It was not the first time. Many individuals fear it will not be the last. Last evening, during a Presidential press conference, millions witnessed the characteristic wonderment that is Lynn Sweet. Whilst citizens in this country anxiously awaited more words from the President on what, for most is truly a tangible issue, Health Care coverage, Ms Sweet decided to move the conversation in her own memorable manner. Provocateur , otherwise known as Chicago Sun Times Columnist Lynn Sweet did as she often does. She changed the subject.
For her, it seems entertainment, or that which might expand her now illustrious career is far more pleasurable than the tedious text that has the potential to improve life for every American. Sweet might justify her stance by saying; “racial profiling” affects us all, or does it. Perchance, her personal profile is the priority.
As she had done in the past, on the evening of July 22, 2009, this previously little known Journalist diverted attention. Lynn Sweets said it was not a plot. She had no intention of inciting the American people. It was merely a matter of “timing.” The White House Press Correspondent thought it “appropriate” to speak of what no one had throughout the night. “Noted Harvard African-American studies Professor Henry Louis Gates Junior,” and his arrest at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts was, in her mind, the more meaningful matter.
For a long while, Lynn Sweet has defined what her readers must think of as imperative. Her personal desires and chutzpah drive her. “I do come from a place where people are not shy about mixing it up a little bit.” If Ms Sweet is not interested in a subject or a soul she will ignore what she thinks irrelevant.
In 1999, a virtually unknown Illinois State Senator Barack Obama introduced himself to the Sun Times Washington Bureau Chief. The author handed the Chicago tabloid Writer his autobiographical account, “Dreams From My Father.” Five years later, in June, she belatedly began to leaf through the pages of the tome. It was not until late in 2004, after United States Senator Obama delivered his address at the Democratic National Convention, and the book was re-released that Sweet thought of the read as other than a bothersome endeavor.
Once read, the Columnist offered quite a critical review of what had become a widely praised publication.. Perhaps, in 2004 and in July 2009, Sweet preferred to deviate from the norm, if only to distinguish herself as different. No one can know with certainty. Nonetheless, Americans were able to observe the Chicago Sun Times Correspondent created this distraction much in the way she had previously done. Perchance, her style has helped advance her personal prominence.
Surely, she would later say, people have a right to know what the President thinks about issues other than Health Care reform. Indeed, in her own blog post Lynn Sweet reminds Americans that two other reporters spoke on themes not related to Health care. However, each of these asked what the Administration might do as it pertains to policy.
The Sun Times Bureau Chief however, chose to ask the President for a personal perspective. Intentionally, she presented a problem that evokes much passion. She stated, “What does that incident say to you and what does it say about race relations in America?” Certainly, Lynn Sweet defends; she did not consider how much the public loves to engage in divisive discussions. The innocent bearer of information did not ponder the known veracity. Conflict sells papers. Assuredly, it never occurred to Ms Sweet she would garner greater visibility if her question were emotionally charged.
However, history gives us pause. We have seen in the past, when Lynn Sweet does what she does best; create a scene, her pocketbook and professional status profits. A sensational story will cause her numbers to soar. And so it was.
Damn the proposed reforms. Forget what Americans think vital, possible alternatives that would improve medical practices. Lynn Sweet wants to talk about race, racism, police, anything but policies that could benefit average Americans, Black, white, and every shade in between.
Friends, fellow reporters, readers of her articles, and of her blog understand. Barack Obama was not able to charm Lynn Sweet. she is not characterized as one who has an axe to grind. Ms Sweet is sincerely on a mission. She has her own plan. The Correspondent’s mission began but a short time ago. The Washington Bureau Chief said of herself.
“I started looking at a lot of blogs and I realized you need a sensibility!” she said. “Why am I here? What can I give you? I suppose I could make a blog on ‘Lynn Sweet’s thoughts about … whatever!'” . . .
“If I had choice between writing about something Bush did, or a congressman did, or Obama, why wouldn’t I go to something I saw people were backing? I just knew from the enormous amount of coverage Obama was getting that oooh, I knew I should be all things Obama. I never had a meeting; no one ever told me to do it. It was just like, I, I just smelled the coffee. I just understood that’s what I could be about.”
Thus, Ms Sweet became the news writer most closely associated with anything Obama. Frequently, on radio, she speaks on the subject she claims to know best, Obama. The go-getter from the President’s hometown, Chicago, appears on most every television network. The ascent of the man who now resides in the White House helped boost Sweet’s visibility. Today, she is considered as she designed herself to be, an acknowledged expert on the President. As reported in The New York Observer,
That’s partially true. She has covered him for less than two [now near here] years. She has spent the majority of her other three decades covering any other number of political stories in Chicago.
Yet, the depth of her knowledge matters not. Lynn Sweet has realized her dream. She is the media and the message. Since Barack Obama entered the scene, Sweet’s inquires have become the dominant news of the day.
It matters not to Ms Sweet that each day, “If we do not act, 14,000 Americans will continue to lose their health insurance.” She does not seem to think it exceedingly significant that “These are the consequences of inaction. These are the stakes of the debate we’re having right now.” What the President might wish to say seems meaningless to someone such as her. She rather know what Barack Obama thinks about topics that might propel her career. It appears, fame and fortune is her mission..
Americans might assume that this Reporter is not interested in what affects the electorate most. She made no reference to a reality that affects all Americans. Near fifty million citizens have no health care coverage. 2.3 million more people lose health coverage each year. The tale that might titillate, was Sweet’s temptation. What was the President’s reaction to a story on race.
She did not address the disparate treatment whites receive. Nor did she find her way to studies that show the ranks of the underinsured are on the rise. The invincible Lynn Sweet had other ideas. While countless worry that the cost of such a climb could be disastrous, the Columnist with a stated singular focus acted as though this might be superfluous.
For Ms Sweet it would appear that a moment of personal fame, or public fury, is her preference. Health Care reform will not be a concern for her as long as she remains popular. Perchance, the better word for what Lynn Sweet hopes to achieve is the term that currently defines her calling. She is without doubt a provocative and profitable professional.
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  percent of American school children are not Caucasian. The education they receive has been sub-standard for decades.
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.
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 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.
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.
Weeks ago, a plane was “forced” to land. Actually, the crew chose to land; “character” was the concern. Who are these characters? Pakistani passengers were walking the aisles. People panicked. They knew. Pakistan is the breeding ground for terrorists; clearly these men must be among those. Passengers and the flight crew agreed; these men must be planning, pacing, and readying for an attack. Numerous people were puzzled; when would the suspicious swarthy men pull out the guns, the knives, and how were they able to get these on the plane. Actually, why were these men allowed on this or any airbus; they are dark characters. Their complexions were cause enough for concern. What was the airline thinking? Everyone knows of persons such as these.
What do we know? We know what they look like, not who they are. People judge and document the rationalization for their personal reality. They forget. A book, a boy, a man, a woman, a terrorist, or even a candidate, cannot be judged by its cover. Character cannot be captured in a moment; it is more than an appearance. Yet, people believe that they know. Individuals and groups alike deny the inevitability of xenophobia, the fear of strangers. Police and politicians, profess profundity, as does the general public. Opinions masquerading as “facts” flourish, and unjust practices become policy.
The facts are America was attacked on 9/11/2001. Terrorists claimed responsibility. These radicals were said to be Middle Eastern. Therefore, people in the West understand, they must fear Middle-Easterners. These individuals must be considered the “enemy.” Trepidation for those that appear to be Muslim, Persian, foreign nationals, or merely “strange,” is thought to be valid.
The recent London bombings reinforced this belief. It seems the Western-World is under attack. Terrorists are everywhere. Discovering that the London bombers were homegrown only advanced greater suspicion. Even hometown boys and men are suspect.
Since the London attacks, cities throughout the western world are on high alert. Police in New York City are checking the bags of subways passengers. The searches are “random.” New York City police are posted at the entrance of the subterranean train stations. They arbitrarily choose whose bags they might explore. If the prospective rider elects not to be searched they will not be allowed to ride.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly stressed officers would not engage in racial profiling. Subway and rail passengers are free to “turn around and leave.” Yet, are they “free,” or are those individuals refusing to be searched now defined as criminals? If their skin is dark and their clothing bulky, will they be told to halt, as the Brazilian in London was? If the “free” to go, man or woman does not respond immediately, or in a manner that pleases the police, will this person then be shot and brutally killed, accidentally? These questions must be asked.
When queried, officials stated they would not specify how frequently the checks would occur. Nor would they define how they determined whom they might suspect of carrying explosives. How could they; this information would reveal that the police are in fact, assessing a person by their appearance. They are human, and that is what we do.
Todorov designed a research study assessing an individual’s reaction to facial appearances, nothing more. The intent of the experiment was to determine if attractiveness influenced voting practices. It did not. Attractiveness was not the deciding factor; the appearance of competency was. Professor Todorov claims “when people are not burdened by ‘facts,; they decide quickly.” Seemingly competent, and self-assured persons are perceived as stable. Knowledge of the true individual only confuses the evaluation. He determined inferences are powerful.
Leslie A Zebrowitz, author of “Reading Faces,”, and a psychologist at Brandeis University, offers her comments on the Todorov findings. She states, in her research she too discovered impressions are influential. Our notion of a person predicts more than the truth does. Zebrowitz declares those with stronger chins and longer noses are considered skilled. A person with a rounded-baby-face, bigger eyes, a smaller nose bridge, and shorter chin is thought to be less mature. People with these physical qualities are considered less knowledgeable, less experienced, and less proficient. People that look young, or naÃ¯ve, are judged less able to take care of business.
Todorov, Zebrowitz, and others conclude, people assume and presume. No matter how hard individuals try to be impartial, detached, neutral, or without prejudice; they are not. Human beings are not objective. Claims to the contrary, however interesting, seem to be self-serving rationalizations for law enforcement and xenophobic souls.
Dr. Donn Bryne, of State University New York, in Albany, is a social psychologist. He too evaluated judgments. Bryne did extensive research on the subject of attraction. It may be argued that emotional or physical, pull has little to do with the afore-mentioned stereotyping; however, if we are honest with ourselves we see that it does. We are drawn to a particular person and repelled by another. We form opinions about those that disgust us, as well as those that delight us. Opinions are subjective.
Just as the other studies did, Bryne’s experiments assessed how people decide much, with few facts. Dr. Bryne actually created the “Bogus Stranger Technique.” He developed a system that distorted what is true of another person. Dr. Bryne created an attitude scale consisting of twenty-six topics. The subjects were scattered; there were areas that would be of major importance [God and premarital sex] and subjects of less significance [Western movies and televisions programs]. He asked participants to rate these.
Two weeks after filling out their own assessment scales, Bryne told participants they were part of a study on how well people can predict the behavior of another person. They were then presented with attitude scales filled out by this other person, the individual whose behavior they would later, be asked to predict. In truth the other person was the experimenter. The experimenter created a bogus set of answers. These responses were calculated; they would either be very similar to the subjects’ own answers or very dissimilar.
Participants were given time to assess the rankings of the “stranger.” Following their evaluation, the subjects were asked a series of questions about the “other.” They were queried of their personal feelings toward the “unknown” person. Questions such as, “Would you like to work with this person?” “Do you believe they are intelligent; does he or she have knowledge of current events, morality, and are they well adjusted?” were posed. In each case, the conclusion was the same. People that are similar to us are those that we prefer, think highly of, respect, and judge as credible.
Those that appear to be similar to “us”, are not persons we will frisk, search, shoot accidentally, or deport. We honor what we think is. If “it,” he or she is as we are, we will show respect. If “it,” he or she is not, well, that is a different story. We may shun, accuse, kill, or deport individuals that are not as we are. We will do this even if we “suspect” that they are dissimilar. “Facts” and information cloud our “objective” mind.
Thus we have it; random searches, by definition, given human nature, are acts of racial profiling. It has been proven, over, and over, and over again. Xenophobia is alive and well; it is the human condition and in recent years it is law!
Today, August 5, 2005, Prime Minister Tony Blair promotes more xenophobia. Please read and consider, Blair Proposes Stricter Deportation Rules Against Terrorism,Los Angeles Times. In this article, Blair is quoted, “We welcome people here who share our values and our way of life. But don’t meddle in extremism because if you meddle in it, you are going back out again.”
I ask, who defines extremism and is the judge objective? I “suspect” that the arbiter will be human, likely xenophobic. Fear of the unfamiliar, the unknown, and that which we do not understand, or chose not to is our common bond.