Posted by Joe R. Hicks
Yesterday, in what’s been called a “Day of Action,” groups of students, teachers, and their allies staged walk-outs, sit-ins and demonstrations across California. In Oakland, protesters marched onto and shut down an Interstate freeway. Activists at UCLA occupied administration offices at Murphy Hall, and at UC Santa Cruz, demonstrators smashed the windows of a car. What’s the issue? Budget cuts to education and increased student tuition costs.
In other recent protests a local event was decried. An off-campus fraternity party near UC San Diego (“UCSD”) featured a “Compton cookout” that lured partiers with the promise that it would be a slice of “life in the ghetto.” Black students and campus activists organized, protested the “party,” demanded that more black faculty be hired and that Proposition 209 be rolled back so that more black students would be admitted.
To compound these developments, some clueless idiot left a noose hanging in the school library at UCSD, followed by copy-cat incidents a few days later. The university’s chancellor has condemned the fraternity’s “ghetto” party, and quickly condemned the noose incidents. However, she has acted indecisively in the face of non-stop black students demands, in effect enabling the protesters. Has bucolic UC San Diego really become some sort of stronghold of white supremacists?
As someone who grew into political maturity during the Sixties when the politics of protest defined that era, I have been struck by the infantile nature of these and other recent “protests.”
One student taking part in the so-called “Day of Action” said “they’re cutting the future.” A student at the UCLA sit-in seemed to just be along for the party – if one developed—she said she was there “until something happened.”
Another (wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt!), who self-identified herself as a teacher, demanded that taxes be raised to prevent the budget cuts.
Okay … does she realize that we are in the midst of a national economic crisis, that California’s unemployment rate has now topped12 percent, and – despite populist antipathy toward the rich - that there’s a limit to how much we can continue to gouge the wealthy for taxes?
The awful fact is the State of California is broke and facing potential bankruptcy. It has been driven over the side of a cliff by inept leadership in Sacramento that has rolled over at every opportunity for teachers unions and other big labor demands; they have bloated the size of public sector employment to the point of explosion, making the state nearly ungovernable and fiscally unsound.
Where’s the anger at this ideology and the ineptitude that is manifest in our state capital?
Naively striking a stance that argues that education should somehow be exempt from the economic pain being felt in virtually every sector of society seems to me oddly spoiled – an “anybody but us” viewpoint. But this sense of entitlement and self-indulgence seems to characterize many of today’s walk-outs, protests, and sit-ins.
Self-indulgence seemed to be firmly in control during the UC San Diego protests as well. To be clear, those engaging in “Compton cookout” parties and individuals who think that hanging a noose in a public place is somehow a fun thing to do are, without a single doubt, idiots, boneheads and fools. However, to hysterically argue, as the UCSD protest leaders have done, that the actions of a few stupid individuals somehow represent a dangerous, pervasively hostile racial climate at one of the nation’s most liberal college campuses is frankly ludicrous.
We’ve seen this kind of over-the-top political theatre before.
In 2006, several nooses were found hanging in a tree in the courtyard of the high school in Jena, Louisiana. Subsequently, six black youths were arrested for assaulting a white teenager. These six were dubbed the Jena Six. The events drew the attention of national civil rights figures that converged on the small southern town, along with upwards of 20,000 angry activists and protester. After all the dust settled, it was widely believed that racism played no role in the original noose hanging incident. This was long after the incident had spurred the charge that Jena was symbolic of a resurgent American racism.
Two years later, at Columbia University a black female professor claimed she discovered a noose hanging on her office door. The school convulsed with protests that, like at UC San Diego, claimed the noose was symbolic of an oppressive atmosphere for women and minorities at Columbia. It must be grasped that Columbia is widely understood to be perhaps one of the most left-leaning and liberal universities in the nation. Nonetheless, students and off-campus radicals argued differently – it was, they claimed, a racist institution. In an unrelated investigation, and with much embarrassment, Dr. Madonna Constantine, the same black professor who said she found the noose, was fired after it was revealed that she had plagiarized the work of former students as well as the work of a colleague.
But why engage in street theatre and play up racial hysterics? Despite all the self-serving rhetoric, today race actually plays a remarkably insignificant role in the lives of blacks and other ethnic minorities. Yet, it’s almost as if these young activists are yearning for the days when someone could really sink their teeth into a “movement.” Are we witnessing the romanticizing of racial struggle?
One year before the 1964 Civil Rights Act was made law, President John F. Kennedy said in his report to the American people on civil rights that “… race has no place in American life or law.” How ironic that today the enemies of this simple premise are not primarily the stereotypical white bigots - but “progressive” racial activists who have hijacked the bully pulpit of civil rights.
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March 4, 2010 | 4:56 pm
Posted by David A. Lehrer
Exploiting the Holocaust and what led to it is reprehensible. It cheapens the tragedy and demeans its meaning and import.
Recently, there was a troubling example of that particularly egregious misuse of history in a local issue that has been fought in the courts for over a decade, the status of Congregation Etz Chaim, the synagogue at Third and Highland.
The dispute between the rabbi of Etz Chaim, Rabbi Rubin, his congregation and various neighbors and neighborhood groups has been written about extensively both in the Jewish Journal and the Los Angeles Times. It has been a long and contentious battle that has seen the case go up and down through the federal courts with the most recent opinion of the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals voiding a settlement agreement between the congregation and the City of Los Angeles.
In late February, at an administrative hearing, the Congregation appealed a Zoning Administrator’s denial of a Conditional Use Permit. That appeal was denied.
I am not about to recount the heated history of this dispute, the above links to the Journal and the Times offer ample background.
However, I feel compelled to write about a particularly troubling allegation which surfaced in the documents surrounding the last legal altercation.
In a letter to the Central Area Planning Commission, the attorney for the congregation recounts the background of the institution’s founders, their roots in Europe and their escape from destruction during the Holocaust. He concludes his recitation with the following,
The few survivors found their way to Los Angeles and commenced their Congregation again some 50 years ago, believing that in the United States there would be religious freedom. Now, they fear that the same Nuremberg Laws passed during the Nazi era, are taking hold in Los Angeles. (emphasis added)
Whatever side one may come down on in the interpretation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (the statute at the heart of this dispute) or the nature of the opposition to the uses of the rebuilt structure at Third and Highland—-there can be nothing but abhorrence at the suggestion that the legal system in the United States resembles in any way, shape or form what resulted from the Nuremberg Laws adopted in Nazi Germany in 1935.
The Nuremberg Laws formalized the stripping of citizenship rights of German Jews in order to secure the “purity of German blood.” Jews were in one moment transformed from German citizens to “nationals” with virtually no legal rights.
It is dangerous, irresponsible and incendiary to analogize laws that led to the slaughter of six million human beings to America and Los Angeles in 2010. It is wrong and has rightfully infuriated many of Etz Chaim’s neighbors, some of whom are Jewish themselves.
It is likely that this case will be litigated for months and years to come. Cheapening Jewish history and the meaning of the Holocaust by this kind of irresponsible hyperbole serves no purpose—it is inappropriate and wrong.
March 2, 2010 | 4:31 pm
Posted by David A. Lehrer
Sunday’s Los Angeles Times reported on a speech given by Nation of Islam (“NOI”) leader, Louis Farrakhan in honor of the NOI’s annual Saviors’ Day. Some 20,000 Chicagoans attended his nearly four hour oration.
Though he is reportedly ill, his virulence, if anything, has increased.
For decades, Farrakhan has blamed Jews and whites for our nation’s and the world’s ills—-that’s nothing new. His racist/anti-Semitic/extremist views have been rationalized and tolerated by far too many for far too long. But now he seems to be willing to reveal more of the nutty theology that underlies his hateful view of the world.
There has always been a raft of crazy notions at the heart of NOI theology that he either kept from broad public view or the media chose to ignore. His theology (that bears no resemblance to mainstream Islam) includes, among other notions, that whites are the creation 6,600 years ago of a mad scientist named Yakoub. The topper though are his assertions about a “space wheel” (the size of two aircraft carriers) from which attacks on America’s whites, and blacks who do not embrace the Nation of Islam, will emanate.
On Sunday, he reported on the vision he had after having been on that “space wheel” to meet with the late Elijah Muhammed. That meeting imbued him with divine knowledge—-including prophesying the recent earthquake in Chile, (“It’s not an accident that a great earthquake took place in Chile…it was a precipitate of what I have to tell you today of what’s coming to America. You will not escape”). The wheel, he noted, had technology “1 million years ahead” of America’s. He also asserted that the spaceship contains 1,500 airplanes, each equipped with three bombs and the “angels on that human-built planet can build a wall out of air ... wall America in and start a fire.”
His immodesty was on display as well; it was “too cheap” to call him just a prophet—- he said. “I’m very humble…..I’m a light in the midst of darkness.”
There have been reports for years that Farrakhan is sick and his activity level diminished. Maybe that explains his willingness to make more of his delusionary musings public. The sorry fact is that no matter how nutty Farrakhan’s rants, he managed to fill up an arena with 20,000 adoring fans and he is still national news (nearly 40,000 Google results).
While he hasn’t often trumpeted his more off-beat theories on religion and “space wheels” when he entertains the media, he has betrayed them often enough so that thinking reporters should have written him off years ago as delusional. Instead of being ignored, he continues to be treated as an off-beat leader who promotes his anti-Semitic and racist views as if he were sane. Years ago, an editor at the Times told me that the Jewish community had to put up with his anti-Semitism, “because his message of self-empowerment is so important.”
The archetypal example of this strange phenomenon of giving the minister’s theology a pass while according his political views a hearing was an interview of Farrakhan conducted by Ted Koppel on Nightline on the eve of the Million Man March in 1995. Koppel asked Farrakhan about the “space wheel” and appropriately prefaced his query by noting that “it sounds like gibberish.” Farrakhan hardly skipped a beat and proceeded to describe the huge space wheel and the “above top secret” government reports on UFO’s that confirm its existence. He also cited the movie “Independence Day” (Koppel felt compelled to remind Farrakhan that the film was science fiction) as further confirmation of his assertions.
In watching that interview 14 years ago, I distinctly remember wondering why Koppel didn’t say, “Minister Farrakhan, you are delusional. I have too much respect for my audience to continue this conversation; we have better things to talk about on Nightline.” But that’s not what happened in 1996 or subsequently. Koppel came back from a commercial break and continued his dialogue as if nothing astoundingly bizarre had been said. And if that’s what Ted Koppel did, what can we expect of less competent interviewers?
Farrakhan seems more willing than ever to publicly unburden himself of his nutty and insidious theories—-not just his hate of Jews and whites. The question going forward will be how tolerant of his now irrefutable craziness will the media be?
February 25, 2010 | 1:50 pm
Posted by Joe R. Hicks
Remember Henry Louis Gates? He’s the Harvard professor who went ballistic when a white Cambridge police officer hand-cuffed him and hauled him off to jail for disorderly conduct. He had refused to cooperate with officers who thought he might have been involved in home break-in (his home).
Gates offered another story. The arresting officer was a racist who simply couldn’t believe that a black man lived in a high-priced, Harvard-adjacent neighborhood. The back-story however was that this cop had no history of bad behavior of any kind and numerous black officers on the force came to his defense.
The cap on the issue was that Obama eventually hosted a White House “happy hour” involving Gates, Vice President Joe Biden, and the arresting officer, Sergeant James Crowley. They came by, had a beer or two, and talked about their disagreements. It was a nice media moment, but it glossed over the victim politics and bad behavior exhibited by Gates - one of the country’s best-known and most respected black scholars.
But now there’s new reason to bring Gates back to the table – perhaps for another beer or two – but this time to ask him why the publication he presides over is publishing nasty, bigoted, and just plain dumb-assed racial material?
is a website operated by the Washington Post and its editor-in-chief is none other than Harvard University’s Henry Louis Gates. This site features commentaries “from a black perspective” (whatever that is).
So be it. But what got my attention, and elevated my blood pressure several notches, was a recent article onThe Root
“Black Folks We’d Like To remove From Black History,” written by Jada Smith.
For starters, the premise is dumb as a rock.
But getting beyond that, the writer used the well-known Zora Neale Hurston’s quote that “All my kinfolk ain’t my kinfolk” to act as the catalyst for listing the black people she’d like to erase from the pages of history. By doing so, Smith dusts off the old and lame notion of race-focused “authentic” black people versus “sell-out Oreos” who insist on wandering away from the racial plantation. Somebody please tell Smith that it’s 2010, not 1949.
On Smith’s list are discredited politicians (the former Washington D.C. mayor and crack-head, Marion Barry), indicted physicians (Dr. Conrad Murray, the doctor accused of presiding over Michael Jackson’s death), reality television “attention-whores” (Omarosa), and clownish rappers (Flavor Flav).
However, also on the list is Michael Steele, the Chair of the Republican National Committee and Clarence Thomas, an Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court. Why Steele? Apparently she objects to Steele’s Republican Party affiliation and mutters something about him being “the bozo of politics.” But, what’s a sitting Supreme Court Justice doing on this list? According to Smith, his crime should be obvious—Thomas has the audacity to see the Constitution as a “colorblind” document.
This gives insight into the race-obsessed, victim-based worldview of this writer and others who share her ideology. People like her think that black people, like Thomas, who insist that judicial fairness and justice rely on race-neutral interpretations of the Constitution are naïve rubes – thus subject to ridicule.
Not yet done embarrassing herself, Smith fleshed out her list by adding, along with others, these individuals:
• Double-murderer, O.J. Simpson
• The mad-man of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe
• Idi Amin, the man responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in Uganda
• And two ruthless men largely viewed as being responsible for Haiti’s horrid, impoverished state, “Baby Doc” and “Papa Doc” Duvalier.
So, accomplished, successful men like Michael Steele and Clarence Thomas should be “written out of the race” and put on a list of fools, clowns, criminals and mass-killers.
Are you kidding me!
Its not enough that those invested in racial identity and racial authenticity see black conservatives as “self-loathing,” now they’re advocating that they be removed completely from history.
We get this nonsense from the very same liberal race advocates and activists who obsessively scold us about the need, no the demand, that we tolerate differences and champion diversity. They do so until it grates against the racial group-think they adhere to. They will then turn a blind eye to an inescapable reality; that black people don’t all think alike, nor act alike, and with increasing frequency also reject the victim narrative so often published inThe Root
What’s ironic is that the hyper-sensitive Harvard professor, Henry Louis Gates, allowed this on a website he presides over. I’m willing to sit down with the professor, have a beer or two, and hear his defense of a brain-dead, insulting screed that he allowed into print. Hey, I’ll even cover the cost of the beers.
February 18, 2010 | 2:47 pm
Posted by David A. Lehrer
Occasionally, research is reported on that confirms beliefs you hold but haven’t been certain of. You think that your observations and conclusions are correct but you lack the empirical data to assert the beliefs with any kind of assuredness.
That reality made The New York Times Health section this past Monday so refreshing.
It contained an article that confirmed what I have believed for years but never saw documentation of—- “that team sports can result in lifelong improvements to educational, work and health prospects.”
As budgets for education are cut left and right, with the arts and sports being among the first casualties, it’s worth noting that there are unforeseen benefits to the less traditional aspects of education that aren’t simply “reading, writing and ‘rithmatic.”
The lessons of sport aren’t amenable to easy assessment and evaluation, but they arereal
—-I, as a parent with nearly three decades of schlepping to basketball, baseball and track events, can vouch for that.
As the father of four children, all of whom participated in organized sports through high school (my oldest daughter who was and is a dancer [now a professional] was in a ‘non-traditional’ sport); I can attest on a personal level to the impact that team sports has on kids.
The notions of excellence, of striving to attain better skills, of recognizing differing levels of talent, of learning to work with others of diverse capacities, the joy of victory, and even the disappointment of defeat all result in life-long lessons that extend far beyond the playing field.
By the way, those realities run head-on into to the all too prevalent “self-esteem” notions that we are all “winners” and there aren’t levels of achievement and skill (i.e. that winning and losing and talent are relatively unimportant). Early elementary school kids can figure out who does better and see through phony praise intended to “protect” them. One of my children played on a high school team where the athletic director “strongly suggested” to coaches that every criticism of a player be preceded by four “positive” comments. Mercifully, that was at the end of my kid’s tenure at that school.
Two new studies confirm everything I have ever believed about the impact of team sports—-especially how wonderful they are for young girls.
As the Times reports:
Using a complex analysis, Dr. Stevenson showed that increasing girls’ sports participation had a direct effect on women’s education and employment. She found that the changes set in motion by Title IX explained about 20 percent of the increase in women’s education and about 40 percent of the rise in employment for 25-to-34-year-old women.
“It’s not just that the people who are going to do well in life play sports, but that sports help people do better in life,” she said, adding, “While I only show this for girls, it’s reasonable to believe it’s true for boys as well.”
Another question is whether Title IX has made a difference in women’s long-term health. In a carefully conducted study, Robert Kaestner, an economics professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, compared rates of obesity and physical activity of women who had been in high school in the 1970s — as Title IX was taking effect — with similar women from earlier years. Controlling the results for other influences, like age and changing diets, Dr. Kaestner was able to tease out the effects Title IX had on women’s health.
He found that the increase in girls’ athletic participation caused by Title IX was associated with a 7 percent lower risk of obesity 20 to 25 years later, when women were in their late 30s and early 40s. His article was published this month in the journal Evaluation Review.
According to the Times, the evidence is overwhelming and convincing. These data might chasten our educational leaders who think they know where funding cuts should be made—-nothing is easy.
February 16, 2010 | 4:39 pm
Posted by David A. Lehrer and Joe R. Hicks
As long-time civil rights veterans, we have been around the block a few times with colleagues who appeared committed to the work of bettering civil dialogue in our country. The platitudes about getting along and tolerating opinions one doesn’t like are easy to mouth and come trippingly off lots of tongues; actually adhering to the precepts of tolerance and civil dialogue is a lot less easy.
Invariably, those who don’t really believe what they say are undone by their actions. They will commit to Voltaire’s dictum (“I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it!”) in the abstract, but will falter when confronted with someone they disagree with—-usually offering a lame excuse as to why this or that activist should be muzzled or shouted down.
A long-time colleague who has done service on a variety of “civil rights” and “free speech” panels and commissions, Salaam al Marayati, the LA-based national head of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (“MPAC”) proved, once again, our rule of “true colors” ultimately coming out.
Last week, MPAC issued a bizarre press release justifying political extremists who assaulted the First Amendment and civil dialogue in our community.
Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, was scheduled to speak at the University of California, Irvine. He was invited by the UCI Law School and UCI’s Political Science Department to deliver a lecture and then offer himself to questions from the audience.
Prior to the lecture, the members of the Muslim Student Association at UCI “condemned and strongly opposed” the presence of Oren on the UCI campus (parenthetically, they did it “In the Name of God, Most Gracious and Most Merciful”). They “strongly condemn the university for cosponsoring, and therefore, inadvertently (sic) supporting the ambassador of a state that is condemned….. Oren and his partnersshould only be granted a speakers platform in the International Criminal Court
and should not be honored on our campus.”
At the lecture, eleven students (eight from UCI and three from UC Riverside) acted out their commitment to keeping Oren’s voice off campus; they interrupted his speech on ten separate occasions in a vain effort to prevent him from speaking.
In the words of UCI Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, “they shouted him down.” Campus police escorted each protestor out of the auditorium and then arrested them for disturbing a public event.
Now comes al Marayati and MPAC to argue that the tactics employed by the students, that of the “heckler’s veto” (i.e. shouting down those with whom you disagree) is really just an “exercise in free speech….these students had the courage and conscience to stand up against aggression, using peaceful means….we cannot allow our educational institutions to be used as a platform to threaten and discourage students who choose to practice their First Amendment right.” MPAC then urged the UCI chancellor not to punish the Muslim students for “peacefully voicing their opposition.”
MPAC and al Marayati fail to understand the most rudimentary elements of what free speech and the First Amendment are all about. Shouting down a speaker with whom you disagree does not demonstrate “courage and conscience,” nor is it “a practice of First Amendment right(s).” It is the very antithesis of the First Amendment—-it demonstrates disdain and contempt for those who came to hear the speaker.
As Dean Chemerinsky has rightly asserted, “there is no right to a heckler’s veto.
” If there were, the First Amendment’s notion of the free marketplace of ideas (usually an especially valued principle on university campuses) would be meaningless—-the loudest most raucous voices would be the only ones heard.
To add insult to injury, Ambassador Oren and his hosts made clear before the speech that there would be a question and answer session following his presentation—-had the MSA leaders wanted to confront him with their challenges, there was a time and a place for that exchange.
It is clear that MPAC and its leadership now want to intimidate UCI’s leadership into acquiescing to the breach of campus rules and drop all charges against the student thugs. MPAC’s press release in effect says we should be grateful that the students used “peaceful means.” One can only shudder when thinking of what actions might have been taken that wouldn’t have been peaceful.
UCI is an educational institution and these students need an education. One invaluable rule of life that applies to everyone in a democracy, especially young people, is that actions have consequences. The conscious decision to disrupt and harass a guest speaker on a university campus, after being admonished not to engage in such conduct, and to deny others the right to hear a guest speaker demands a response; a response that resonates on other campuses—-this conduct is not acceptable
UCI is not an isolated case; an Aljazeera.net blogger proudly describes the phenomenon of disruption that has become an MSA tactic:
But by in large, what is making me take notice is how pro-Palestinian students seem to be growing more vocal and organized with their frustrations.
It’s a phenomena (sic) that seems to have caught the Israelis off guard. When Oren’s appeal for Middle East-like hospitality failed, Oren jousted: “
This is not London or Tehran!
He must have been clairvoyant. Across the Pond at Oxford Union on that same day, it was not exactly going swimmingly for Deputy Foreign Minister Dann Ayalon, trying also to lay down a rote defense of Israel.
Students there also used timed interruptions, and apparently racist invectives, to upset their Israeli guest
Only if the UCI administration stands firm and demonstrates a commitment to the First Amendment—and the right of students to hear diverse and even controversial voices—-will we be assured that we don’t become “London or Tehran.” Perhaps, MPAC and its leadership will learn that free speech and civil discourse applies to everyone.
February 12, 2010 | 4:07 pm
Posted by David A. Lehrer
The Los Angeles City Council ought to send a thank you note to Sen. John Edwards, the New Orleans Saints, Sarah Palin and the TeaParty folks for sucking up much of the PR oxygen over the past week. If it weren’t for those stories, much of LA might be completely pre-occupied with wondering how we elected a group of officials who blithely pretend that LA isn’t facing what is undoubtedly its worst financial crisis since the Depression.
Last week, the Council—-to the amazement of most observers of the local scene—-failed to cut the city budget despite the Mayor’s and the city’s Chief Administrative Officer’s (“CAO”) unquestioned warning that financial disaster was imminent. There is a budget gap of $218 million for this fiscal year and a projected $484 deficit for next year.
The CAO urged that 1,000 jobs be cut—-there is virtually no other place to find the savings necessary to keep us solvent. There is no question as to the scope and depth of the crisis—-everyone acknowledges it. There is only a shocking unwillingness on the part of a large majority of the council to demonstrate the political backbone to make very difficult and, possibly, unpopular choices.
The crisis is so profound that Mayor Villaraigosa, a product of the labor union movement and hardly one prone to eliminate public employee positions out of animus for public workers, has been forced to act in the face of the Council’s inertia. He announced plans to make the 1,000 employee cutbacks unilaterally and warned this week that even more may be needed.
We are by nature optimists; we’ve thought that given adequate information and the opportunity to make the right choices, most elected officials will act responsibly and appropriately; after all, most of them are there because they care about the common good.
How much more so, we’ve thought, when crisis looms—-when the abyss is before us—- surely electeds will suck it up and do the right thing. Boy, were we wrong!
Whether in Sacramento or now in the City Council, the capacity of elected officials to avoid making tough decisions that require a modicum of leadership seems boundless. Clearly too many of our leaders would prefer that someone else take the heat and do their dirty work so that they can go back to their funders and say, “see, I didn’t buckle, I’m your real friend!”
The posturing of Councilpersons Hahn, Koretz and Alarcon has been especially tough to take seriously—-they offer no remedies, they just want to protect every city job they’ve ever seen (assuming the members are in the favored unions) and not be concerned about the consequences of their position.
Over fifty years ago John F. Kennedy wrote a Pulitzer Prize winning book, Profiles in Courage, in which he wrote about political leaders who were willing to make tough choices—-even at the cost of their political careers—-because of the public good they were sworn to serve.
A man does what he must—-in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures—-and that is the basis of all human morality..…each man must decide for himself the course he will follow. The stories of past courage can define that ingredient—-they can teach, they can offer hope, they can provide inspiration. But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul.
Other than Councilpersons Parks, Smith and Perry, our leaders have been AWOL; unwilling to demonstrate even a little bit of the “courage” that Kennedy wrote about.
Would that our local leaders would do a bit of soul searching and summon up just a touch of backbone—-the city sure needs it.
February 5, 2010 | 5:44 pm
Posted by Joe R. Hicks
Is the growth of the nation’s charter schools a throw-back to the racially segregated schools that once consigned the children of minority families to separate, but mostly unequal, educations? This is the alarming claim today of some civil rights advocates. But raising false alarms is mostly what the advocates of “social justice” do these days—-with or without facts.
Case in point is UCLA’s Civil Rights Project which argues that charter schools have increased segregation for black students. Nationally, 70% of black students attending charter schools are at schools where approximately 90% of the students are black. Researchers at the UCLA group say that a typical black student goes to a charter schools where three out of four students are black. Gary Orfield, the director of the UCLA advocacy group, argues this means we’re in a new era of “enforced segregation….a race to the past”
Not addressed by Orfield or his group is the reality that the LA public school district is only 9 percent white. Given this, how would he suggest we go about “desegregating” schools - without resorting to some version of the old, bankrupt notion of cross-town bussing and even then, you would need lots of mirrors to spread 9% of students among the other 91%?
The Superintendent of LA’s public school district bravely addressed the claim that LA’s charter schools are “segregated.” Ramon Cortinas said “
If charter schools are doing the job for the student, and it is a better job … I’m not as concerned about racial isolation.”
School and housing segregation, as any student of American history knows, were enforced by the weight of law, as well as by the norms of white supremacy. Today, no such laws exist on the books anywhere in the nation – not even in the Southern states where racial segregation was once a way of life. The stigma that attached to forced segregation is totally absent today, students and their parents choose to attend the charter schools that they prefer and that think will be effective—-demographics may or may not play a role in that decision…it’s their choice.
The three-fold increase nationally in the growth of independently managed public schools has been driven by the frustration of parents with the generally substandard level of education to be found in poor, urban public school systems. This has little to do with racism, since many of these districts and schools are directed by minority-run school boards, with schools lead by black or minority principals, and with teachers who are often non-white. In these circumstances, parents have opted for charter schools that – while perhaps not always delivering the goods – have at least offered parents educational alternatives.
But what drives advocates like the UCLA’s Orfield is the time-frozen view that the nation has changed very little in regard to race relations.
This past Martin Luther King holiday, I debated the state of race relations with Orfield on an NPR radio program. Astoundingly, Orfield contended that little has changed regarding the dimensions of segregation and discrimination since the days when Dr. King was alive (over forty years ago).
He, of course, is not alone in this view.
• Speaking last year at a Black History Month celebration, president Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, argued that the U.S. is a nation of cowards on matters of race and that Americans live in “race protected cocoons.”
• When briefly arrested by a white Cambridge, Massachusetts, police officer, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates contended that every aspect of the episode was the product of race and racism.
• Spike Lee, the well-known and quite successful filmmaker, has argued that “racism is woven into the very fabric of America.”
• This past December, New York Times columnist, Charles M. Blow, wrote that “We are now inundated with examples of overt racism on a scale to which we are unaccustomed.” Blow’s examples of this “overt racism” were exactly two: online Google ads directed at the first couple which he said were racially offensive, and a four percent increase nationally in hate crimes against blacks in 2008. By the way, this four percent cited by Blow is an increase of exactly 162 hate crimes against black victims in a nation of 350,000,000 people.
Despite contentions like these, the nation has changed significantly since the days when Dr. King helped orchestrate civil rights campaigns.
A recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 70 percent of white Americans and 60 percent of blacks “believe that values held by blacks and whites have become more similar in the past decade.” This poll also found that 39 percent of black Americans say the “situation for blacks in the U.S. is better than it was five years earlier.” In 2007 only 20 percent of blacks said this was the case.
However, the critical finding is that more blacks are rejecting the victim mentality that clouds the view of all too many civil rights leaders.
The Pew poll discovered that an amazing 52 percent of blacks said that blacks themselves are “responsible for their own situation,” with only one-third of blacks maintaining that racism is what’s keeping blacks down
A more recent Pew poll found that almost all “Millennials” – young people between the ages of 18-to-29 – express support for interracial dating and marriage. Roughly nine-in-ten say they would be fine with a family member’s marriage to a black-American (88%), an Asian American (93%), a Hispanic American (93%), or a white American (92%).
What does all of this mean?
Despite racial advocates, like the UCLA’s Gary Orfield and others who share his world-view, this nation’s racial landscape has changed in amazing ways. While they insist otherwise, we are not entering some new period of racial isolation or segregation, quite the opposite.
They haven’t acknowledged the progress because it contradicts their claim that the sky is always falling and because their gaze has been fixated and frozen on another era of American history – a time when meaningful racism and discrimination actually existed.