People Of Color And The School-to-prison Pipeline Problem In 'the Match'

The story “The Match” written by Colson Whitehead opens with the discovery of a secret grave full of buried, unidentified bodies located on the school of what used to be Nickel Academy, a reform school for troubled juveniles. It is a story where former students have told stories of beatings and sexual abuse and where investigators have found dozens of unmarked graves.

Whitehead tells the story of an ambitious young black boy named Elwood Curtis who's sent to the fictional Nickel Academy after being falsely accused of a crime. The school-to-prison pipeline is the path through which unfair treatment of the boy leads to involvement in the criminal justice system. Elwood quickly learns of the horrific and dehumanizing practices keeping institutionalized racism afloat at Nickel Academy, masked as a reform school for wayward boys. The goal of Nickel Academy’s professed was to “provide physical, intellectual, and moral training” to transform delinquent boys into “honorable men.” But it turned out a monstrously racist institution whose students, white and black alike, are brutally beaten, sexually abused, and used by the school’s two-faced officials to steal food and supplies. The very fact that they are there is predicated on the racist way of thinking that black people are dishonest and dishonorable and need to be taught a lesson. There was no reformation at Nickel Academy, just dehumanization and the dishonesty of “upright” white community leaders. Lives are changed, but for the worse. The punishment room of the school is called by the name it was called in reality: the White House. The school funneled black students into the juvenile justice system based on perceived differences between them and other students.

To read the story is to be drawn slowly into the horrors of Jim Crow-era America and its muti-faceted history. It’s a time filled with signs of progress, but also deeply entrenched racial inequality. Racial justice activists and prison abolition groups have long argued that the “school-to-prison” pipeline funnels young black kids into the criminal justice system, with higher rates of school suspension and arrest compared with nonblack kids for the same infractions. This pipeline has caused a huge rise in the number of suspensions and expulsions, for black kids. the term the “school-to-prison” pipeline is meant to illustrate exactly what drives the mass incarceration of Black youth. The story shows that boys today how more poorly behaved than in the past, but that punishment for even minor disciplinary infractions in school casts them criminals, even they could be killed and buried.

In the story dehumanization clearly explained the day of boxing match between a black and a white student. Griff is an extraordinarily large young man, which is why he’s chosen to represent the black students in Nickel’s annual boxing championship. Just before the match, Spencer, the director of the school, approached Griff and subtly told him to throw the match as because his opponent was white. However, his lack of intelligence gets him in trouble when he fails to obey Spencer’s order to intentionally lose the fight. And this story reflects how the dominant white culture dehumanizes people of color.

The “School to Prison Pipeline” describes the reality that many young people are being pushed out of school and into the juvenile because of harsh discipline policies, high stakes testing, and social oppression. This is part of criminalizes rather than educates students — and one that disproportionately targets black students — as “tough-on-crime” policy has resulted in mostly black and brown people winding up behind bars. Removing students from schools as a form of discipline takes them out of this formative environment and important process; students who express behavioral issues at school are acting out in response to stressful or dangerous conditions in their families or neighborhoods. As they already had a broken heart for crucial so the punishment of removal from school creates the conditions for the development of criminal behavior.

16 December 2021
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