by Guest Contributor Edward Williams, originally published at Policylink
It was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that most notably stated, “all progress is precarious and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem.” I had never contemplated my personal success as precarious progress or that my success to this point could bring any non-materialistic problems, but I now find myself–like many of my fellow successful, young, black men–in a moment of crisis.
Before I dive into what exactly this 21st-century identity crisis is, what it is caused by, and what it ultimately means, I need to get some preliminaries out of the way to open some critical minds. First, this article is not intended to be braggadocious: I will discuss some of my personal success as I explicate this issue, but I will also share the success of several other young black men that I am close with. Neither their stories of success nor mine are expressed from a place of haughtiness but instead from a place of humility. I fear that it is out of concern for being perceived as arrogant or out-of-touch that this side of the young black male’s story is so rarely told.
Next, this article is not intended to complain about success. I recognize that success is usually not a word associated with black men, and I spend most of my article writing time trying to shed light on the crisis in our inner-city schools. It is not lost on me that most young black men will never be in a position to engage in the dialogue that I am about to embark on, because their potential success has been stifled.
Finally, I recognize that much of what I will discuss at length not only applies to successful young black men, but also to successful young black women and young successful minorities generally. I have consciously chosen to focus on the young black male success crisis because I understand it best first hand. It would be disingenuous of me to attempt to articulate the myriad of different pressures that other minorities or women experience as they climb the ladder of success. Therefore, for risk of speaking on that which I know little about, I have chosen not to explore those topics, but I hope that my fellow successful young minority colleagues and female colleagues will soon treat us with their own version of this crisis.
Now that preliminaries are out of the way, let’s get down to the issue; what exactly is the young successful black male’s 21st century identity crisis? Continue reading →
What inspired me to reflect on my own particular educational journey was how much it contrasts to those of the women featured in the article. For example, one of the women opens up about the lack of encouragement she received, even being told that she “wasn’t college material.” Nevertheless, she worked towards an associate degree from a community college over four and a half years and eventually ventured on to graduate work. Another of the women only started looking into the possibility of attending college after others expressed surprised to hear that she did not plan to apply. The third woman, who was on a more traditional educational track (going to college right after high school and then on to be a full-time graduate student), still notes wistfully that Latina/os often experience an identity crisis in classrooms where “your culture is repressed and your language isn’t validated” (emphasis added). Continue reading →
Later, I sat down with Maddie in a quiet factory office where nobody needs to wear protective gear. Without the hairnet and lab coat, she is a pretty, intense woman, 22 years old, with bright blue eyes that seemed to bore into me as she talked, as fast as she could, about her life. She told me how much she likes her job, because she hates to sit still and there’s always something going on in the factory. She enjoys learning, she said, and she’s learned how to run a lot of the different machines. At one point, she looked around the office and said she’d really like to work there one day, helping to design parts rather than stamping them out. She said she’s noticed that robotic arms and other machines seem to keep replacing people on the factory floor, and she’s worried that this could happen to her. She told me she wants to go back to school—as her parents and grandparents keep telling her to do—but she is a single mother, and she can’t leave her two kids alone at night while she takes classes.
I had come to Greenville to better understand what, exactly, is happening to manufacturing in the United States, and what the future holds for people like Maddie—people who still make physical things for a living and, more broadly, people (as many as 40 million adults in the U.S.) who lack higher education, but are striving for a middle-class life. [...]
I never heard Maddie blame others for her situation; she talked, often, about the bad choices she made as a teenager and how those have limited her future. I came to realize, though, that Maddie represents a large population: people who, for whatever reason, are not going to be able to leave the workforce long enough to get the skills they need. Luke doesn’t have children, and his parents could afford to support him while he was in school. Those with the right ability and circumstances will, most likely, make the right adjustments, get the right skills, and eventually thrive. But I fear that those who are challenged now will only fall further behind. To solve all the problems that keep people from acquiring skills would require tackling the toughest issues our country faces: a broken educational system, teen pregnancy, drug use, racial discrimination, a fractured political culture.
This may be the worst impact of the disappearance of manufacturing work. In older factories and, before them, on the farm, there were opportunities for almost everybody: the bright and the slow, the sociable and the awkward, the people with children and those without. All came to work unskilled, at first, and then slowly learned things, on the job, that made them more valuable. Especially in the mid-20th century, as manufacturing employment was rocketing toward its zenith, mistakes and disadvantages in childhood and adolescence did not foreclose adult opportunity.
A recent study by the Yale University Child Study Center shows that Black children — especially boys — no matter their family income, receive less attention, harsher punishment and lower marks in school than their White counterparts from kindergarten all the way through college. A subsequent article published in “The Washington Post” reported that Black children in the Washington, D.C. area are suspended or expelled two to five times more often than White children. It’s a national trend that needs to be addressed.
The demographics were surprising, experts said. While blacks were still more likely than whites to see serious conflicts between rich and poor, the share of whites who held that view increased by 22 percentage points, more than triple the increase among blacks. The share of blacks and Hispanics who held the view grew by single digits.
What is more, people at the upper middle of the income ladder were most likely to see conflict. Seventy-one percent of those who earned from $40,000 to $75,000 said there were strong conflicts between rich and poor, up from 47 percent in 2009. The lowest income bracket, less than $20,000, changed the least.
The grinding economic downturn may be contributing to the heightened perception of conflict between rich and poor, said Christopher Jencks, a professor of social policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
“Rich and poor aren’t terribly distinct from secure and unemployed,” he said.
Sony Music has been ordered to pay $1.2 million (equivalent to about $656,000 in American dollars) in retroactive compensation back to 1997 for the release of the song “Veja os Cabelos Dela (Look at Her Hair)” by the Brazilian singer, comedian and politician Francisco Everardo Oliveira Silva whose stage name is Tiririca.
The lyrics not only liken a black woman’s hair to “a scouring pad for pots and pans,” but also calls her a “stinking beast.” Oy!
The lawsuit was brought forth by 10 non-governmental organizations that fight against racism. Humberto Adami, the defense attorney of the NGOs, argued that black women were offended, exposed to ridicule and felt violated due to the lyrical content of the song.
“This decision is a direct message to show how the issue of racial inequality should be treated. It is a moment to celebrate. The compensation won’t even go to the authors of the lawsuit. The money will go to the Diffused Rights Fund of the Ministry of Justice,”commented Adami.
Because immigration violations are technically a civil issue, immigrants in detention have no right to an attorney even though the consequences—deportation—can be much worse than for those facing criminal proceedings. Multiple reports in recent years have found that the bulk of immigrant detainees navigate the labyrinthine immigration system on their own, or are isolated in far-flung detention centers out of reach to legal aid services which are concentrated in urban areas.
Young people become uniquely vulnerable in these situations.
“A lot of children are scared and their age and developmental experience doesn’t allow them to understand what is expected of them or the legal remedies that they might otherwise be eligible for,” Garcia said. “Often minors do not know what they are agreeing to or how to present their cases.”
In many cases, there is no requirement that detainees see a judge, which only compounds the problem.
“These two massive deficiencies, that you have no lawyer to help advocate for you and no guarantee you can see a judge, mean that very low level ICE agents are in many cases the first and last arbiter of your citizenship claim,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, deputy legal director at the ACLU of Southern California. Too often, he said, immigration agents don’t believe or bother checking people’s stories, even when they might make valid claims of citizenship.
One or both of these checks would certainly have helped someone verify Turner’s actual identity before she got deported, Arulanantham said.
Viola: I felt like that scene represented something that you don’t see in cinema—the everyday fear that people had. Oftentimes, when you see the Civil Rights era onscreen, people are being whipped and killed, but it’s the everyday—you’re going home, you’re tired and on the bus, and all of a sudden something happens that could be life-threatening. Then, as soon as it’s over, you’re back to your life again. It’s the everyday fear you have to live with. It woke Minny and Aibileen up to the fact that they were risking their lives writing this book.
Tate Taylor: What I really, really loved about the Medgar Evers storyline and backdrop was that he was in their neighborhood. While they were doing this clandestine project, this Civil Rights leader who’s their neighbor gets murdered, and their characters are wondering, “What’s going to happen to us?”
Kathryn Stockett: It was very important for me—and for Tate—to not make this into a Civil Rights piece, but they were being infiltrated and hunted down for their color. So when that bus driver agrees to drive the white people to their destination but tells the black people to get the fuck off, he’s reminding people of the rules. I think it also makes the audience very protective of Aibileen when she’s running through the dark like that. It hurts watching it!
One hot summer night in June, I cradled my brown industry pass and debated watching a surely depressing movie about school reform or a (relatively) light-hearted look at North Korea. One of the first benefits to joining the Public Media Corps was the access to SILVERDOCS, the annual documentary film festival produced by the AFI Silver Theatre and The Discovery Channel. Late on a weekday night, we finished up our training and trooped over to Silver Spring, hoping to catch at least one of the films before the festivities finished for the evening.
My friend Brittany and I both decided that we wanted to at least check out the film on educational reform called Waiting for Superman – and hour and a half later, we exited the theater with pain in our hearts and tears in our eyes.
by Guest Contributor CVT, originally published at Choptensils
What aspect of U.S. life wraps all the forms of oppression and inequality into one tidy little package? What system successfully keeps women, people of color, LGBT, religious minorities, people with disabilities, and people in poverty “in their place” more effectively than any other? Why, the education system, of course. And as a teacher and writer on all things unequal, it’s high-time I start specifically addressing education (in the States, and abroad). So I bring to you the first of a multi-part CVT special: A Broken System, Part I: Unconstitutional. Enjoy.
“Separate but equal” is inherently unequal. So what about “separate and unequal“?
This post is a long-delayed response to the ongoing situation at South Philadelphia High* and the U.S. public school system, in general; and it goes something like this:
We all know that the public school system in the U.S. is a problem. We all know that public schools in the richer areas of big cities, or in the suburbs, are drastically better than those in poorer areas of the country (whether rural or urban). This is not something that anybody would refute. We also know that, in many poor, urban schools, the student population is heavily skewed towards students of color. In those schools, we are also aware that race-related violence is a part of everyday life. We know that many of these schools use large portions of their federal and state money on security measures, as opposed to education.
So let’s take a look at this logically; summed up, we all know that a disproportionate number of students of color are in inferior schools with major impediments to receiving a decent education. Hmmm . . . and last time I checked, I recall reading that schools are getting more racially segregated over time. Sounds like “separate but unequal” to me. Continue reading →
The book contained lots of qualitative interviews with West Indian folks talking about why they don’t like African Americans, why they are Black, but not like Black Americans, that Black Americans are lazy, expect handouts etc.
I had no idea how the class was going to react to this.
Fascinating stuff, though, right?
Especially when you look at the presence of African Americans vs. West Indian Americans on four year college campuses and in graduate, law and business school in the Northeast.
The book is awesome in how it gets at how first generation verses second generation West Indian immigrants deal with assimilation, with proving that they are not Black and also with identifying as Black. The most fascinating part for me was learning that women who worked as teachers and nurses in Jamaica, came to the Brooklyn, worked as teacher and nurses yet, class wise their lives were not the same. The material difference is the on their salary in Jamaica, they were middle class, so they could afford nannies and house keepers, and their housing was more spacious and safer. In the US, housing was more expensive, there was more opportunity for jobs and education for their children but the housing dollar didn’t go very far.
Which brings me to my classmate.
Jamaica’s system is based on the British system*, which means that children are tested and tracked at a very young age. They either go into vocational track or academic track.
Apparently Germany and much of Europe is the same way.
My Black classmate said, that he agrees with this.
I responded saying that standardized tests are measures of familial wealth, not student aptitude. And the aptitude of a four year old cannot be measured because they have only been on the earth 48 months. He responded saying that the British system is better because it separates the students early and that there are some who shouldn’t be in school and college.
I said that this was racist. We do not know what children are capable of at 4.
They responded saying that it wasn’t racist.
I said, it was both racist AND classist because of the disparate impact that the same policy has on Black boys in the US. Ann Fergusons’ Bad Boys talks about this at length, if you want to read more about it. It’s an awesome study on a public elementary school in Berkeley, and it hones in on the ways in which school policy and teacher subjectivity impact how Black boys are disproportionately disciplined and placed in special ed classes.
I asked him how he reconciled his approval of early testing and prediction with the fact that standardized tests measure familial wealth not student aptitude.
He responded saying “Yeah, tests are culturally biased but math isn’t.”
When I went to college at the University of Utah, there was no box for me to check. There was no “Middle Eastern” and there was definitely no “bi- or multi-racial.” I’d like to think that the U of U has since updated their ethnicity data, but I can’t be sure.
When I applied to graduate school, I practically wet my pants when I saw “Middle Eastern” on the online application. I was overjoyed to think that my regional ethnicity was included. I happily checked “Middle Eastern”, ignoring the line for “Other,” where I could have specified “bi-racial.”
Currently, if you fill out an application on the Oregon State University’s website, there is a drop-down box of ethnicities, with an almost exhaustive list. They divided “Middle Eastern” and “North African” to make sure all ethnicities within these groups were covered, and the lists were fairly inclusive. Hazaras, Maronites, Baluchis, and other under-represented Middle Easterners were under “Middle Eastern.”
However, there is still no option for multi- or bi-racial.
Last March, several Middle Eastern UCLA student groups began a lobby to expand the University of California application ethnicity check boxes to include ethnicities such as Arab, Persian, Afghan, etc. It’s mind-boggling that the UC system would still not have up-to-date ethnicity representation on its applications, especially since California has high concentrations of West Asian diasporas in California (they don’t call it “Tehrangeles” for nothing).
The University of California system updated its ethnicity check boxes in 2007, when the Asian Pacific American Coalition (APAC) started the “Count Me In!” campaign, intended to break down the different groups pushed together under the category “Asian/Pacific Islander.” The campaign successfully put 23 new ethnicities on the application, including Samoan, Pakistani, and Hmong, and aims to improve census and research data on these specific groups’ college attendance patterns, financial aid packages, and student representation.
The first thing I thought when I read about the previous campaign was, “Lots of West Asian ethnicities are technically Asian because regionally they are on Asian continent. Why weren’t any of them included in this campaign?” Erin Pangilinan, a member of the APC campaign, stated that the campaign’s ethnicity representations were based off California Assembly Bill 295 (which included a call for “state entities that currently collect demographic data regarding the ancestry or ethnic origin of Californians to also make a separate category and tabulation for specified Asian and Chamorro, Indonesian, Malaysian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Taiwanese, Thai, and Tongan”) and the 2000 U.S. Census, which stated that the aforementioned specific ethnicities have the largest populations in the United States. She stated that the campaign “was not intended to be exclusive, instead it is starting point to have a more inclusive and comprehensive admissions policy.”
The second issue that arose was that many of the “ethnicities” on the list were not actually ethnicities, but nationalities (Pakistani, Taiwanese, etc). Pangilinan explained that the campaign focused on ethnicities provided by the Census, which brings up more questions about ethnic representation in governmental processes. Constructing nationalities as synonymous with ethnicities creates troubling deficiencies in ethnic representation within nations, erringly homogenizing the ethnic populace.
This led me to question the inclusivity and strategy of the current campaign. I spoke with Faisal Attrache from UCLA’s United Arab Society. He said that the campaign is not aiming for a “Middle Eastern” designation: “We are attempting to gain representation of Middle Eastern minorities, but we do not want it to be under the heading of ‘Middle Eastern’ for many reasons. It is a term with an unclear meaning and sometimes excludes several groups that we would like to include in the campaign. Ideally, we would like all the categories to standalone and not be grouped under ‘Middle Eastern’ or ‘Near Eastern’, because after all, the region we represent stretches from Central Asia to Western Africa.”
The campaign’s aim at a designation other than “Middle Eastern” is a relief: “Middle Eastern” is a term that’s left over from the colonial period, and is fairly misleading ethnically. “West Asian” includes much of the Middle East, including Arabs, but leaves out North Africa, a region which is heavily ethnically Arab. But I do have a fair skepticism at the stand-alone designations: if every other group has overarching categories, these ethnicities will most likely have one, too.
While I’m overjoyed that we (meaning underrepresented West Asian groups) might finally be included on the applications, I still worry about all those who aren’t being represented, and won’t be unless they lobby (or someone lobbies for them). Attrache mentioned that student groups at UCLA representing these ethnicities coordinate the campaign, and so Arab, Persian, Afghan, Armenian, and Assyrian students will be included. But no conclusive list has been agreed upon at this time, and so it’s difficult to say whether ethnicities that don’t have a large student presence on campus will be represented accurately or at all, especially if they are a significant minority in their home region. Because of the numerous and varied ethnicities in these regions, it’s almost certain that someone will get left out, which feels wrong in the current “We’re here, we’re [insert ethnicity], get used to us!” climate.
There’s also the fact that the box system itself is flawed, not just because of any possible lacks in representation, but because it historically leaves out bi- and multi-racial individuals. While the bi- or multi-racial designation could appear with a line for clarification, universities that use a drop-down box format have no way of collecting data about bi- or multi-racial students because the students cannot specify their racial makeup.
A blank line would illustrate better how people define themselves through their ethnicities and would be less likely to pigeonhole respondents into a group they don’t feel they identify with. It would also be welcoming for bi- or multi-racial students (much better than check all that apply).
The difficult logistics aside, this is an important campaign, just like it was two years ago. Not only will it give university statisticians and financial aid operators a better idea of the population indicators, but it can help the community at large gauge where it is on the local university scale in terms of representation, participation, and inclusion. It may also lead to an overall overhaul of the ethnicity system, recognizing differences among ethnicities under other categories previously bunched together (“Hispanic”, anyone?) and inaccurately represented.
Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World