Rachel Jeantel, and How ‘the System’ Is Really Failing Black Americans

by Will Allen
Since taking the stand for the prosecution on June 26, erstwhile Zimmerman-trial witness Rachel Jeantel has drawn ridicule from the right for being incoherent, and defense from the left as an innocent bystander who lost a good friend. Both sides have a point: Jeantel lost a friend in Trayvon Martin, she was drawn into the disgraceful media circus surrounding the trial, and she deserves sympathy. She also deserves ample criticism for giving inaccurate testimony and admittedly lying, during deliberations in which a man’s freedom hung in the balance.
But amid loose talk of black Americans being failed by the justice system, it is worth considering that Jeantel — and millions of other black teenagers — are indisputably being failed by American public schools. In its high-school rankings, US News & World Report paints a dismal picture of Miami Norland Senior High, where Jeantel is reportedly a senior. Norland, located in the Norwood neighborhood of Miami Gardens, has a 100 percent minority (and overwhelmingly black) student body. Sixty-nine percent of its students are considered “economically disadvantaged.” US News also reports the following:

Reading proficiency: Based on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) exit exams, only 22 percent of Norland students are proficient in reading, versus an average of 46 percent across Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

Mathematics: Only 14 percent of Norland students are proficient in math, versus a district average of 33 percent.

Readiness for college: The school earns a College Readiness Index score of 11.2 out of 100, based on student participation in and performance on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams. The district average score is 33.9.

Norland’s scores are also below the Florida state averages in all three areas.

No discussion of the dire straits of black schoolkids (and all American students, for that matter) ought to proceed without recognizing the paramount importance of family breakdown, lack of parental responsibility, and other factors far beyond the control of hardworking teachers and school administrators. Yet for all that, should not the performance of this school and others like it provoke outrage, or at least a little attention, from the legions of literati currently excoriating Zimmerman’s acquittal as proof that systemic racism is still the greatest challenge facing black Americans? Unfortunately, like the epidemic of black-on-black homicide, the ongoing implosion of public education is a real social crisis that many race-obsessed leftists would rather not talk about.

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