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The Ghost at the Feast: Ruining White Folks’ Memories since 1966

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I live in a red state in a red county. Republicans are and have been the majority in Greene County Ohio for eons, even back when Republicans were decent people. Some of them still are decent people, just too tolerant of indecency when it does not impact them or theirs personally. I lived for a decade in North Carolina which was mostly red, but quite blue where I lived, in the Triangle.

In both these areas I have been struck by the short memories of some white folks. While at UNC I made sure to put on my regalia and march in with the faculty each year on University Day even though my main job was administrative. There were very few black faculty and I wanted to represent.  I had to pay for my gesture, however, because I had to watch white folks walk up to the microphone and brag about how their great granddaddy Beauregard Calcuddy graduated from UNC back in the day when they did not have to share space with females and coloreds. They did not, of course, know they were saying that, but it is what I heard, and I complained about it to the powers that be each year. To address a multi-racial, multi-gendered group and brag about how your ancestor took advantage of their ancestors because of  their color and genitals was insensitive to the highest degree. I will wager money it still happens every University Day.

After my 45 high school reunion I was invited to join a chat group of classmates. I told them it was a bad idea. I do not believe any of the other participants were black, at least none of the people who posted were black. Oh, they said, no problem, please join. That lasted about three months. The first problem was their need to make their history every one’s history. No, I did not go to The Candy Kitchen because they did not want black people in there. No I did not swim in Pinecrest Swim Club because they did not let black people join. When I would point these things out to them after they posted one of their euphoric “wasn’t growing up in Xenia grand?” , posts they would act like I had thrown up all over the tuna aspic at a dinner party. The number one reaction was some version of “why do you have to ruin it for every one?” So, their position was, if we bring up nasty memories for you then that is okay but if you point out the unpleasant parts of my memories that is rude. I am telling you that your history is not mine and therefore if you want to discuss history you have to discuss ALL of it, not just your part. I told you not to invite me.

We have a great historical society here in Greene County run by a former student of mine. She is brilliant, hard working and totally a social justice champion. The Society is hosting a tour of homes for Christmas. Not, I believe the first time they have done so. I took my grand daughter Ella to tour the main home that is on the tour last year  so she could see how some folks lived a century or so ago. She enjoyed it. I enjoyed it. This year, however, they have expanded the tour to four other homes on King Street where the rich people originally lived. I posted on Facebook that I would send the $10 to the Historical Society that I would have paid for a ticket because I want to support their important work. I will not, however, tour the grand houses of people who made their money, at least in part, at the expense of people of color ( and other poor whites of course). So they got to have marble fire places and crystal chandeliers while denying decent paying jobs and mortgages to other people. I am not going to go admire what they did with the money they stole from the less fortunate.

I am sure there are people who would be horrified that I am ruining their enjoyment of the beautiful homes. But, most of those people are not horrified at what was done to get the now dead robber barons those homes. And , they are not horrified that Xenia still does not hire black people in representative numbers to work for the city and when they do they hire them at low level positions. I am not sure we have ever had a black fire fighter and black policemen have been few and far between. We have a black mayor, but that job is ceremonial, not decision making. I am sure they are not horrified that the new banners put up for Christmas in Xenia that were chosen have Currier and Ives type prints of Christmases past with, you guessed it, all white folks. They are not horrified that a black child or  Asian American child, or Latino child or for that matter a handicapped child, will not see themselves represented on lamp posts on banners paid for in part by their parents and grandparents.

So, to all of my white friends who a are horrified that I keep messing with your memories I have this to say, a favorite saying of one of my salty uncles: “ It is a tough titty but someone has to suck it. “ I am going to continue to rain on your parade when you bring up things that make me wonder why you thought they were appropriate to offer to the PUBLIC. The public is not monolithic, although I am sure some of you wish it could be. I blame the disgraceful election of the totally incompetent and embarrassing Trump partially on the desire of so many white people to return to a time when the voices of the different were not heard so often or so eloquently. When you could forget about racism because since you weren’t of color it had nothing to do with you. When you had never heard the term ” white privilege” and did not have to consider that perhaps some of the reason you were doing better was that the deck was stacked in your favor. When you could make sexist, gay, black, Asian, Mexican jokes and people did not call you out for begin a bigot or a sexist. When you just wanted every one to forget about race ( except that you never actually did) and just be Americans, ignoring the fact that they were not being treated like the rest of the “Americans.” When there was no doubt that all those black men being shot or put in jail fully deserved it because we all knew that they had to be guilty of something, they were black after all. When women did not work and it was okay to hit them on the butt or tell them their boobs looked good without having to go talk to the folks in HR. When you could send messages to your colleagues telling them how much you hated certain people and not get in trouble once they went public. You know back in the good old Great American days!

This “ make America great again” was an attempt to turn the clock back to a time when white ,straight,male and Christian were the norm and anyone who was not could be treated with disdain and oppressed and society accepted the behavior. Sorry buttercups, but we are not going back there. You cannot put the toothpaste back in the tube no matter how many racists you elect.

So, if you decide to honor someone or something and I am in the audience be prepared to hear another view. I am not asking you to like it, I am asking you to think about it. It’s my job.

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

HBCUs: An open letter to parents considering sending your children to an HBCU

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Back when I graduated from Central State University in the 1970s integration had not yet made raids on black faculty and high achieving black students. It was also a time of heightened awareness of being black, so a lot of us went to HBCUs ( Historically Black Colleges and Universities) because they were predominantly black schools. Some students and parents still select HBCUs for the same reason, but particularly because of the size and offerings of some of the smaller, lesser known schools, they are also chosen for their liberal admission standards.

When I was a CSU student our professors were tenured, they published, they conducted research, one of my science teachers worked with Fermi in Chicago, my history professor co-authored the textbook I taught of when I graduated and began teaching, etc. There were national and internationally known scholars on the faculty and highly skilled and highly accomplished people working in student affairs. They were for the most part, in the late 70s and early 80s when colleges decided they needed black students for money and diversity sucked off to teach at more well funded white institutions.

Now,as at most black colleges, I do not believe there is any such thing as tenure at CSU, and while there are still a few stars shining in the faculty and staff they are for the most part getting quite old and soon to leave. As far as I know there is no requirement to do research or to have published, two of the traditional requirements for college teaching besides a PhD. I feel comfortable in saying that too many of the professors at most HBCUs would not employed beyond the adjunct category at most PWIs ( Predominantly White Institutions) of any size and reputation. This is just one of the ways in America we continue the miseducation of black folks ( apologies to Carter Woodson).

First we sentence many of them to low performing, badly staffed, frequently with decaying infrastructure K-12 schools that rarely offer instruction in either science or math by people who majored in those subjects, and then we blame their lack of performance on standardized tests on the children or their parents. With their low grade averages some of them are accepted at HBCUs in desperate need of students. The schools in the South usually do better in attracting students, but there are more black people in many of the Southern states. As more and more opportunities opened up to black college students in the 70s and 80s many choose to go to  PWIs.

In 2016 America the jobs you can get with just a bachelor’s degree are not that many or that lucrative. If you get a teaching certificate in most states, for example,  you have to get a master’s degree to keep teaching. The jobs you could get with a high school diploma thirty years ago now required a bachelors in many cases, the ones that required a bachelors now require a masters and the ones that required a masters now require a PhD. Without learning to write effectively and at least do basic research you are going to have a hard time even in an education grad school. If you are trying for a graduate degree in most fields it will be even harder. The new economy depends on STEM ( Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and on service. Manufacturing jobs are no more. Although education is in high demand for k-12 teachers the myth that blacks now have much broader opportunities ( some blacks do, but not most) and even more damaging, that education is not for black people, has made black educators increasingly thin on the ground. A factor that leads to all kinds of problems in our public schools which are getting to  be more of color as the teaching and administrative staff gets whiter and white.  For example, most educational research conducted about the achievement gap focuses on finding out what is wrong with the student, not what is wrong with the instruction. But, for whatever reason many of our HBCUs are de-emphasizing or even abandoning their education departments, something I consider a serious mistake.

So. If you are sending your child to an HBCU, or thinking of doing so, here are some questions you should ask and things you should do:

1. Google the President. If there is not a strong academic, not just administrative, record that you can easily find, publications, presentations, lectures, etc. pass on that institution. It is being run by a bean counter. A lot of the white schools are too as we have made the unfortunate shift to treating colleges as businesses before educational institutions, but they can afford it. Considering the usual gaps in  k-12 education you need a prez who knows about black education and has published something indicating they do or at least presented on the topic frequently at national conferences. Do the same with his/her cabinet. Far too often they are just people who are considered “ good enough” for black schools.
2. Research the faculty. What are their degrees in and where are they from? Have they published? Presented? What is the evidence of their scholarship? You cannot teach what you do not know. Ask how many or what percentage of their classes are taught by adjuncts. What requirements are in place for adjuncts—can you teach there with a masters degree and as a first time faculty member? Ask them to see the materials for faculty orientation, for adjunct orientation. Ask how long faculty stay on average including adjuncts. In my experience sometimes adjuncts at HBCUs are thrown into classrooms with little or no preparation with unfortunate results for all concerned. Because they are not permanent employees of the institutions there is little that can be done if they do a bad job besides not hiring them again, and that does not ameliorate the damage already done.
3. What kind of bridge or remedial programs do they offer if students need them? Particularly with the new emphasis on STEM when most inner city and rural schools do not offer higher level math and science taught by people who majored in those subjects there is going to need to be some attention paid to filling in some gaps. Be wary of too much of this promised, however and check to make certain they are not no credit classes or your student will end up at the end of a few semesters with no credits and therefore no eligibility for financial aid.
4. Ask the graduation rate. That should, perhaps, be first question . If it is beneath 50%, run!  There are reasons kids do not graduate from a college and it is not because they are dumb or lazy.( Only four black HBCUs: Hampton, Howard, Spelman and Moorehouse have more than a fifty percent graduation rate) . The average college graduation rate among people starting a bachelor’s at all colleges is 57% for public colleges and 65% for private colleges. My alma mater, CSU , in the most recent data I could find had a graduation rate of 24%.Ask how many students who graduate go to graduate school and what kind they go to.
4. Ask about employment rate of graduates upon graduation, in three years, in five years. If they cannot tell you, pass on the school. They do not know what is happening with their graduates and probably do not care. You cannot make improvements to make your students more employable or help them get jobs if you do not know how they are doing and what kind of help they need to do better.
5. Ask to see the student orientation materials. Look for contact information to be listed , phone numbers, office addresses and emails, of at least two people in each department. Look for information on who to call for what if it is after regular office hours.
6. Ask about technology. Is there wi-fi everywhere on the campus? If not, it is not a priority and your student is going to be frustrated and inconvenienced and held back academically. Are there well staffed computer labs with working computers, printers and help available, either staff or student work study folks who are knowledgeable about technology and online research.
7. Ask about the library. Ask about the collections, number of books, periodicals subscribed to, available technology and hours. Are there computers and printers available to all students at hours when they are not necessarily in class or doing work study? A campus library should be open by 7AM and not be closed until at least 10PM and should be open seven days a week. Are textbooks used in classes routinely ordered for reserved use by students in the library?
8. Ask about accreditation. Are all programs accredited and by whom? Graduating with a degree from a college without accreditation is not going to help you much.
9. Ask about Communication. Call several offices. If the phones in more than one go unanswered pass on the institution. This is not necessarily confined to HBCUs but it does seem to be more common and more accepted that nobody is answering the phone. This can get crucial in the areas of registration and financial aid among other things. Is the website regularly updated with important dates and contact information for faculty and staff? Do they answer emails within 24 hours? Can you find who you need to talk to about a question easily? If they are not worried about helping you before hand they will sure as heck not worry about it once your child is already a paying customer. When you visit look to see how readily help is available to you to give you directions or provide you with information.  This would include signage, receptionists, information booths, clearly posted telephone numbers and websites. If you are a parent and have to jump through hoops to get information I promise you your student will have to go jump at least five times as high and as often.
10, Ask about campus safety. Each school is required to produce an annual report about incidents that happen on the campus. Read them. Ask about emergency services, medical care, clinics.

If you do your due diligence you will not get nasty surprises when your child is far from home and finds him or herself in some kind of crisis. There is much talk these days about how dreadful helicopter parents are, interfering, handling affairs that should be handled by their children, but at most schools and particularly at HBCUs you need to be in the mix as often as you feel necessary and you need to be both informed and persistent.

One of the disadvantages of many HBCU students is being a first generation student. The first in their immediate family to attend college. That means they lack some of the tips and tricks of the trade that those with a long history of college going have and can pass along. Which means that it is even more important for alumni and faculty and staff to provide them with the information they need to thrive academically and socially and physically and emotionally. It means we all have to reject the unfair and untrue idea that things are “ good enough” for our students.

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Teacher Preparation needs reform ( So does teaching) : You cannot teach what you do not know

 

teacher-clipartI have been in involved in teacher preparation from pre-service teacher to education professor. I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly along the way. I have seen hero and shero teachers who give it their all, not just during the school day but whenever they are awake. I have seen teachers whose licenses should be revoked for malfeasance and posters of them put up in all school districts to ban them from setting food in a school building.

Teaching is a calling as certainly as being a pastor is a calling. Being a teacher is not a career it is a lifestyle and it is not one you can turn on and turn off. I used to line up my dolls and teddy bears on the stairs of our home and teach them when I was a small child. I identified more with the teachers than my fellow students from kindergarten through my PhD program. In many ways true educators are cult members. We feel we have great power and we do not like it when someone fails to use theirs in the proper way.

Teaching is not easy. It is demanding, emotionally, physically, and psychologically draining.  On the one hand you are the expert in the room, the authority figure, the in loco parentis, but in some ways you are at the mercy of so many others. The school board, the superintendent, the principal, your fellow teachers, the parents of your students and in some cases your students.

Teaching is an art form but we try to make it into a static system. I always tell my teacher preparation students that no one can teach you to teach. We can give you tricks and clues but the development of the relationship with your class is the same as the development of any relationship, it takes work, listening and being willing to learn yourself.

The idea that the students sit and listen and the teacher imparts wisdom is as old as humankind and as ineffective as if we were chiseling out numbers on a rock tablet. The teacher is a guide , not an oracle of wisdom. Any teacher who believes that they know everything and the students should just listen to them and they do not need to listen to the students needs to be summarily dismissed.

In this era of electronics and the internet, all of which have revolutionized information streams, teaching is trying to hold the line and continue the old ways. Won’t work.

Teacher preparation schools have to understand that the way to teach the modern student is to teach the individual, to take him or her from where there are to closer to the goals that they need to accomplish. The students  have to be participants in the journey, not simply mute followers of the herd. Creativity and adaptability and the ability to assess whether what you are doing is working is crucial.

Yet the preparation of teachers is heading into more stylized methodology rather than less and at least in the materials provided by Pearson, one of the giant money makers taking the field of education instruction by storm, there is less and less relevant material about difference.

When I was in a teacher prep program, back when the earth was still cooling, the emphasis was on subject matter knowledge. This is still vitally important. As my after the colon comment says you cannot teach what you do not know. This is one reason we need to stop asking elementary school teachers who did not major in history or art or music or math or science to teach it. There should be majors teaching those subjects, not folks who can just pull up Wikipedia and jot down a few perhaps accurate facts and tell the kiddos that.

But, we have all known brilliant people who cannot teach worth crap. They are sometimes too smart, but frequently too arrogant to understand that if you know it but cannot communicate it to the students in a way that it interests and engages them then what you know is irrelevant to anyone but you.

The emphasis on teacher preparation should be tripartite: 1) You have to like students, all of  your students and accept responsibility for figuring out how to get the best out of them. The fact that they are poor, of color, orphans, from a single family home,  or any other personal characteristic is irrelevant. You have to free yourself of stereotypes and biases or change careers.  2) You have to know your subject matter in depth so you can vary your instruction as you need to in order to get the students on board and interested in inquiry. If one thing does not work you have to know another path to get to the same goals and objectives  3) You have to be adaptable and creative and willing to experiment and willing to defend what you do against the status quo keepers who do not want change because they are not confident they are smart enough to adapt.

I know already what the response from teachers is going to be. We have to teach to the tests or be penalized. What we teach and how we teach it is not up to us. And my response to them is going to be, whose fault is that? If all teachers were politically and socially active they could change what is going on in education.  The new status of teacher as martyr is not working, not for you, not for your students. I never felt powerless as a teacher. I never was powerless as a teacher. Yeah, yeah, I know, it was a different time.

Don’t like what you have to do? How many times have you and your colleagues gone to school board meetings and presented a petition to stop or start something? How many letters and emails and trips to the legislature? I was unhappy with some things I saw in my last gig teaching teachers. I tried to tell the Dean, he smiled and did not change anything, I tried to tell the President who dismissed it out of hand, I told the legislature in my state in charge of education. She is starting an inquiry into what I said was wrong. The only one who can improve your lot is you and your colleagues.

Education got into this mess from being passive. It is true that education is not valued as it once was in many places but that erosion of power and respect is down in some measure to the education community. When non-educators began making the rules and coming up with simplistic solutions to complex problems, which led to standardized testing taking the place of curriculum design and delivery based on educators’ knowledge did you revolt or just whine? If enough teachers say NO, things will change. If everyone is afraid things will get worse. What you tolerate is what will continue.

Perhaps I should add a fourth requirement to my previous list of what needs to be taught to and required of  pre-service teachers, how to be a revolutionary bad-ass teacher.

One of the reasons I was popular in my teaching career is because I did not allow anyone or anything to get between me and my students. They were MY students and I did what I thought was best for them whether it was what the administration or the School Board or anyone else thought. It was my duty as their teacher not to betray my ethics and shortchange them because somebody else thought it was a good idea. So we have two choices, keep on doing what we are doing in teacher prep and teaching and continue to get what we are getting or change and turn out students who can and will change the world for the better. Your choice, choose wisely grasshoppers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

HBCU Blues: Some black colleges are in need of a make over

IindexI have been affiliated either as a student, faculty, adjunct or in some other way ( collaborating on projects, friends with administrators) with four HBCUS, Central State University, North Carolina Central, Florida A and M. Only one in the North and three in the South, where, for obvious reasons HBCUs tend to proliferate more. At all of these fine institutions there is an almost constant financial emergency of one sort or another. Many would make the claim, and probably they are at least partially right, that these institutions are not funded properly, that they get short shrift whenever they can because the legislatures or governing bodies are not that fond of black people. Wilberforce University , of course, is private and therefore can lay its money woes at the feet of other causes.

But, I think, regardless of funding woes the primary issue with all of the colleges I am somewhat knowledgeable  about is leadership, or lack thereof. I hasten to add that in the case of FAMU the relatively new President is a good friend and I have no doubt she will make a great difference, but she has only been on the job since April of 2014.

A. Far too often the leadership of these institutions is lacking in several areas; A. money management  and fund raising skills being first and foremost, B. academic credentials and scholarly background being a close second and C. understanding the limits of cronyism being a close third. The prevailing attitude seems to be among far too many administrators that black colleges will always have money problems due to racism and poor funding. Therefore, there is little motivation to fund raise and to examine where the money is going and why.
B. Not understanding academics is a close second. The tendency seems to be to concentrate on the physical, new buildings, paint, landscaping, rather than scholarship and research. What programs are offered that involve student participatory research are generally very basic and not necessarily intended to be useful in a graduate program. No president of an HBCU I am familiar with has required the faculty to engage in research and demonstrate some skill in both inquiry and writing to keep their jobs. A codicil to this might be that many people act like teaching at an HBCU is an act of martyrdom rather than a privilege.

C. While I understand that you might want your own people to help you run a college, it is important that they not only have some demonstrated skill in the area you are asking them to oversee, but that they are savvy enough to know that they need to learn the history and landscape of the college before they start making pronouncements and decisions and setting policies. Inviting your friends to come drink from the trough while you are there is not in the best interests of the institution. Google some of the administrators at black colleges when they are newly appointed and you will see what I mean.

Add to all that the tendency of many black leaders to look at the presidency of an HBCU in terms only of what it will put in their pocket or on their resume and the recipe is , not surprisingly, doomed to failure. There are, of course, dedicated, skilled and committed leaders at some schools and they are to be praised and honored, but they are, sadly , in my opinion in the minority.

The overarching symptom of dysfunction among HBCU leadership is, however, poverty behavior. Poverty behavior settles for good enough rather than for excellence. We are still here and still doing something, that should be good enough. We are surviving, not thriving, but that is the best you can expect, after all we are an HBCU. We are doing the best we can with the money/students/faculty/staff/ we have.

Visit any HBCU for any period of time and you will see what I mean by poverty behavior. Resources are often allocated for pet projects and run through quickly. Things routinely available on most PWI campuses, like paper for printers and copiers, access to printers for the students, well maintained libraries and buildings, on campus relevant activities for students, student support services, customer service attitude from staff,  study abroad opportunities, a viable internship program for students, sabbaticals for faculty, available wi-fi on the entire campus, knowledgeable and helpful financial aid staff, snack bars, coffee shops, large well stocked bookstores, are often missing from HBCU campuses.

Even more troubling research opportunities for faculty and students are often not present. If you are going to want to attend grad school at most schools you are going to have to be able to do research, or at least know the basics. I am sure the elites, Hampton, Howard,etc. , have faculty that engage in research and involve students in the same, but most of the mid tier and lower schools do not. In addition that means that there are fewer opportunities for internships, paid or unpaid for students at the regular HBCUs.

If I had a magic wand and could waive it I would make the following standard at all HBCUs:

  1. Excellent communication between students, faculty and staff—this is especially important between faculty and students and student services like financial aid and enrollment and students. No unanswered telephones, no unanswered emails and there would be severe penalties for not adhering to the policy. Campus wide free wi-fi. There would be online ( cheap and cheerful, printed would be better but I know what would be said about that)  handbooks for students, faculty and staff with rules, deadlines, details of majors, phone numbers and names of staff members , administrators and faculty and what each handles, regularly updated. Great care would be taken to monitor who is available and accessible and knows their stuff and who is not or does not. The latter category would be filing for unemployment. Cross training  and frequent meetings to share information would be a requirement, everyone needs to know as much about what other employees do as possible. You cannot help students or other staff and faculty if you do not know who does what and where they are.

2. Attitude would be monitored as well. The sour puss, “students are a pain in the butt” folks would have to go. Students are the customers, if you do not have students you do not have a college. The staff who behave like students are bothering  them, and are hostile to them from the beginning of any interaction need to be replaced. Yes, students can be difficult, yes sometimes they , or their parents make impossible demands, but when you go to Macy’s and ask for something you cannot get they do not treat you like a nuisance.

3. Transparency about finances. Where is the money going? Who gets paid what? If there is no money for toilet paper but the Vice President is driving a Hummer something is wrong here. I am not suggesting that administrators at HBCUs need to get lower pay that at other institutions, but it is foolish to make students suffer as they are the ones bringing in the money. If you treat the students badly either with poor attitudes, poor services or poor facilities, your student body will shrink and take your resources right along with them. Perhaps one or two fewer administrators and more attention to student life is a good idea. This is a sub codicil of the above that teaching at an HBCU is an act of martyrdom, this one posits that student at an HBCU are really not deserving of better because if they were they would not be at this HBCU.  Another evidence of poverty behavior—this is all they ( we) deserve.

4. Excellent support for research, a well maintained library, knowledgeable staff and faculty about research protocols and where to find information and resources as needed. If necessary collaborations with other colleges PWI or other HBCUs that have a better developed research history. (One of my students last semester was able to take part in a program between CSU and UD and she is now in grad school at UD. ) Faculty must be willing and able to write letters of recommendation for students  to participate in research opportunities while they are undergrads and for graduate school. Agreeing to write a letter of support and failing to do so by the time required should be grounds for severe discipline.
Required faculty and staff participation in extra-curricular events: Plays, football games, basketball games, track meets, debates, concerts. Faculty and staff need to show up. College is not just about what happens in the classroom. I have attended events where I was the only or one of two faculty members, the staff generally does better. One must view the college experience as a whole as worthy of support. Students love to see professors at these events. It enhances the college experience.

5. Active academic clubs. French major club, History major club, Education major club, all with good, involved advisors

6. A strong mentorship program with black alumni.

7. A strong volunteer program for alumni and others interested in helping, not just giving money when asked, but actually interacting with the students.

8. An alliance with corporations that would not only provide resources but would offer internships and jobs to students and graduates . Most corporations are looking for talented minorities, and many would like to forge a relationship while they are still students, to try them out so to speak.

9. Better opportunities for student leadership—this is often truncated due to limited resources so is tied to several of the other bullets above.

10. A re-dedication to being what black colleges used to be, incubators for black leaders, bastions of black culture and history, and not simply colleges with a majority of black students that is very little different in mission, scope and sequence than most white colleges. Every student at my HBCu would take at least three courses in black history.

Sadly, I lack a magic wand, but perhaps someday someone will begin to look at HBCUs, if they survive and apply some benchmarks  that are needed and remove leadership that does not meet them. After all, while everyone on campus has some responsibility to do what they are supposed to do, in the final analysis the buck stops with the leadership. Or it should.

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Murder in South Carolina: America you created the racist Dylann Roof, he is your child.

Confederate flag nopeThe first thing that struck me when I read about the murder by the young racist Roof was the amazement and shock most people interviewed expressed. I would not have been surprised by grief, anger, sadness, melancholy, or rage, but I was surprised by surprise. Where, I wondered, do these people live that they have not been aware of the ugly undercurrent of racism that has changed form in America from signs that proudly proclaim “ White only” to practices that daily say the same thing?

Racism is as American as apple pie and as widely savored by some. The displaying of the Confederate flags on trucks and houses in the North by people who have never been south of Cincinnati or had relatives who were ever south of Cincinnati is a not so tacit declaration of their racism. It is equally a sign of racism in the South.

When I went to UNC to work they took us on a week long bus tour of the state—only the important people, administrators and tenured faculty, the common people got no love. While we were being wined and dined,  driven around the state looking at people and things we were often hosted by owners of banks, companies, mines or in one case mountains.  On our way to one of these events, being given a personal tour of Grandfather Mountain by its owner Hugh Morton (  This trip early in my career at Carolina made me know I would never really fit in there. Who gets to own a fucking mountain?) we were driving up the incline and at the side of the road was a stand selling souvenirs, including Confederate flags. It was not on the grounds of the mountain complex, but before you got there. I , of course, made a comment about  it. One of our guides, a man who in my short experience with him—he was a former editor of the News and Observer— I had pegged as a racist by some of his comments, stood up and told me quite loudly that those flags were for tourists, that North Carolinians did not buy or display that flag. About ten seconds later the bus was passed by a car proudly displaying the stars and bars on its bumper, it had a NC plate.

Americans have tolerated racism in all of its myriad forms since about the end of the 17th century. In the very beginning it was virtually unknown. But, the need to have free labor and the the failure to enslave the Native Americans meant that another group had to be found. The white ones disappeared too easily into the general population and besides mistreatment of them , folks who looked like you, caused push back sometimes. So blacks were relegated to the role of slaves. In order to make them unsympathetic the pro-slavers worked diligently to churn out print material about how inferior, animalistic, dumb ,hyper sexualized and uncivilized they were. They must be kept in check.  If not kept in check they would rob, murder, and gasp! rape the white women! Sound familiar?

At no time in our history besides the brief actions of the Civil Rights Movement which was primarily directed at the South, has there been any effort to quell racism in an organized fashion in this country. The Civil Rights Movement itself concentrated, as it should have, on public accommodations and institutions, not on education about race or creating a moral imperative or even a societal standard that racism is unacceptable. Illegal in some cases, yes, unacceptable in your daily activities, no. As an American you have no responsibility to condemn racism, let alone help to eradicate it. We call that freedom in America. Freedom to be a bigot.

As a result white supremacy was bent, but not broken. With the election of Barack Obama the nightmares of lots of white folks have come back. “ They are taking over!” and the presumption is that if they do take over they will treat us like we treated them. Oh horrors!

There were white folks firmly convinced that the election of a black President would mean they are going to be enslaved as payback. The level of ignorance in that belief was so staggering i could not even get to the racism in it. I learned in 2008 that far too many Americans are morons. They lack critical thinking skills and have no concept of reality at all. Much of this is instilled by the modern pro-slavers like the Koch Brothers, North Carolina’s Art Pope, the Tea Party and Fox News. Daily doses of how dreadful black people are are really not designed, believe it or not for the simple goal of making people racists. If they fool these gullible mini-brained folks into thinking their main problem is black people they can pick their pockets of everything they have and keep them from advocating or even agreeing that change needs to be made in a country where one person can own a mountain.

Nothing black people have done, said or are created racism. It was created and is carefully tended and promoted by white people for profit. It is part of American capitalism. There is money in poverty, just not for the poor. Ask the owners of the for profit jails, the owners of the Payday loan places, the mortgage companies that charge blacks with the same credit twice as high an interest rate, the ads on television for easy credit that always feature black people in them, the schools where nothing is taught and nobody cares.  As long as the people being denied educational equity, economic equity and equity in the justice system do not look like you   you may not feel the need to confront the abusers. That is the problem of “those people.”

So America, you get what you bargained for. You allow bigotry, prejudice and racism and then are shocked when a racist shoots black people in church. You feign outrage and do absolutely nothing to address the root causes. You tell people it is time to pray  heal. The 9 dead people were praying when they were shot and are going to have a hard time healing in the ground.

Turning the other cheek only gets you two bruises folks.

If you have heard people on television, in print media or anywhere else spewing race hatred and have been silent some of those bullets you bought. If you have just ignored it when people were trying to tell you that this country is broken when it comes to racism because you feel like it is not your business, you bought some of those bullets, if you have allowed you family members, co-workers, Fox News, or anyone else to tell lies about black people and have not spoken up, you bought one of those bullets and if you raised your child to believe black people are inferior, you pulled that trigger at least once.

Don’t like to talk about race because it makes you feel bad? Glad you have the decency to feel bad, sad you don’t have the decency  or courage to change things so you don’t have to.

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Institutional racism at its finest: Cops and Teachers

Institutional racism

This is the summer of our discontent. We began early with Ferguson and have progressed through Baltimore and on to McKinney. Law enforcement officers in far too many instances have decided it is their job to keep black folks in line. If that means shooting them, then so be it. If it means tackling, putting your knee in the back, pulling the hair of a black teenage girl in a bikini, so be it. What people are not seeming to get is the divide among our populace about whether these incidents are oppression or vigilance, peace keeping or prejudice. The divide is primarily among blacks and whites, although there are whites on both sides and sadly, a few blacks on the wrong side. The people defending the police, no matter what they do, fall into three groups; white people who are afraid of black people and sure the police are the only things keeping them from being slaughtered in their beds, serial racists and black people who want white people to like them more than they want to stand up for justice. I understand the motivations of all three of these groups which I consider on the wrong side of the law. The first group, the scared white people are plagued both by stereotypes of black people and by white guilt. They know whites have been historically in the wrong when dealing with black people and are sure that we are out to get revenge, one way or another. These are the people who try very hard not to be racist because they know it is wrong, but cannot help it because if they are not racist they will have to fight racism and that means going against some of their friends and neighbors. There are, fortunately masses of white people who do not mind standing up when they see something wrong regardless of who agrees with them. Their ranks are growing I do believe, which gives me great hope for the future. The serial racists do not think anything done to black people is out of line. They are the ignorant group, the ones who are sure that all blacks should probably still be picking cotton. Sadly they are not all poor people with unfortunate teeth who live in Snake’s Navel Mississippi as we are often led to believe. They are, frequently, our neighbors, our policemen, our teachers, our city and county employees, our butcher, our baker our candlestick maker. The blacks who want white people to like them cut across lines of class and color, but are found most often in the ones who think they have “made it.” I was no surprised in the slightest to see a couple of the black citizens who lived in the area around the latest Texas Swimming Pool Massacre condemn the children and side with the police. They think they have gotten where they have gotten by making white people like them. The fact that this means being as white as possible and reminding them you are black as little as possible in their minds means they have to protect their hard won turf. They have been invited over to Stan and Sally’s cookouts for God’s sake and they are not about to let some snot nosed kid getting slammed to the ground in their neighborhood because she is black mess with their progress. They may be right. An awful lot of black people I know who are financially successful are more skilled at making white people like them by being as white as possible themselves than at social justice concerns. In many cases the less often you remind white people you are black the better off you are, thus it was in slavery, thus it is now. Of course these people are going to be the first to criticize other black people’s behavior if it goes against the white norm. After all, they have to constantly reestablish their house nigger creds.

Anyone in America, or indeed, the world who has not figured out that we need an intensive diversity education program for our law enforcement officers is mentally defective. Sadly, we also need to branch out into other areas of public servants,including our teachers and principals. We have a principal in Miami of a school that is 99% minority applauding the police officer, a man whose own chief described his behavior as over the top and unacceptable. We have a  Texas fourth grade teacher posting on Facebook that she is so sick of black people she is ready to return to segregation and that perhaps the 50s and 60s were on to something–referencing Jim Crow. I will bet money this woman does not teach only white kids. Perhaps the next time we start discussing the achievement gap we ought to take a better look at who is teaching the kids and what their attitudes about the capabilities of those kids might be.

America is plagued by a domestic terrorism called racism. It has cells in almost all of our cities and towns. It is not as common as it once was because it does not have as many adherents, but it is still a dangerous cult capable of carrying on its covert activities in relative safety because so many people do not recognize racism, or if they do recognize it they stand silent in its presence. All those folks who shake fingers at the peaceful Muslim majority for not speaking out against their terrorists keep their mouths firmly shut when they hear or see things that they know are products of our domestic terrorist racists (DTR) .

The DTRs are organized, well funded, and have ways of infiltrating organizations and institutions without ever uttering a single racist thing. Depending on the climate where they are trying to get their way they may not have to hide it too well, but use a few dog whistles just in case someone is recording it so they can deny that what they meant is what they meant.

I was raised in Xenia, Ohio. I was not born in Xenia, Ohio because the only place you could be born, McClelland Clinic did not allow blacks to stay overnight. In the days when I was born women actually got to stay in the hospital for more than 8 hours when they had a baby so no black babies were born in hospitals  or medical facilities in Xenia prior to 1952 when Greene Memorial Hospital was built. I only had a few brushes with racism after I was born , but the city operated then as it does now on the basis that white supremacy is not a philosophy, but a fact. There are cracks showing in the institutional racism, but there are enough practices still in common usage that it is not going away anytime soon.

If I had to pick which of the two, police or teachers, is the larger problem race wise in Xenia it would definitely be the latter. The police force is not as diverse as it should be and I may be out of touch since a decent number of them are former students, but I have not heard of lots of racial incidents with the police beyond the fact they tend to send 8 cars for any small disturbance in the East End of town, which is the historically black ( but getting more and more integrated) part of town. If I had to guess I would say that class may have more to do with your relationship with the police than race. The teachers on the other hand are a different story. Xenia has always been dismal at hiring black teachers and principals and great at hiring conservative whites. As a result the educational community at the secondary level in particularly has been dominated by people who do not even attempt to represent all students’ interests. I will not bore you with the myriad incidents, suffice it to say that one of the librarians recently posted a picture with children holing books donated to the library by  some Republican Woman’s Club . The books were all about or written by Republicans, of course, nothing wrong with that, but the only book about a black person, Condi Rice’s bio, was given to the only black child in the picture to hold. The librarian being Republican and the donors being Republican they no doubt thought that was appropriate, liberal even. After all they included a black author and a black kid. The fact that their staging implied that only a black kid would be interested in a book written by a black person and that a white kid would only be interested in a book written by a white person was too complicated for them to grasp. But, that brings it down to the problem with some , not all, not even the majority happily, of Xenia teachers. If you do not know you have a problem you do not seek a remedy. I cannot even imagine what kind of diversity education it would take to make them culturally aware, but I know they have not had it and are unlikely to get it.

Black people have to be students of white culture to survive. The idea that you can plop down anyone  into dealing with people from a different culture, in many cases a culture imposed on them by your culture, and expect them to know what the hell they are doing without any training, education or understanding of the history of the people is ridiculous. Yet, we do it daily. Some people take the time to learn what they do not know and it takes a long time. Black people are not all alike anymore than white people are, so you have to learn the differences in not only race but class, culture, educational levels, geography, that makes them who they are and how you can relate to them, work with them, interact with them, teach them or protect and serve them. American education is under attack. It was already shaky and I do not see it getting better for anyone but the wealthy.

We could improve our society greatly by better  diversity education for  public servants of all stripes. Education is cheaper than ignorance.

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Letter from a wing nut : idiots are out there! Keep working!

This is the letter I received yesterday in my campus mailbox

hate letter

Because it was written on a typewriter it is difficult to read. But the author who identifies himself only as F. S. Adams rants on about blacks, using the word nigger frequently and calls me a “race pimp” and a “political whore.” He also praises some of the black conservatives and calls himself a “selective racist.” He is a truly disturbed individual and I have sent a copy of his letter to the local Sheriff, the police chief in the  city he lives in and the local FBI office. We live in strange times folks.!sa

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2015 in Uncategorized