In our national discussion around educational inequities, the narrative often focuses on the plight of boys and young men of color who face the worse injustices and lack of opportunity. Monique Morris, a Soros Justice Fellow and co-founder of the National Black Women's Justice Institute, thinks this focus on young men of color, while important, is rendering young women of color and the unique struggles they face invisible. Morris recently gave an interview with New America Media. Read an excerpt below, and read full interview here. Also worth reading is Morris' report Race, Gender and the School to Prison Pipeline: Expanding our Discussion to Include Black Girls.
New America Media: There is a growing emphasis in this country seeking to address the needs of Boys and Men of Color. Why hasn’t there been a similar push for girls and women of color?
Monique Morris: First, I want to say that there should absolutely be an investment in the wellbeing of males of color. However, that investment should not be to the exclusion of females of color! Some organizations, such as Girls for Gender Equity in New York, The Human Rights Project for Girls in Washington, DC, and the Center for Young Women’s Development in San Francisco are working hard to mobilize policymakers and the public toward the goal of improving the conditions of women and girls of color, but there is currently no nationally-coordinated movement to support the healthy development of our girls. Among the bigger obstacles to this movement is the male endangerment rhetoric, which has rendered girls of color invisible.
New America Media: How are the challenges they face different from their male counterparts?
Monique Morris: Most of my research and work has been with black and Latina females, who are overrepresented among women in prison and girls in confinement (i.e. detained in juvenile hall). In the numerous interviews and focus groups that I have conducted with these women and girls over the years, I’ve observed that young women of color do not always center their own wellbeing in their relationships with men and boys in their lives. There has been a stated obligation to “be there” for their male counterparts, even if it meant that their own futures were in jeopardy.
I recently spoke with a girl who admitted that she dropped out of school to spend time with her boyfriend, who had also dropped out. When he started taking advantage of the male-centered improvement initiatives in their community, she thought it was her responsibility to make sure he arrived on time to his program. She told me that no one, in the months that she accompanied him to the program, asked her why she wasn’t in school. Because there was no real intervention in her life, this girl ultimately participated in the underground economy as a survival strategy, and ended up in juvenile hall.
Read the full interview here.