Saturday, December 31, 2005

Making the case for 'a new civil rights movement'

Are some problems facing black families self-inflicted?
One of the cruelest aspects of slavery was the way it wrenched apart black families, separating husbands from wives and children from their parents. It is ironic, to say the least, that now, nearly a century and a half after the Emancipation Proclamation, much of the most devastating damage to black families, and especially black children, is self-inflicted.

The above quote is by Bob Herbert, a popular columnist for the New York Times. He writes with precision, and he's never afraid to step outside the box of political correctness.

Herbert makes the case for black people to stop blaming others for their problems. He does not negate the fact that slavery, Jim Crow, segregation and institutionalized racism have impacted people of color since they hit American soil. But he does urge black people who are stuck in a "woe is me" mentality to escape their mental prisons. His biggest concern is the effect on children. Herbert also writes:

Most black people are not poor. Most are not criminals. Most are leading productive lives. The black middle class is larger and more successful than ever. But there are millions who are still out in the cold, caught in a cycle of poverty, ignorance, illness and violence that is taking a horrendous toll.

Herbert suggests that the black community could use an infusion of new leadership. What do you think? The complete text of the New York Times column can be found at FBIHOP.

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Jaimie said...

Surprised no one has commented on this topic yet...

I am in agreement. I do not support the "woe is me" attitude. Life is hard, but there is no excuse for not finishing high school, getting a job, etc. Those are just basic steps needed to live in this country. And yes, getting a job might mean working at McDonald's or the like, but at least you're working and providing for your family.

As far as the destruction of the black family, this a true and sad state, but I do believe it's getting somewhat better, at least if the parents are not teenagers. James has commented several times about how many black dads he sees at the park with their children. We used to never see that before. And the fathers range in age between 23-45. Good sign.

We have a long way to go, still.

DCS said...

Jaimie: Thank you for your comments. Many of them get to the heart of the matter. In the perfect world, there is no excuse for not finishing high school, but the world is not perfect.

I don't subscribe to the "woe is me" mentality, either. At the same time, however, I recognize that many of our students are not supported in public schools, nor are they supported at home.

Many kids are hit with a combination of achievement gap issues, racism and internalized racism. Many school districts still have low expectations of black students. Many children of color still don't benefit from early childhood education. Our children are set up for failure before they hit kindergarten.

A disproportionate number of high school dropouts are gifted kids. A disproportionate number of these students also are prone to depression and suicide, but parents and educators miss the signs.

If only you knew how hard I had to fight and advocate for my children and try to undo the damage done by some school systems. You can get a bird's eye view if you check out Malik's post Saving Our Boys on his blog, The Struggle Within.

If the adults (eductors and/or parents) give up, can we be surprised if our children do the same?

In my humble opinion, no parent sends their child to school to fail. No child goes to school to fail. If you ask little kids what they want to be when they grow up, how many say "hustler," "maid," or "day laborer"? Instead, many say they want to be doctors, lawyers, engineers, and teachers. What happens to those dreams?

Clearly, we're not in Kansas anymore. And, as you said, Jaimie, we have a long way to go.

Your thoughtful comments give us all something to think about. Thanks again.

Len said...

Well, I was trying to gather my thoughts on this post before replying. But, DCS you have looked into mind (so-to-speak) and said pretty much what I was thinking. For the very reasons you have sited I cannot totally agree with Bob Herbert.

DCS said...

Len: You have a gift for seeing and articulating things that the rest of us don't.

I know that I got on my soapbox with this one and decided that I'd better get off!

Actually, even I am continuing to think about Herbert's column. I think he makes some valid points in some places and misses the mark in others. Nevertheless, I applaud anyone who has the courage to start the dialogue.

Len, feel free to come back and offer more comments at a later time. So much to say. So little time!

Jaimie said...

DCS: I agree with everything you wrote. There is a definite disadvantage that some children are born into; and in turn, it is a cycle that is hard to break. Many of the parents of my students do not prepare the children for school. I've even had students who have never held a pencil before. I suppose, to the parents, they are meant to feed and clothe their child-not teach them. This is viewed as my job.

It is everyone's job.

DCS said...

Jaimie, I love you! Education is everone's job. Obviously, Len agrees.

We will see high student achievement when we see school, home and community working collaboratively. Parents are their children's first teachers.

For parents and educators looking for a place to start, here are some web resources:

Minority Student Achievement Network

The Education Trust

National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education

In Motion Magazine/Education Rights

National Education Association - Help for Parents

National PTA - Parent Resources

Parent involvement gets results

Parents as Teachers

DCS said...

We've certainly covered this topic with great depth. However, you might be interested in one more viewpoint. I came across the blog Fit to Print. Its New York writer, Elizabeth, gives her own take on Herbert's column in a post titled The Roots of Black America's Problems.

Malik said...

Somehow I missed this one. Awesome post. It's a keeper.

DCS said...

Malik, thank you. I was wondering where you were. ;-) Obviously, Jaimie, Len and I had a lot to say! I enjoyed this discussion.

princec said...

"Herbert makes the case for black people to stop blaming others for their problems."

He says nothing of the sort. The idea that Black people blame white people for their problems is lie which has been put out for years by conservatives. It really disgusts me when I hear it.

I agree with everything Herbert said. But don't add things to the content.

DCS said...

Princec -

Thanks for joining the discussion on this topic. I hope you'll visit often.

Let's talk about one of your sentences: "The idea that Black people blame white people for their problems is lie which has been put out for years by conservatives."

I have to disagree with you here. I'm black, and I'm certainly not conservative. I've studied black history and black psychology. A certain segment of the our people for years have been blaming white folks for their problems. It's all part of internalized racism. We believe the lies that we've heard for generations, and we perpetuate them within our own culture.

Without question, the U.S. has yet to face the race issue honestly and head on. Until we do, the entire country will suffer.

Bob Herbert makes some good points in his commentary. I agree that it's time for strong, effective and committed leadership in the black community.

I don't agree with everything that Herbert says, but I give him high marks for writing the piece that gets us talking. He's a good journalist.

Thanks for stopping by.

Renée said...

It takes a village.

DCS, I did not know you are Black. Don't ask me why because I honestly don't know, but I had envisioned you as a Caucasian.

Perceptions are funny, eh? :)

DCS said...

Goddess: Yes, I guess it is about perception. Don't worry. You have plenty of company. I hope we can still be friends. ;-)