Posted on March 3, 2011

Alabama GOP Official Explains Racial Disparities in Schools: ‘Blacks Misbehave’

Tanya Somanader, Think Progress, March 2, 2011

{snip} The [U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division] listed “several outstanding desegregation issues that the school district [Huntsville, Alabama] must address,” including “that predominantly black schools have too few advanced courses” and “that black children at predominantly white schools are punished and suspended at alarming rates.”

But Hugh McInnish, a member of the Madison County Republican Executive Committee who also sits on the state Republican Executive Committee, set out to school the DOJ on the real reason racial disparities exist in Hunstville: “Life is unfair.” In a press conference at his gated community and a letter responding to the DOJ last week, McInnish offered a litany of bizarre “proof” that racial disparity isn’t “manmade,” claiming “blacks misbehave on average more frequently than whites do,” and that black students are unable to perform as well as white students. {snip}

McInnish went so far as to include in his letter a chart that purports to show the “black crime rate as (a) multiple of (the) white crime rate.” The chart indicates that black people commit more than six times the violent crime of white people overall; it has them committing about eight times as many murders as white people and more than 14 times as many robberies.[ . . . ]

McInnish also argued Tuesday that the gap between white and black students’ participation in advanced courses is not because black students are not afforded the chance, as alleged in the Justice Department letter.

Instead, he said, the gap exists because black students are not able to perform as well in advanced classes.

{snip} [Most] of McInnish’s data is cribbed from the right-wing New Century Foundation (NCF), which, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, is a “self-styled think tank” that propagates “academic racism.” Dedicated “to the ideal of the United States as a white European nation,” NCF also publishes the American Renaissance–a magazine that “publishes frequent articles on the discredited field of eugenics” which is “selective breeding to improve human genetic stock.” Incidentally, the foundation’s “most important publication” is The Color Of Crime (which, to NCF, is black.)

If McInnish ever stepped out of his gated community, he might actually discover that there is absolutely no evidence that African American students “act out more” but rather that “suspension and expulsion is evidence of a pervasive and systematic bias” that’s been present “for the past 25 years.” But McInnish spends more time posting editorials on the white supremacist site VDare, and publishing the news aggregater Suppressed News which includes insightful comments like “Black on black racism is OK. White on black racism for the same reason is not. When are we going to wake up?”


Hugh McInnish

[email protected]

February 28, 2011

Ms. Allison R. Brown

Trial Attorney

U.S. Department of Justice

Civil Rights Division

Educational Opportunities Section

Washington, DC 20004

Dear Ms. Brown:

Your letter of 16 February to Mr. J. R. Brooks concerning the Huntsville schools has been widely circulated, and a copy has fallen into my hands. May I have your permission to offer you a few comments?

Since you don’t know me, I will briefly introduce myself. I am neither a lawyer nor an educator, but a retired engineer. Although retired, I still do some consulting work. My interest in the schools is as a parent, a grandparent, and above all as a very concerned citizen. I have lived in Huntsville since 1964. As I proceed I believe that you will see that, for better or for worse, my viewpoint will be a new one. Some of my words, though not so intended, will perhaps be offensive to some, but they must be said.

My comments will be concentrated on the subjects of Student Assignment and Student Discipline.

In regard to course offerings you point out that white Challenger Middle School had students enrolled in 29 sections of advanced programming, while black Davis Hills Middle School had only nine enrolled. You then compared predominately white Hampton Cove Middle School with predominately black Ed White Middle School. The first had 31 advanced and the last had 14.

An advanced programming course is bound to be challenging and for which only those with the most ability and preparation are suited. And it is certainly true that mathematical ability and proficiency in reading is a good measure of such. The chart below shows the two pairs of schools which you compare. Note that the black-white gap in math is, in each of the pairs, about 50 percentile points, and in reading about 45. It is altogether plausible that this gap accounts for the difference in the number of advanced programming courses offered. Being called “advanced” means that it is not for the ordinary student, but for the exceptional student. Turning to the high schools, You make comparisons among Grissom, Huntsville, and Butler, pointing out the differences between the enrollment numbers in the advanced courses between predominately white Grissom and Huntsville on the one hand, and predominately black Butler on the other. The chart below is pertinent to this point. It shows the percentage of students at each school who scored in Achievement Level IV, the highest achievement level as measured by the Alabama Reading and Math Test (the ARMT). Since these are the most advanced students, it is only logical that those selected for advanced courses would come mostly, if not entirely, from among them. As the chart shows, we can only expect a few students from Butler to be selected for the advanced courses.

Finally there are the elementary schools. Here you compare the relatively high numbers of students in five largely white schools enrolled in advanced courses with the smaller numbers in largely black Lakewood and Rolling Hills. You will probably anticipate what I might say here and I will spare you the needless redundancy. The chart below makes the point similar to that I have made regarding the elementary and high schools.

You also discuss the lack of black-white parity in advanced courses in schools that are predominately white. The data broken down by race in each school is incomplete, but would almost certainly show the same pattern as here if it were available.

You conclude your discussion of the disparities between the white and black schools in regard to advanced course offerings with the statement that, “Thus black students in the predominately black schools in the District were not afforded the same opportunity to enroll in advanced courses as their peers in the predominately white schools, and black students in predominately white schools were not enrolling in advanced courses at nearly the same rate as their white peers.”

I think I am safe in saying that in order to enter an advanced course a student must (1) be an exceptional student, and (2) ask for such a course. You have not presented any evidence that any student has requested an advanced course and been denied, either because the course was not being offered or for any other reason. Further, you have given no evidence that where advanced courses are offered and the number of blacks enrolled is disproportionately low, that the disparity is due to the blacks being excluded from the courses or discouraged from enrolling. In brief, there is no evidence that opportunities are being denied blacks, and the leap from the observation of the number of black participants to the conclusion that the numbers prove a lack of opportunity is a non sequitur of monumental proportions.

I turn now to your discussion of student discipline. You correctly state that, “There are significant racial disparities in student discipline throughout the District, with black students bearing the weight of these disparities.”

But “disparity” does not equal unfairness, and once again we have a non sequitur. You have given no evidence that the procedure for enforcing discipline is more harsh or more lenient toward one race or the other. Nor have you cited any specific case in which the discipline has been unfair. Look at the chart below. It shows the disparities between black and white adults being disciplined for serious crimes. Certainly the misbehavior of students is not felonious, and their offenses are not comparable to these. Still, the regrettable fact is that with this gross disparity between the races in the adult population there should be no incredulity in finding it in the younger generation. Note that these are crime rates, not absolute numbers.

The black-white gap is highly visible here in Huntsville, but no more so than anywhere else. It is omnipresent in the country, and nowhere has anyone found a way to remove it. Richard Posner, the famed jurist of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, has remarked, that if a remedy could be found in a court order, such an order would already have been issued. And I can almost hear him say under his breath, “… constitutional or not.”

Whatever the roots of this disparity, they do not grow from anything school officials have done or have not done. If there is unfairness, it is because life is unfair. The unfairness is not manmade. There is manmade unfairness in this scenario, however, and it is this: It is unfair to the school system and to the community to demand that they correct a problem that is not of their making, and about which they can do little or nothing.

My closing comment will be directed to one of your closing comments. Near the end of your letter you write, “During my visit to the District in 2007, parents, students, and community members complained about the HVAC at Johnson High School and the lack of air conditioning there.” It is ironic and amusing that this is the single concrete example you offer of something amiss. You are probably much younger than I am (most people are these days), so your experiences will not track mine. But when I was in school the very thought of an air conditioned classroom, if anyone was capable of such a thought, would have been preposterous. Even in college I only enjoyed such a luxury the last term before I graduated. To cite such a trivial fault looks to me like an admission of the paucity of substantive issues.

Should you have any questions for me I would be glad to address them.


Copies: J. R. Brooks

Supt. Moore

Dr. Richardson

Ea. Mbr. Of Bd

Mayor Battle

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