Tag Archives: White Privilege

Inventing ‘Racism’ in America’s Public Schools

by Christopher Paslay

“Social justice” advocates create the illusion of discrimination in America’s classrooms in order to maintain the status quo and control resources.  

Today is MLK Day.  This summer—August 28th, to be exact—will mark the 50 year anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech.”  One of the key points of Dr. King’s address was about judging a person by his values, not by his skin color:

“I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Interestingly, the concept of judging a person by his character—by his beliefs, choices, and most importantly, his actions—has been systematically abandoned by so-called “social justice” advocates claiming to have the best interests of minorities at heart.  In fact, the attempt to create a colorblind society is railed against by multiculturalists because in their view, the failure to analyze every word and deed in terms of race is to allow discrimination to go unchecked.

I have an M.Ed. in Multicultural Education.  I have read the standard books by Kozol, Anyon, Freire, Howard, and the like.  I have sat through hundreds of hours of lectures by Marxists education professors on “White privilege” and other such guilt-provoking topics.  All of this has taught me a cold hard truth: The left is not interested in any way in colorblindness. Why?  Because the left has a monopoly on the exploitation of race and racism in America.  Race and racism, real or manufactured, are too powerful a commodity for the left to give up.  They will do everything they can to keep it alive and kicking, so they can use it for their own political, financial—and yes, educational—advantage.

In 1995, the Indian-born bestselling author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza, former president of King’s College, published a book titled The End of Racism.  In it he argues that the debilitating systematic form of racism that once oppressed minorities is over, and that the traditional grievances used by Blacks are outdated.  D’Souza states in an interview that African American failure is not the result of discrimination but stems primarily from a breakdown in culture:

I reject the liberal view, which holds that Black failure is largely or mainly due to discrimination . . . I focus on cultural differences.  And I point out for example that on virtually every measure of academic achievement or economic performance we find not just Whites but immigrants . . . Cubans, West Indians, Koreans . . . leap-frogging ahead of American Blacks and claiming the fruits of the American dream.”

In his article “Obama and the End of Racism,” D’Souza reinforces this point:

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that racism does not exist. This is a big country, and surely one can find several examples of it. But racism, which used to be systematic, is now only episodic. In fact, when I ask young blacks on the campus today whether America is racist, many say yes. But if I ask them to give me examples of how that racism affects their lives, they are hard pressed to give a single one. The best they can do is to mention “Rodney King” or provide some well-known, recycled horror story.

D’Souza explored this topic with Jesse Jackson in a 1988 debate on Stanford’s campus, questioning the existence of the kind of debilitating systematic racism that liberals continually claim is causing African Americans to fail.  Jackson responded by explaining that racism in America has changed, that it’s no longer overt but covert—that it has gone underground and now exists in subtle coded forms.

The interesting thing about “coded” racism is that it’s not what a person says or does that’s racist, it’s what they were thinking when they said or did it.  Thus, to ultimately prove coded racism, the accuser has to be a bona fide mind reader.  Coded racism reminds me of a skit by the late great comedian George Carlin when he poked fun at a brainless football referee haphazardly officiating a game: I call it the way I see it, and if I don’t see it, I make it up.

This is exactly what social justice folk on the left do when they want to explain away the educational failures or chronic misbehavior of minorities in America’s public schools when there is no legitimate systematic discrimination to use as an excuse: They make it up. Why?  To keep the status quo in order to control the raw materials that go along with pubic education.

They do this systematically (ironically enough) in four stages:

First, social justice folk deliberately misrepresent data.  They use a classic propaganda technique known as using correlation to prove causation.  Example: 84 percent of America’s public school teachers are White.  Studies show that Black students are three times as likely to be suspended or expelled from school than their Whites counterparts.  Therefore, Blacks are being unfairly discriminated against, consciously or unconsciously, by racist or culturally insensitive White teachers.

This, of course, is not the case.  There is a third variable that liberal “research studies” refuse to address—a lurking variable: Poverty.  Black students are three times as poor as their White counterparts, and poverty has a devastating effect on academic achievement and behavior.  Black students are also much more likely not to have a father in the home, not to have books in the home, to watch excessive amounts of television, have poor nutrition, regress academically over the summer, and have parents who are not involved in homework and school.

These are cultural and environmental issues, not matters of racial discrimination.  But this doesn’t keep the New York Times and the Huffington Post from running stories about “harsh discipline” of Blacks in Mississippi and the “racial segregation” of minorities in gifted programs in New York City.  It doesn’t keep U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan from pulling the race card, either.

Sure, episodic racism still exists in American classrooms in isolated instances (although actual documented cases are practically nonexistent), but debilitating systematic racism—the kind that has a direct impact on a student’s education—is a thing of the past.

Second, social justice folk promote White guilt and generate resentment in minorities.  At Delevan-Darian High School in Wisconsin, progressive educators offer an American Diversity course that teaches students that minorities are disadvantaged by White oppressors.  The course also teaches “White Guilt” as well as “White Privilege.”  According to The Huffington Post:

Yet another assignment asked questions of a lecture by anti-racism activist and writer Tim Wise, inquiring, “Why is the colorblind model of America ineffective,” “Why is it important to talk about whiteness in America,” and “Explain the irony of the phrase ‘United We Stand.’”

Race baiting and identity politics are hardly the way to bring people together and close achievement gaps.

Third, social justice folk preach victimhood and create a grievance culture.  As D’Souza noted in an interview about his book The End of Racism:

Blacks are always marching on Washington, looking to the government for answers.  Meanwhile, other groups are setting up entrepreneurial associations, rotating credit systems, and within a generation their daughters are valedictorians and have moved to the suburbs.

Case in point: Officials in the Philadelphia School District have recently enacted a plan that calls for the closure of 37 schools.  The majority of these schools are in predominantly African American neighborhoods and disproportionally affect Black students.  With that said, however, many of these schools are also in disrepair and running at less than half capacity.  The students in many of these schools have high rates of STDs, lead the city in assaults on teachers, assaults on fellow students, weapons charges, drug possession, and unwanted pregnancy; the students in many of these schools also have some of the lowest SAT scores in the entire state.

How do the families and communities react to the closure of these schools?  They play the role of victim and turn to what they know best: the grievance.  They march on School District headquarters, waiving signs and shaking their fists—engaging in street theater and using outrageous hyperbole to convince School District officials and all else who will listen that they are victims of an oppressive, unjust system.

The Philadelphia Student Union recently lead such a march.  Several dozen teens, spurred on by the agendas of their adult mentors and organizers, converged on Philadelphia School District headquarters dressed as zombies acting out a scene akin to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” titled “Student Apocalypse: A Brainless Future.”  According to the Philadelphia Public School Notebook which covered the protest:

Chris Riley, a 12th grader at South Philadelphia High School said, “This event symbolizes what would happen if they go through with the school-closure plan.”

Instead of protesting, why not spend that time and energy campaigning for the improvement of their own community?  Why not call for more parental involvement at school?  For neighborhood men to father their children?  For city residents to pay the $500 million they owe the School District in delinquent property taxes?  Why not do a creative dance about literacy rates and the need for mothers and fathers to read to their children, say no to drugs, stand up against violence, and make education the community’s main priority?

Lastly, social justice folk move in and seize control of resources.  Marxist hustlers, after successfully maintaining the status quo, are free to divvy-up the money and wealth to their own people—friends, vendors, politicians, etc.  From 2008 to 2011, the Philadelphia School District went through nearly $10 billion dollars of mostly state and federal funds with amazingly little to show for it (besides a gargantuan budget deficit and across-the-board cuts to legitimate education programs).  Where did the money go?  Can you say Foundations Inc.?  Universal?  IBS Communications Inc.? Duane Morris LPP?  Trujillo Rodriguez and Richards LLC?  Can you say Queen Arlene?  Robert Archie?  Dwight Evans?  Kenny Gamble?  Chaka Fattah Jr.?  Need I go on?

Tragically, as evidenced by the fact that the racial achievement gap in the United States stopped closing right around the time the multiculturalism and social justice movements came into full bloom—when their toxic postmodern mantra of “cultural relativism” was naively adopted by well intentioned educators—things aren’t getting much better for minorities in American public schools.  Nor are they getting better for American minorities financially; the wealth gap continues to grow and poor minorities continue to fall further behind.

This begs the following question: Is social justice style race-baiting and identity politics really the best thing for America’s children?  Somehow I think Dr. King would call for a totally different strategy for empowering the poor and disenfranchised, perhaps one that acknowledges that the only real change is the kind that comes from within.

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Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? (part two)

by Christopher Paslay

  

After reading the second half of Beverly Daniel Tatum’s Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? I would like to commend her for having the courage to bring the issues of race and racism in America to light.  There are those who believe talking about race can only cause more frustration and serve to polarize the races even further, but I agree with Tatum when she says that there is a psychological cost of silence.  “As a society, we pay a price for our silence.  Unchallenged personal, cultural and institutional racism results in the loss of human potential, lowered productivity, and a rising tide of fear and violence in our society.”

         

I agree wholeheartedly.  No topic in America should be taboo, especially the topic of race.  Communication is the best way to promote understanding and solve problems non-violently.  Tatum’s book is a powerful (although extreme) tool for challenging racism in America.  It’s a radical wrecking-ball crashing through traditional thinking, forcing everyone who reads it to reexamine the way they view race relations in the United States.

         

However, this doesn’t mean we should embrace all of its ideas and accept them at face value.  There are many concepts in Tatum’s book that are off-base and oversimplified—points that come from a worldview that is limited in scope and perspective. 

         

For example, in Part III of her book, Tatum presumes to tell us all how to understand “Whiteness in a White Context”.  If I recall correctly, isn’t Tatum black?  Then how exactly does she have the life experiences and credentials to write about the thoughts, perceptions, prejudices and inner-struggles of white Americans?  Because she’s taught at SpelmanCollege, a historically black liberal arts college for women in AtlantaGeorgia?  Because she’s held workshops and roundtables on racism with white liberal college students?  Because she’s interviewed “angry white men” and can now understand the psyche of those white Americans who disagree with her ideas and politics? 

         

Tatum has misrepresented whites in several areas.  Because whites are supposedly the “unexamined norm” of society, she claims they “can easily reach adulthood without thinking much about their racial group.”  She also states they “tend to think of racial identity as something that other people have, not something that is salient for them.” 

         

I can see how Tatum might have arrived at this misconception.  During her workshops on race, it’s quite possible that many of her liberal white college participants were so guilty about being white, they hesitated to mention it as part of their identity.  This seems to be an offshoot of our politically correct culture: when it comes to discussions on race, being white is synonymous with being the bad guy. 

         

The reality is, many white people do think about their racial group and identity.  We are not permitted to come out and celebrate being white (unless you want to be associated with the KKK), but we are proud of our heritage.  Think about it.  How many whites do you know—young and old—who wave the Irish flag (St. Patrick’s Day; Irish American Heritage Night at Citizen’s BankPark)?  How many whites are proud of being Italian (ever see the T-shirt that says, Italians do it better)?  How about the Greeks?  And the Poles?  And the Jews?   

         

Tatum also misrepresents whites when it comes to Affirmative Action.  She claims that white folks who believe in Affirmative Action are healthy with a positive self identity, and those who disagree with it are confused and suffering from something she calls “aversion racism”.  Tatum defines aversion racism as “an attitudinal adaptation resulting from an assimilation of an egalitarian value system with prejudice and racist beliefs”.  In other words, if you don’t believe in a system that awards jobs, contracts and college admissions to people based on skin color, you are a racist who is “breathing the smog of racial biases and stereotypes pervading the popular culture.”

         

I’ve been teaching racially diverse students in the PhiladelphiaSchool District for 12 years.  I’ve worked for the Philadelphia Youth Network for six summers, spending time with students on playgrounds in Southwest Philadelphia, in basements of churches in North Philadelphia, and in rec centers in a dozen other parts of the city.  I am fair, open-minded, and compassionate.  But because I don’t agree with Affirmative Action, Tatum presumes I’m a racist (although I’m white and would already be a racist by default, according to her philosophies). 

           

“When the dominant identity of Whiteness goes unexamined, racial privilege also goes unacknowledged,” Tatum says.  “Instead, the achievements that unearned privilege make more attainable are seen as just reward for one’s own efforts.” 

         

Nothing exemplifies the hypocritical nature of Tatum’s reasoning more than this statement.  Tatum insists whites are privileged, and therefore given preferential treatment (and because whites haven’t examined their “Privilege,” they falsely believe that what they’ve been given is based solely on merit).  At the same time, Tatum’s an advocate of Affirmative Action, a system that gives preferential treatment to people because of their race (people who falsely believe that what they’ve been given is based solely on merit).    

         

Do you see the double-standard here?

         

Although Tatum’s book is radical in its ideologies, it is a powerful way to confront racism in America.  However, I think the title is misleading.  Instead of calling the book Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?, Tatum should rename it, Giving the White Man a Taste of His Own Medicine.  This would be much more accurate and honest.  

 

Christopher Paslay is a Philadelphia schoolteacher.  His new book, The Village Proposal: Education as a Shared Responsibility, is now available from Rowman & Littlefield .  To order a copy, click here.      

 

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Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? (part one)

by Christopher Paslay

 

Currently, I am working on a master’s degree in multicultural education at Eastern University.  This semester I’m taking EDU 517—Multicultural Education.  Here is an excerpt from a reflection paper I wrote after reading the first 90 pages of Beverly Daniel Tatum’s book Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?       

 

          “. . . I guess Tatum gave me a more technical understanding of race/ racism in America; now I’m more hip to the buzz words such as internalized oppression, dominant and subordinate societal groups, and White privilege—the language created to shift power from the dominant society to the subordinate minority culture.    

         

Here are the things that I liked about the first 90 pages of Tatum’s book.  She maps the identity development of African Americans from the early formative years all the way through adulthood.  As a teacher, if I could walk away with one bit of knowledge it would be the importance of recognizing how children—particularly African Americans—form their opinions of themselves and their culture.  It was good to see that Tatum pointed out that young black children (especially adolescents) need to mindfully reject negative stereotypes and find more positive role models. 

         

An example of a role model Tatum would undoubtedly approve of would be none other than Barack Obama.  I recently read in the New York Times about the “Obama Effect,” how Obama is so inspiring that his mere presence as U.S. president is raising scores of black test-takers.  As for the rejection of negative stereotypes—maybe our society could start by cleaning-up the gratuitous sex, violence and materialism found in the hip-hop culture; as educators, we must find substitutes for hip-hop music, possible substituting jazz and blues for gangsta rap. 

         

Of course, there were also things about Tatum’s book that I disagreed with.  To be frank, I found the underlying premise of the text quite hypocritical.  On the one hand, Tatum claims she wants to end racism and bring equality to all people by breaking down barriers and developing a true multicultural society.  Yet through the first 90 pages of the text, she unconsciously (or perhaps consciously) manages to divide the races, creating an us versus them mentality.  Nothing in the book is about synergy, teamwork or sameness—it’s always about a dominant and a subordinate; an oppressor and an oppressed; an insider and an outsider; a privileged and a marginalized. 

         

Granted, I’m not going to deny that these situations exist in American society.  But the problem with Tatum is her philosophy behind who and what should be the catalyst for change.  In Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?, the message is quite clear: Change DOESN’T come from within—but from OUTSIDE.  White society is racist.  Period.  And black people and minorities are the victims.  Period.  (Ironically, Tatum says in her book that many black students are “uncomfortable with the portrayal of their group as helpless victims” during lessons on slavery).  Tatum mentioned that during most of her workshops on race, white students rarely mentioned being white.  This makes sense.  She seems to be big on creating an atmosphere of white guilt, so why would anyone want to admit that they were white?

         

According to Tatum, white people are privileged, and they must bear the burden of recognizing this privilege and feel guilty about it (this guilt will supposedly help end racism in America).  But if you subscribe to this logic, than all people should feel guilty about something.  Handsome people would have a Handsome Privilege (being a good looking person sure opens a lot of doors in America), and intelligent people would have an Intelligent Privilege (brains also gets you far in this country), etc.

         

Although Tatum means well, she probably doesn’t realize that her book is filled with racial stereotypes and generalizations.  Worse still, she doesn’t realize the danger of labeling the white American establishment as “racist” (even though America is quite diverse in 2009), just because people worked hard to achieve the American Dream.  She could say the establishment is too competitive, or maybe even intolerant.  But using the word racist in my opinion is a bit radical and done in poor taste.         

         

Tatum might want to write a book on Barack Obama’s new message to America:  SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY.  This approach might be less insulting to white people and condescending to blacks.  As a result, it might actually break down barriers between the races rather than pigeon-holing people and creating more anger and resentment.”

 

A second reflection paper—on the second half of Tatum’s book—is due next week.  I’ll be sure to post an excerpt from that paper as well.  

 

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