Are Schools Changing to Teach Black Students?
“The thought of the inferiority of the Negro is drilled into him in almost every class he enters and in almost every book he studies.” Dr. Carter G. Woodson
Public schools, and most of the other schools, for that matter, have done very little to change this phenomenon for Black/African American children. Schools have become more relentless in their models of erasure for Black/African American children by sanitizing their cultures–deeming it invaluable and insignificant. Black/African American children are not special and whole measures are being implemented by school boards and districts to address the inequity facing Black children, but there is little to no intentionality behind these efforts.
How Do I Know?
The nomenclature used to describe non-white groups is “People of Color” in the 21st- Century. In the 70s, the terminology was “minority.” Neither of these terms is specifically used to refer to Black children, namely Black children born in the United States to parents, grandparents, etc. also born in the United States of America, who are commonly referred to as African Americans. Terms like People of Color and minority are intentionally used to address large groups of people who are racially non-white, many of whom are immigrants and/or first or second generation, naturalized Americans. These terms are also used to distribute resources across a broad spectrum of non-white groups, and Black/African American children are still performing in the lowest of all academic metrics.
No. Schools are not changing to teach Black students. And, policies like Title I and Title III being used to address the needs of other children except for Black children. Title I, a provision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act provides funding to Local Educational Agencies to provide funding to schools with high populations of students from low-income families. All children can benefit from Title I funding through their schools via initiatives like free or reduced lunch if they meet the criteria of being from low-income families. To the contrary, Title III, also a provision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, provides funding for students deemed English learners in order to help them to gain English language proficiency. Only students whose first language is other than English can benefit from this federal, United States, educational funding policy.
Black/African American children deserve and need more than exclusionary funding policies from the very government that their ancestors’ labor developed politically, socially, and economically.
What Do Black/African American Children Need?
Black children, like all children, need solid cultural foundations to affirm who they are as members of racial communities. When educational policies use limited resources to address the needs of groups deemed “minority,” Black children are still left behind on purpose. It is commonly believed that Black/African Americans do not have a culture that is valued or as valued as what immigrant groups bring with them into the United States. However, American culture is defined by the very commodities attributed to Black ingenuities and creations: Black music, Black language, Black food, Black churches, Black soul, and Black style (dress, attitude, and behavior). So, when Black children use Black vernacular as craftily captured and transposed by the likes of Zora Neale Hurston, Charles Chestnutt, and others, Black/African American children are chastised in classrooms to “speak proper English.” McDonald’s can run an entire campaign on how its consumer should feel about its products, vis a vis “I’m Lovin’ It,” yet none of the society reprimands this billion-dollar food chain for its use of Black language and culture, often called “broken” “slang,” and oftentimes viewed as dumb and “slave talk,” to sell its product.
Black/African American children who speak Black vernacular need to be valued for the language, spoken and unspoken, they bring into the classroom, not reprimanded or told to learn the art of “code-switching.” They also need policies that create funding opportunities that value and support their growth and development in schools, not the leftover funding that cannot or is not used by the wide-spread idea of what “minority” means.
Schools are not changing to teach Black/African American children because there is no urgency to do it. Politically, there are not any incumbents and/or candidates of African descent who have made Black/African American children’s needs a priority. Rather, candidates often campaign under the banner of not running to serve “Black America,” but one America. If only there existed one America. From Dr. W.E.B. DuBois’ Souls of Black Folk in 1903, there is still a double consciousness that must be addressed by elected officials, and especially Black elected officials. Furthermore, policies like Title III are discriminatory and/or the act of implementing reparations to immigrant groups that the United States government repeatedly refuses to provide Black/African Americans who are descendants of enslaved Africans brought to the United States and/or kidnapped and enslaved after having lived in the “New World” for more than two centuries before the first European colonizers–penal convicts and religious zealots who were sent to what is now the United States of America, in order to elevate from convicts and debtors to colonizers.
Socially, America loves the idea of a color-blind society that alleviates the need to discuss and address racial disparities. There is a culture of receiving gains that have not been earned and Black/African American children experience this firsthand when there are no policies like Title III to specifically address their needs. Lastly, economically, schools do not have to change to meet the needs of Black children because there is a direct profit motive not to–the school to prison pipeline. Students who are disproportionately suspended and classified for Special Education, disproportionately and by design, make up the majority of US prison populations. Students with Individualized Education Plans, or IEPs, generate more funding for schools, and too many prisons have become privatized and provide stock options that are traded on US business indexes.
No. Schools are not changing to teach Black/African American children.
“You did it my ni**a!”
The April 30th, 2016 White House Correspondent’s Dinner, also playfully known as #nerdprom, highlighted several key milestones for President Obama. Since 2009, he has been bringing the funny to this historic event, and last night he was his usual funny self. At this social gathering, often looked to as the “night off” for journalists and their guests, President Obama, in all of his basketball enthusiasm, took a line from Kobe Bryant when he closed his last White House Correspondent’s Dinner with “Obama out!” and dropped the mic.
Larry Wilmore, comedian and host of The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, had a really hard act to follow.. After President Obama, Wilmore found other targets rather than the usual suspect—Donald Trump—he turned a good portion of this jokes to Ted Cruz as the Zodiac Killer, he sprinkled in some Trump jokes and he lambasted MSNBC, which he said, “actually now stands for ‘missing…
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The Establishment: White, Male-Dominated, and Desperate
What is the enigmatic The Establishment and just who does it represent?
On February 11th, 2016, http://www.npr.org published an article in which they explored a similar question and the answer resulted in The Establishment being ‘The Man’—another enigma, but if you are the least bit familiar with Blaxploitation movies of the 1970s these movies were always about outsmarting and overcoming ‘The Man’—the powerful, wealthy, exclusive [white] men and women who make up and influence the government.
In the presidential campaign class of 2016, there appears to be a reluctance on behalf of all of the candidates to be associated with The Establishment. None of them want to be seen as status-quo politicians and they want their power and wealth to be as elusive as the plans they’ve presented for how they will make America a more equitable, safer and upwardly mobile nation. Moreover, there appears to be the driving assumption, by all candidates, that they all have a real chance at leading America better than what President Obama has done–after all, if he can be a two-term president, anybody can do it. Ok.
Beyond the fact that the pool of candidates is really lackluster in terms of ideas, plans and charisma, the presidential campaign class of 2016 also appears to be lacking in authenticity and a real zeal to progress America beyond the political rhetoric that is often quite verbose and sometimes quite exclusionary and even biased toward a particular pocket of Americans.
The desire for the outcome of this election to be predicted before The People even have a chance to vote, and why the candidates are really running for president become more and more apparent as they take desperate acts to discredit each other. This race, the most unprofessional and disgraceful I have witnessed in my political life, has been marred in racism, sexism, sexual innuendo and now corruption by one candidate, Cruz, who knows obstruction all too well, and Kasich, another candidate super desperate for presidential power. Neither of them are presidential material, and they totally represent The Establishment.
Kasich and Cruz are planning to obstruct Trump’s path to being the Republican candidate for president. As Donald Trump begins to soar closer the needed 1237 delegate votes, Kasich and Cruz have decided to give up the remaining delegates on the trial to one another in an effort to stop Trump. The media is presenting this as Republican Party behavior, but if The Establishment is a very small, elite, group of wealthy [white] men and women with [political and economic] power, we must expect that what Cruz and Kasich are plotting is something that has the potential to happen in all of the parties, right? After all, what is at stake is the coveted seat of president that all candidates believe they have a chance to fill, especially after President Obama’s term comes to an end.
While Donald Trump is the only candidate whose campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again” reads as the antithesis to anything that President Obama has done to keep America afloat and to help us to soar, I must say that all the candidates in this class present themselves in a manner as to debate that President Obama’s time in office and his administration have been less than superb in terms of moving forward social, economic, and political policies that benefit all Americans—the most vulnerable and even those vying to legally claim ‘American’ as their status and identity.
The Office of President has the transformative power and the ability to change the lives of The People in a fundamental and authentic way. It can provide the transparency, access and approachability that President Obama’s Administration has offered The People from a domestic platform. This office has the ability to include The People in conversations and actions that will allow them to be stewards and partners in shaping the policies that impact their lives. If we look at the presidency from the vantage point of The Establishment, it will forever be the pawn in a continual game of chess that all members of The Establishment play to keep themselves empowered with no regard for democracy and the fact that power should be emitted from the people. It engages in shrewd plots that destroy the sanctity of the political process; and, no one is exempt from its destruction and desperation. If this is how The Establishment regards one another, The People already know how to expect to be continually treated. Desperate times and measures reveal The Establishment behind the curtain. And, no. It isn’t Oz. It’s American politics.
He is Prince
After April 21st, 2016, everything else I read will help me to better understand that sexy mutherfucka named Prince.
Growing up in the 80s and 90s, there are certain things I already understand about him. On his terms he was the artist and the masculinity motif. He was “un-bought and un-bossed.”
Affirmed…it’s almost hard to speak of him in past tense, because Prince is…forever.
I often read horoscopes for insight into my personality. Like me, Prince was a Gemini. Every year, the day after my birthday, I often take the time to acknowledge his birth on June 7th—this was our special connection and it helped me to know the man just like his music helped me to know the artist–two inseparable forces. Of our many traits, intellect is our greatest asset and for Prince it was the medium that created his image, our perceptions of him, and our abilities to understand what we knew about what we were feeling when we experienced his songs, his musical love notes to us.
One look at Prince and it was obvious he could have easily been Covergirl’s first Coverman; his eyes and, oh those lashes could sell mascara and eyeliner better than any. Like Michael Jackson, he made Black hair and its variations the celebration in his album covers, photo shoots and passport photos (see above). Blown out, finger waved, baby-hair dripped, slicked back, or Afro-ed it was beautiful. And, so was he.
Guitar-clad and string-slapping, drum stick-weilding, or piano-perched, Prince was making love when we thought he was simply making music; and, every chord, sound, and instrumental caress was an experiential climax. It was apparent that Prince had an affinity for arousing our deepest sensitivities and he understood our minds. We needed permission to let loose, be free, get wild, and feel love so he gave it to us, and gave it to us good. After all he liked us more than a one-night stand so he shared; and, because he loved music, he created.
His total release was having the freedom to control his cultural creations and taking on Warner Brothers Records in order to do it; and, changing his name to an all-encompassing symbol of balance representing male and female energies was like Muhammad Ali taking on the US government during the Vietnam War. Prince rocked.
On the Tavis Smiley Show in 2009, Prince raised our awareness of environmental issues and talked about government-sanctioned chem-trails, conspiracy or not. Like all Geminis, he was multifaceted and well-read.
MTV’s ultimate catapult into success came on behalf of two of the most forward-thinking and trend-solidifying Black men. As the first to get heavy video rotation play, Michael Jackson thrilled us and Prince sealed his dominance as a Pop Culture icon with a “Kiss.” The only formation Prince ever avowed was leading out front in whatever way his brand of self-expression wanted.
He was the king of his sound and the emperor of his masculinity. Prince ruled. He was African in dance and rhythm. In the public space, his rationed brand of fame and celebrity was the authenticity that set everybody free. He reigned.
In death he will not be confined or defined by it as Prince was energy. He will never be destroyed nor (re)created. He is…Prince.
Black Voters Need Plans, Not Promises
During the election year, there is always an effort for Black people to galvanize our efforts and to leverage our worth in these United States of America as a voting bloc. That is part of the democratic process and it is one of the highest displays of citizenship. Whenever there is a rallying call for candidates on all levels of government to work to support and campaign on issues that are paramount to Blacks and to the “Black Agenda” the question is always, “What do you want?” The next follow up from other racial and ethnic groups, and even some Blacks, is to give Black people a set of instructions on ways to make our demands heard by open ears who only further mute them by talking over us with:
“What y’all really have to do is to create an agenda and focus on the key issues. You must organize—you must come together first and foremost before they can take you serious.”
Enough of the nonsense already.
Stop telling Black people what we have to do in order to get these paid and elected officials to do the work of supporting all of their constituents.
Stop blaming Black people for not being powerful enough to overcome the economic, social and political disparities faced while living in America.
Whipping Black people when your tongues and disdain will not make us disappear and the disparities will only continue to exist.
Rather, insist that elected officials apply an equity model to campaigning. All groups have needs in these United States of America, but some groups need more. An equity model relies on the use and understanding of the data collected by the myriad governmental organizations that reflect the economic, social and political conditions of Black people. The narrative this data tells must be addressed and it must be used with fidelity to solve problems where the problems exist and for whom the needs are most urgent.
Elected officials must direct their campaign efforts to address what the data reveals. That is how we make America better.
More than anything, America loves a hearty statistic—it loves to keep records and report back on how our nation has progressed. But what about the reports that discuss how stagnant and regressive we have been? If we want to make The State of the Union, The State of the State, and The State of the City Addresses barometers of America’s forward movement, we cannot only use the feel-good data and omit the disparaging ones. All of the data matter.
An equality approach to governing and campaigning will never close economic, social and political gaps—we all should not get the same resources because we all do not need the same resources.
Elected officials and presidential hopefuls:
Start allowing your campaigning efforts to reflect the imperative need to address and eradicate the disproportionality experienced by Black people in this country as the data reveals. If you have not drafted and revealed a comprehensive plan to address any of the areas of disproportionality faced by Black people in America, you should not be running for office and you do not deserve the Black vote. Bring us a plan in the same vein as plans are created to address other dire needs and groups wanting to be upwardly mobile—do not ask us to create one for you. Elected officials work for The People. Let the data be your guide.
Start demonstrating some integrity and really allow your work to reflect what Black voters need. If you are incapable of committing to working for us, stay out of Black churches and get off of Black college campuses, especially during election years.
Shame on you if you are pandering for a vote to occupy a seat in office that will leverage more perks of immunity, government insurance, economic breaks, and the power to determine the value placed on the lives of Black people through the policies you create and support in education, mass incarceration, etc…without first presenting a comprehensive plan that will work to close the levels of disproportionality Black people face economically, socially, and politically.
Black people, STOP giving away our votes to people who won’t even compete passionately to get them. We need plans, not promises.
Silence is Betrayal
In a time where so much is captured on modern technology, especially in the midst of wrongdoing, there is always a reason to speak up and to speak out against it.
“The human spirit does not move without great difficulty.”
Dr. King was pure genius and completely insightful. It is almost inconceivable to me that a person like Dr. King could walk this Earth, in his times, and believe, say and preach the truths that he rendered. Exactly one year before his untimely assassination death, April 4th, 1968, Dr. King delivered the above quote in his speech, “Beyond Vietnam” on April 4th, 1967 at the famed Riverside Church in Harlem, New York. Having been moved by a particular statement of the executive committee of the Riverside Church: “A time comes when silence is betrayal,” Dr. King persisted in betraying silence by speaking against the Vietnam War.
Since moving to New York City some 13 years ago, I have visited the Riverside
Church many times, mostly in honor of powerful, accomplished Black men who were once little Black boys…
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