Archive for education
Proms serve as a strong indicator of the racial tension in “post racial” America. The Saturday April 27, 2013 edition of the New York Times includes a news story about a small, rural town—Abbeville, Georgia—and Wilcox County High School where some students are challenging the tradition of the a segregated prom.
A student, Mareshia Rucker who is African American, watched from a crouched position in a car as her White classmates attended the White Prom. Like all of the Black students she was not invited. From her hidden position in the car she thought about this:
“These are people I see in class every day… What’s wrong with dancing with me, just because I have more pigment?”
The excuses given for continuing segregated proms, mostly from the white parents, was that the students had a different taste for their music, dancing and tradition. New York Times columnist Robbie Brown explains it this way:
“But locally, the separate proms have defenders. White residents said members of the two races had different tastes in music and dancing, and different traditions: the junior class plans the white prom, and the senior class plans the black prom.”
At Wilcox County High School since integration took place the proms have been organized as private, invitation-only events that are funded and sponsored by the students parents and not the school.
A week after the White Only Prom took place a small group of Blacks and White students raised funds, organized and held an integrated prom. The school board has said it will soon vote on a new structure for proms, sponsored by the school and not parents.
In this day and age, supposedly a “post racial America,” some argue that race-based proms are an enigma. But are they really? Since the 1970s public schools have re-segregated.
RACIAL SEGREGATION NOW
In Charleston, Mississippi located in the heart of what is known as THE DELTA with a total population of less than 3,000 and a median household income of less than $21,000, Charleston garnered national attention in 1997 and again in 2008 when the issue of segregated senior proms was in the news.
The national spotlight for Charleston came because the academy award winning African American actor Morgan Freeman offered to fund the school’s prom in 1997—but only if it were open to both Black and White students. His offer was turned down by the school board and white parents (the Black population outnumbers the White population in Charleston).
Some 10 years later Freeman made the offer again and this time it was not only accepted but the Canadian documentary film crew headed by Canadian filmmaker Paul Saltzman was interested in making a documentary, Prom Night in Mississippi.
Like other short-lived celebrations (a national championship one season; a last place finish the next), one has to wonder in this era of post-racialism how deep is social segregation? As the illustration below reveals, even when school systems are integrated the proms remain segregated.
RACIAL SEGREGATION THEN
In the BROWN decision Chief Justice Earl Warren, writing for the majority, said this:
Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to [retard] the educational and mental development of negro children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racially integrated school system… We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.
Across the entire history of the US, the majority of African Americans attended inferior grammar and secondary schools. Those seeking to attend white schools in the north, including colleges and universities, were often denied access. Some schools in the north desegregated voluntarily and in some cases early in the 20th Century, but schools in the south resisted integration severely and systematically. In some cases movements to integrate even under court order erupted into violence. The integration of Central High School in Little Rock Arkansas was so contentious that President Eisenhower sent National Guard troops to protect the eight young men and women attempting to attend school there. Similarly, when James Meredith attempted to integrate the University of Mississippi a near war broke out forcing President Kennedy to send in armed troops. Governor Ross Barnett closed the Ole Miss campus in response.
The Brown v. the Board of Topeka, Kansas decision (see above) which guaranteed African Americans the right to attend any public school was intended to offer access to the institution of education in the United States. Yet, it has been only partially successful. First of all the Supreme Court decision was resisted. It was intensely resisted in the Deep South so much so that many southern school districts were not integrated until the early 1970s, nearly 20 years after the historic decision. The most severe resistance to school integration was in Mississippi. The resistance movement resulted in the development of a set of private, often religiously affiliated, academies, colloquially referred to as “seg academies” which acknowledges that they were and continue to be entirely segregated; as privately funded schools they are not required by the Brown decision to integrate nor are they required to meet performance standards or be accredited.
Sara Carr’s article in the December 2012 Atlantic captures the raison d’être of the segregation academies that sprang up in states like Mississippi, Alabama and all across the south after the Brown v. Board 1954 decision:
“These schools were started to keep white children away from blacks,” said Wade Overstreet, a Mississippi native and the program coordinator at the national advocacy organization Parents for Public Schools. “They’ve done an amazing job of it.”
The unintended consequences from this self imposed segregation for Whites has not been seriously addressed in that those White kids from the post-Brown segregated south were stymied in their education resulting in their inability to attend elite northern liberal arts colleges. Why? Because by setting up “seg academies” that did not have to adhere to performance standards the perception of these schools outside of the south is that they were not delivering the type of college prep education that would be required to be successful in college. This perception is further exacerbated by the overall impression from the Civil Rights Movement that southerners are “backward.”
Incredibly, forms of deep social segregation continue today no place more clearly than in the school system that long-standing U.S. tradition of the SENIOR PROM!
The point of these illustrations is that its not simply the integration of schools that will produce integrated proms. The concerns that White parents expressed in the 1960s and 1970s about their children sitting in desks next to Black children—which I would argue was really a concern about integrated friendships and heaven forbid integrated romances—has taken on a life of its own through the debate and struggle around the prom.
My theoretical underpinning for “Prom Night in the Deep South” is Joe Feagin’s WHITE RACIAL FRAME, in which he says (129):
“Even when whites do racist performances targeting Americans of color, the old racial frame accents that they, as whites, still should be considered to be “good” and “decent” people. The dominant racial frame not only provides the fodder for whites’ racist performances, but also the means of excusing those performances.” Such back-stage actions are interpreted as harmless, as “no big deal,” and often as just good interactive “fun.”
This frame allows White parents and school board members in the Deep South to see themselves as “better” than their kids and other White students viz., their Black schoolmates and, therefore, worthy of still holding the coveted segregated prom.
Further, the south as a whole was stunted by segregation which requires the setting up and running of a two-tiered system—politically, economically, socially, recreationally, with regards to health care and education— that proved to be not only expensive but also backward (Smith and Hattery 2010). And, since neighborhoods, communities, whole sectors of large cities are segregated it stands to reason that schools will continue along this path as well (Hattery & Smith 2012).
And, as long as banks continue the practice of “redlining” as long as differential access to home mortgages exists and as long as major legal statutes against social segregation are not upheld, we will continue to see pockets of segregation across the US and in the south.
Even in schools where White and Black students sit next to each other in class, the over-arching concern that White parents have about love across racial lines is the driving factor behind the move to keep proms segregated.
References (linked above):
Brown, Robbie. 2013. “A Racial Divide Closes as Students Step Up.” New York Times, April 26th
Carr, Sarah, 2012, “In Southern Towns, ‘Segregation Academies’ Are Still Going Strong.” The Atlantic (December 13th)
Feagin, Joe R. 2010. The White Racial Frame: Centuries of Racial Framing and Counter-Framing. NY: Routledge
Hattery, Angela J. and Earl Smith Smith, 2012, African American Families Today: Myths and Realities, (Rowman & Littlefield).
Hattery, Angela J., Earl Smith, 2007, “Social Stratification in the New/Old South: The Influences of Racial Segregation on Social Class in the Deep South.” Journal of Poverty Research 11(1), 55-81.
Orfield, Gary. 2011. “Segregated and Satisfied in the Southland?” Huffington Post
Smith, Earl and Angela J. Hattery, 2010, “Cultural Contradictions in the South.” Mississippi Quarterly Vol 63 (2): 145-166.
Rubin, Richard. 2003. Confederacy of Silence: A True Tale of the New Old South. NY: Atria Books.
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~ Guest blogger Earl Smith is Professor Emeritus, Sociology, Wake Forest University.
White racism today remains “‘normal’” and deeply imbedded in most historically white institutions. Every such institution is still substantially whitewashed in its important norms, rules, and arrangements…it seems likely that a majority of whites cannot see just how whitewashed their historically white organizations and institutions really are.
The editorial piece discusses a recent submission from guest contributor of The Daily Princetonian and Princeton alumna, Susan Patton, who controversially declared that the women of Princeton should, “Find a husband on campus before you graduate.” She goes on to say:
I am the mother of two sons who are both Princetonians. My older son had the good judgment and great fortune to marry a classmate of his, but he could have married anyone. My younger son is a junior and the universe of women he can marry is limitless… As Princeton women, we have almost priced ourselves out of the market. Simply put, there is a very limited population of men who are as smart or smarter than we are. And I say again — you will never again be surrounded by this concentration of men who are worthy of you.
Oh no, she didn’t!! Sorry, I was channeling a number of high school students I work with. But nonetheless, apparently from the slings and arrows she received for publishing her essay, Susan forgot the first two rules of the Ivy League:
1st RULE: You do not talk about the secrets of the Ivy League.
2nd RULE: You DO NOT talk about the secrets of the Ivy League.
Douthat noted many of her ideological opponents deem her as a turncoat to feminism. Her betrayal of acknowledging a truth, which Douthat feels many who attend Ivy League institutions are conscious of, is Patton’s biggest crime. A truth that encompasses the ideas that these places of highly manicured lawns and pristine historically well-kept buildings are focused not only on the pursuit of academic excellence, but also the charge of preserving racial entitlement while safeguarding the advantages accrued over generations in order to be safely transmitted to the next.
Even though these institutions over the decades have visibly discussed racial diversity and applied a dash of the finest cosmetic makeup to cover their blemished pale skin, Ivy League schools continue to be, as Feagin states, “whitewashed.” The quest for meritocracy continues within the 21st century. The current mode of protecting white interests, access to power, and purifying the elite is constant in country that attempts to convince its people that they are living in a post racial society. Albert Memmi understood this mechanism of racial supremacy when he stated,
racists are people who are afraid…generally it is because one wishes to obtain or defend something of value…the necessity to defend an individual identity and a collective identity, against all who come from elsewhere and don’t belong, is in operation.
This is not a declaration that all who attend these settings are racist per se, but the institution itself and those that practice the dark arts of the white racial frame, are definitely protecting historically privileged White placement on a hierarchy while simultaneously dispensing unequal treatment for a marginalized people. Its systems do not freely and equally entitle Blacks and Latinos to the same resources, power, and empathy as predetermined for the privileged placement of Whites. This is definitely illustrated within their modest number of students and faculty of color.
But then again, what do I know. I was poor and attended a state school.
As we await the Supreme Court’s decision in the landmark Fisher v. University of Texas case, an intense and polarized debate has arisen about whether bans on affirmative action such as California’s Proposition 209 have had a chilling or a warming effect on minority student enrollment. In 1996, Proposition 209 in California, also known as the California Civil Rights Initiative, amended the state constitution through a ballot proposition and prohibited governmental agencies and public institutions from considering race, sex, or ethnicity in employment, contracting or admissions.
Papers offered at the Brookings Institution in September 2012 presented one side of the debate. A presentation by Kate Antonovics, an economist at the University of California at San Diego and Richard Sander, a professor of law at the University of California at Los Angeles, asserted that Prop 209 had a “warming” effect on the enrollment of underrepresented minority students. Their analysis is based upon yield rates and they conclude that affirmative action increased the likelihood of minority students accepting admissions offers. (Yield rates refer to the percentage of students who choose to enroll in a university or college after having been offered admission).
These researchers also offered support for a controversial theory called “mismatch.” Sander and Stuart Taylor, Jr., a former New York Times Supreme Court reporter, have been the primary proponents for this theory that argues that racial preferences for blacks offered by certain tiers of schools below the elite tier result in “mismatch” or the unintended side effect of driving students with weaker academic preparation than their classmates to drop out of school and abandon their career aspirations.
Yet a recent empirical study by Peter Arcidiacono and his colleagues at Duke University reaches a different conclusion regarding the effect of Proposition 209. These researchers found that college enrollment rates of African Americans and Hispanics in California’s 4-year public colleges actually declined after the Proposition’s implementation. The data set used to derive these results was not based upon yield rates, but rather upon enrollment data from IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System) coupled with data provided by the University of California Office of the President on parental income and education, high school GPAs and SAT scores that allowed the researchers to control for these variables.
Two-thirds of the enrollment decrease reported by Arcidiacono and others came from the California State University System (CSU). Yet, surprisingly, the authors describe the CSU system as consisting “primarily of non-selective institutions.” Would it not be significant that institutions that have traditionally served a greater proportion of minority populations have had a decline in minority enrollment post-Prop 209? And while the CSU may be less selective than the UC, the excellence of the CSU institutions has long been recognized by college rankings. For example, U.S. News and World Report’s selected California Polytechnic University at San Luis Obispo as the best public master’s university in the West for 17 years in a row. In reporting the findings on the decline in minority enrollment, Arcidiacano and his co-researchers hypothesize that CSU’s simultaneous implementation of Executive Order 665 requiring all incoming freshmen to take the English Placement and Entry Level Mathematics tests “may have deterred enrollments in the CSU system, especially among minorities” (p. 14).
Different evidence is offered for the “chilling” effect of bans on affirmative action by William C. Kidder at the University of California at Riverside. In “Misshaping the River: Proposition 209 and Lessons from the Fisher Case”, Kidder presents survey data from 9750 Latino and African American students at eight UC campuses. This data indicates that the campus racial climate has become significantly more inhospitable for these students than at UT Austin and two other peer universities. The perception of a “chilly climate” has resulted from the affirmative action ban and low diversity that have led students to believe that they are less respected by their peers. In a recent paper titled, “The Salience of Racial Isolation” Kidder also presents directly conflicting evidence on yield rates, indicating that the percentage of African Americans accepting admissions offers has declined, with some instances of zero yield rates to top UC universities.
The conflicting analyses presented by scholars on both sides of the affirmative action debate call for continuing review. The results of the survey of campus climate at the University of California indicating perceptions of a “chilly” environment for minority students seem especially significant, as universities seek to build inclusive and welcoming campuses in the face of legal challenges.
The pending Supreme Court decision in Fisher v. University of Texas presents a new challenge to the Court’s decision of a decade earlier in the Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger cases at the University of Michigan. In the Michigan cases, the Court clearly recognized the value of student body diversity in the educational process and upheld the inclusion of race as one factor among others in a narrowly tailored holistic review process. Numerous expert studies support the Court’s position on diversity and student learning outcomes. For example, four studies presented at the most recent meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) provide empirical support for the benefits of diversity for college students, using longitudinal assessment of the scores from the Collegiate Assessment of Academic Proficiency and the Collegiate Learning Assessment.
Yet a recent Inside Higher Ed survey of 841 college presidents conducted by Gallup found that 70% agreed that consideration of race in admissions has had a “mostly positive effect” on education in general, while only 58% agreed that such consideration has had a “mostly positive effect” on their campuses.
Dr. Benjamin Reese, president of the National Association of Chief Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE) and Vice President for Institutional Equity at Duke University, suggested that framing the question around race rather than the benefits of diversity resulting from a holistic review of applications may have elicited less positive responses. In reporting Reese’s perspective in his March 1 article, editor Doug Lederman writes, “That, though, is not the question before the courts.” He then cites Richard Kahlenberg, senior fellow at the Century Foundation, who indicates that “the Presidents are completely out of step with where the courts seem to be heading and where the American public is on this issue.”
A closer reading of the Grutter decision suggests that the Court was focused on the overall benefits of diversity. It specifically reaffirmed the opinion of Justice Powell in the landmark 1978 Regents of the University of California v. Bakke decision who found that “diversity is a compelling state interest” essential to the university’s mission. Writing for the narrow 5-4 Grutter majority, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor focused on the concept of “critical mass” in summarizing the positive impact of diversity at the University of Michigan’s Law School. She noted the effects of diversity on learning outcomes and the preparation of students for a diverse workforce, society, and legal profession:
But the Law School defines its critical mass concept by reference to the substantial, important, and laudable educational benefits that diversity is designed to produce, including cross-racial understanding and the breaking down of racial stereotypes.
The crux of the issue in Fisher relates to critical mass. How is it defined? How will we know when we reach it? What benefits derive from it? We have seen the concept of critical mass in the research literature as it refers to a substantial presence of women and minorities on campus. It refers to the sufficient presence of underrepresented groups to be able to overcome isolation, defeat stereotypes, and provide a welcoming atmosphere for diversity.
The concept of critical mass is a qualitative rather than a quantitative concept. Yet justices sympathetic to Fisher have been asking for quantification of the attainment of critical mass, even though quotas are not permitted under prior judicial rulings. Chief Justice Roberts repeatedly questioned Gregory Garre, the lawyer for the University of Texas asking: “What is that number? What is the critical mass of Hispanics and African Americans at the university that you are working toward?” When Garre argued that the school did not have a specific point of critical mass and would make this determination, Roberts responded, “So I see, when you tell me, then it’s enough.”
From this perspective, the responses of the college and university presidents to the Inside Higher Ed Survey do not appear to be “out of step” with the American public. Rather these responses reflect a very real awareness of the complexities and nuances relating to the implementation of affirmative action in admissions processes. Support for affirmative action was strongest among presidents of public master’s (81%) and public doctoral universities (80%). In Alvin Evans’ and my review of institutional diversity plans in Are the Walls Really Down? Behavioral and Organizational Barriers to Diversity , we found that public universities have been in the forefront in the development of institutional diversity plans, perhaps due to their legal reporting requirements, size, resources, and requirements for public accountability.
Although the outcome of Fisher v. Texas remains uncertain, the fact that numerous legal briefs have been filed by associations and groups asserting that curtailing affirmative action would hurt the quality of the education students receive is promising. The voices of educational leaders, professional associations, and scholars are critical in the ongoing debate of how education can continue to serve as the gateway to opportunity and the great equalizer in our richly diverse society.
In the March 8 edition of the Chronicle Review, Brian Rosenberg, president of Macalester College, sums up the importance of presidential voice as “the most influential public voice of the institution”:
I have always believed that courageous views, thoughtfully expressed, are actually less risky than silence in the face of serious wrong. I have spoken out, in my role as president of Macalester College, on many contentious issues, and I have chosen to remain silent on others. What has guided my decision-making, and what I believe guides that of most of my colleagues, is not cowardice or self-interest, but careful judgment about what is in the best interest of the institutions we hold in trust.
Denial… as Bill Watterson has said, “It’s not denial. I’m just selective about the reality I accept.” Well for some in Delavan-Darien, Wisconsin, the river of denial is running as deep and steady as in Egypt (h/t Mark Twain).
Seriously though, Delavan-Darien High School was recently under fire by parents who reportedly:
…accused a diversity class of promoting a critical race theory, alleging that students are being taught that minorities are disadvantaged by white oppressors.
Fox news gleefully reported that the class “…exposed students to radical leftist thinkers.” Parents of students at the high school described the curriculum was “indoctrination,” due to the exposure of works by University of Texas professor Robert Jensen, author of The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege and social experiments which required students to participate in critically analyzing the racial composition of dolls on the shelves of a local Wal-mart.
One of the complaining parent said that the reading materials and assigned tasks were…“meant to divide and victimize non-whites and condition whites to feel guilty and to be more passive.” Someone reached out to the (conservative) Young America’s Foundation, which dismissed the class as “race-baiting,” “indoctriniation,” and so much “white guilt.”
The Superintendent Robert Crist deflected the controversy by blaming the class on the youth of the teacher within the course. He went on to state the course raised “red flags.” He believes “in helping kids understand the basic objectives of curriculum and not use some radical material to get a student to support some kind of a special theory.” Special he says? Tell that to the people of color who fell prey to the racial predatory loans (1990s-2000s) that fueled the recent housing crisis. Regardless, currently the class is out of commission and under review by the powers that be within the local school district.
Overall, I feel that a large percentage of governmental and institutional policies and programs enacted today are essentially continuing a legacy of control that benefit the majority—Whites. This in fact is a legacy many deny even when confronted with surmounting evidence that affirms otherwise. But then again, why admit transgressions when the strengthen efforts to continue the heritage of oppression endured by people of color subsequently benefits them—the elite proprietors of money, power, and resources within this country. Within this setting they continue to hold the reins of supremacy over the marginalized and less fortunate. Their influence and direction set the rhythm for those on the outside of their inner circle to dance to. They determine who is worthy of their attention and admiration and those who are to be ignored and detested. They determine those who should be considered safe and those who should be seen as dangerous. They have the power to influence the minds of those here and abroad.
In the general public when discussing the pains of racism today, I have heard the uttered words, “Come on, get over it. It is in the past and has no significance in a country where a Black man can be elected President of the United States.” Sociologist Bonilla-Silva describes this attitude as “color blind racism.” He observes that Whites, collectively, have:
“…developed powerful explanations — which have ultimately become justification — for contemporary racial inequality that exculpate them from any responsibility for the status of people of color.”
This subsequently occurs due to the fact that in general, many Whites and Blacks perceive the idea of racism much differently. First, Whites distinguish racism as acts that are founded within the notion of prejudice. Secondly, people of color, such as Blacks observe racism as “systemic or institutionalized.”
I hold fast to the certainty that racism cannot be quantified into simple attitudes or acts of prejudice directed toward a person or group of people, but forever unremitting and replicated within in our society within an array of systems and institutions. Hence, it would not be hard to arrive at the conclusion that racism is an immortal ideological symbiote that has latched upon the psyche of the world’s consciousness. Furthermore, those affected and suffer from colorblind racism bears a lack of comprehension in relation to the continued hold racism and oppression has on all major systems and institutions.
In other words…White Privilege…
About 15 years ago, John Stanford became head of Seattle Public Schools. He had a vision. Recognizing the demands of a global economy and an increasingly diverse student body, he proposed an international language school. Key components included: proficiency in English and at least one other language, global perspectives infused into all areas of study (rather than being “add-ons”), and partnerships with parents, community leaders, and international sister schools. His vision led to Seattle creating a network of international schools, featuring immersion programs and curriculum that prepare students to be globally competent in the 21st century. The first, John Stanford International School (elementary), opened in 2000 with two immersion tracks, Japanese-English and Spanish-English.
International public schools, now seen across the nation, are a huge departure from trends of the recent past which discouraged multilingual learning based on the assumption that it would be confusing for young children. Implicit in this assumption was an insidious message about assimilation to mainstream culture through fluency in English and abandonment of native tongues. Immigrant parents were led to believe their children would suffer, be slow, or “dumber” than their monolingual counterparts. Many Americans today are all too familiar with our history of educational pressure to conform, and can easily recount personal and painful stories about loss of heritage language and access to culture.
Research on dual language development has grown substantially since the 1970s. We now know there are actually many cognitive benefits for young children simultaneously exposed to more than one language. These children have greater brain activity and denser tissue in areas related to memory, attention, and language. They have performed better on measures of analytical ability, concept formation, cognitive flexibility, and metalinguistic skills. Evidence also suggests that children who continue to learn academic concepts in their native language while gradually learning English outperform academically and socially children who are immersed in English-only programs.
So, did John Stanford lay the foundation for global elementary education in Seattle? Not quite. In her long awaited second book Can We Talk About Race? Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D., alarmingly spotlights the slow resegregation of our nation’s schools over the last decade. She shows how a series of recent legislations reverting school assignments to neighborhood have led to the undoing of much achieved by Brown v. Board of Education. Given that much of the U.S. is still severely divided across racial lines when it comes to housing, schools have naturally fallen back into segregated patterns.
Seattle is no exception. After a decade of other unsuccessful efforts to desegregate its schools, Seattle School District instituted mandatory busing in 1977. reaching its racial-enrollment goals 3 yrs later. However the District ended busing in 1989 and the racial balance at Seattle schools began to unravel. In 2007 Seattle parents played a pivotal role in legislative resegregation in the Supreme Court case Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No.1. The Court prohibited assigning students to public schools solely for the purpose of achieving racial integration and declined to recognize racial balancing as a compelling state interest. For years, Seattle parents had been given wide latitude to pick and choose schools for their children. In June 2009 however, Seattle Public Schools adopted a new student assignment plan reverting to a community-based approach, sending students to schools closest to home. The plan was phased in from 2010-2011.
2010 Census results indicated that more than a third of Seattle residents were persons of color. This population grew 26% from 1990-2000, and 32% from 2000-2010. The largest non-White racial group in Seattle is Asian and Pacific Islander living predominantly in the South end (International District, Rainier Valley, Beacon Hill) and outside the city in parts of Bellevue, Redmond, Kent, Bothell, Auburn, SeaTac and Maple Valley. Despite these statistics, John Stanford’s visionary first International School and Japanese immersion program, is located in North Seattle, Wallingford. A predominantly White neighborhood. Originally parents from all over the city could apply to John Stanford. Children with Japanese heritage were given priority.
But since the district reverted to neighborhood assignment, only students within the assignment zone may attend. According to the School District’s own annual reports (before 2010) and school reports (2010-), while John Stanford’s Asian student body remained constant at about 23% from 2004-2010, its White student body grew from 41% in 2004 to 56% in 2009/10. When the neighborhood school assignment was phased in from 2010-2011, John Stanford’s White student body jumped up to 61% while it’s Asian student body dropped to 13% (though 10% newly identified as multiracial and some may have been part Asian). This racial demographic shift certainly doesn’t reflect what is happening in the city at large. When I called the school to confirm, an impatient woman curtly told me that the drop in Asian attendees was not true and that the school had just added a kindergarten class. When I told her my own son has Japanese heritage and I was interested to apply, she told me I couldn’t because we didn’t live in the zone.
Is John Stanford International School teaching students to be globally competent in the 21st century? Or is it teaching them racial exclusion and preferences of old?
Sharon Chang’s great blog is here.
In this week’s edition of Inside Higher Education, Scott Jaschik reports on a picture taken of a group of Penn State Chi Omega sorority sisters mocking Mexicans. It is offensive enough that the picture depicts the group dressed in spaghetti western attire, but even more despicable are the signs featured in the picture:
“Will mow lawn for weed and beer” and “I don’t cut grass, I smoke it.”
What does this say about the collective views this group has of Mexicans? We have expectations about where certain groups belong based on generations of ethnic and racial stereotypes and societal stratification that are illustrated in this example. These views not only shape our expectations about one another, but also impact the way we treat each another.
For example, Washington State Supreme Court Justice Steven Gonzalez writes about the experience of being mistaken as a criminal defendant in a federal courthouse. He states:
Let me mention for example attorneys of color who are sometimes in criminal cases mistaken for the defendant by the participants. How do we respond to that? Sometimes we are overly formal, by making sure that we’re dressed particularly well and that our speech is particularly professional, just to let people know who we are because we’re not always given the benefit of the doubt. I remember when I was a federal prosecutor I was traveling with my wife to Texas and we went to the federal courthouse in Laredo, Texas. I was curious, I thought I’m part of the federal family, so I’m going to go in and see what a different federal courthouse looks like. When I went into the courthouse I started getting tailed by security; they followed me through the courthouse, and when I walked into a courtroom the clerk said, “Defendants sit to the left.” That was the first thing she said to me as I walked in. And I realized that out of my suit, I looked to them like a suspicious person or a defendant in that context.
(soon available here)
Being out of his suit is only part of the story. The other part is the fact that there are negative stereotypes about Mexicans and Mexican Americans that follow us wherever we go. Latino professionals universally encounter these challenges as I highlighted in my book on Latino lawyers. The notion that we should be mowing lawns, drinking a beer (presumably under a cactus), or working as maids/custodians has certainly impacted my life both personally and professionally. The impact of the views represented by the Chi Omega sorority picture penetrate into all aspects of Latinos’ lives and certainly bring to mind many memories of my own experiences.
Some of mine include being asked for a my social security card during a routine traffic stop for speeding (it took me years to stop carrying my social security card), or being asked for a “green card and an ID” before being allowed to go into a club or being asked rather aggressively by an older woman at a health club I used to belong in, to bring her some water while I was sitting down on a bench waiting for my daughter to finish tennis lessons. (The coach teaching the lessons recognized what was going on before I did and turned to the woman after she’d asked me for water for the third time and tells her he’ll get it for her when he was done giving his lesson). These examples pale in comparison to the examples I’ve experienced as a professor. I am not alone. It has been recently documented in a book on academic women of color, Presumed Incompetent that cover topics from campus climate to tenure and promotion as experienced by female faculty of color.
At the heart of all these examples is the way Latinos continue to be stereotyped by others as so grossly illustrated in the Penn State Chi Omega sorority example.
What? Wait, I thought I just saw something. Yes, someone was there! There it goes again…another one just disappeared. Where? No it is not an aberration? Are you kidding me…right there? Did you see it that time? Am I going crazy? No. On the contrary, I am quite sane. Even though my mother continues to follow this conclusion, only after witnessing my attempt as a child to place my tongue into an electrical socket as a child, my faculties have yet to escape into the void of emptiness and paranoia. They truly are disappearing, you know? The problem is not with me, but with your eyes. Or rather what you chose to avoid. At times, many of you do not care to venture into what I see. Many of you find their disappearance irrelevant. You say, “How do I know?” Well, even though whispers are present within small circles, in general I see the absence of it presence within your so-called intellectually constructed confines you call “the academy.” I notice your care for the topic within your incomplete descriptive statistical reports relating to educational attainment. I do not see the subject in print within presentation and roundtable discussions which take place inside your large educational and sociological conferences that cater to the intellectual highbrow. In fact, I do not see largely publicized proactive stances within the confines of the government and or public and post-secondary education. Where is the alarm? Sound the alarm . . . . sound the alarm!
Many Americans, particularly people of color, have joined in the celebration of this momentous occasion and expressed an opinion that Obama’s election ushered in a colorblind era. To them, this occasion symbolized for all that the historic caste system which hindered the progress of Blacks since the beginning of our nation has come to an end. On the day of Mr. Obama’s inauguration, I had the pleasure of walking down the hallways of a few public elementary schools and bore witness to the cheers, smiles, hugs, and celebration of many educators who could have not imagined a couple of years earlier they would have the honor to watch on school televisions and news websites the swearing in of our first Black U.S. president. “If Barrack can do it, you have no excuse not to,” was avowed to little Black faces in creepy harmony across the spectrum of a particular ED classroom that was populated with all Black males, except for one White male. In truth, that celebration across the country and sentiments of a colorblind era are nothing but distractions that serve as a curtain to hide underlying racial realities affecting Blacks, particularly those within the lower SES brackets. Through a critical analysis, gains witnessed by many are in fact gains and breakthroughs that primarily benefit middle and upper class Blacks. The racial caste system rooted in society since the founding of America is still in full operation. As a consequence, those at the bottom of the tiered system have continuously been prone to sophisticated measures of extreme supremacy and chastisement within the U.S. The consequential effects of targeting and all around affront toward Black males can be decisively identified through a multifaceted examination of the current state of Black males within this country.
Why? The 21st century condition of Black males is not comparable to any other group within the United States. Nowhere is this more strongly seen than in their educational experiences.
The state of Black males in education is dismal. The Chronicle of Higher Education stated within their Almanac of Higher Education 2012 issue, out of Bachelor’s (164,844), Master’s (76,458), and doctoral degrees (10,417) awarded to Blacks, Black males respectively earned 34.1%, 28.9%, and 34.8 respectively. Black females respectively earned 65.9%, 71.1%, and 65.2%. Today in terms of population, Black females outnumber their male counterparts as well. This does not improve within the domains of public education.
Public schools throughout Florida, New York, and Georgia, that Black males were twice as likely not to graduate with their 2005 and 2006 class cohorts than their other classmates (pdf here). Did you know that Delaware, Indiana, Michigan, South Carolina, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Georgia graduate fewer Black males than any other states? Distinctively my home state of Illinois can take credit, along with Wisconsin, for having close to a 40% gap between White and Black male graduation rates. Likewise, the bleak states of Nevada, Wyoming, Ohio, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, and Indiana graduate less than 50% of their Black male students from public schools. Sadly, the rare states that graduate Black males at a 70% rate are only Arizona, North Dakota, New Jersey, Vermont, and Maine.
The Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color (COSEBOC) in 2007 stated that Black males suffered from the largest achievement gap in comparison to any other racial/ethnic group in the U.S. The National Center for Education Statistics in 2007 reported that the rate of Black females receiving a college and university degrees was approximately two times that of Black males. Some reports have gone so far as to note the current academic gap between students of color (Black and Hispanic/Latino) and White students is primarily due to “socioeconomic factors.” Simply put, they dispute racial disparities between Blacks and non-Blacks. Neutralizing the discussion of race has seemingly emerged as one approach to address the achievement gap between Black and White students. Nonetheless, studies and findings in the area of mathematics have proven to dispute this claim and yield no better result. As a case in point, in 2009, Black males in large urban settings who were classified eligible for free and reduced lunch due to low SES, academically performed 20 points lower than comparable White males. White males not receiving free and reduced lunches averaged 11 points higher than Black male classmates who were ineligible. The data indicate that regardless of socioeconomics, racial disparity exists within a vast number of academic areas. Further, Blacks from affluent suburban areas have been shown to suffer from the same concerns as poor urban students.
Why? Overall I feel that a large percentage of governmental and institutional policies and programs enacted today are essentially continuing a legacy of control. This in fact is a legacy many deny even when confronted with surmounting evidence that affirms otherwise. But then again, why admit transgressions when the effort to continue the heritage of oppression endured by people of color subsequently benefits them—the elite proprietors of money, power, and resources within this country. Within this setting they continue to hold the reins of supremacy over the marginalized and less fortunate. Their influence and direction set the rhythm for those on the outside of their inner circle to dance to. They determine who is worthy of their attention and admiration and those who are to be ignored and detested. They determine those who should be considered safe and those who should be seen as dangerous. They have the power to influence the minds of those here and abroad. This is simply a dangerous game of thrones people of color have never seemed to master. Within every game there exists a potential wild card that has the capability to alter the dynamics of a game. A wild card is to be watched by the leaders of the game. All their efforts must be focused to discourage this improbable player from moving from behind to overcome and leader and as a result win. Within this country, Black and Latino males are the impeding wild card.
Within this malevolence operation, Black males are particularly at risk of being exposed to noteworthy doses of oppressive measures that are in general experienced by women or other ethnic groups. Oppressive systems and people who operate on the grounds of the systemic social reproduction of racism as Albert Memmi stated, “want distinctions and advantages to be given by birth to those who simply declare themselves by self-decree to be best.” Today as witnessed within the past, the systems within the U.S. were simply created by our country’s forefathers to give advantage to some, but not all. The effects of the seeds and thus vines of oppression that have encased the internal and external surfaces of the U.S. continue to render the minds, hearts, and actions of the world. The world has blindly come to be served the toxic proverbial “Kool-Aid,” and consequently continue the undertaking of condemning, demonizing, and psychologically and physically antagonizing Black males.
The character Captain, in the 1967 movie Cool Hand Luke, famously said, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate. But I feel that the message that is being sent is quite clear and present. The conversation pertaining to the social and academic well-being of Black males is not only missing, but also insignificant.