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Young men of color growing up across this nation face a hurdle most of us will never have to imagine. If a student of color is not diverted to the criminal justice system, suspended or expelled, they might nonetheless be labeled and marked as having gang affliations, based solely on the discretion of local law enforcement.This ‘identity’ has significant long-term consequences. The “shared gang database” is real. Individuals named in the database do not have to agree to be listed, and they also do not have control over getting off it. A young man of color in a public school, wearing baggy pants and a T-shirt color too similar to one associated with a local gang (not always red or blue) cannot afford disciplinary action for bad behavior. Whether in self-defense or a mundane scuffle over a girlfriend, aggression is never allowed for a young man of color.

How did we get to a place where our youths’ mistakes became criminal?


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