Fifth grade is a hard age for a lot of kids. You’re getting older. You’re about to leave elementary school. Bullies are getting stronger. But a new study finds that fifth grade for some African-American children in Texas is even harder than normal.
According to The Skin They’re In, a new study commissioned by the Irving Independent School District in Irving, Texas, African-American fifth graders in Irving are feeling more lonely and estranged than their peers. You might think that’s just becausejust because they’re young or, on a sadder level, because they’re Black, and thus, face oppression. Both sets of reasoningof those are probably somewhat true. But the more interesting problem impacting these children was is something that’s also a bit uglier and more frightening, when considering the future.
In one passage of the study, researchers write, “The African-American child is lonely because of being one of the few, somewhat proud students of African descent in a classroom full of minority students whose brown mannerisms, style, and language form the dominant culture of Irving's elementary classrooms.” In case that’s not clear enough, the translation is this: Black kids are lonely at Irving schools because the population that surrounds them is mostly Latino, and thus they feel left out.
In Irving schools, Black children are disciplined almost twice as much as other students, and Black students report feeling “isolated” because they aren’t Latino and don’t speak Spanish like their peers. Some of the children being interviewed reported feeling like Latino kids benefited from favoritism from the staff.
It’s important to note that, had this study been done in a school in which whites, not Latinos, were the majority and Blacks were still the minority, the results would probably be the same. Isolation is isolation, and when some kids are getting special treatment over other kids, it doesn’t matter what race anyone is — feelings get hurt. That being said, this study is helpful for thinking about the future. By 2050, America will be a mostly Latino country, and just because Latinos have brown skin doesn’t mean they and African-Americans will necessarily get along. That is going to take work from both sides, and it needs to start soon, before years of aggression and bitterness divide the two groups forever.
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(Photo: Commercial Appeal /Landov)