Arkansas School District Apologizes For Controversial Blacks-Only Anti-Gang Assembly

Polaski County Special School District (PCSSD) held an anti-gang assembly for its students. More specifically, it held an anti-gang assembly for its black students.

According to PCSSD, the assembly was “not an anti-gang assembly,” but actually “a motivational speaker,” to which I feel it must be clarified that the purpose of the assembly is not exactly the reason why people are outraged. The district released a formal statement on the matter, which, incidentally, attempted to justify the segregation — which is the reason why people are outraged — as part of desegregation efforts.

Because that makes 9,000 kinds of sense…

Last Wednesday morning, at Maumelle High School, in a northern Little Rock suburb, an announcement was made ordering all of the school’s black students to the auditorium for an assembly about the dangers of gangs, violence, and drugs. Rightfully, it pissed a lot of people off. From Alternet:

“The focus on black students left some people angry. ‘[Where] does that leave kids that are mixed? ‘Oh, you know, that’s my other side that’s calling, let me go learn about gang-banging.’ To me, it’s just wrong on every level,’ Aaron Perkins, whose younger sister attended the assembly, told KATV news. ‘She felt that it was very racist… This is 2016. All kids should understand and listen to what this reverend had to talk about. It’s probably great information, but [don’t] single out the black kids.'”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Alabama have also entered the controversy. In a letter to Maumelle High School principal Jeff Senn, ACLU of Arkansas legal director Holly Dickson made sure to explicitly point out why the assembly was a pretty stupid idea.

“Segregating students by race for a school assembly raises grave concerns for the equal protection rights of the students present.”

Of course it does!

Unfortunately, it’s not like the incident that took place at Maumelle High School is a stand-alone affair. Two specific incidents from 2015 come to mind.

In February of that year, the lone black teacher at Benicia Middle School in Benicia, Calif. held an unauthorized blacks-only assembly because of concerns that students had been hurling racial epithets on campus. In April, public school officials in South Bend, Ind. were busted while segregating black elementary school students from the rest of the student population and taking them — and only them — to local colleges so these students — composed of third graders from seven elementary schools — could be modeled the idea that, as a black person, college is a great place.”

But perhaps the most sickening part of this whole story is that Maumelle High School, and PCSSD as a whole, are still under federal district court supervision as a check to make sure PCSSD schools do not discriminate on the basis of race.

So, here we are. A PCSSD school has an assembly, specifically for its black students, containing subject matter that has historically been stereotyped disproportionately to black men and women. Even though it doesn’t seem like there was any malicious intent involved (of course when it comes to Arkansas, like other southern states, one can never be completely sure), the assembly was still executed in poor taste.

Common sense would dictate, however, that any kind of prosocial assembly pertaining to drugs, gangs, and violence should not be a racially-exclusive affair. Members of every race do drugs, peddle drugs, join gangs, and commit acts of violence. These behaviors are not racially-exclusive. Further, common sense would dictate that nothing should be a racially-exclusive affair.

Featured image is in the public domain, available at Wikimedia Commons.

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