- Created on 02 May 2013
Under pressure from the family of Emmett Till, and facing the possibility of being Rick Rossed by PepsiCo’s Mountain Dew, Lil’ Wayne, the New Orleans rapper whose career is based on finding snappy ways to include (red) b*tches, h*es, murder and money in metaphorical lyrics, has finally acknowledged that he was wrong to equate the slain teen to...
- Created on 01 May 2013
African-American students achieve at a different level than White students. Test scores are lower, as are high school and college completion rates, and the number of African Americans attending four-year institutions is falling. The rate of African American suspensions and expulsions from K-12 schools is higher than that of other groups. By almost any metric there are gaps between African American students and White or Asian students (Latinos achieve at about the same rate as African Americans).
Why does this happen? The late sociologist John Ogbu hypothesized that the gap was the result of young African Americans thinking that learning was “acting White.” His theory was batted around as if it were fact, even after Duke economist William Darity refuted the Ogbu theory. Why? Because it fits somebody’s stereotype to describe African American youngsters as culturally alienated from the mainstream, so much that they eschew the very institution that could be a bridge for them into the middle class.
Give the history of African Americans and education; it is hard to swallow these stereotypes. Some states had laws on the books to prevent African Americans from learning to read and write in the pre-Civil War period. Both White and Black people risked flogging, fines and other penalties for “teaching a slave to read.” Millions of African Americans sacrificed for the right to be literate, and ensured that their children would also have opportunities by baking cakes, frying chicken, and raising a few dollars to get to college by whatever means necessary. At the beginning of the 20th century, the only colleges open to African Americans were historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and we went despite the obstacles. Our presence rejected the notion that learning was “acting White.” In fact, we were acting learned and literate.
Still, it is in the interest of some to continue that stereotype. You’ve heard the adage that if you don’t want an African American to know something, just hide it in a book. That kind of ignorance is the very reason that African American people were able, during the Civil War, to spy on Confederates who thought they were only illiterate enslaved people. That is why Mary Ellen Pleasant was able to eavesdrop on conversations on stock and turn them into wealth. Those who write about the achievement gap ought not underestimate African Americans.
Where does the achievement gap come from, then? It comes from the opportunity gap. The average African American household) earns $31,000 a year, compared to $51,000 for Whites. Fifty-one thousand ( $51,000) can buy a lot more opportunity than $31,000 can. If income determines housing clusters, neighborhoods with a $51,000 mean income have better schools and more involved parents than the $31,000 neighborhood does.
Closing income gaps closes opportunity gaps, according to a Ford Foundation-sponsored book written by Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, an Obama education adviser. She says poverty and segregation means that some students attend schools that have fewer resources than others. Indeed, inner city high schools are less likely to offer Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) classes. Sometimes when these courses are available in suburban high schools, African American students are discouraged from taking them.
Ivory Toldson, a professor at Howard University and a contributor to the Root also refutes the notion that African American students think learning is “acting White.” Most African American students, he says, are interested in attending college but may not because of cost factors. He also says that academic support should be provided to all students, and that the way to close achievement gaps is to “reduce racial disparities in income and to increase equity and inclusion in education.”
For a great deal of students the issue is not “acting White,” but being connected to educational options and outcomes. One of the more important factors in student achievement is parental involvement, yet many parents find themselves “too busy” or too uninformed to interact with teachers. One study says that parents don’t necessarily have to help with homework, but simply to reinforce that homework should be done, and to be inquisitive about it. Unfortunately, many parents, frustrated with the school system, write it off. Further, too many of our community organizations don’t sufficiently emphasize education, or if they do, don’t get into the “down and dirty” of it, preferring to raise much-needed scholarship funds than to take a young person by the hand and guide them through next steps to education.
The majority of African American students are still first-generation college students. They aren’t always sure what next steps are, and they often need help maneuvering through a system with which their parents have no familiarity. Too many smart students don’t have the parental and societal support, they need to achieve. The United States falls way behind the rest of the world when we don’t value students who have the potential to be high achievers, regardless of race or ethnicity. We further disservice ourselves as a nation when we fail to value those who have the intelligences to change our world.
Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is President Emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.
- Created on 30 April 2013
I was on “Washington Watch with Roland Martin” last week. This is a weekly TV show that deals with Black political issues, among other things. The roundtable discussion was very lively, but I was amazed at my fellow panelists’ response to something I said.
Americans somehow have this strange notion that all discrimination is bad. But it isn’t. We discriminate every day. You choose one restaurant over another; you watch one TV show versus another; you date skinny girls and not heavy girls.
As a matter of fact, some discrimination is quite healthy. If you know drug dealers sell their drugs in certain neighborhoods, why would you go there if you have no interest in buying drugs? If you are allergic to smoke, why would you go to a bar that allows smoking? If certain countries are more likely to kidnap an American tourist, why would you go there if you are an American?
I think most reasonable people would agree that this type of discrimination is good and healthy. Similarly, our immigration policy should have a certain level of discrimination built into the policy. I was totally surprised that my fellow panelists disagreed. They seemed to be in favor of an open borders approach to immigration. The open borders crowd basically believes that anyone who wants to come to America has a right to come here if they follow the rules.
I find this view very idiotic. If you are not an American citizen, then you have absolutely no basis for the assertion of any right. Post 911, at a minimum, our immigration policy should discriminate based on country of origin. We know that certain countries are a hotbed for producing terrorist: Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Somalia, Chechnya, etc. So, why would our immigration policy even allow people from those countries to come to the U.S. for any reason, let alone to get a green card or citizenship?
Is this discrimination? You betcha —it’s the good kind of discrimination. Just as you can have good and bad cholesterol, the same applies to discrimination. What we call affirmative action is called “positive discrimination” in France.
You don’t see terrorists being trained in Australia, the Seychelles, or Trinidad & Tobago, so therefore there should be less concern about immigrants from these countries. Is this not reasonable?
American visas, green cards and citizenship are not enshrined rights, but are privileges. No one has a right to enter into our country and we don’t need to justify our requirements for admittance into the U.S.
I am sure my fellow panelists would agree that an 80-year old-woman should not have to go through secondary screening at the airport before she gets on an airplane. Why? Because she is very unlikely to have a bomb or other weapon on her body. Is this not profiling? How many 80 year old female terrorists have you read about? Exactly my point.
But these same panelists took issue with me for saying that America should deny entry and student visas for people from certain countries. Is it discriminatory? Yes. Is it appropriate and reasonable? Yes.
Does that mean every person from a country known to produce terrorists is a terrorist themselves? Of course not, but that is not the overriding issue in my decision to deny them entry into the U.S. I am sure there are many good people from countries that are known for producing terrorists; but I am not willing to take a chance, just for the sake of making Americans feel good.
If you are the parent of a young boy, would you leave him alone with a Catholic priest? I wouldn’t. And most of you wouldn’t, either. I would venture to think that most Catholic priests are good people, but I am not willing to sacrifice my son’s safety to prove a point.
The two brothers from Chechnya who committed the bombings in Boston should have never been allowed in the U.S. Is this an indictment of all people from Chechnya? No. It simply means that the U.S. is exercising its sovereignty to determine who is admitted to its shores. This is a very reasonable and smart approach to our immigration policy. To do anything else is a reckless disregard for the future and safety of our country.
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his Web site, www.raynardjackson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at raynard1223.
- Created on 01 May 2013
Suppose one of the key committees in Congress scheduled a hearing on one of the country’s most debilitating economic problems – the long-term unemployment that’s ensnared millions – and none of the committee members showed up?
That’s almost what happened last week when the Joint Economic Committee’s April 24 hearing opened with just one of its members, Senator Amy Klobuchar, (D-Minn), the vice chair, in attendance. At various times later, three of the committee’s eight other Democrats – Sen. Christopher Murphy, of Connecticut; Rep. John Delaney, of Maryland, and Rep. Elijah Cummings, also of Maryland – showed up. None of its nine Republican members did.
Of course, it’s standard on Capitol Hill for committee members to miss congressional hearings. Their aides have briefed them on the issues and testimony of the witnesses beforehand; and their time that day may appropriately be better spent meeting with constituents, lobbyists, donors, other politicos, or even another congressional committee that had scheduled a conflicting hearing.
Nonetheless, the near-completely no-show hearing acquired a powerful symbolism once a National Journal reporter who was there tweeted a photo of the long, curving impressive-looking dais of mostly empty chairs.
It made the visual points that a voluminous and growing file of research has been cataloging since the Great Recession peaked and the economy began to recover four years ago. First, the recovery has moved too slowly to pare the number of the long-term jobless – those out of work for six months or longer – from what continue to be unprecedented levels. That failure has produced a growing fear that many Americans in this predicament – now numbering 4.6 million people – may never find jobs again.
In turn, that has raised the prospect that today’s long-term unemployed are becoming a large, permanent out-of-work class whose joblessness will undermine the nation’s economic productivity and whose need for financial help will not only exert a tremendous drain on the government’s treasury and private-sector coffers alike but also contribute to Americans’ growing pessimism about their own and the country’s economic fairness and political leadership.
And, finally, and most damaging, the tweet powerfully suggested that the Congress just doesn’t care about the long-term unemployed.
The symbolism became even more potent the following two days when the Senate and the House hurriedly approved, and the president hurriedly signed, legislation that forestalled any possibility the air traffic control system would be disrupted by sequester-driven budget reductions. Critics of the action contrasted Congress’ quick reaction to complaints from the business sector about airport delays with its studied ignoring pleas to show equal mercy to those who depend on government social programs – such as the long-term unemployed.
Keith Hall, one of the congressional committee’s witnesses, succinctly described some of the alarming statistics used to describe the long-term unemployment crisis. Hall, a former head of the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, now directs a research center at George Mason University.
Although the number of long-term unemployed has fallen from its peak above 6 million four years ago, it remains the largest number of long-term unemployed America has endured at any one time since the Great Depression of the 1930s. More worrisome, two-thirds of this group has been jobless for more than a year.
It’s widely accepted that, generally speaking, the longer individuals are jobless, the more their connections to viable job networks will fade and advances in technology will outpace their skills. That belief is a major reason employers, as numerous studies show, are loath to hire unemployed workers who’ve been jobless for even just six months. That reasoning means that in today’s economy a great majority of the long-term unemployed have almost no chance of finding another job.
The Joint Committee’s own report suggests recommendations, which are similar to those of many economists and other observers. Governments at the local and state as well as the federal level must forge policies that promote economic growth and encourage private employers to hire more people. Governments also must undertake new projects, such as rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, that would enable them to hire more of the unemployed. The public and private sectors must “modernize” the community college system so that those institutions can help retrain older workers and prepare new ones to meet today’s employment requirements.
It will come as no surprise that Black American (and Hispanic-American) workers are disproportionately likely to be among the long-term unemployed and the very-long-term unemployed. That grim reality underscores the raft of statistics that show that, in fact, black Americans have been beset by a crisis of high mass unemployment and long-term unemployment for more than four decades. That crisis sharply divided African-American society into an “opportunity sector” and a “crisis-ridden sector.”
For years those scholars and activists who argued that this was not a matter of Black inferiority but of economic shifts in the labor market and persisting racial discrimination, were largely ignored. I wonder: Now that the crisis of mass long-term unemployment has crossed the color line, will the larger American society take the same stance?
Lee A. Daniels is a longtime journalist based in New York City. His latest book is Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America.
- Created on 30 April 2013
“No more hurting people. Peace.” - Eight-year-old Martin Richard, a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing
Acts of terror like the ones committed in Boston are reprehensible and without moral or logical explanation. They rock us to our core. They also unite us in common purpose. Victims and their families seem to become our own. We want to ease their pain. We want to do something to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. Our togetherness as a nation is often most evident when something happens with the intent of breaking us.
Nearly 12 years after the events of 9-11-2001, terrorism in our homeland still seems a nearly impossible reality, one that none of us want to accept. Still, communities across America are terrorized each day. But rarely do these victims and their families receive national media attention, or better yet, our collective attention. Every year, 100,000 people are shot or killed with a gun in America. Every day, these acts of terror are carried out in homes, on playgrounds, schoolyards, neighborhood streets, even in houses of worship – turning spaces that should represent peace and sanctuary into places that elicit danger and fear.
Two days after the Boston Marathon bombing, the United States Senate had an opportunity to act to curb another kind of terror facing our nation by taking modest steps to keep guns out of the wrong hands. Yet, it voted down a sensible gun background check bill. Never mind that 90 percent of Americans and 74 percent of National Rifle Association (NRA) members support universal background checks. It didn’t even matter that a majority of senators (54-46) actually voted in favor of the bill. Because of the Senate’s 60-vote majority rule, along with the distortions and political threats from NRA leaders, the bill went down in defeat. President Obama called it “a shameful day in Washington.” Former Congresswoman and gun violence survivor, Gabrielle Giffords added, “I will not rest until we have righted the wrong these senators have done, and until we have changed our laws so we can look parents in the face and say: We are trying to keep our children safe.”
We share that determination. Whether in Newtown or scores of other communities across the nation, one point is clear: guns in the wrong hands can be weapons of destruction as deadly as a terrorist bomb. Where, we wonder, is the unified purpose in Congress to work towards gun safety to address the reign of terror devastating so many of our neighborhoods?
Let’s be clear: This issue is not about gun confiscation, nor is it an attack on anyone’s rights. We know that this step is not a cure-all for the plague of gun violence in America. But, it is at least a first step towards doing all we can to ensure the safety of our citizens.
Boston and its citizens deserve all of the support and attention they have received in the wake of this horrific tragedy. I just hope that we can elevate our sense of unity, urgency and purpose to do what is right for the millions of Americans whose lives have been forever changed by gun violence. Let’s not forget, in addition to killing with homemade bombs, the Boston terrorists also used guns in killing M.I.T. police officer Sean Collier, and seriously wounding Massachusetts Bay transit officer, Richard H. Donohue. As we pray for the dead, the wounded survivors and their loved ones, we urge the nation to unite against terror – including gun violence – everywhere.
Marc H. Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, is president and CEO of the National Urban League.