Archives for category: Racism

This article by Leslie T. Fenwick, dean emeritus at Howard University, was published in Valerie Strauss’s Answer Sheet blog in 2013, yet it remains even relevant today. I was in Washington, D.C., a few weeks ago and was astonished to see the dramatic gentrification of the city. My son was in New Orleans, having left a week before Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and he was astonished by the pace of gentrification. More than 200,000 African Americans have left Chicago since 2000. Is the transformation of America’s urban districts, with high-rise condos that sell for more than $1 million and Starbucks and gourmet shops merely a coincidence?

Dean Fenwick prophesied what she saw and was remarkably prescient:

The truth can be used to tell a lie. The truth is that black parents’ frustration with the quality of public schools is at an all time righteous high. Though black and white parents’ commitment to their child’s schooling is comparable, more black parents report dissatisfaction with the school their child attends. Approximately 90 percent of black and white parents report attending parent teacher association meetings and nearly 80 percent of black and white parents report attending teacher conferences. Despite these similarities, fewer black parents (47 percent) than white parents (64 percent) report being very satisfied with the school their child attends. This dissatisfaction among black parents is so whether these parents are college-educated, high income, or poor.

The lie is that schemes like Teach For America, charter schools backed by venture capitalists, education management organizations (EMOs), and Broad Foundation-prepared superintendents address black parents concerns about the quality of public schools for their children. These schemes are not designed to cure what ails under-performing schools. They are designed to shift tax dollars away from schools serving black and poor students; displace authentic black educational leadership; and erode national commitment to the ideal of public education.

Consider these facts: With a median household income of nearly $75,000, Prince George’s County is the wealthiest majority black county in the United States. Nearly 55 percent of the county’s businesses are black-owned and almost 70 percent of residents own homes, according to the U.S. Census.  One of Prince George’s County’s easternmost borders is a mere six minutes from Washington, D.C., which houses the largest population of college-educated blacks in the nation. In the United States, a general rule of thumb is that communities with higher family incomes and parental levels of education have better public schools. So, why is it that black parents living in the upscale Woodmore or Fairwood estates of Prince George’s County or the tony Garden District homes up 16th Street in Washington D.C. struggle to find quality public schools for their children just like black parents in Syphax Gardens, the southwest D.C. public housing community?

The answer is this: Whether they are solidly middle- or upper-income or poor, neither group of blacks controls the critical economic levers shaping school reform. And, this is because urban school reform is not about schools or reform. It is about land development.

In most urban centers like Washington D.C. and Prince George’s County, black political leadership does not have independent access to the capital that drives land development. These resources are still controlled by white male economic elites. Additionally, black elected local officials by necessity must interact with state and national officials. The overwhelming majority of these officials are white males who often enact policies and create funding streams benefiting their interests and not the local black community’s interests.

The authors of “The Color of School Reform” affirm this assertion in their study of school reform in Baltimore, Detroit and Atlanta. They found:

Many key figures promoting broad efficiency-oriented reform initiatives [for urban schools] were whites who either lived in the suburbs or sent their children to private schools (Henig et al, 2001).

Local control of public schools (through elected school boards) is supposed to empower parents and community residents. This rarely happens in school districts serving black and poor students. Too often people intent on exploiting schools for their own personal gain short circuit the work of deep and lasting school and community uplift. Mayoral control, Teach for America, education management organizations and venture capital-funded charter schools have not garnered much grassroots support or enthusiasm among lower- and middle-income black parents whose children attend urban schools because these parents often view these schemes as uninformed by their community and disconnected from the best interest of their children.

In the most recent cases of Washington D.C. and Chicago, black parents and other community members point to school closings as verification of their distrust of school “reform” efforts. Indeed, mayoral control has been linked to an emerging pattern of closing and disinvesting in schools that serve black poor students and reopening them as charters operated by education management organizations and backed by venture capitalists. While mayoral control proposes to expand educational opportunities for black and poor students, more-often-than-not new schools are placed in upper-income, gentrifying white areas of town, while more schools are closed and fewer new schools are opened in lower-income, black areas thus increasing the level of educational inequity. Black inner-city residents are suspicious of school reform (particularly when it is attached to neighborhood revitalization) which they view as an imposition from external white elites who are exclusively committed to using schools to recalculate urban land values at the expense of black children, parents and communities.

So, what is the answer to improving schools for black children? Elected officials must advocate for equalizing state funding formula so that urban school districts garner more financial resources to hire credentialed and committed teachers and stabilize principal and superintendent leadership. Funding makes a difference. Black students who attend schools where 50 percent of more of the children are on free/reduced lunch are 70 percent more likely to have an uncertified teacher (or one without a college major or minor in the subject area) teaching them four subjects: math, science, social studies and English. How can the nation continue to raise the bar on what we expect students to know and demonstrate on standardized tests and lower the bar on who teaches them?

As the nation’s inner cities are dotted with coffee shop chains, boutique furniture stores, and the skyline changes from public housing to high-rise condominium buildings, listen to the refrain about school reform sung by some intimidated elected officials and submissive superintendents. That refrain is really about exporting the urban poor, reclaiming inner city land, and using schools to recalculate urban land value. This kind of school reform is not about children, it’s about the business elite gaining access to the nearly $600 billion that supports the nation’s public schools. It’s about money.

 

Dean Fenwick gave the Benjamin E. Mays Lecture at Georgia State University in 2018.
She comes on at about the 15:00 minute mark, and she goes into detail about the education “reform” movement and its failure to help black and brown children. She calls it “Looking Behind the Veil of School Reform.”

Mississippi boasts about its gains on NAEP reading scores, but those “gains” were largely the result of holding back students who didn’t pass the third grade reading tests. It’s a form of “gaming the system,” aka cheating.

This article by Bracey Harris for the Hechinger Report tells a different story, a story of unequal opportunity for black children in the state, a history of racism and segregation, a legacy of underfunding black schools, of crumbling schools and high teacher turnover.

Large proportions of black children live in deep poverty, and their schools are ill-equipped to prepare them for college or career.

State leaders offer nothing but gimmicks that have failed elsewhere: merit pay, A-F grades, bonuses for new teachers, and state takeovers. What they have not offered is the funding necessary to give the schools and students and teachers the resources they need. The conservative white legislature has not been willing to do what is needed.

State leaders have attempted to improve the state’s poor educational outcomes in recent years by requiring third graders to pass the state reading test before they can enter fourth grade, offering $10,000 bonuses for Nationally Board Certified teachers to work in the Delta, assigning schools and districts A-F ratings and, on occasion, taking over failing school districts. Mississippi’s newly elected Gov. Tate Reeves, who took office in January, has also proposed paying new teachers a one-time $10,000 bonus to instruct in struggling areas like Holmes.

Mississippi has also made some positive traction after investing $15 million per year, in part to train and coach the state’s teachers on the science of reading and reading instruction, an investment that some officials said helped boost the state’s scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Mississippi ranked No. 1 nationally in gains in fourth grade reading and math, and near the top in eighth grade score gains in math.

To some observers, the NAEP scores suggest the state’s focus on these reforms have helped, a lot. But locals say the reforms don’t go far enough, failing to address the deeper issues of racism and poverty that are embedded in the marrow of the Mississippi Delta. Each year, districts in the region hold back dozens of third graders. At one school in Holmes, Durant Elementary, more than 80 percent of third graders failed the reading test on their first try.

Ellen Reddy, an advocate who has pushed to improve education in Holmes County said the state’s solutions haven’t reduced the challenges that dominate the average school day. Reddy, executive director of the Nollie Jenkins Family Center, said the state has to step in to help districts that struggle to raise money. “The reality is we’ll always fail. We’ll always be a step behind until they put in more resources,” she said. “You get what you pay for.”

Strapped for cash and teachers

Strapped for cash and teachers

Children in communities with a high rate of poverty are at a greater risk of poor health and high levels of stress that require more support in the classroom. Years of research have documented that poverty “creates constant wear and tear on the body” and that safe learning environments, coupled with “responsive parenting and high-quality childcare” can help children progress. But it costs money to train teachers on how to support students and to hire support staff like guidance counselors.

Never underestimate the power of poverty and racism.

Peter Greene nails it here, in discussing how Trump and DeVos folded the federal Charter Schools Program into a big, fat block grant that states can spend however they wish. 

For decades, Republicans have been wanting to eliminate social programs by turning them into block grants to the states. Now, as Valerie Strauss reported, charter school advocates are outraged. Brought to the dance and abandoned.

Open the link and see the great image Greene posts to make the point.

I have known for many years that right-wingers went for charters only because they lay the groundwork for vouchers.

I learned that when I worked in rightwing think tanks like the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Koret Education Program at the Hoover Institution.

The true right-wingers don’t give a hoot about charter schools except as a way to condition the American public to give up on public schools and place their faith in consumerism.

Charters pave the way for vouchers. They turn citizens, invested in public institutions, into consumers, looking out only for their own child.

Now that the Trump administration has a chance to show what it really cares about, it is vouchers (aka “Education Freedom Scholarships” or some other deceptive name).

DeVos wants every American child in a religious school or some other private school.

Not the kind that costs $25,000-50,000 a year.

The kind that costs $4,800 a year.

The kind that scoffs at the common good.

The kind that employs high-school dropouts as teachers (as in Florida), the kind that decides which children are acceptable and which are not allowed. The kind that kicks out students, staff and families who are gay, knowing that Trump’s rightwing Supreme Court will back them up.

The kind that accepts only “our kind.”

The Trump-DeVos show and the return of racism, sexism, xenophobia, and homophobia as acceptable public policy.

Four years ago, Michael Bloomberg spoke candidly in Aspen about his stop-and-frisk policies that targeted young black  and Hispanic men, but he immediately requested that it not be released to the public. Although he was proud of his policy, he knew there was something that wasn’t right about targeting young minority males.

Charles Blow of the New York Times wrote about the racist, disastrous policy of stop and frisk.

Let me plant the stake now: No black person — or Hispanic person or ally of people of color — should ever even consider voting for Michael Bloomberg in the primary. His expansion of the notoriously racist stop-and-frisk program in New York, which swept up millions of innocent New Yorkers, primarily young black and Hispanic men, is a complete and nonnegotiable deal killer.

Stop-and-frisk, pushed as a way to get guns and other contraband off the streets, became nothing short of a massive, enduring, city-sanctioned system of racial terror…

In 2002, the first year Bloomberg was mayor, 97,296 of these stops were recorded. They surged during Bloomberg’s tenure to a peak of 685,724 stops in 2011, near the end of his third term. Nearly 90 percent of the people who were stopped and frisked were innocent of any wrongdoing.

A New York Times analysis of stops on “eight odd blocks” in the overwhelmingly black neighborhood of Brownsville in Brooklyn found close to 52,000 stops over four years, which averaged out to “nearly one stop a year for every one of the 14,000 residents of these blocks.”

In 2009, there were more than 580,000 stop-and-frisks, a record at the time. Of those stopped, 55 percent were black, 32 percent Hispanic and only 10 percent white. Most were young, and almost all were male. Eighty-eight percent were innocent. For reference, according to the Census Bureau, there were about 300,000 black men between the ages of 13 and 34 living in the city that year.

Not only that, but those who were stopped had their names entered into a comprehensive police database, even if they were never accused of committing a crime. As Donna Lieberman, then the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said in 2010, the database became a place “where millions of completely innocent, predominantly black and Latinos have been turned into permanent police suspects.”

The state outlawed the keeping of these electronic records on the innocent, over the strong objections of Bloomberg and his police chief…

Bloomberg’s crime argument was dubious. The Columbia Law School professor Jeffrey Fagan produced a report that became part of a class-action lawsuit against the city in 2010. It found that: “[s]eizures of weapons or contraband are extremely rare. Overall, guns are seized in less than 1 percent of all stops: 0.15 percent … Contraband, which may include weapons but also includes drugs or stolen property, is seized in 1.75 percent of all stops.”

Teresa Hanafin writes the Fast Forward feature for the Boston Globe. Scroll down and learn how you can subscribe:

 

Three things to mull this morning:

Senate Republicans will acquit Trumpthis afternoon of charges that he abused the power of the presidency. Democrats cringe at the word “acquit” because, they say, the Senate didn’t actually hold a real trial since the GOP refused to call witnesses or hear new evidence.

Trump held a fact-challenged, divisive MAGA rally-meets-reality-TV last night in place of his State of the Union speech, with Republicans shouting “four more years” as though they were at an evangelical tent revival.

Trump gave the nation’s highest civilian award — bestowed in the past to people like Mother Teresa and Rosa Parks — to a guy whose racist and misogynistic rants on TV and talk radio have made him a darling of the right. And Trump brazenly did it in the people’s house.


So where to begin? The acquittal has been a foregone conclusion for months, so let’s move on to his MAGA rally. You knew the impeached Trump was going to be aggressively defiant as soon as he refused to shake the hand of Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House and second in line to the presidency.

News organizations’ fact-checkers say his subsequent speech was replete with misinformation and lies, many designed to portray himself as the best president in history. And his continued obsession with bettering Barack Obama is really sad. A few corrections:

Trump: “I am thrilled to report to you tonight that our economy is the best it has ever been.”
Truth: Sorry, bucko, it’s not. Trump’s annual economic growth rate hasn’t yet surpassed 3 percent, but there have been many, many years in the recent past when GDP grew more than that, including 1950, 1951, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1997, 1998, 1999 — well, you get the idea. The 3.5 percent unemployment rate is not the lowest in history; for example, it was 2.5 percent in 1953.

Trump: “Since my election, we have created 7 million new jobs.”
Truth: It’s actually 6.7 million jobs since he took office, but who’s counting? (Certainly not Trump.) In the last three years of the Obama administration, more than 8 million jobs were created.

Trump: “Thanks to our bold regulatory reduction campaign, the United States has become the number one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world.”
Truth: The US became the world’s top energy producer under Obama in 2012.

Trump: “From the instant I took office, I moved rapidly to revive the U.S. economy … enacting historic and record-setting tax cuts.”
Truth: Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations were not the largest in history; they were only the eighth-largest in the past century.

Trump: “This is a blue-collar boom.”
Truth: Manufacturing is officially in a recession, and job growth in transportation, construction, and mining has dropped. Oops!

Trump: “Everybody said that criminal justice reform couldn’t be done, but I got it done and the people in this room got it done.”
Truth: I guess he’s hearing voices again, because actually, nobody said that reform couldn’t get done, given that Obama kicked off the effort when he signed the Fair Sentencing Act in August 2010. That repealed the five-year mandatory sentence for first-time offenders and reduced the disparity between the sentences given to those who used powder cocaine (mostly white people) and the much harsher penalties for those who used crack cocaine (mostly Black people).

Trump’s First Step Act builds on that, shortening mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses and easing the federal “three strikes” rule. However, in his 2020 budget, Trump proposed just $14 million for the act, when the law calls for $75 million.

Okay, I’m done. And exhausted trying to keep up with his mendacious word salads. A disgusted Pelosi ripped up the speech at the end in full view of TV cameras, later saying that Trump “shredded the truth, so I shredded his speech.”

You can read more fact-checking by AP in the Globe, by CNN, by NBC, and by The Washington Post.


Trump’s reality TV showmanship was on full display when he announced that a young girl in the gallery was going to get a coveted school scholarship and reunited a soldier with his family.

But it was his awarding of the Presidential Medal of Freedom to conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh that caused the most uproar. (A smiling and clapping first lady Melania placed the medal around Limbaugh’s neck as Republicans cheered in approval.)

Limbaugh, a cigar smoker, announced the other day that he had advanced lung cancer, years after he repeatedly pooh-poohed the connection between tobacco and cancer, blaming the anti-tobacco “hysteria” on leftwing loons who were part of an anti-corporate conspiracy — similar to what he says today about climate change. Look, nobody wishes such a terrible diagnosis on anyone, and we hope he has either a full recovery or can be made as comfortable as possible if the disease progresses.

But cancer does not erase a lifetime of vile, vulgar, hateful speech.

As much as I dislike repeating any of his comments here, it’s important to know the type of person Trump values.

Limbaugh once told a Black female caller to “Take that bone out of your nose and call me back.” He called Obama a “halfrican American” and liked to play a song on his radio show called “Barack the Magic Negro.” He called for segregated buses when Obama became president, and called Mexicans “stupid and unskilled.”

He said that when a gay person “turns his back on you, it is anything but an insult; it’s an invitation.”

After Michael J. Fox announced he had Parkinson’s disease, Limbaugh claimed the actor, who generally supports Democratic causes, was exaggerating the effects of the disease. “He’s moving all around and shaking and it’s purely an act … This is really shameless … Either he didn’t take his medication or he’s acting.”

When Sandra Fluke, a law student at Georgetown, testified before Congress in favor of mandatory insurance coverage for contraceptives, Limbaugh called her a “slut” and a “prostitute.”

During the Clinton administration, he displayed a photo of 13-year-old Chelsea and called her “a dog.” (Remember the faux outrage from Republicans when an impeachment witness merely mentioned the name of Trump’s son Barron to illustrate the limits of presidential power?)

I wonder how all of the Black and Latino guests Trump publicly praised last night felt when he gave Limbaugh this nation’s highest honor.


Finally, my favorite tweet of today so far, from The Volatile Mermaid (@OhNoSheTwitnt):

Things that offend Democrats:
– treason
– racism
– misogyny
– bragging about sexual assault
– homophobia

Things that offend Republicans:
– Tearing a piece of paper
– Speaking out about climate change
– Saying Barron Trump’s name
– Black people voting
– Rainbows


Thanks for reading. February has been the longest year of my life. Send comments and suggestions to teresa.hanafin@globe.com, or follow me on Twitter @BostonTeresa. See you tomorrow.

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Wornie Reed explains why Martin Luther King, Jr., is beloved today, despite the fact that he was reviled during his lifetime. He was a provocateur and a “rabble rouser” when he was alive, but over time the radicalism of his message was washed away (“whitewashed). Wornie Reed is Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies at Virginia Tech.

Professor Reed writes:

Two decades after his assassination, Martin Luther King, Jr., was highly regarded. His favorability rating was 76 percent among white Americans. By then, of course, we had the national holiday established in his name, quite a change from 1966, two years before his death, when his favorability rating among white Americans was only 28 percent.  We should remember that while he lived and worked, the majority of white America reviled Martin Luther King.

Whites framed their malice toward King as something other than racism. They did not oppose MLK because he struggled for black freedom and equality. Rather they detested him—they said—because he was a rabble-rouser, a Communist, and a lawbreaker. J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI director, called him the most dangerous man in America, and there was rejoicing at his death.

Millions of white Americans hated Martin Luther King. All over the country, many celebrated his death.

Young whites, absorbing the hatred of their parents, also celebrated. Archives in the library at the University of Memphis tell the story of a Memphis-area high school class. The teacher asked his students to write about their responses to King’s assassination. Most of the students responded with satisfaction or jubilation. One student described his immediate reaction to King’s murder: “I thought it was one of the greatest feats of Americanism I have ever heard of.” Another explained that because of King’s death, the country would be “better off in the long run.”

Here at Virginia Tech, where I currently teach, some students were saddened by King’s assassination, while others were not. There was a demonstration against lowering the American flag “for a nigger.”

 Now they love him. What happened? What caused the change of heart among whites? One thing, of course, was his death. Although there was a significant amount of celebration at his assassination, with him no longer around, there was less hatred toward him, but not enough for a positive favorability rating.

 Undoubtedly the whitewashing of Martin Luther King did the trick. King, the rabble-rouser, who got arrested 30 times, has been scrubbed clean. Now he is depicted as a dreamer, something opposite of the activist he was. He is widely viewed as a person who mildly promoted peace – no activism, no strife, no confrontations, no defying unjust laws.

So what? You may ask. What difference does it make that now whites love MLK where previously they hated him. It matters a lot. They love the person they made him, in death—a peace-loving dreamer. If we follow this person, we do nothing. We hope for better relations. We dream of a better day, thinking that time will erase the oppression. That is what we did for decades. For some 40 years—from the mid-1970s to the mid-2010s–there was no national black movement. During this time, racial progress came to a grinding halt, possibly going backward.

It is way past time to bring back our deceased icon, the real Martin Luther King, the man who was leading the Poor People’s Campaign when he was struck down, the man who vowed to close down the Nation’s Capitol if the government did not heed our demand to eliminate poverty and hunger in this wealthy nation, the man who continued this effort in the face of death. If we bring back the memory of this MLK, we may be inspired to do what he asked us to do when he would no longer be with us, “Continue this movement. Do this work.”

Alan Singer posts here a brilliant speech that he delivered about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr,. the civil rights movement, and Dr. King’s continuing legacy today. He reminds us that the issues that Dr. King addressed are still unresolved: racism, poverty, war, violence. He points out that when Dr.King was assassinated, he was helping low-wage sanitation workers in Memphis to organize a union to improve their wages, working conditions, and lives. The next time you hear a billionaire or right-winger claim that school choice is “the civil rights issue of our time,” ask him or her (or yourself) whether they are also fighting as Dr. King did to end racism, poverty, war, and violence.

Speaking recently at the Uniondale, New York, public library, Singer said (and this is an excerpt),

The traditional myth about the Civil Rights Movement, the one that is taught in schools and promoted by politicians and the national media, is that Rosa Parks sat down, Martin Luther King stood up, and somehow the whole world changed. But the real story is that the Civil Rights Movement was a mass democratic movement to expand human equality and guarantee citizenship rights for Black Americans. It was definitely not a smooth climb to progress. Between roughly 1955 and 1968 it had peaks that enervated people and valleys that were demoralizing. Part of the genius of Dr. King was his ability to help people “keep on keeping on” when hope for the future seemed its bleakest.

While some individual activists clearly stood out during the Civil Rights Movement, it involved hundreds of thousands of people, including many White people, who could not abide the U.S. history of racial oppression dating back to slavery days. It is worth noting that a disproportionate number of whites involved in the Civil Rights movement were Jews, many with ties to Long Island. In the 1960s, the Great Neck Committee for Human Rights sponsored an anti-discrimination pledge signed by over 1,000 people who promised not to discriminate against any racial or ethnic groups if they rented or sold their homes. They also picketed local landlords accused of racial bias. The Human Rights Committee and Great Neck synagogues hosted Dr. King as a speaker and raised funds for his campaigns on multiple occasions.

King and Parks played crucial and symbolic roles in the Civil Rights Movement, but so did Thurgood Marshall, Myles Horton, Fanny Lou Hammer, Ella Baker, A. Philip Randolph, Walther Reuther, Medger Evers, John Lewis, Bayard Rustin, Pete Seeger, Presidents Eisenhower and Johnson, as well as activists who were critics of racial integration and non-violent civil disobedience such as Stokely Carmichael, Malcolm X, and the Black Panthers.

The stories of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King have been sanitized to rob them of their radicalism and power. Rosa Parks was not a little old lady who sat down in the White only section of a bus because she was tired. She was only 42 when she refused to change her seat and made history. In addition, Parks was a trained organizer, a graduate of the Highlander School where she studied civil disobedience and social movements, and a leader of the Montgomery, Alabama NAACP. Rosa Parks made a conscious choice to break an unjust law in order to provoke a response and promote a movement for social change. 

Martin Luther King challenged the war in Vietnam, U.S. imperialism, and laws that victimized working people and the poor, not just racial discrimination. When he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, he was helping organize a sanitation workers union. If Dr. King had not be assassinated, but had lived to become an old radical activist who constantly questioned American policy, I suspect he would never have become so venerated. It is better for a country to have heroes who are dead, because they cannot make embarrassing statements opposing continuing injustice and unnecessary wars.

The African American Civil Rights Movement probably ended with the assassination of Dr. King in April 1968 and the abandonment of Great Society social programs by the Democratic Party, but social inequality continues. What kind of country is it when young Black men are more likely to be involved with the criminal justice system than in college, inner city youth unemployment at the best of times hovers in the high double-digits, and children who already have internet access at home are the ones most likely to have it in school? What kind of country is it when families seeking refuge from war, crime, and climate disruption are barred entry to the United States or put in holding pens at the border? These are among the reasons I am recruiting everyone to a movement for social justice. These are the things that would have infuriated Martin Luther King.

I promised I would share excerpts from four of Dr. King’s speeches. Everyone has the phrases and speeches that they remember best. Most Americans are familiar with the 1963 “I have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC and the 1968 “I’ve been to the Mountaintop” speech in Memphis just before he died. These are four other speeches that still resonate with me the most today.

The first speech I reference is one for local Uniondale, Long Island, and Hofstra pride. In 1965, Dr. King was honored and spoke at the Hofstra University graduation. It was less than one year after he received the Nobel Peace Prize and three years before his assassination. In the speech Dr. King argued “mankind’s survival is dependent on man’s ability to solve the problems of racial injustice, poverty and war” and that the “solution of these problems is . . . dependent upon man squaring his moral progress with his scientific progress, and learning the practical art of living in harmony.” I have no doubt that if Dr. King were alive today, he would be at the forefront of the Black Lives Matter movement, demands for gun control, climate activism, and calls for the impeachment of Donald Trump. 

In his Hofstra speech, Dr. King told graduates, families, and faculty, “we have built machines that think, and instruments that peer into the unfathomable ranges of interstellar space. We have built gigantic bridges to span the seas, and gargantuan buildings to kiss the skies . . . We have been able to dwarf distance and place time in chains . . . Yet in spite of these spectacular strides in science and technology, something basic is missing. That is a sort of poverty of the spirit, which stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance. The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish. But we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.”

Read the rest of this powerful speech by Professor Singer about Dr. King’s relevance for us today.

 

 

Domingo Morel is a professor of political science at Rutgers University who has studied school takeovers across the nation. He is the author of Takeover: Race, Education, and American Democracy. 

In this post, he describes the proposed state takeover of the Houston Independent School District as a hoax. 

It is a manufactured crisis. It is a theft of political power, and it is based on race.

If the state of Texas had its way, the state would be in the process of taking overthe Houston Independent School District.

But a judge temporarily blocked the takeover on Jan. 8, with the issue now set to be decided at a trial in June.

The ruling temporarily spares Houston’s public school system from joining a list of over 100 school districts in the nation that have experienced similar state takeovers during the past 30 years.

The list includes New York City, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, New Orleans, Baltimore, Oakland and Newark. Houston is the largest school district in Texas and the seventh largest in the U.S.

While the state of Texas claims the planned takeover is about school improvement, my research on state takeovers of school districts suggests that the Houston takeover, like others, is influenced by racism and political power.

States fail to deliver

State governments have used takeovers since the late 1980s to intervene in school districts they have identified as in need of improvement. While state administrations promise that takeovers will improve school systems, 30 years of evidence shows that state takeovers do not meet the states’ promised expectations. For instance, a recent report called Michigan’s 15-year management of the Detroit schools a “costly mistake” because the takeover was not able to address the school system’s major challenges, which included adequately funding the school district.

But while the takeovers don’t deliver promised results, as I show in my book, they do have significant negative political and economic consequences for communities, which overwhelmingly are communities of color. These negative consequences often include the removal of locally elected school boards. They also involve decreases in teachers and staff and the loss of local control of schools.

Despite the highly problematic history of state takeovers, states have justified the takeovers on the grounds that the entire school district is in need of improvement. However, this is not the case for the Houston takeover because by the state’s own standards, the Houston school system is not failing.

By the state’s own standards, the Houston Independent School District is not failing!

Although the state has given the Houston Independent School District a B rating, it plans to take over the Houston schools because one school, Wheatley High School, has not met state standards for seven years. According to state law, the state can take over a school district or close a school if it fails to meet standards for five years.

The Houston Independent School District has 280 schools. The district serves over 200,000 students. It employs roughly 12,000 teachers. Wheatley High School serves roughly 800 students and has roughly 50 teachers.

So why would a state take over a school district that has earned a B rating from the state? And why base the takeover on the performance of one school that represents fewer than 1% of the district’s student and teaching population?

The takeover is nothing more or less than a bald-faced attempt to strip political power from black and Hispanic communities.

No one believes that software developer Mike Morath (the current state commissioner) has a single idea about how to improve Wheatley or any other school. He has never been a teacher, a principal, or a superintendent. He is there to carry out the rightwing agenda of Governor Gregg Abbott.

Count on it. This is a bald-faced power grab.

Fred Klonsky writes with amazement that Mayor Pete Buttigieg just realized that there are segregated schools in his hometown of South Bend.

He acknowledges that he was slow to come to this realization.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg told Reverend William Barber that he didn’t notice South Bend’s public schools were segregated.

Buttigieg is the mayor of South Bend.

“I have to confess that I was slow to realize — I worked for years under the illusion that our schools in my city were integrated… But what I slowly realized… if you looked at the county, almost all of the diversity of our youths was in a single school district,” Buttigieg said in an interview with Rev. William Barber III.

Yes. “All the diversity of our youths was in a single school district,” is a weird formulation.

But that he didn’t realize that integration was an illusion in his city?

Buttigieg is either a liar or suffers from too common a white blindspot.

In Indiana, more than 70 percent of black students attend a non-white majority school,

In 2015, several South Bend schools showed concentrated black enrollment, inconsistent with county racial realities.

The problem of racial segregation is a statewide problem in Indiana. There is much that is wrong in the Hoosier state, and the legislature doesn’t care.

Indiana doesn’t have a plan to combat segregation but it has a robust school choice program of charters and vouchers.

 

The Boston Globe published this opinion piece questioning the validity of concepts like grit and resilience. 

Author Alissa Quart interviews Christine White, a woman who grew up in extreme poverty yet managed to build a successful career helping people who struggled as she did. But not by coaching them to have more “grit” and “resilience.”

Christine White, writes Quart, has written

a number of posts on on her nonprofit’s blog questioning this resilience refrain. She believes that when “we are obsessing about resilience it obscures the fundamental issues that people have, like a lack of privilege or a history of trauma.” When “resilience” is applied to at-risk kids, says White, it implies “the solutions reside within an individual and not their context: ‘resilience’ skews conversations away from equity.” The assumption is that having “character” will help traumatized people flourish — and if they don’t flourish, there is an implied lack of character.

“Ninety percent of resilience conversations would be better if the focus was, instead, on racial and economic inequities,” she wrote in correspondence with me.

But “resilience” and “grittiness” have become ubiquitous honorifics — likely to come out of the mouths of not only teachers but also therapists, urban planners, businessmen, and policymakers, all praising individual pluck.

Thanks to Angela Duckworth’s bestseller of the same name, “grit” is now a part of American school life: In New Hampshire, for instance, some grammar school students are taught “grit skills” by teachers who follow a “grit curriculum.” One grit lesson includes interviewing a neighbor, for example, who has shown grit and creating that person’s “perseverance walk,” outlining how they achieved their goals.

The terms have even spawned an industry of books, apps, and gurus:

There is a now even a grit and resilience industry.

“Resilience is knowing that you are the only one that has the power and responsibility to pick yourself up,” says Mary Holloway, a “resilience coach” and the creator of the “Boom Bounce Wow Resilience Method.” There are also dozens of self-help books promising to make you more resilient or more gritty, including one that promises to create resilience with the subtitle “How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness.” One of the biggest resilience bestsellers is “Option B” by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

Apps have also gotten into the resilience and positive psychology game, with names such as ResilientMe and Happify. And there is even a “resilience planner” bearing the legend “Stay Resilient 2019,” which is currently sold out…

There’s also a growing — though much smaller — academic backlash to the term “resilience.” Critics note the focus on “resilience” can ignore the structural gaps of our economy, for example. Should we really be building personal capacities to triumph over, say, the “adversity” that is the current scarcity of public funding for education?

Call grit and resilience what they are: a substitute for the structural and financial changes that give people genuine opportunity to get ahead.

These terms are an effort to substitute “the power of positive thinking” for equity.