Our Best And Our Brightest

copyright © 2009 Forgiven. The Disputed Truth

For years, many blacks have just come to accept that integration was the path to success in America. Blacks who have been able to have deftly navigated the integration maze either through employment, education, or athletic achievement. And once reaching the pinnacle of their success they have chosen to leave their neighborhoods, friends, and communities to relocate into white America where they take on mythical status as being more than black. To whites they become not like those other blacks and therefore become more acceptable to their white sensibilities. And in some cases blacks believe they have some mythical characteristics that separate them from other blacks. In their wake they leave behind a community that is devoid of role models and success stories. They leave behind a community that is becoming more financially and morally bankrupt.

Before integration and the black man’s desertion of the black neighborhood the only place for successful black men was within the black community. They didn’t have the option of leaving and joining the majority population so their influence and their example were there for all to see and emulate. With the exodus of these heroes the black community has been left with smoke hounds, drunks, and prison gang leaders for masculine role models. And people wonder why young black men are doing so well? When you remove the presence of successful men in a community a vacuum is created and as with any vacuum something or someone is always there to fill it. In the case of the black community it has been filled by despair, hopelessness, and this penitentiary mentality. The heroes we have been left with are those who exploit and pander to violence, criminality, and gangsterism.

I remember when I was growing up we had professional athletes, doctors, and professional men as neighbors. We interacted with them daily and got to see that a black man could be successful without resorting to dealing drugs, robbing people, and killing their brothers. These men provided hope just by their very presence to many young black men who otherwise would have been consumed by their circumstances. Even children who did not have fathers at home still could go out into the community and see that there had been others who were able to overcome their surroundings and reach to another level. As blacks have been able to wrestle success from the clutches of an economic system that for so long had ignored and marginalized them they began to seek the safety and comfort of the suburbs. While I have no problem with anyone who wants to make a better life for their families in the suburbs, I do believe that we all have to be cognizant of the consequences of our actions. As more and more successful blacks have migrated to the suburbs in their wake they have left a more engrained and intransigent form of poverty, a poverty that feeds on itself and creates more poverty.

In my opinion there are two ways to be successful. One is to migrate to the suburbs and integrate into an established system of success. This of course is the easy route to take because the only work involved is assimilation into the larger culture. The second and by far the more difficult way is to stay where you are and rebuild the institutions that you have. By doing this you create and enforce your own definition of success which may be different from the larger culture. The key question in all of this I guess is do successful black men owe any loyalty to their communities besides trying to sell them sneakers or an occasional drive through the hood? Each person must answer this question within themselves, but as a Christian I am not only judged on what I do but also on the opportunities I have to do the right thing and do not.

Our black youth in our communities are at a crisis point. They are angry and for good reason. When they needed a black man to protect them and to lead them there was no one positive there. Instead what was there was gangs, criminals, and disengaged fathers. No longer were there positive role models to emulate and find a communal sense of pride in. As more and more black kids are growing up without fathers the need for hope has never been greater. These kids need to know that they matter in a world that has basically ignored, shunned, and made them feel invisible. They continue to cry out in dysfunctional ways, but it is the only way they know how to say we are hurting and no one seems to care. It is time for all of us to come together not as a white community or a black community but as one community to rebuild and restore our promise to one another. Yes, I am my brother’s keeper.

The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy ~ Charles de Montesquieu

Historic Reversals, Accelerating Resegregation In City And Suburbs

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

The mantra may be “teach tolerance.”  Yet, we teach our children intolerance.  In America, we see Historic Reversals, [and] Accelerating Resegregation, so says a report released in August 2007.  This study, conducted by Gary Orfield and Chungmei Lee, of the Civil Rights Project, University of California, Los Angeles documents what is evident throughout the country; racism is alive and well in America.  Indeed, racial discrimination grows stronger each and every day.  The most recent Supreme Court decision, handed down in June 2007, endorsed further racial divides.  Parents Involved in Community Schools versus Seattle School District Number 1 et al, sanctions school segregation.  For the most part, parents and the population at-large embrace this ruling.

People now have permission to do what they have long done, discriminate.  We can predict, with consent from the highest court in the land, prejudice will continue to grow.  Fractures and fissures will expand and the achievement gap will widen.  Currently, forty-three [43] percent of American school children are not Caucasian.  The education they receive has been sub-standard for decades.

Many segregated schools struggle to attract highly qualified teachers and administrators, do not prepare students well for college and fail to graduate more than half their students.

Integration in the few schools that have worked to improve opportunities for all, equally, has helped to a degree.  However, for the most part non-whites cannot or are not easily enrolled in the better schools.  Proximity and policies hinder any efforts to secure equivalent scholarship for students of color.  The Supreme Court decision will only serve to exacerbate a dire situation.

In its June ruling the Supreme Court forbade most existing voluntary local efforts to integrate schools in a decision favored by the Bush administration despite warnings from academics that it would compound educational inequality.

“It is about as dramatic a reversal in the stance of the federal courts as one could imagine,” said Gary Orfield, a UCLA professor and a co-author of the report.

“The federal courts are clearly pushing us backward segregation with the encouragement of the Justice Department of President George W. Bush,” he said in an interview.

The United States risks becoming a nation in which a new majority of non-white young people will attend “separate and inferior” schools, the report said.

Even when the schools are supposedly integrated, they are not.  Attitudes separate the races; reason and rational thought are but clouds, passing swiftly through the mind.  Hearts and souls struggle to survive when segregation exists around every bend and under every tree branch.  Subtle talk of lynching remains strong in society.  We see it in the schools; children act out what adult say they reject; yet in reality project.  We need only consider the circumstances of the “Jena Six” to support this notion.  It’s still about race in Jena, Louisiana.

Last week [July 2007] in Detroit, the NAACP held a mock funeral for the N-word.  But a chilling case in Louisiana shows us how far we have to go to bury racism.  This story begins in the small, central Louisiana town of Jena.  Last September, a black high school student requested the school’s permission to sit beneath a broad, leafy tree in the hot schoolyard.  Until then, only white students sat there.

The next morning, three nooses were hanging from the tree.  The black students responded en masse.  Justin Purvis, the kid who first sat under the tree, told filmmaker Jacquie Soohen: “They said, ‘Y’all want to go stand under the tree?’  We said, ‘Yeah.’  They said, ‘If you go, I’ll go.  If you go, I’ll go.’  One person went, the next person went, everybody else just went.”

Then the police and the district attorney showed up.  Substitute teacher Michelle Rogers recounts: “District Attorney Reed Walters proceeded to tell those kids that ‘I could end your lives with the stroke of a pen.'”

It wouldn’t happen for a few more months, but that is exactly what the district attorney is trying to do.

The Jena Six

Indeed the stroke of a pen may put six innocent children into prison.  Young men, in the prime of their lives may realize what millions have known for centuries.  In America, Black and Brown are not beautiful. 

This is obvious as we watch the daily debate in the halls of Congress and on television screens.  Immigrants of color are not welcome.  Fences are built to “protect” white Americans from their own fears.  African-Americans are ‘busted’ merely for driving while Black.  White citizens within the United States are apprehensive.  Statistics show, soon, Caucasians will be in the minority.  Indeed, the Black and Brown population is increasing.  This is true in public schools, in our cities, and in the rural countryside.  Breeding, just as much in society, belies logic.

Almost nine-tenths of American students were counted as white in the early l960s, but the number of white students fell 20 percent from l968 to 2005, as the baby boom gave way to the baby bust for white families, while the number of blacks increased 33 percent and the number of Latinos soared 380 percent amid surging immigration of a young population with high birth rates.

Just as in centuries past, the poorest among us tend to congregate in ghettoes, not by choice, but in reality.  The impoverished are often under-educated.  They cannot secure quality positions in the workforce.  Those that lack academic expertise and not empowered to do what might benefit them as individuals and society as a whole.  Thus, they congregate in inner cities, live in substandard houses, and travel only as far as meager transportation systems allow.  The disadvantaged do not have the opportunities the more affluent among us have.

As the indigent population increases, conditions worsen.  Cities become more crowded, crime more prevalent, and students are less able to acquire knowledge.  Division gives rise to greater discrimination.  The cycle of separation is endless.  Eventually, we spiral downward.  Indeed we have.

The country’s rapidly growing population of Latino and black students is more segregated than they have been since the l960s and we are going backward faster in the areas where integration was most far-reaching.

Under the new decision, local and state educators have far less freedom to foster integration than they have had for the last four decades.  The Supreme Court’s 2007 decision has sharply limited local control in this arena, which makes it likely that segregation will further increase.

Americans love to label their country a “melting pot,” a stew that combines races, religions, and creeds.  However, this society is not nor has it ever been a delicious blend.  Those that consider themselves cream, rise to the top.  They take their friends and family with them. 

The elite ethnic groups are well educated.  Never would they wish to be identified as racist.  Auspiciously, these affluent persons and those with less dollars, but beautiful pearly white skin write the books, prepare the dictionaries and define themselves, “color-blind.”  Yet, we know, they are not.  In Jena, Louisiana, we recall that a Black student felt the need to ask if he might sit under a tree.  In America, even nature is reserved for the white persons to enjoy.

The next day, hanging from the tree, were three ropes, in school colors, each tied to make a noose.

The events set in motion by those nooses led to a schoolyard fight.  And that fight led to the conviction, on June 28, 2007, of a Black student at Jena High School for charges that can bring up to 22 years in prison.

Mychal Bell, a 16-year-old sophomore football star at the time he was arrested, was convicted by an all-white jury, without a single witness being called on his behalf.  And five more Black students in Jena still face serious charges stemming from the fight.

Caseptla Bailey, a Black community leader and mother of one of the Black students, told the London Observer, “To us those nooses meant the KKK, they meant, ‘Niggers, we’re going to kill you, we’re going to hang you till you die.'”  The attack was brushed off as a “youthful stunt.”  The three white students responsible, given only three days of in-school suspension.

In response to the incident, several Black students, among them star players on the football team, staged a sit-in under the tree.  The principal reacted by bringing in the white district attorney, Reed Walters, and 10 local police officers to an all-school assembly.  Marcus Jones, Mychal Bell’s father, described the assembly to Revolution:

“Now remember, with everything that goes on at Jena High School, everybody’s separated.  The only time when Black and white kids are together is in the classroom and when they playing sports together.  During lunch time, Blacks sit on one side, whites sit on the other side of the cafeteria.  During canteen time, Blacks sit on one side of the campus, whites sit on the other side of the campus.

“At any activity done in the auditorium-anything-Blacks sit on one side, whites on the other side, okay?  The DA tells the principal to call the students in the auditorium.  They get in there.  The DA tells the Black students, he’s looking directly at the Black students-remember, whites on one side, Blacks on the other side-he’s looking directly at the Black students.  He told them to keep their mouths shut about the boys hanging their nooses up.  If he hears anything else about it, he can make their lives go away with the stroke of his pen.”

DA Walters concluded that the students should “work it out on their own.”  Police officers roamed the halls of the school that week, and tensions simmered throughout the fall semester.

Ah, that stew, and the cooks.  When District Attorney Walters presumes and proclaims there are too many chefs.  They have spoiled the broth and the soup must stand alone, it simmers on the stove, unattended.  Finally, as the fire underneath the kettle heats the concoction, the mixture begins to boil.  Sauce spills out and many are burned.  Indeed, ultimately we all are.  For as much as we wish to separate the parts, we are each part of the whole.

However, sadly, the scars show more on darker skin.  Nonetheless, we all are wounded.  The pain wrought by an authorized and artificial separation affects every one of us.

It is true.  Education and the economy are inexorably tied.  If pupils in any population do not receive an adequate erudition, the entirety suffers, economically.  We all feel the effects of segregation.  What is in our cities and in our country is palpable in our schools.  Circumstances in educational facilities are felt fiscally. 

What white persons may wish to consider without the fear that currently drives them, is that they are never separate from those they prefer not to see.  What they do to beings with Black and Brown skin will ultimately have an effect on their lily white bodies. 

Caucasian Americans have a decision to make.  They can choose harmony or continue to allow their trepidation to hurt them, to harm us all.

We are in the last decade of a white majority in American public schools and there are already minorities of white students in our two largest regions, the South and the West.  When today’s children become adults, we will be a multiracial society with no majority group, where all groups will have to learn to live and work successfully together.  School desegregation has been the only major policy directly addressing this need and that effort has now been radically constrained.

The schools are not only becoming less white but also have a rising proportion of poor children.  The percentage of school children poor enough to receive subsidized lunches has grown dramatically.  This is not because white middle class students have produced a surge in private school enrollment; private schools serve a smaller share of students than a half century ago and are less white. 

The reality is that the next generation is much less white because of the aging and small family sizes of white families and the trend is deeply affected by immigration from Latin American and Asia.  Huge numbers of  children growing up in families with very limited resources, and face an economy with deepening inequality of income distribution, where only those with higher education are securely in the middle class.

It is a simple statement of fact to say that the country’s future depends on finding ways to prepare groups of students who have traditionally fared badly in American schools to perform at much higher levels and to prepare all young Americans to live and work in a society vastly more diverse than ever in our past.

Some of our largest states will face a decline in average educational levels in the near future as the racial transformation proceeds if the educational success of nonwhite students does not improve substantially.

While throughout the nation adults discuss busing or income based integration in the schools, we must realize that Band-Aids will never cover the lesions that lie beneath the surface.  What we do in our schools mirrors what is done in our neighborhoods.  If we are to truly prosper, Americans must accept and acknowledge that no matter the exterior color, beauty is within.  Skin is surface.  Depth is what we create when we educate our children.  An educated person, Black, white, or Brown benefits him or herself, as well as us all.

Currently, the dropout rates are extraordinary.  When young persons are not stimulated to think and are not expected to perform there is little reason to stay in school.  Dollars may seem more attractive and meaningful to those adolescents that receive little in their local educational facilities.  Whether greenbacks are appealing or not, in our society they are necessary for survival.  Possibly, money motivates more than the young.  I suspect, adults quantify their decisions based on budget.  Therefore, let us look at education as a pocketbook issue.  Perchance, the purse and its strings will garner some attention.

Broad policy decisions in education can be framed around a simple question: Do the benefits to society of investing in an educational strategy outweigh the costs?

We [researchers at Teachers College, Columbia University] provide an answer for those individuals who currently fail to graduate from high school.  The present cohort of 20-year olds in the US today includes over 700,000 high school dropouts, many from disadvantaged backgrounds.  We investigate the economic consequences of improving their education.

First, we identify five leading interventions that have been shown to raise high school graduation rates; and we calculate their costs and their effectiveness.  Second, we add up the lifetime public benefits of high school graduation.  These include higher tax revenues as well as lower government spending on health, crime, and welfare.  (We do not include private benefits such as higher earnings). 

Next, we compare the costs of the interventions to the public benefits.  We find that each new high school graduate would yield a public benefit of $209,000 in higher government revenues and lower government spending for an overall investment of $82,000, divided between the costs of powerful educational interventions and additional years of school attendance leading to graduation.  The net economic benefit to the public purse is therefore $127,000 per student and the benefits are 2.5 times greater than the costs.

If the number of high school dropouts in this age cohort was cut in half, the government would reap $45 billion via extra tax revenues and reduced costs of public health, of crime and justice, and in welfare payments.  This lifetime saving of $45 billion for the current cohort would also accrue for subsequent cohorts of 20-year olds.

If there is any bias to our calculations, it has been to keep estimates of the benefits conservative.  Sensitivity tests indicate that our main conclusions are robust: the costs to the nation of failing to ensure high school graduation for all America’s children are substantial.

Educational investments to raise the high school graduation rate appear to be doubly beneficial: the quest for greater equity for all young adults would also produce greater efficiency in the use of public resources.

America, you decide.  Will we continue to cultivate practices that endorse separate and unequal, or will we invest in integration.  Many parents applauded the Supreme Court decision that allowed their progeny to stay close to home.  Granted, the transport of students to schools far from the safety and sanctuary of the suburbs is less than desirable.  However, if we do not fully, adequately, and equally educate those that have less wealth and fewer resources we will continue to grow poverty.  Perchance it is time to ponder; people need people.  Blacks need Whites.  Browns require Reds, Yellow, and those whose skin is olive Green.  In actuality, each of us does best when we acknowledge we are one.

Pssst, someone please tell the Justices seated in the Supreme Court.  Perhaps, they are too isolated to notice.  Let us guide them to the window, ask them to look out onto the streets.  People of all races, colors, and creed commingle in this country.  If only they were encouraged to do so in the schools.

Schools, Segregation, Sources . . .

  • Report: Segregation in U.S. Schools is Increasing. By Matthew Bigg.  Reuters.  Washington Post.  Wednesday, August 29, 2007; 8:42 PM
  • pdf Report: Segregation in U.S. Schools is Increasing. By Matthew Bigg.  Reuters.  Washington Post.  Wednesday, August 29, 2007; 8:42 PM
  • It’s still about race in Jena, La.  By Amy Goodman.  Seattle Post intelligencer. July 18, 2007
  • White Supremacy and the Jena Six, Southern Discomfort, By Alice Woodward.  CounterPunch. July 10, 2007
  • The Costs and Benefits of an Excellent Education for All of America’s Children By Henry Levin, Clive Belfield, Peter Muennig, Cecilia Rouse.  Teachers College, Columbia University. January 2007
  • School Diversity Segregates Some. Divided Neighborhoods Isolate All

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    Today, I was reminded of how deeply divided this nation is.  I read School Diversity Based on Income Segregates Some.  I discovered in an attempt to offer equal opportunities, indeed, schools discovered discrimination remained a dominant force.  School Boards, Administrators, and the community-at-large concluded educational institutions would be more diverse if learners were assigned to schools based on family incomes.  A plan was introduced and implemented.  The outcome was mixed; however, the pupil populations were less so.  Some races, colors, and creeds were abundant within a given institution; others were not well represented.

    This findings were contrary to the expected and desired intent of educators.  School Districts were determined to establish a sense of unity in their local schools.  They did not wish to register or reject students on the basis of race.  Family earnings were used to ascertain eligibility.  Enrollment numbers were controlled; however the outcome was not as predicted.  In a recent New York Times article Journalists Jonathan D. Glater and Alan Finder reported.

    San Francisco – When San Francisco started trying to promote socioeconomic diversity in its public schools, officials hoped racial diversity would result as well.

    It has not worked out that way.

    Abraham Lincoln High School, for example, with its stellar reputation and Advanced Placement courses, has drawn a mix of rich and poor students.  More than 50 percent of those students are of Chinese descent.

    “If you look at diversity based on race, the school hasn’t been as integrated,? Lincoln?s principal, Ronald J. K. Pang, said.  “If you don’t look at race, the school has become much more diverse.”

    San Francisco began considering factors like family income, instead of race, in school assignments when it modified a court-ordered desegregation plan in response to a lawsuit.  But school officials have found that the 55,000-student city school district, with Chinese the dominant ethnic group followed by Hispanics, blacks and whites, is resegregrating.

    The number of schools where students of a single racial or ethnic group make up 60 percent or more of the population in at least one grade is increasing sharply.  In 2005-06, about 50 schools were segregated using that standard as measured by a court-appointed monitor.  That was up from 30 schools in the 2001-02 school year, the year before the change, according to court filings.

    It is not a mystery why this might occur.  Perhaps, as often happens, one child spoke to a classmate of his, stating an interest in a particular school or program.  One mother chatted with her neighbor over the backyard fence.  They discussed her son’s education.  A father, in the local barbershop, mentioned his daughter would enroll in this facility or that.  Another resident of that small community thought the idea a good one.  They too entered their child in that facility. 

    People tend to discuss their decisions with those they know.  Word travels; however not as far and wide as it might.  We are acquainted with those that live near us.  Likely, the person next door or down the street has an income similar to our own.  Common interests are usual among people residing in the same community.  Often, people of one race, religion, or creed associate with those of similar backgrounds. 

    Humans are rarely distant from those they relate to.  In the workplace, the peons have no choice but to converse with those at their level.  Corporate Executive Officers rarely confer with their subordinates.  Middle managements lauds over the people that work for them.  However, they do not frequently lean over and say, “Would you like to join us in a meeting, come to dinner, or call me, just to talk.”  Our children watch us; they observe and absorb the characteristics that they experience.  Our offspring learn from us.

    Young persons typically admire their parents, or at least, those that care for them are an important influence.  We teach the children.  They learn their lessons well.  If we loathe our brethren, we can expect that our offspring will too.

    Hate is a learned response; so too is the gravitational pull to certain “types” of people.

    As we assess the recent report or other news of the day, we might wonder why segregation is so prevalent.  The answer abounds.  We heard it again only weeks ago.  The logic of Supreme Court Justices loomed large.  After assessing the evidence as it relates to Parents Involved In Community Schools versus Seattle School District Number 1 these esteemed Jurists announced their decision.

    “Before Brown, schoolchildren were told where they could and could not go to school based on the color of their skin,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for a plurality that included Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. “The school districts in these cases have not carried the heavy burden of demonstrating that we should allow this once again — even for very different reasons.”

    He added: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

    Again, we must acknowledge the attempts in San Francisco.  That School district thought they did as the Chief Justice directed.  Bay Area locals were resolute in their desire not to segregate on the basis of color.  Yet, they realized their efforts led students into greater isolation.  When School Boards concluded differences in incomes would lead to diversity, they negated an inherent fact.  As cited earlier in this essay, but bears repeating.  Frequently we forget, left to their own devices people prefer to be with their kind.

    I believe this reality is not innate; nor is it healthy.  It is a habit.  Imaginary “boundaries” were developed long ago before any of us was born.  The need to build walls and partitions has been passed down through the centuries.  Generation after generation does as their parents did.

    In prehistoric times, safety and a need for survival might have been a reason for concern.  People were nomads; they did not know, nor did they have the time to become acquainted with their neighbors.  Much has changed.  Civilization led to the growth of communities.  Now, we are connected, in cyberspace, and in cities.  Even those in the countryside are not far from other people.

    I think in order to make change we must be more conscious of our choices and what we accept as common wisdom.  Among the most proverbial conventions is there will always be poor persons. 

    I believe as long as there are underprivileged neighborhoods, there will be disadvantaged schools. 

    Educational institutions in our slums serve students already facing difficulties in their daily life.  The educators willing to teach in these facilities will likely be of lesser quality.  There may be a few committed to a cause; however, this is out of the ordinary.  Books will be borrowed, or cast-off when the elite schools think them obsolete.  Indeed, the pupils in these locals will be fortunate to have text to read.  The Center on Education Policy discusses this dynamic.

    Black and Hispanic students tend to take less-rigorous courses.  Though there are more black and Hispanic students taking academically rigorous courses now than in the past, whites and Asians still tend to be overrepresented in such courses.  In part, this situation results from the lack of advanced courses at high-minority schools.  In particular, researchers have found that schools in high-minority or high-poverty areas often offer a less-rigorous curriculum to begin with.  They thereby fail to challenge students, since they cover less material or give less homework.  This is a problem because research has found that students enrolled in challenging courses?in topics such as algebra, trigonometry, chemistry, and advanced English?usually have higher test scores than their peers.

    There is a lack of experienced teachers.  [Nancy Kober, author of the Center on Education Policy’s report] points out that black students are more likely to be taught by less-experienced teachers than white students.  Researchers have cited this factor as one of the most critical variables for explaining the achievement gap: there is a correlation between higher teacher certification scores and higher student achievement scores.  Teachers in districts where there are high percentages of black or Hispanic students tend to have lower scores on their certification tests.

    Teachers set their expectations low.  Studies have suggested that teachers sometimes have lower academic expectations for black and Hispanic children than they do for whites or Asians.  Kober warns that by setting expectations low, teachers run the risk of perpetuating the achievement gap since they do not encourage black and Hispanic students to follow a rigorous curriculum.

    Resource disparities handicap schools.  Low-minority schools tend to be much better funded and have all-around stronger resources than do high-minority schools. The same relationship holds true for schools in low-poverty versus high-poverty areas.  There is persuasive evidence that this factor contributes to the achievement gap.  For example, data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress show the achievement gap between low-poverty and high-poverty schools increased throughout the 1990s.

    Low-income and minority students tend to be concentrated in certain schools.  Kober notes that if a school has high levels of poverty, that can depress achievement for all the children in that school, even if they are from higher income families.  This fact hits Black and Hispanic children the hardest, since they are more likely to attend higher poverty schools than are whites or Asians.

    Student performance anxiety hampers minority students.  Some research has suggested that black students can become anxious about corresponding to negative racial stereotypes in their academic work.  The result, researchers say, is a kind of vicious circle: Black students can be so worried about seeming stereotypically ungifted academically that their anxiety actually makes them perform less well than they could.

    While on paper, Americans declare all persons are created equal, students know in practice this is not so.  Our pupils experience separate is not equal.  Even when “shipped” to schools far from home, they remain detached.  Their personalities are split.  They are the poor mingling amongst the rich.  An education helps; nonetheless, it does not eradicate the deeper divide.

    Discrimination is visible and it is our veracity.  Those that we judge harshly are characteristically the poorest among us.  Frequently and subtly, we deny these individuals their rights, and provide little so that they might achieve their dreams.  They huddle in hovels and call these home.

    Academics argue there is no need for a poor population.  Nonetheless, their perception of why one exists is as skewed as efforts to eliminate poverty are.  What is pervasive is too easily accepted, even expected.  Expert, scholarly opinions, I believe, do not consider the whole or a truth.  It seems what is too real for many is beyond the intellectuals’ ability to grasp.  I offer one authors reading of the problem, and an answer I find troublesome,

    A theorist, a scholar, and a Fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University, Dinesh D’Souza, writes in an article titled, Why Are There Poor People?

    Mister D’Souza acknowledges and accepts the impoverished are victims of a collective configuration that does not reward them.  He states . . .

    The left-wing view is that poor people are the victims of unjust social structures.  Historically this view is sound.  Slavery, colonialism?these were oppressive institutions that prevented people from exercising their freedom and rising in society.

    The left-wing argument is also an accurate description of the situation in much of the Third World today.  If you take a train through the Indian countryside, you will see farmers beating their pickaxes into the ground, frail women wobbling under heavy loads, children carrying stones.  These people are working incredibly hard, yet they are getting nowhere.  The reason is that institutional structures are set up in such a way that creativity and effort don’t bring due reward.  No wonder the people in these countries are fatalistic.

    However, he continues, “institutional structures” that  keep the poor down do not exist in America.  Dinesh D’Souza states “capitalism and technology” provide opportunities for all.

    [I]n the West capitalism and technology have worked together to lift the vast majority of the population out of deprivation and up to a level of affluence that, in the words of novelist Tom Wolfe, would “make the Sun King blink.”

    So what about the underclass, the inner-city poor that we hear so much about? I agree: it is terrible to grow up in many parts of the Bronx, New York, or Anacostia, Washington DC, or South Central Los Angeles. But that?s not because of material poverty.  Rather, it?s because of the shocking moral behavior of the residents.  High crime rates, the crack trade, and the absence of stable families all work together to destroy the cultural ecosystem and make normal productive life so difficult in these communities.

    This is where the right-wing argument gathers force.  Conservatives contend that the bourgeois virtues of family stability, the work ethic, the respect for education and law are essential for individuals and groups to advance, and where those are jlacking, chaos is the predictable result.  The solution is to recognize that prosperity does not come naturally.

    Such is the attitude, the belief, and the perception of many in our society.  Numerous persons say, the poor do not avail themselves of the opportunities within the market place.  Capitalism offers chances for all.  However, I must inquire, do people of color, those of lesser means and little education, truly have the same prospects the prosperous do.

    I observe that not all in the Western world have benefited from free enterprise; nor do each of us have access to technology.  Entrepreneurship is but a dream for those that have little education and few funds.  People that experience discrimination because of their color or perceived background lack hope. 

    In America, for hundreds of thousands skills are lacking.  Millions of people living in this country are illiterate or not well versed in disciplines that might help them climb from the clutches of poverty.  “Equipment” is not evenly distributed.  In impoverished areas, children are fortunate to have textbooks and teachers that care.  Richer areas [are] more successful in attracting qualified teachers.

    I must ask, if I am born to a welfare mother, a woman that is poor, or not white, will I have an equal chance to succeed.  We know that schools and society discriminate against those whose flesh is darker and those of lesser means.

    If my father had to work as a child to support his family, and therefore, never had the time let alone energy to complete school, am I likely to do well.  If my guardian must work long hours, doing manual labor in order to provide me with food and shelter will she or he be available to assist me with my homework.  Will they be in the room with me when I need reassurance or feel discouraged.  If they are will, they be able to honestly tell me “Everything will be all right, it always is.”

    Can a parent that has little knowledge of schoolwork or experience learning through scientific method teach me the habits that might benefit me, or society?  A child born into poverty does not hope or dream of succeeding as other children do.

    Discrimination leaves a legacy. The harmful effects of segregated schooling and similar forms of discrimination will continue to persist for several decades, studies show.  These effects can persist as a family link: children whose grandparents? educational achievement was limited or restricted may not enjoy the benefits of a family that values or encourages rigorous academics. Such values may simply not be a part of the family?s culture, partly because past discrimination inhibited the grandparents? achievement.  Moreover, other forms of discrimination, such as in housing or employment, can also negatively impact a child?s educational opportunities.

    Home and community learning opportunities are critical. In general, minority children are less likely than white children to have parents with high levels of educational attainment. This factor, together with others such as lower family income and parents? work schedules, may limit the extent to which parents can foster positive opportunities for learning at home, Author of the Center on Education Policy’s report, It Takes More Than Testing: Closing the Achievement Gap, [Nancy] Kober claims. Hence, opportunities such as having access to books and computers?or even being read to before bedtime?may be more limited for minority children. Also, it is an established fact that high-minority and high-poverty communities tend to enjoy less access to such resources as libraries and museums that can benefit children. Finally, if the family speaks a language other than English at home, that can also affect a child?s learning opportunities.

    Good parenting practices need to be encouraged. Parental approaches to learning at home differ, and cultural variations undoubtedly play a role in children?s learning and achievement. However, the most effective practices should be encouraged, although more research is necessary to determine which do provide the greatest benefits.

    Contrary to the beliefs Dinesh D’Souza professes, only in rare cases does a blood relation or guardian teach criminal behavior.  Most mothers and fathers have the best of intentions.  Parents do not work to raise felons.  No matter what their background, color, or creed people have ethics and values, customs, and traditions.  Humans have emotions; they feel for their children.  Moms and Dads want their children to achieve the accolades they did not.

    Frustrations breed the social structure that inhibits achievement.  All the computers, cameras, telephones, and televisions in the world cannot provide the connection a parent might.  Technology cannot substitute for the tender, caring, touch of a Mom or Dad.

    However, in a country where massive amounts of money are a must in order to maintain a menial subsistence, parents may not be as profound an influence as they might be.  They may not be the best role models. 

    Nonetheless, a child can turn to another adult for guidance and quality instruction.  Perchance a teacher in a good school will stimulate the mind and rekindle a heart starving for attention.  Parents, not your own might help to involve an expectant pupil.  That was the hope in the districts intent on initiating socioeconomic diversity.

    The purpose of such programs is twofold. Since income levels often correlate with race, they can be an alternate and legal way to produce racial integration. They also promote achievement gains by putting poorer students in schools that are more likely to have experienced teachers and students with high aspirations, as well as a parent body that can afford to be more involved.

    ?There is a large body of evidence going back several years,? Mr. Kahlenberg said, “that probably the most important thing you can do to raise the achievement of low-income students is to provide them with middle-class schools.”

    Economic integration initiatives differ from each other, and from many traditional integration efforts that relied on mandatory transfer of students among schools. Some of the new initiatives involve busing but some do not; some rely on student choice, while some also use a lottery. And so it is difficult to measure how far students travel or how many students switch schools.

    The most ambitious effort and the example most often cited as a success is in the city of Raleigh, N.C., and its suburbs.

    For seven years, the district has sought to cap the proportion of low-income students in each of the county?s 143 schools at 40 percent.

    To achieve a balance of low- and middle-income children, the district encourages and sometimes requires students to attend schools far from home. Suburban students are attracted to magnet schools in the city; children from the inner city are sometimes bused to middle-class schools at the outer edges of Raleigh and in the suburbs.

    The achievement gains have been sharp, and school officials said economic integration was largely responsible. Only 40 percent of black students in grades three through eight in Wake County, where Raleigh is located, scored at grade level on state reading tests in 1995. By the spring of 2006, 82 percent did.

    “The plan works well,” said John H. Gilbert, a professor emeritus at North Carolina State University in Raleigh who served for 16 years on the county school board and voted for the plan. “It’s based on sound assumptions about the environment in which children learn.”

    While this is impressive, and validates that those of any background can and will improve given quality education, the truer problem, for me, is not eradicated.  Will these Black students find a way to enter college.  Might they cultivate a career that will ensure financial success.  If they are able to accomplish much, when they walk down the street will they be accepted as a wealthy white person would be.  Might a person of color have the same prospects their Caucasian brethren do.  Probably not.

    If we continue, as we have, competing in a free market society will not be possible when the color of your skin is not white.  The wad of bills in your pocket may help; however, perceptions too often take precedence. 

    Before an American child enters the workplace, where supposedly, opportunity abounds.  They must obtain an education.  We place a huge burden on our children if we remain separate as a society.  We can bus our offspring, and perhaps we may have to until parents learn to adjust.  However, asking our young to sit idly for hours while they travel to a world not their own gives rise to other issues.  The most obvious is the plight of the poor.

    As long as we, in the United States continue to have poor neighborhoods, we will have institutions that help sustain the cycle of poverty.  If we send all the underprivileged to the better neighborhoods, who will attend the remaining pitiable properties intended to educate our youth?  Why would we need facilities that favor no one.  Indeed, why do we need communities that propagate a truth that we do not endorse, poverty.

    Let us replace the myth that only hinders civilization as a whole.  Discard what defines our youth and even their elders as deprived .  They, we, are not Black or white, rich or poor, alien or native, advanced or behind.  We are individuals; we must furnish all with what they need to thrive. 

    As Danish Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard cautions, “Once you label me, you negate me.”

    If as a culture we expect Black and Hispanic children to live in low-income families, they will.  If their parents are not educated well, or accepted into society, the children will be less likely to live in neighborhoods that nurture an innate desire to learn.  We must be willing to integrate our neighborhoods, and truly provide the means for all our citizens to live as equals.

    We need to ask ourselves, do we truly wish to endorse a system where everyone is equal.  If so, let us begin to embrace the challenge and create the structure our forefathers’ spoke of.  If we do not we will continue to look for solutions that shift the responsibility to our children. 

    I believe we can live and succeed as a Union.  We need only invest authentically in our offspring, all of them, and more importantly in ourselves.

    If we decide not to fear our fellow man or see him or her as an alien, a stranger, the enemy, or someone we would not wish to be part of our family, then divisions will exist no more.

    Diversity need not be our undoing.  Please let us look at the United States Constitution and allow the principles that guide us to be our truth.  Might we make this country great and preserve our integrity.  We are one and all.

    When you grow up in a totally segregated society,
    where everybody around you believes that segregation is proper,
    you have a hard time.
    You can’t believe how much it’s a part of your thinking.”

    Shelby Foote [Historian, Novelist]

    Poor Schools, Poor Neighborhoods, A Sad State of Affairs . . .

  • School Diversity Based on Income Segregates Some, By Jonathan D. Glater and Alan Finder.  The New York Times. July 15, 2007
  • pdf School Diversity Based on Income Segregates Some, By Jonathan D. Glater and Alan Finder.  The New York Times. July 15, 2007
  • Parents Involved In Community Schools versus Seattle School District Number 1  Supreme Court Of the United States.
  • Divided Court Limits Use of Race by School Districts, By Robert Barnes.  Washington Post.  Friday, June 29, 2007; Page A01
  • pdf Divided Court Limits Use of Race by School Districts, By Robert Barnes. Washington Post.  Friday, June 29, 2007; Page A01
  • Parents involved in Community Schools versus Seattle School District Number 1. Supreme Court of the United States. June 28, 2007
  • It Takes More Than Testing: Closing the Achievement Gap. A Report of the Center on Education Policy. By Nancy Kober.  Center on Education Policy.  Educational Resources Information Center.
  • lliteracy: An Incurable Disease or Education Malpractice? The National Right to Read Foundation.
  • Richer areas more successful in attracting qualified teachers.  USA Today. April 24, 2006
  • Supreme Court Rules; Brown Versus Board of Education Reversed

    Affirmative Action: Separate But Equal

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    It is official Brown versus Board of Education has been reversed.  Providing equal education opportunities to all children, regardless of race, color, or creed is no longer a priority.  The 1954 Court decision that invalidated the principle of ‘separate but equal’ was overturned on June 28, 2007.  This day will live in infamy.  In another of the many recent 5 to 4 split decisions, the neoconservative Supreme Court canceled the promise made to students of color.

    School integration, which was once considered essential, as of today, is no longer practicable.  Perhaps, more accurately, the work needed to improve the quality of education for those living in impoverished areas was not pleasurable.  Now, efforts to unify schools need not continue.  Endeavors to integrate are illegal.

    Today’s Supreme Court ruling, Parents Involved In Community Schools v. Seattle School District Number 1 et al. has basically nullified the construct of racial equality in the schools.  According to the majority, Affirmative Action is no longer thought just.  The conservative Justices deemed this principle an illogical inconvenience.  The Judges in the majority stated students in white enclaves or Black must travel too far to ensure equal access to quality schools.  Justice Roberts declared.

    The districts ”failed to show that they considered methods other than explicit racial classifications to achieve their stated goals.”

    Perhaps, the school system did not demonstrate a means for combating what is the convention. Schools do not have the power to force people to integrate their local neighborhoods.

    Educational institutions are not able dictate who lives in what community.  After receiving this ruling, Districts must relent, cease, and desist.  School Districts will not have the option to open enrollment to those that do not reside in their region.

    Oh, if they could; schools might possibly be given an opportunity to truly teach tolerance.  However, for now, that prospect is but a dream, one Martin Luther King hoped we would realize.

    I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

    I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

    I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

    I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

    I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

    I have a dream today.

    Sadly, the fantasy faded on this morning in June 2007.  The nightmare is vivid.  Facilitating awareness for diversity is a slow process, made more challenging when elders impose their preconceived notions on innocent children.  If we do not endure, then the forces of “evil,” malevolence will.

    As of June 28, 2007, this newly formed bias will be built into the laws governing school enrollment.  The likelihood is bigotry will  flourish.  Culture clashes are now legal and encouraged by the dominant neoconservative  Supreme Court.

    Thankfully, there was vocal dissent. Justice Stephen Breyer, ardently voiced his concern; however muted in its effect on the final decision.  In his fervent appeal Breyer offered.

    Roberts’ opinion undermined the promise of integrated schools that the court laid out 53 years ago in its landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

    ”To invalidate the plans under review is to threaten the promise of Brown.’

    Justices Breyer went on to express his fury over the fallacy that is now prominent in the Court records.  In commenting on the opinion expressed by the Chief Justice Roberts, that the white students who didn’t get the school of their choice in Louisville and Seattle were equivalent to the black students in Brown versus Board of Education who were denied access to integrated schools in Topeka, Kansas, Justice Stephen Breyer forcefully spoke with some restraint stating . . .

    “You have got to be kidding me, that the efforts in good faith of these schools in Louisville and Seattle to integrate their schools, to make sure that there’s diversity, how dare you compare that to the discrimination of Jim Crow?”

    Nonetheless, it happened.  The words were uttered and the wheels of derision were set more deeply into the structure of society.

    Division may have been the original intent of this Court.  The rulings delivered in this past week would indicate that the Supreme Court is definitively split.  The Conservative Jurists have no intention of seeking unity.  However, whether that is the actual goal long-term is unclear, as much is in this Court.  Chief Justice Roberts declared.

    “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discrimination on the basis of race,” he wrote

    Apparently, we are to believe that in our attempt to reverse centuries of racial prejudice, which in my mind equates to fear of the unknown, stranger anxiety, or xenophobia, segregation must stand.  Humans will validate their reasons for racial discrimination characterizing these as the “natural.”  The unequal “process of selection” is firmly planted in the minds of many and as of this day mandated by the courts.

    It is quite ironic to this author; as we philosophically battle against the idea of ethnic cleansing elsewhere, we here in America are proud to adopt policies that promote it.  We honor division in our local communities, and presently, with the Courts blessing.

    Perhaps, that has always been the truer agenda.  In placing the newest neoconservative members to the Court, we have awarded lifetime positions of extreme power, to those that practice the policy of “Divide and Conquer.”  It seems some of the standing Justices already accepted the notion of separation as truth. Notably, Justice Clarence Thomas.  This Jurist stated his belief; separation is inevitable.

    “Simply putting students together under the same roof does not necessarily mean that the students will learn together or even interact. Furthermore, it is unclear whether increased interracial contact improves racial attitudes and relations.”

    Perchance, the evidence is ambiguous because Affirmative Action rules, those that advance unity have not been fully embraced or enacted.  Thus, we have this Court case and the oft-repeated belief of Justice Thomas Affirmative Action does nothing to help the disenfranchised.?  Judge Thomas has faith that is was the goodness of one insightful, intelligent, and intuitive individual that altered his life, Father Brooks.  In a March 12, 2007 interview Justice Thomas recounted his tale of trials and tribulations.

    Why is Father Brooks such an important person in your life?

    That was an era of in loco parentis. It was a transition period unlike today when you have these notions of race entrenched. It was a time, actually, when there was no set road map for kids. Father Brooks understood something intuitively, that we were just kids. He knew we were from a lot of different environments.

    Father Brooks made a point of trying to recruit a lot more African Americans to campus in the months before you came. Do you think that recruitment drive helped you?

    Oh no. I was going to go home to Savannah when a nun suggested Holy Cross. That’s how I wound up there. Your industry has suggested that we were all recruited. That’s a lie. Really, it’s a lie. I don’t mean a mistake. It’s a lie.

    I had always been an honors student. I was the only black kid in my high school in Savannah and one of two or three blacks in my class during my first year of college in the seminary. I just transferred. I had always had really high grades so that was never a problem. It was the only school I applied to. It was totally fortuitous. The thing that has astounded me over the years is that there has been such an effort to roll that class into people’s notion of affirmative action. It was never really looked at. It was just painted over. Things were much more nuanced than that?.You hear this junk. It’s just not consistent with what really happened.

    What did Father Brooks do?

    Father Brooks realized that we needed to be nurtured not that we needed it every day but that we were going to have unique problems. When you have six blacks in a class of 550 kids, you need that. We all came from very different backgrounds. That’s something that gets lost in this weird notion of race that somehow you can come from New York and Savannah and Massachusetts and somehow you’re still all the same. That’s bizarre, and it denigrates individuals.

    Father Brooks understood that. He saw people who were individuals who happened to be black who had very different outlooks.

    Might we ask what will become of those that do not have a Father Brooks.  Will they feel as young Clarence Thomas did before he was given the gift that Affirmative Action provides to those without a mentor, as the youthful scholar felt when he first arrived at Holy Cross college?

    I was a kid. I was confused. I was 20 years old. I had no place to go. I had no precedent for anybody going to college. I had no precedent for anybody being in New England. I had no road map. I didn’t know anybody to call. I had nobody to talk to. I had nobody to give me advice. Now, what do you do? You were just a kid, trying to make all these choices.

    Were you angry?

    Sure. I was upset. I was upset with a lot of things. You get there and you sort it out. Look at that neighborhood there [Thomas points to a photo of a desolate strip in Georgia]. How do you go from that to Holy Cross? How do you do it? That’s why some of us were really concerned about throwing some of these kids into those environments without thinking because you have a theory. That’s the neighborhood I lived in before I went to live with my grandparents. Doesn’t look very good, does it?

    There were a lot of changes to absorb. Just to think about it was fatiguing. It’s still really fatiguing. It’s also fatiguing that people assume we all showed up the same. A friend of mine sent me that print there. [A sketch of an African American man, draped over a desk with his hands extended toward the floor.] He has since passed away. He thought it captured my life.

    Does it?

    Oh yeah. That’s why I keep it there. Look at the hand. Look at the exhaustion.

    What sort of exhaustion?

    Everything. Mental. Physical. Spiritual. Just constant change. You just want to slow down. You see people take a walk and you want to, too.

    Mental, physical, spiritual exhaustion, exasperation, this is the legacy that we as a nation are leaving our children of lesser means.  A person can only live without hope for so long.  As the rich become richer and the impoverished plunge further into forced ignorance we can expect that this emotional fatigue will be felt by all of us.

    Perhaps, we, as a country, by promoting principles that further division will experience what comes when the classes are truly separate and far from equal.  Once again, we may witness what comes when people are [class] war weary.  Possibly, rebellion will be the result.  I trust in time revulsion will turn into rage, and why not.  Deep division breeds revolution.

    In just a few short years the craftsman President George W. Bush has created such strife abroad.  Civil War in Iraq is invasive.  With his recent appointments to the Supreme Court Mister Bush has secured the eventual possibility here at home.  If not Civil War, certainly civil unrest may become our shared truth.  Inequitable change often causes conflict.

    This President, master of the message George W. Bush has definitely advanced imbalance.  Most of us accept that President Bush has altered world politics with precision.  He has done so with expediency.  It seems this world leader has not ignored the domestic front.  His appointments have altered the face of the Supreme Court.  The newer members serve to accelerate the schism.  Justice Stephen Breyer may have said it best.

    “Never in the history of the court have so few done so much so quickly.”

    Indeed we as a nation are deeply divided.  We have reason to expect that soon Civil War, will be here.  It is the natural outgrowth of a society divided.  I can only ask that we remember the words of many and take these to heart.

    United we stand; divided we fall.

    ~ Benjamin Franklin, John Dickinson,  Abraham Lincoln

    Sources for the Misnomer, Segregation is superior? . . .