As Michigan Live reports, the high school uses the name and mascot “Redskins” (yes, the incredibly offensive slur used against Native Americans). After Native American students advocated that the name be changed, they were not only removed from the meeting where they did so, but (white) alumni and students claimed that the mascot is a “respectful identifier” of Native American identity. The Paw Paw Public Schools Board of Education ultimately voted to reinstate the mascot, which had been removed in 2015.
This sort of belligerent, relentless racism takes on a sort of surreal quality. All of this happens at one place? How? According to Census Reporter, 91 percent of the community is white, and less than one percent is black.
Paw Paw, Michigan, isn’t the only place where insidious racism and racial bias are present in schools, however. For example, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, nationwide, black students are expelled at three times the rate of white students (with black girls being suspended at higher rates than all other boys and girls); one in five girls of color with disabilities receives out-of-school suspensions; and Native American and Native Alaskan students are suspended at higher rates than white boys and girls.
There’s also a big difference in the quality of education. According to the same data, black students are three times as likely to attend schools where less than 60 percent of teachers meet all licensure requirements, and Latino students are twice as likely to attend a school with this sort of disparity. One-quarter of schools with the highest countrywide percentages of Latino and black students didn’t offer a full range of math and science courses.
The Paw Paw School District needs to be held accountable for the allegations against it—and so do schools across the entire country.