Friday, November 30, 2012

The Rise of Voluntarily Segregated Schools: New Trend, Familiar Problems

I found a very interesting article from the Minneapolis Post about voluntary segregation in schools that have created programs catering to a particular culture or race (The Rise of Voluntarily Segregated Schools:  New Trend, Familiar Problems).  In this article, authors Beth Hawkins and Cynthia Boyd discuss the various advancements and gains that ethnocentric programs in the Minneapolis school district have created for students’ education.  While minority students who attend these programs with a curriculum tailored around their cultural background are given more opportunities to embrace and celebrate their culture, they are also more apt to have lower test scores than students in fully integrated schools.  With these issues in mind, school district leaders hope to find a solution for keeping minority students in the district as well as a way to foster students’ cultural knowledge and awareness in an academic setting.
Ethnocentric programs such as the ones in Minneapolis, including programs designed specifically for Asian, African American, and Muslim students, are permissible because they allow students of any race to attend, but their curriculums are designed for students of a particular race and cultural background.  These programs in Minneapolis were created in response to charter schools, which drew away about one-third of minority students from the main school district.  Because of these charter schools, the Minneapolis school district created culturally specific programs to entice more minority students to remain in the district.
One of the major reasons that ethnocentric programs have flourished in Minneapolis is because parents have endorsed their dedication to an environment focused on academics, not sports or extra-curricular activities.  In addition, parents of minority families embrace culturally specific curriculums because they give their children a chance to experience and appreciate their culture in a safe, constructive environment.  The Hmong International Academy, designed particularly for Asian students, even has several African American and white children whose parents also approved of the school’s goals and curriculum.  
Despite these advantages for minorities in ethnocentric programs, studies show that the academics in these schools do not always measure up to those of charter schools.  For example, only 20% of students were proficient in math in 2007-2008 at the Afrocentric Educational Academy in Minneapolis.  With many other ethnocentric programs showing similarly low test scores, there are some changes that need to be made to the implementation of the curriculum to better reflect the goals of these schools.
In the article, many of the Minneapolis school district leaders comment on the issue of culturally specific schools and the difficulties in choosing whether to completely integrate these schools or to try to modify them in order to improve test scores.  With more minority students choosing to attend charter schools, the district must choose which is more important:  a fully integrated school system or programs that celebrate the cultural niche of a particular race of people.  Which do you think is more important?  Do you think it is possible to combine both of these goals in public schools and do away with ethnocentric programs?  Furthermore, are these voluntarily segregated school programs as beneficial as they attempt to be or are they just contributing to the isolation and separation of races?

A Living Wage

“[T]he minimum wage is a crime against black Americans” (Friedman as in Carden).

“People with the best intentions and the least economic understanding constantly try to help the people on the bottom of the economic ladder by governmental intervention” (Greaves).

      As we’ve surveyed African American efforts to combat inequality throughout history, we’ve often discussed the struggles African Americans had to overcome in order to become active participants in American society.  These efforts to achieve economic, political, and social equality were often established with the best intentions and eventually led to considerable policy reform.  Similarly, recent policy reform has indirectly addressed economic disparities among African Americans, other minorities, and whites and has attempted to tangibly reduce poverty.  In particular, this is the case in the relatively recent legislation that increased the minimum wage from $6.55 per hour to $7.25 per hour.  Unfortunately in this case, policy makers failed to consider the unintended consequences of policy intervention and created a situation worse than the original for low-skill, African American wage workers. 
      Though a higher minimum wage appears to raise employees’ net income on the surface, it actually ends up leading to, “if it doesn’t manifest itself in lost jobs” (which it more than likely will), “fewer hours, reduced benefits or both” (Carden).  With lost jobs and fewer hours worked, valuable skills cannot be acquired, reducing future earnings for low-skilled workers.  This problem is only magnified among minority groups, with African American men being the most adversely affected by minimum wage laws (as they comprise a large proportion of the low-skill labor market).  According to an Employment Situation Summary released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “the change in the unemployment rate for ‘Black or African American’ workers was double” the unemployment rate for all workers in 2009 after the minimum wage law was put into effect over the summer (Carden).  Though the economic downturn may be to blame for some of the rise in unemployment, it would be na├»ve not to consider minimum wage law as a significant, contributing factor to the disproportionate effect on African American workers.
      Because minimum wages and other regulations “lock a lot of younger black males out of the labor market,” “they do not acquire as many skills as they would if they were employed.  When they are older, therefore, they earn less” (Carden).  This creates a perpetual cycle that eliminates opportunities for African Americans and other minorities that tend to have low-skill jobs to escape poverty or to jump up into the middle class.  Under this reasoning, it is arguable that the minimum wage laws and other regulations are counterproductive to achieving the ends for which they were put into place.  Though they were intended to positively affect low-skill wage earners, they have instead adversely affected many of those whom intervention was intended to help.  It is important to consider the results of policy intervention when evaluating plans to address economic inequality among African Americans, other minorities, and whites.
      As much as policy makers nobly seek to help those that are in need or are disadvantaged (perhaps, as a product of our nation’s history), it is important to not only look at the intended consequences of intervention, but also at the unintended consequences that may harm those whom policies are intended to help. How do you think minimum wage laws affect low-skill wage earners?  Given the empirical evidence that African American men are more adversely affected by minimum wage laws, how should policy makers proceed to address issues of economic inequality?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Race Experience

During the race discussions held a few weeks ago in conjunction with the race experience kiosk, Professor McKinney posed the question did any of the participants try to imagine how their lives would be as the other races they were able to view themselves as. For me imagining myself in that context never crossed my mind as a possibility, but I could not quite figure out why. However, after watching a television series suggested by another person at the discussion, I was able to form an opinion as to why I do not think it is possible to imagine your life as another race simply based on skin color alone.

 In this series titled “Black. White.” creators conducted a social experiment in which two families, one black and the other white, “trade their racial appearance using studio quality makeup and live together for 6 weeks, discussing the collective experiences.” The show follows these families, individually and collectively, as they explore different opportunities in which they can test their theories and opinions on race and racial stereotypes. Both of the families were willing participants; however, there was a lot of tension and stubbornness from some of the characters to fully immerse themselves into the life of the opposite race. Everything the families did or suggested to one another as a characteristic of black or white people was heavily based on racial stereotypes. For example, the families went through dialogue sessions in which the members of the black family taught the members of the white family how to “talk black” and vice versa. This was a very problematic activity, because it not only was an essentialist portrayal of this family as a representation for the entire African American race, but it also reinforced the stereotype that blacks are anti-intellectualists and incapable or unwilling to use standard English. Along with this one instance were others in which the families repeatedly deemed certain actions, habits, sayings, styles, etc. as essentialist black or white “things”. These instances, in my opinion, showed that race as far as skin tone, was not the only attribute at work here in this experiment.

For someone to experience the life of someone of another race, changing their skin tone is not enough. One has to be knowledgeable of the culture and the day to day experiences, and even then this is not generalizable enough to be a representation of the entire race. The daughter of the white family conveyed this best when she stated that “I’m not black…I’m not black! You cannot act Black. You are black. And there are some things you cannot just be a part of if you’re not part of it.” This sentiment not only applies to black or white people, but anyone of any race- you cannot, by changing the tone of your skin, simply identify yourself as that race based on your appearance. There is a culture and lived experience behind that person’s existence in which race only serves as a superficial surface.

If you are interested in watching the show, the episodes can be found on YouTube under the title “Black. White. Series”.

Do you think that one can imagine his or her life as a person of another race based on seeing an image of oneself as that race? If so, would the depiction be valid or based on stereotypical perceptions of that race? 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Response to "Negroes With Guns"

“If I’m called a criminal for advocating that people have the right to defend themselves, for telling them to...fight for what they deserve; if that’s criminal, then I hope, I hope that I will always be a criminal.”     -Robert F. Williams

As illustrated by the quote above from the documentary “Negroes With Guns”, Robert Williams’ call for the black population to defend themselves against violence was often met with criticism and backlash from both the United States government as well as members of the white population who believed that if blacks armed themselves, more riots and violence would ensue.  In the documentary, Williams’ wife declared that Robert never wanted to be the leader of a national movement, but by confronting racial tensions in the South and calling blacks to claim their rights by any means necessary, Williams became a prominent leader of a widespread self-defense movement in the African American community.
One of the most effective ways that Williams confronted racial tensions in the South was by founding the Black Armed Guard in his hometown of Monroe, NC.  This organization, which included black men of all ages, pledged to use violence as a response to any violence aimed at black members of the community.  Williams also brought attention to the paradox of racial equality because he carried a pistol down the streets of Monroe.  This assertion of his second amendment right, usually only practiced by Southern white men, was “unthinkable” for a black man at the time.  Yet by showing his support for the equality and freedom of all citizens, Williams rebelled against the social norms of the time and encouraged others to do the same.
Another facet of Williams’ self-defense campaign that helped confront racial tensions was his encouragement of blacks to use violence to attain their constitutional rights when the Constitution itself was not being enforced.  Two incidents helped Williams develop his support of violence as a tool to achieve social change.  The first incident occurred in 1958 when some black children and white children were playing together and two black boys kissed a white girl as part of a game.  The two young black boys were arrested, beaten, and then jailed in cruel conditions for six days without access to an attorney.  Williams wrote several articles about the injustice of the case and the bad press succeeded in getting the boys released from jail early.  The second incident was when a white man assaulted and tried repeatedly to rape a pregnant white woman but was found not guilty at his trial.  Frustrated by the judges’ refusal in both cases to enforce the appropriate laws, Williams formally incited the black population to use violence, if necessary, to defend their rights and their livelihoods.  While Williams was in self-exile in Cuba, he even used his radio show, “Radio Free Dixie”, to encourage African Americans to continue to confront racial tensions and oppression in the United States.
During the Civil Rights Movement, Robert Williams’ campaign for self-defense by any means necessary, including violence, gave blacks a chance to confront racial inequalities and to assert their desire for their rights and privileges as Americans.  By founding the Black Armed Guard organization and using his radio show to voice his beliefs about how African Americans should claim their constitutional rights, Williams fostered a movement that condoned violence and contradicted the prominent non-violent movement of the time, championed by other leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and James Lawson.  Since King and Williams had such different ideas about the most effective way to achieve change, how do you think they would defend their points of view if put in a room together?  Which movement, nonviolent or self-defense, do you think was more effective during the Civil Rights Movement and why?

From Segregation to Integration to Balkanization to...

This morning, I read an article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Most-Racial America: Anti-white bigotry goes mainstream.”  It stimulated my interest when I was browsing the site because of its relevance to our class discussion of Not Even Past and the not so post-racial America Sugrue describes in the book, as well as its relation to the diagram that Professor McKinney drew in class yesterday (11/26) that portrays the way some approach issues of race in American society, according to McWhorter.  Here’s a link to the article I read. 

The article discusses the recent controversy over President Obama’s potential nomination of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice for secretary of state.  What initially sparked the debate was the choice of words the Nov. 19 letter to President Obama, written by Rep. John Duncan (a South Carolina Republican) and signed by ninety seven other House Republicans, used to express Representatives’ concerns with the potential nomination and to convey their opposition to it.  The letter states, “Ambassador Rice is widely viewed as having either willfully or incompetently misled the American public in the Benghazi matter.”  Rep. Jim Clyburn (a South Carolina Democrat) responded to this statement by “claiming that ‘incompetent’ was the latest code word for ‘black.’ ” Further, the Post stated:

Could it be, as members of the Congressional Black Caucus are charging, that the signatories of the letter are targeting Ms. Rice because she is an African American woman? The signatories deny that, and we can't know their hearts. What we do know is that more than 80 of the signatories are white males, and nearly half are from states of the former Confederacy.

The WSJ article then raises the question of how, despite acknowledging that “[one] can’t know their hearts,” the Post can find (a prima facie) reason to suspect them (House Republicans) of invidious motives.  Though the Washington Post accuses House Republicans of racism for the letter, the Post is “casting aspersions on Duncan and his colleagues based explicitly on the color of their skin,” according to Taranto.

Next, the article brings readers’ attention to another item related to race and politics: Jesse Jackson’s resignation.  To describe the reaction to the vacancy, the WSJ article quotes the Chicago Tribune: “Some Democrats quickly offered to broker a nominee to avoid several African-American contenders splitting the vote in the heavily Democratic and majority black 2nd Congressional District, which could allow a white candidate to win.”  With this, Taranto begs consideration of the lack of “editorial comment” or a “disapproving quote.”  It questions whether the absence of one of these reactions would be drawn if “a group of pols offered ‘to broker a nominee’ with the goal of preventing a black candidate from winning a white-majority district.”

Last, the article mentions the Obama campaign surveys that ask constituency groups to identify themselves.  Some are ideological (e.g. Environmentalist), occupational (e.g. Educator), or regional (e.g. “Rural Americans”).  More importantly, there are ethnic categories like “African American,” or “Jewish American.” What’s missing is a “white” or “European-American” category, the WSJ states.  The article argues that the reason for this is that “white identity politics is all but nonexistent in America today.”

The problem with this and the reason the Taranto wrote the article is that “a diverse coalition based on ethnic or racial identity” that promotes solidarity within each group may tend to “produce conflicts among the groups.”  The author writes that there are two ways to hold a disparate coalition: “delivering prosperity” or “identifying a common adversary.” 

This type of politics might have long-term costs for both the political parties and the country, as a whole.  As Taranto states, “a racially polarized electorate will produce a hostile, balkanized culture.” Although it is important to realize and appreciate differences among citizens, groups, etc., do you think that this type of identity politics has gone too far?  Does it create oversensitivity to differences that lead one to assume dispositional factors are at play when they are not? How can identity politics be helpful/harmful?  How should we approach issues of race in American society today?


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Did We Truely Secede?

For more information about the secession, please refer to this article:

The re-election of President Obama has left the country in array. Closely following the re-election, riots were reported at Ole Miss. Though it is surprising that college students would behave in such manners, an even more shocking situation has taken place. In the United States, over 36 states have petitioned to secede from the United States government. Among the states included  were Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.
Are we faced with an issue similar to that of the Civil War? The issue is states desiring for secession from the United States certainly is similar; but, what is the reason that is so devastating to make states want to disband the United States? As a country, we have voiced our decision for the president of our nation. We, the people, have spoken by voting. Why is there so much chaos from one election?
To me, this seems to be more of a racial issue than anything. Since Abraham Lincoln’s tenure, there has never been any talk of secession in the United States. However, the secession during Lincoln’s term was caused by the issue of slavery. Our country has “seemingly” overcome the boundary of skin color and allows equality for all. Yet, the country wants to disband when the first African American president is reelected for an additional term. The recent events only demonstrate how little we have progressed since slavery.
President Obama has been the only African American elected to be president in the history of the United States. Of course, there are many people in the United States, particularly the South, that are prejudice. Instead of showing their ignorance by reacting to the re-election by seceding, they should focus on the candidate that can resolve the issues of the United States. Personally, I voted according to the candidate that I knew would handle the issues that I saw most important. Although I am an African American, I did not allow skin color to be a factor in my decision. I wanted the candidate that desired to help me with my education. President Obama’s stance on this issue appealed to me the most, therefore he received my vote.
Our country must understand that there is skin color has nothing to do with the person on the inside. If we were color-blind and only heard how each candidate would resolve the issues, would we be so upset that an African American was allowed a second term to be the President of the United States? Do you think that this recent secession concerns the skin color of the President or are there actual concerns for the resolution of the issues?