In the era of Black Lives Matter where we are examining the mass incarceration affects from low level drug arrests to three strikes, the issues of taking to a knee by Athletes, and the overwhelming examinations of many wrongly sentenced individuals who are now released this has been a signficant time in race relations. And with that came a rise of the "Alt right" and in turn the concept of school to prison pipeline and the failure rates of largely students of color. This is the one that truly hits home as I have found myself examining my own role in this and my own feelings about race, especially now since moving South.
The Rhetoric Of Victimization That Is Paralyzing Black America
The Chicago Tribune|January 14, 1991|By Fredrick D. Robinson.
When Adam Clayton Powell first gave voice to the term ``black power`` in his commencement address at Howard University in 1966, the world barely listened. But when Stokely Carmichael exalted it as the tool of political salvation, blacks embraced it with unbridled passion. The pride and self-awareness that emanated from the black power movement were so persuasive and politically captivating that generations to come would be held in its sway.
But the legacy bequeathed from the spirit of the black-power movement has wounded the black political ethos. Today, many blacks still cling to remnants of it in the form of a collective identity that discourages debate, strangles individualism and offers an inflexible and unrelenting vision of a so-called proper and ``politically correct`` way an African-American should behave and think.
Consequently, to achieve this state of black actualization requires one to adopt an unending list of symbols, a posture of victimization, the rhetoric of black unity and a suspicious and adversarial stance towards society. Blacks whose views don`t fit into this prevailing identity have been swiftly labeled ``sellouts`` and ``traitors.`` An appropriate illustration may be drawn from the words of filmmaker Spike Lee, who was quoted in a recent issue of GQ magazine. Of Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones and Prince, Lee said, ``They aren`t regular black people.``
Why not? Apparently because they`ve refused to don their blackness as some sort of moral badge.
The ``politically correct`` or ``true`` black person, in tandem with the black-power construct, almost reflexively adheres to a conception of racial solidarity that views blacks as perennial victims of white society, who continue to suffer from unrelenting racism. As Harvard University professor Glenn Loury pointed out, the first axiom to the credo of racial loyalty is that when blacks fail, it is whites who are responsible.
Disciples of this view find grist for the mills in the persistence of black poverty, unemployment, the number of black men who are under the scrutiny of the criminal justice system, and the drug scourge that blights many inner-city communities.
Glancing through the cynical lens of white America`s historical treatment of blacks, the trials of the present are often magnified.
Consider the brazen demagoguery circulated by some of black America`s most celebrated men of letters. Novelist Ishmael Reed writes in Life magazine that ``being a black man in America is like being a spectator at your own lynching.`` A column written by New York Newsday writer Les Payne bears this pessimistic headline: ``Diligence is No Antidote to Racism.`` And Village Voice writer Nelson George writes: ``To be a black man is to be a shadow, a nightmare, a statistic.``
Also, consider the results of a recent New York Times telephone survey of 1,000 New Yorkers on the notion of an anti-black conspiracy. The survey found that three out of four black New Yorkers believe it is true, or may be true, that black politicians have been unjustly targeted by the government; 60 percent of blacks believe it is true, or may be true, that the government pours drugs into the black community; and 29 percent of blacks believe that AIDS was engineered for the purpose of black genocide.
The problem with such thinking is that, in seeking to transfer blame, it subverts responsibility. Exalting racism as the major force behind the tribulations of blacks fosters the self-defeating notion that crime, drug abuse, family disintegration, teenage pregnancy, which disrupts many black communities, should be excused until white people act right.
Indeed, this ``militant brother stuff,`` as Eddie Murphy called it, is not working. As long as young blacks are made to believe that their shortcomings are solely the result of an ingrained racist predilection in American life that seeks to circumscribe their potential, underachievement and self- destructive behavior will almost certainly continue unabated.
We can only hope that the dubious legacy of black power-the preoccupation with racism and discrimination to the exclusion of opportunity and responsibility-has run its course and that the `90s will usher in a new sense of awareness for blacks, grounded in the spirit of what Dr. King once said,
``We will not be free until we reach down to the depths of our souls and sign with the pen and ink of assertive manhood our own emancipation.``
Here in Nashville the schools are aberration and I want nothing to do with them. There is a book on the subject matter, Making the Unequal Metropolis, so there is nothing I can add to this that the writer fails to mention. She does, however, stop at 2010 and in 2016 the same year I arrived so did the first Director of the Metro Schools, a black man from Maryland who was chosen among the three finalists, all men and two of color. The same women who then tried to encourage a woman of color to join the application process turned them down. Today those same women are being leveled accusations of racism with their current complaints about the Directors budget process and failure to communicate with the Board regarding the issues of concern. The district is undergoing an audit and the current Mayor has denied the monies needed as the "It" city is now facing a budget shortfall of its own this year. Okay then.
Since that time the Director has played snippets of old rap tunes that taken out of context are sexist veiled misogynistic lyrics that had he continued would have been full of vulgarities to add to the bizarre explanation about his choice of music and why he plays this song on his head rotation when in board meetings with these women. This followed by more bizarre explanations (from someone who does not live here ) and accusations for what appeared to be eye rolls during their inquiries and comments, and in turn the sudden cut of a program one Board member has been a strong advocate of. These could be coincidences, misunderstandings and frustrations when it comes to making hard decisions. We all act at times out of touch and sync or it could be simply racism. Okay then. But the local blogger and school board candidate, TC Weber has done a great job diving into this deep water without an air float. Now he too is being called a racist and a cancer. Okay then.
Then we have the record number of sexual assault charges and investigations that have been public and some not and in turn the way they are handled is truly fascinating. I am going with: Is this racist or sheer incompetence? I say a combo of both, like the Waffle House shooting. More of course has since been revealed about that issue and I look forward to someone explaining why it took over 33 hours to find a man one-half a mile from the shooting. But still the true "hero" continues to amaze and bring such joy to all lives he has saved in that one act that he defined as selfish. But we have a very different definition of selfish. Okay then.
I truly go out of my way to avoid communication with anyone which is impossible. But again at another school I watched the "honors" class of largely white kids be utterly off task and loud to the point a Teacher came in and asked them to tone it down. The subsequent classes that followed were nearly identical with off task behavior and then one escalated into aggressive violence. Boys tormenting girls to the point that they got up and assaulted the boys. These were classes largely black, some Indian and Kurdish but the children that were the most aggressive were black. Again this seems to be the SOP here. And when I have to actually compile lists of Students I can have a positive exchange with I find it fairly distributed among gender and race but in larger proportion to the amount of students I see that is significantly less than it should. In other words out of 500 kids a week, I may speak to one. That one could be either male, female, black white, Muslim, with rarely a positive exchange with Students of Latino descent and I put that under language and fear factor. They do not however have any problem being utterly nuts in proportion to the larger cohort. I have no reason to keep such lists and should not do so. But I feel compelled as a way of monitoring my own biases and confusion about race. But watching these children just flail and fail it is a true problem at large that are co-joined at the hip - behavior and in turn academic performance. That is what opens the door to the school to prison pipeline. And there is nothing a school can do in one day, 180 days a year to stop that. Okay then.
So again how much can I do? Nothing. I can talk to kids all day but I have zero effect when my encounters are brief and even if I taught full time I don't think that is possible. Yesterday the kids were asked to have a reflection on the past year and the number one Teacher they mentioned that they loathed was a Black Woman who I used to sub for and the lessons and dynamics finally led me to stop going to the school. I was not surprised as all the faces of color hated the woman and they were sure she hated them. They have no communication nor support and he heard that over and over again. Tell me that is okay then?
I cancelled the job I had there for next week and I am done for the rest of the year on Friday. In fact, the students and many of the Teachers and staff commented on how surprised they were to see me as I live a 15 minute walk and went all the time last year. This year a new Principal took over after the former was "promoted" and in turn a series of problems that have been undoubtedly tied to the him and the allegations that led to his retirement may also be a factor. The faux STEM program that they promote is just that and that is imploding as well under budget shortfalls. And listening to the kids and watching the simmering rage was something that I felt deeply uncomfortable doing as I felt complicit and could feel my own frustrations also come to a head. This should be a neighborhood school and simply stop all the commuting and busing to attend a school that is not meeting the needs of either the students or the community.
The lack of leadership, the racism and the rage over money here is a dangerous combination and in turn is worse than I thought and in turn has made me look outward finally now rather than continually beat myself up and take inventory, notes, documentation on who I am and what I do that would enable others to feel so compelled to label and judge me. Then I realize this is the South and this is what they do here. They have little else. Okay then.