Recently, 15-year-old Olive Branch High School football player Dontadrian Bruce learned a lesson about how perceptions can be shaped by race.
Via Policy Mic:
On Feb. 3, assistant principal Todd Nichols summoned him out of class. Nichols showed Dontadrian a photo he had posed for during a recent biology project, in which the boy had his hand up displaying three raised fingers – his thumb, forefinger and middle finger. “You’re suspended,” said Nichols, “because you’re holding up gang signs in this picture.”
Three days later, a disciplinary committee confirmed Dontadrian’s punishment: “Indefinite suspension with a recommendation of expulsion.”
However, Dontradian countered by informing school officials that the gesture signified the number three on his jerseys and that it was how all of his team members were using it as well to represent the number. Dontadrian was unaware that the hand signal was related to the Chicago-based street gang Vice Lords.
However, because of his race, Dontadrian's gesture was treated as a menacing one.
“Racial discrimination in school discipline is a real problem today,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in January. “[Exclusionary] discipline is applied disproportionately to children of color and students with disabilities.”
As you can guess, the majority of those students disproportionately affected by draconian "zero-tolerance rules" are African-American. Artist Keith Knight's illustration succinctly breaks down how this bias manifests itself.