Published in: In Zero Tolerance: Resisting the Drive for Punishment in our Schools (51-64). Eds. W. Ayers, B. Dohrn, & R. Ayers.

Full Title:
Racial Profiling at School: The Politics of Race and Discipline at Berkeley High


In recent years, a number of police homicides, beatings, and draggings have been widely publicized, but they represent only the tip of a giant iceberg. For the truth of the matter is that racial profiling, the practice of targeting behavioral problems on the basis of race, is routinely practiced, often unconsciously, by street cops, highway patrol officers, and drug enforcement agents throughout the country.

However, in the educational arena what is remarkable is that many teachers who protest against police brutality and senseless violence perhaps unknowingly practice racial profiling in the hallways and classrooms of their own schools. In other words, the seeming normativity and structured invisibility of racial profiling allows it to operate in educational space as unnoticed, unmarked, and unnamed. This is especially true in schools in which the majority of teachers are white and the majority of students are racial minorities (Sleeter 1993). Having taught in a number of urban public schools, I am familiar with the kinds of situations that students and teachers are facing, and recognize that cultural differences play a covert role in shaping school climate. However, the unwillingness of many educators and educational institutions to confront the continuing significance of race as it relates to growing gaps in discipline and achievement perpetuates ideas of difference as a priori and pathological, rather than as linked to processes of social and economic in. equality at work in the broader society.