There is a campaign going on in this country that is being missed by many, if not most people. That campaign is to undermine or marginalize black people and black culture. This is not a one issue campaign, black people are not alone in the cross-hairs of dedicated racists. Latinos, people of Asian descent and as usual American Indians are also being targeted. I, however, identify as black and , therefore, will only be commenting on that war.
It has begun with the majority of our society at least claiming to be bias free in the area of race. They point to the election of a black man as president, they point to increase in middle class blacks and their more common representation in certain areas like some governments. What that has permitted, or perhaps caused, is the development of a new strategy to discriminate and discredit.
I am sure as an educator I do not know what is happening in big business or the media, although my friends the Byars , both recently retired journalism professors, could probably tell me enough horror stories to curl my hair even more. I do know that no only are blacks disappearing from the education community nobody seems to care or understand the impact of this disappearance. Fewer and fewer blacks go into education. The common myth is that it is because they are being wooed by every industry and offered astronomical salaries, much more than any school teacher or even professor could make.
The unfortunate underlayment to this is, of course, the belief black people are not smart and do not want anything more to do with education than they absolutely have to in order to make a living.
The truth of the matter is that it is not a coincidence that the requirements for becoming a teacher have been, in recent years, increasingly linked to standardized test scores. Tests prepared with the majority culture in mind and predicated on the premise that you received a good K-12 education, something not experienced by many students of color, including blacks. We know, for example, that students in inner city schools and rural schools have less than a 50% chance of being taught math or science by someone who majored in those disciplines. Many high schools in less affluent areas do not even offer higher level math or science courses. How then are these students expected to compete with kids who have had AP or International Baccalaureate curricula at their disposal?
Recently a study came out that, once again, linked income of the parents to the academic achievement of the child. In response to this many in the public forum screamed that the rich are just better, they have better values, they make their kids study! What they are either ignorant of, or simply do not care, is that rich people have privilege. The kind of privilege that allows them to pay for and demand excellence in their schools. They can also pay for tutors, for software to prepare their children to take standardized tests and for enrichment activities to help them know more and learn more. In most cases they also tacitly indicate to their children that people with more education have more money and live better lives.
Some of the respondents to the news of the study also pointed to what they consider to be the denigration of black culture, their concept that all blacks lead lives of some form of degradation and inferiority. Similar to the comments made about black youth after the murder of Trayvon Martin. More later in this post about the attempt to justify any violence or indignity directed at black males because they are all thugs or potential thugs anyway.
Children who live where people are not living better lives would have difficulty linking better education with better lives. The better educated from their communities move to places where other people with better education live. Three incidents recently, two in the news and one personal have set off alarm bells in my head about the role of race in America, in education and in society. I will start with the two media incidents. A North Carolina school board voted to ban Ralph Ellison’s marvelous book “ The Invisible Man.” They cited sexual violence and incest as the reasons. They did not, it seems ban Oedipus , any Steinway, Faulkner or other authors or works for the same reasons. This was not random dear readers. This is targeting. Don’t believe it? The Ohio School Board is attempting to ban Toni Morrison’s ( an Ohio native) book “The Bluest Eye” on similar grounds. It appears that if black people write about raw life events it should be banned. If white people write about it then it is literature. In both cases the overarching reason given for banning the books was that they lacked education or literary value. I doubt if the people making these decisions have read either book and I also would like to see their credentials in literary criticism if they have.
The personal event was even more disturbing. One of my former Face Book friends, a young white woman married to a black man and the mother of several bi-racial children, posted a picture of herself dressed up in costume to represent a black rapper, Flava Flav. The concept of this kind of mimicry was kind of beyond me and her captioning of the picture as #thugnation2” ( evidently she had appeared in an earlier post I missed as Tupac) actually upset me quite a bit.
Here was the mother of boys who look like they are black and the wife of a man who is black and she was either giving homage or making fun of the linkage of the word “thug” with a black person. Did she not understand that the appellation and stereotype of thug with young black men is getting them killed either in their own communities or by people like George Zimmerman? When I raised an objection she chastised me for trying to inject race into her page.
Let me see, you are a white woman dressed up as a black rapper who you refer to as a representative of thug nation and I am the one injecting race into it? To add insult to injury at least two or three of her younger black friends defended her, saying it was funny and no big deal.
This latter is one reason that I am as alarmed as I am about the reality of race relations in this country. Far too many young blacks are asleep at the switch. They think as they tell me from time to time, “ it is not like that anymore.” Okay. How many black teachers have your children had? How many black professors did you have when you went to college, if you went to college? If you think that presence of diversity does not matter I will direct you to the two attempts by school boards to eviscerate the curriculum of black literature having already removed most of the black teachers.
When was the last time you looked at your city and county government and its staff and checked for racial diversity? When was the last time you paid attention to who is in power and what they are doing with that power? Ever heard of the Voting Rights Act? Do you know what the Supreme Court did to it? You presume we have left overt racism behind. We may have for the most part, although there is certainly a good measure of it still around, but the kind that will get you, undermining your culture, denying you employment, refusing to loan you money even though your qualifications are the same as those of other ethnicities getting loans , educating your children poorly or not at all, is still here and growing in some cases.People do not trust people who identify as “thugs.” And our society is not good at determining the difference between pretend and reality.
The idea that I take objection to racism, linking blacks with being thugs and attempts to roll back the clock and get rid of some, if not most, of the progress we have made because I am hyper sensitive is both facetious and ignorant. I know a lot of people, black and otherwise who would, and do ,find objection to the things I am calling out.
People must begin to ask questions. Why are there no black people working in your restaurant, your store, your post office, your county building, your city building, your schools, your colleges? Or, if they are working there what kinds of positions are they holding? Can they influence policy? Hiring practices? If they can, do they? Black folks are not homogenous, thank goodness, but we have some who are more house than field. They want to protect their own jobs at the expense of others. When Xenia Schools had a black director of personnel they hired fewer black teachers than before. The system felt it was proof against discrimination claims and the director went along with the decisions made, primarily by principals, all of whom but one were white. This is not to imply all white people are prejudiced or that they hire whites every time because they are white, but there is definitely still discrimination based on race in hiring practices in many place. It is past time to pay attention.
Education is in many instances being purged of black people , black scholarship and black thought and at least some of my younger black folks are so determined to “fit” that they are willing to turn a blind eye to racism and declare, along with the Tea Party , that racism is all in the minds of a few discontented people of color and white liberals. If the black intelligentsia can be wiped from our education system it is easier to portray blacks as inferior, as venal, as uneducated and un-educable, as thugs or potential thugs.
Fortunately there are a lot of young black folks, Latinos, Asians, Indians and white folks and older black folks, Latinos, Asians, Indians and white folks who are not going to allow this to happen on our watch. Those of you that think race does not matter get out of the way so we can save your ignorant behinds, even if you do not deserve it.