locked up in Louisiana are African American (80%), yet African-Americans make up only one third of Louisiana’s population.

Who made this?

We did.

These children didn’t come to us this way.

Two groups that are working on this both helping the victims and their families and working to change policy:

Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC)

American Friends Service Committee

There are occasional marches in New Orleans “against violence.” As someone who grew up in then-ultra violent New York City in the 1970s, that’s always seemed a bit abstract to me.

How about marches against official, institutionalized violence – physical and psychic – against children? That would make a lot more sense.

Treme Brass Band Lindy Hop
Love knows no bounds – New Orleans

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