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How do race and gender stereotypes affect public support for the punishment of Black girls? Across the USA, Black girls are suspended, expelled, arrested, and detained by educational and criminal justice institutions at disproportionate rates. Despite this, there is little research in political science investigating what drives this phenomenon. This paper uses original survey experimental data to examine how stereotypical public perceptions of Black girls shape support for their punishment and punitive policy more generally. We join previous research in finding race- and gender-based stereotypes intersect to produce a distinctive set of public perceptions rooted in the “adultification” of Black girls. In general, Black girls are seen as acting older than their age, more dangerous to others, and more experienced with sex than their peers. But, in an important extension, we also link these adultification stereotypes to support for harsher punishments for Black girls than for their peers and to support for punitive school policies more generally. Together, these findings point to the importance of understanding the intersectional nature of racialized and gendered public attitudes and help to draw the empirical link between the adultification of Black girls and support for their disproportionate punishment among the American public.
Chapter 4 returns to the story of Ms. Leanne Woods from the Introduction and provides a clear example of the negative impact of school closure policy, even on those whose schools remain open. In the long term, communities targeted by public school closure lose faith in the political process as durably changing the status quo appears elusive. These negative perceptions have serious consequences because participation provides one of the only mechanisms in a democracy for poor citizens to have power. And yet, the inability of their participation to produce long-term change pushes those affected by the policy to disengage with politics altogether. This chapter conceptualizes this latter phenomenon as indicative of their “collective participatory debt” – a type of mobilization fatigue that transpires when citizens engaged in policy process are met with a lack of democratic transparency and responsiveness despite high levels of repeated participation – and raises serious questions about the utility of participating while poor and Black in American democracy.
Chapter 1 answers the question of what citizens perceptions of the school closure policy are and how these attitudes vary by race. It reveals that African Americans and Latinx citizens – the majority of those affected by the policy – have highly negative attitudes toward public school closures. Whites express the most supportive attitudes toward closure, despite rare experiences with the policy. To explain these disparities, it highlights how African Americans and Latinx shared experiences with previous education policies and shared status as minorities contribute to the development of a shared target identity. Their identification as shared targets result in similar assessments of the closure policy, regardless of whether they are directly affected by it. Whites, in contrast, adopt a viewpoint akin to the purveyors of the policy. These findings have implications for understanding the challenges associated with working across racial lines, toward improved race relations and thus democratic progress.
Chapter 2 looks at how and to whom targeted citizens’ attribute blame and responsibility for school closure actions. In so doing, it brings forth issues of race, and representation, demonstrating the ability of those affected by closure to assign blame based on who holds the most power over closure decisions. In particular, this chapter shows how targets of closure express decreased support for the school district, generally, and decreased support for political actors associated with the policy, specifically the mayor and/or the governor. Further, it reveals how citizens determine the role of race in shaping who to blame more or less for what they are experiencing.
The Introduction outlines the main premise of the book: the mass closure of public schools has serious consequences for American democracy. It begins with one mother’s – Ms. Leanne Woods’ – fight to save Steel Elementary School in Philadelphia. Using the example of Steel elementary, it argues that citizens learn about politics through the institutions they interact with the most, and that for many Americans, schools are those institutions. Accordingly, when schools close en masse, these blunt policy instruments play a significant role in shaping citizens’ – specifically African Americans and Latinx – relationship with government, politics, and political participation. And yet, despite the direct consequences of these policies on the lives of these Americans, the connection between educational policy experiences and democracy remain understudied in political science. In the impending chapters, Closed for Democracy takes on this investigation and demonstrates how affected citizens come to win policy battles to save schools but lose their faith in government.
Every year, over 1,000 public schools are permanently closed across the United States. And yet, little is known about their impacts on American democracy. Closed for Democracy is the ﬁrst book to systematically study the political causes and democratic consequences of mass public school closures in the United States. The book investigates the declining presence of public schools in large cities and their impacts on the Americans most directly affected – poor Black citizens. It documents how these mass school closure policies target minority communities, making them feel excluded from the public goods afforded to equal citizens. In response, targeted communities become superlative participators to make their voices heard. Nevertheless, the high costs and low responsiveness associated with the policy process undermines their faith in the power of political participation. Ultimately, the book reveals that when schools shut down, so too does Black citizens' access to, and belief in, American democracy.
I am a native of the inner city of Chicago. I grew up in a low-income, government-subsidized housing complex, of which 99 percent of the residents were Blacks, called neighborhood commons, or “Orchard” for those who are from there. My mother still lives in this neighborhood today.
Chapter 3 examines how the closure process facilitates increased participation of affected citizens at the local level, in part, through the channeling of resources by the school district, which wants to be perceived as collecting community input. The resources provided by the district and community organizations facilitate increased protests of closure decisions. From their actions, this chapter demonstrates that affected citizens become the most likely group to attend a community meeting, to support an elected school board, and to turn out to vote. And yet, in the end this chapter raises the question of whether their actions lead to lasting policy change.
The book concludes by emphasizing how targeted citizen’s experiences with public school closures, and thus local government, weakens their trust in the political process and reduces their perceived value as citizens. Ultimately, the insights revealed in the book make clear that the closing of public schools contribute not only to the death of a school and its surrounding community but also to the slow death of citizens belief in, and access to, American democracy. Nonetheless, it also posits a potential way forward.
How do racially concentrated policy changes translate to political action? Using official election returns, the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, and original data on the unprecedented mass closure of schools in segregated, predominantly Black neighborhoods across Chicago, we demonstrate that those living in the communities affected (1) increase their attendance at political meetings; (2) mobilize in support of ballot measures to avert future closings; and (3) increase their participation in the subsequent local election, while decreasing their support for the political official responsible for the policy on the ballot—at a higher rate than every other group. These findings shed light on how groups that previously participated at the lowest rates go on to participate at the highest rates on community issues that matter to them. We develop a theory of place-based mobilization to explain the role of “the community” in acting as a site of coidentification and political action for marginalized groups.
How do resource-poor Black populations participate in the policy process? And what are the interpretive impacts of their participation? Using multiyear qualitative data on mass school closures in two large U.S. cities—in which nearly 90% of the population targeted were Black and low-income—I investigate how 1) the school district and local organizations provide resources for those affected to participate in the policy process; 2) affected participants interpret their engagement as contributing positively to the development of civic skills and perceptions of internal efficacy but negatively to their perceptions of politics, policy, and future participation; and that 3) these negative attitudes persist even among those who secure success in fighting the policy. I conceptualize this last phenomenon as indicative of “collective participatory debt” and raise serious questions about the utility of participating while poor and Black in American democracy.