Caution: This post may cause you to gag.
Here is a beautiful blue sky in Virginia, marred by a Confederate flag. No, I don’t think that this flag represents anything but hatred and shame, as in “Shame on you for flying a flag like this!” If anyone doubts that racism is alive and well, and I’d guess only white folks might feel that way, here is more proof that we are not living the dream.
Thanks to Jennifer Nicole Wells for her Color Your World challenge. Let’s color our world with LOVE.
This post is prompted by Blog Action Day:
What inequality do I want to address? The legacy of slavery. There are so many issues of inequality across the world, but I am moved by the words of a friend whose grandparents were enslaved in this country. When my friend started describing the lost inheritance of her family, I countered that my grandparents and parents left me virtually nothing. She gently pointed out that I have a place of privilege in our society that her family does not. As an example, when my parents bought a house, the bankers assumed they would pay. When my friend’s parents bought a house, her father had to jump through a multitude of hoops to prove that he was indeed a university professor (and not a janitor) who could make house payments.
She and her family share a unique lens on both the past and the present, one which many whites cannot even imagine. She can see a time not so distant, when the humanity of blacks was measured by drops of blood. The “one drop rule,” unique to the United States, is a legacy of slavery. She sees a time when her relatives were chattel, to be bought and sold. She can look at her skin color in the mirror and see a legacy of rape. She can see a time when her relatives lived in fear of lynching, when it was not safe to look a white man in the eye. She must always ask herself if she is followed by security officials in a store because she is visibly black. She must always ask herself if someone stepped in front of her in line because she is invisibly black. She must always ask herself if her son is safe while driving across the country. She must stand firm against the winds of prejudice blowing across her face daily, still believing the best in others, still hoping the actions of others are not motivated by racism.
My friend would say that she does have a rich inheritance despite slavery. Her family line is one of great strength and perseverance, of compassion for others, and forgiveness for an abomination which savaged her relatives. She is stronger because of that savagery. She is a resilient survivor, still battling the legacies of slavery. She is an American without privilege, but what a privilege to call her a friend.
Are black and white students performing equally well on average across the country? You can ask any teacher and they know the answer without pause. But let’s see how The Nation’s Report Card answers that question, based on the findings of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), an organization considered the gold standard in determining nationwide student performance. The good news is that as a country, our students performed higher on average in 2013 than in the 1990’s. Here’s an example of reading scores of 4th grade students grouped by race.
On its own, though, that graph doesn’t really tell us much. Now let’s examine the gap between white and black students over time. While it’s encouraging that nonwhite students are making gains, test scores remain racially predictable. And black kids are years below their white peers. Here are the 8th grade reading scores over time (1990’s to 2013).
Now look at the math scores by race for 8th graders:
You can see that black kids consistently perform below white kids in both reading and math. Despite billions poured into Head Start, despite cries for educational reform, despite the fact that prison construction is based upon 2nd grade reading scores in some states, our black children are failing. They are not adequately prepared for success by the public school system. Literacy and numeracy are “gatekeepers” for black students, for whom closed doors are usually determined by 8th grade. What are the issues? What are some answers? Stay tuned.