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April 17, 2007

The Issue Is Racialism - Not Imus; Not Rap Misogyny

In the wake of CBS's firing of shock talk jock Don Imus for calling members of the Rutgers womens' basketball team "nappy-headed hos," there have appeared a series of seemingly well intentioned op-eds, editorials and blog posts correctly noting his words of disrespect to the black women on the team pale in comparison to the sexist vitriol spewed by black rappers. Jason Whitlock wrote a widely-cited piece in the Kansas City Star. Constance L. Rice covered similar territory in the Los Angeles Times; as did S. Renee Mitchell in The Oregonian; Johnetta Rose Barras in the Washington Post; and Derrick Z. Jackson in The Boston Globe.

All well and good, up to a point. But an even greater and less easily challenged affront to African-Americans is the paternalistic liberal notion that society's machinery still comprises an oppressive force negating the power of free will and the individual, dooming many black children and families to dysfunction and failure. The forces of "white oppression" are under the microscope this week in Colorado Springs at the eighth annual White Privilege Conference.

What we really have here, now, is not racism or privilege.

It is an instrumental racialism.

That is, an enforced political orthodoxy advanced by a minority of race-hustling blacks and a larger cohort of guilty white liberals and public employee union members, which seeks to explain minority failings in education, income, crime and family cohesion in terms of "institutional racism" and "white privilege." This racialism is not merely rhetorical: it is rooted in a push for maintaining and building public employee union membership; painting modern-day American blacks as perpetual subjects of the clientized state, ministered to by variegated counsellors, intake workers, program managers, administrators and especially, "culturally competent" teachers bent on having little Arthur and Shanika rap and graffiti paint their way to a diploma. "Multiple intelligences," don'cha know?

Small wonder that recently the union representing Seattle public school teachers went Code Red on the state legislature - unsuccessfully, it seems - for failing to drop state reading and writing test requirements for high school graduation because said standards allegedly doomed minority students to failure, even with four retries guaranteed under state law.

In the aftermath of the predictably-played Imus affair, and the contemporaneous racialism of Seattle's school board and administrators, the real issue which emerges has little to do with Snoop Dogg or Fifty Cent and their blithely vituperative encomiums to hos in the hood. The central need is to dispel racialism, and stress black self-determination, which has a compelling history in America going back to the still-racist post-slavery decades and continuing up to and through the civil rights era, even as Great Society social welfare programs and racial quotas gradually proved the folly of double standards and low expectations.

Calling out the fraud of modern-day racialism in the U.S. is precisely where the post-Imus rap critics fall short.

Into this void lately have stepped a few, such as Bill Cosby and Juan Williams - and then, last weekend, Joe R. Hicks, former head of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Hick's Washington Post Sunday op-ed is simply titled, "Drop The Race Card," and should be required reading for all professing an interest in race, racism, or racialism in the U.S. today. Not so coincidentally, Hicks is Vice-President of Community Advocates, Inc., a Los Angeles-based organization with a refreshing and right-on approach to race relations.

Bearing in mind Imus' flaying and the press lynching of white Duke University lacrosse players finally absolved of race-driven charges of raping a black woman, Hicks observes:

...what links both cases is the rank racial opportunism in both Imus's firing and the Duke rape case, in which the Durham County district attorney shamelessly used race in an attempt to railroad three young men for his political purposes. Remember the Michael Richards episode? In that case, America's civil rights establishment -- led, as usual, by Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton -- mobilized in an effort to sell the premise that a down-on-his-luck comedian had somehow become a barometer for our nation's race relations.

What remains of the once-proud civil rights movement justifies its existence by contending -- despite widespread progress -- that black people continue to live marginalized and victimized lives. This oft-repeated theme was the base for the ugly stew that was the reaction to Imus's slur, and it was the operating theme for Nifong as he set about attempting to ruin the lives of three innocent men.

Several decades ago, when I was head of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, I would have joined with Jackson and Sharpton with little reservation to call for Imus's demise. But somewhere along the way since then, reality intervened and I began to reject the view that America is a racist, hostile environment for people with my skin color. Further, I began engaging in the unforgivable sin -- rejecting the orthodox civil rights view of blacks as victims.

...(there is) an agenda of racial opportunism that promotes the view that blacks are powerless victims of white racism. In this view, blacks are always in need of government intervention to save them from white hostility.

....As comedian Bill Cosby has observed: "There are people that want you to remain in a hole, and they rejoice in your hopelessness because they have jobs mismanaging you. However, your job is not becoming victims. We have to rise up and fight on all levels to succeed." Amen, brother Cosby.

Hicks saliently notes prosecuting attorney Mike Nifong's re-election campaign succeeed because he played to black constituents and white "progressives" appeased by his ultimately baseless rhetoric against the white Duke suspects. In a similar though less dramatic vein, everyday white progressives in places such as Seattle regularly condone violations of the dignity of blacks by silently letting pass the loud assertions that blacks are still victims needing special dispensations from society and government.

Our nation's liberal urban centers are still a long way from eschewing the cheap hustle that is racialism. But the tipping point now comes closer at a slow, steady pace.

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07:08 PM | Comments (3)


April 11, 2007

The "White Privilege" Fetish Of Seattle's Public Schools

More On The School Indoctrination Plan, And The Theoretical Underpinnings

On its Web site, the Seattle Public Schools Office of Equity and Race Relations details what it expects of the students from four Seattle high schools who are being sent to the eighth annual White Privilege Conference April 18-21 in Colorado Springs. The SPS white privilege conference "expectations" document states that for student attendees, ensuing goals should include: "educate youth and people who work with youth about issues of privilege;" and, "support and develop youth leadership for social and economic justice." White privilege, as I discuss in a Seattle Times op-ed today, is about the pernicious cult of individualism and self-determination.

It's always a pleasure to work with my friends at The Times, where I published a regular guest op-ed column for three years, from April of 2001 to May of 2004. I'm using this post and the one immediately preceeding it to go a bit further than the space in the weekday op-ed allowed. Social justice, for those who haven't yet been boxed about the ears with the term, is a popular liberal ideal rooted in advocacy of equalized outcomes among different racial groups and social classes. Beneath the focus in Seattle Public Schools on white privilege and institutional racism is an emphasis on disproportionality, the crucial antecedent to demands for social justice. Disproportionality analysis crudely assumes that all racial groups should be incarcerated, disciplined in school, graduate from high school and college, own homes, earn above a certain level, and so forth - in direct proportion to their percentage of representation in the populace as a whole.

When this brittle dogma fails to comport with reality, seers and sages announce disparities as evidence of systemic bias, institutional racism and white privilege, with little or no examination of underlying behavorial and individual factors.

Following such pronouncements come loud but hollow demands for social justice, based on desires for more proportional and managed outcomes. If it sounds like pining for socialism, that's because it is. The roots of our predicament run directly to academe, and to the state's university system, among many others nationwide - where in the social sciences so-called "critical theory" pedagogy is used to deconstruct every less-than-egalitarian outcome as societally determined, and as fodder for class-based redistributionism.

Now it has filtered down into urban school systems to explain away disparate outcomes based on disparate inputs.

Politicized junk science must lean heavily on advocacy. Using school students as messengers for a racialized politics of low expectations is the last refuge of scoundrels.

But that is how things are done in Seattle right now. Accordingly, the SPS document for White Privilege Conference student attendees further states:

We are sending students to this conference with the expectation that they will apply what they learn to their school setting in Seattle. Throughout the conference we have scheduled specific check-in times to debrief what we are learning. Following the conference, students are expected to attend a workshop to discuss how to apply what they learned to projects in their schools on Tuesday, April 24th from 6-8pm, location (to be determined). Additional meetings for project planning and implementing will be set by each school group independently. In the spring, students from all of the schools will again meet to share what they’ve accomplished at an Equity Summit.

Equity is not dispensed from a bully pulpit. It is earned. By the individual.

The time spent indoctrinating Seattle Public Schools students on "white privilege" would be far better spent on remedial tutoring in core subjects for those students who need it. Of course that would involve getting foursquare behind the ideas of self-determination and personal responsibility, rather than Blaming Whitey.

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12:47 AM | Comments (8)


April 10, 2007

Seattle: Home Of The Free, Land Of The White Liberal Apologists

As David Postman first reported in the Seattle Times, the union representing Seattle Public Schools teachers has written to Seattle state legislators that they are perpetrating "institutional racism and institutional classism" by failing to drop state testing requirements in reading and writing for high school graduation, until $12 million can be secured for improved class sizes, curriculum and teacher training. State legislation is already pending to extend beyond 2008 to 2010 the state math proficiency graduation requirement. In their letter, the Seattle Education Association states:

Between 40 and 45 (percent) of children of poverty, many of whom in Seattle are children of color, are not passing the reading and writing sections of the WASL. These sections will not be set aside; these children will be denied a diploma. There is no concerted funding initiative to support the needs of the students not meeting reading and writing standards. There is currently no active bill to set aside using the reading and writing (Washington Assessment of Student Learning tests) as the graduation requirement for the 40 (percent) of the Students of Poverty and Students of Color who are not meeting the standard.
This pure and simply is the definition of Institutional Racism and Institutional Privilege. (Seattle Education Association) and (Seattle Public Schools) are working to eliminate the horror of Institutional Racism and Privilege wherever we find it. The members of SEA also are fighting for a system that provides equity in the results for children and young adults, not a system that sorts children of color and children of poverty and relegates those children to lives of poverty. Seattle legislators have long held the mantle of progressives, of liberals, of men and women who care about the voiceless people. Please find your voice again and stand with the school employees, parents and students of Seattle.

The teachers union's use of the term "voiceless people" is a giveaway: despite compensatory rhetoric elsewhere, they see underachieving students of color as mute, weak and incapable of raising their academic performance and meeting a 10th grade testing requirement for graduation for 12th grade (itself a badly diluted standard). "These children will be denied" a diploma, they write. There is no hope, no chance. Failure is inevitable.

Phew. The WASL is not a perfect test, but it is a useful yardstick and more to the point, meets requirements imposed on all states under the bi-partisan federal No Child Left Behind Act, intended to help ensure schools are making measurable progress toward imparting core academic proficiencies to students. Our state legislature has already seen fit to allow up to four retakes in any subject area for a student who fails any part(s) of the WASL. Even then, alternatives including scores on other standardized tests may suffice for meeting graduation requirements.

So, Seattle teachers and state legislators: many minority students are so incapacitated that they "will be denied" a diploma because FIVE TRIES on passing 10th grade tests in math, reading and writing for 12th-grade graduation (you read that right) aren't enough? What about the majority of minority students who ARE already passing the reading and writing WASL sections? Why not commission a study on the underlying factors in their success? I hate the term "no-brainer," but truly, there it is. So much easier to talk about failure and racism, conveniently pigeonholing blacks - especially - as helpless.

Even if our family does have to suck up the very reasonable cost of an excellent private school, this sort of moonbattery is one reason why you couldn't budge me from Seattle. The limits of tolerance are being stretched daily. I disagree with strident suburban conservatives who say the city's done; for families, and for the sane, so stick a fork in it. It will be fascinating to see the political Velvet Revolution here, if and when it occurs. The initial stages could only be a few years out. Politicized, race-obsessed dysfunction in Seattle Public Schools will prove to have been a primary cause because of its symbolic heft, but "kitchen table issues" such as police staffing, municipal pension obligations, taxes and skewed city budget priorities will be drivers as well.

As for the latest WASL dust-up: The recipe for helping struggling students succeed is fairly simple: funnel dollars paying for administrative bloat and non-competitive ancillary labor in our public schools into longer school days and longer school years for underperforming students. Establish more uniform and rigorous academic curricula. Insist on a far louder, clearer and stronger public message from the Seattle Public Schools on parental involvement, and specifically the parental engenderment of values and a home environment which gird love for learning.

To dance around these essential needs for lagging minority students - as the union and leagues of cowed Seattle "progressives" do - strikes me as a flagrantly deleterious act of institutional racism.

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07:14 PM | Comments (5)


April 02, 2007

Living Large In Orange County

After the first five days of our San Diego sojourn last month, we headed up to Orange County; synonymous with upscale affluence, conservatism and plastic surgery. There are several television "reality" shows set in Orange County, and one ensemble drama. I am not going to link to them. However, in fairness, we should note that Hollywood, not far to the north, is known for liberalism and plastic surgery, so I think the reconstructive urge is bipartisan.

We stayed with one of my many, many sisters in-law - this is what can happen when you marry into a Catholic family (lots of sisters-in-law, not visiting Orange County). She lives in Laguna Niguel, in a lovely townhome. On our first evening there, my wife, kids, I and our gracious hostess were joined for dinner by a blogosphere friend I'd not yet met in person, Michael Brandon McClellan. He's a local guy from just up the road who came home to practice law after school Back East. Michael is retiring his current blog, but he also writes political pieces for top-tier publications such as The Weekly Standard and Tech Central Station. Much food, wine and conversation followed, and before we knew it, five hours had flown by. Get your SoCal self up to Seattle soon, Mike.

The next morning we hooked up at Dana Point Harbor with an old friend from our Chicago/Evanston days, who's been living in San Juan Capistrano for 10-plus years with her husband and three kids. She used to play jazz drums for fun and is still great to talk to; she's not too crazy about living where she does, feeling she has nothing in common with the housewives of Orange County. Upgrading is all they talk about, she reports; faces, bodies, houses, husbands.

Appearances do seem to matter greatly. (Inland) Laguna Niguel and its seaside neighbor Dana Point are planned to within an inch of their lives. In Laguna Niguel especially, I noticed lots of gated and limited access, walled communities. Everything scrupulously clean, and environmentally correct. Upscale versions of old Red folksinger Pete Seeger's famous "little houses made of ticky-tacky." The upside is it's clean and fresh and sunny and pleasant. There's also a nicely landscaped county park bordering Dana Point Harbor and the ocean.

Although, a tattoo parlor with a Spanish Mission roof just doesn't feel right to me. Nor did the sign outside the chain grocery urging patrons not to sign ballot measure petitions because it will only encourage the signature gatherers. I'm perfectly capable of blowing off a petition peddler, a beggar or even a cookie-hawking Girl Scout (with a smile of course) if I so choose. I'm pro-choice, though; I don't want to be hectored about it by the local thought police. Another beef: the fancy pants grocery store sold me some butter that turned out to be black with mold around the edges. A leading California brand of butter, as it happens, which I've never found so descrated when purchased here two states to the north. To paraphrase Martin Mull, I got so downhearted, I threw my drink across the lawn. (OK, there was no lawn - we were staying in a high-density townhome complex, as I mentioned).

So there we were, hanging about the bayside of the breakwater, a stone's throw from the Ocean Institute in Dana Harbor. Public visits are on weekends only. The Institute also offers excursion boat tours. Here's one coming back to port.

On the other side of the breakwater is - as you might imagine - the Pacific Ocean; that's Dana Point on the right.

Planned development there has sparked controversy. A legal challenge was mounted on behalf of the Pacific pocket mouse and the California gnatcatcher, whose habitats were thought threatened by the restless churn of capital. It turns out that luxury homes are nonetheless going up on the headlands, but not as many as originally planned. There are marvelous public beaches and parks in town; and, plenty of other cliffside homes above the harbor. As you can see. Must be fewer pocket mice and gnatcatchers there.

The surf was high when we visited.

For lunch we went to the most down-to-earth joynt you could imagine, a little takeout window place, with outdoor tables only, and had some spectacularly good and dirt-cheap Mexican food. If you're driving through SoCal, you owe it to yourself to get to Aurora's Taqueria at Pacific Coast Highway and El Encanto in Dana Point. Our large group ordered all kinds of things: potato tacos with salsa verde; marinated steak, steak, roasted pork, chicken and fish tacos; pork and chicken tamales; sopes (a kind of round, recessed cornmeal conveyor of heaped goodies); huaraches, or mini-tortillas, with varied fillings; and fresh ceviche tostadas. We did not, to my great regret, sample the tortas (special Mexican sandwiches) or the coctel de camarones. Next time, certainly.

The next day we spent partly in the town of Laguna Beach, up the coast just a bit. Here's a panoramic view, one more digipic captured with my trusty Canon Power Shot A95, edited with Apple iPhoto and hosted via my Photobucket.com account.

This guy was catching his dinner.

The tide was out, and so the tidepoolers, too. This is our family's idea of a seriously good time.

Lunch at the old-timey locals' spot, Greeter's Corner, was wonderful: achingly fresh grilled sea bass. Some onlne reviewers don't like the place. Our fish rocked, as did the setting, and service. If only the Russian Mafioso at the next table hadn't kept bribing his squalling brat of a daughter with desserts. It didn't work.

Anyway. The OC, I like ya. Better than any TV show. And I'll be back.

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11:16 PM | Comments (5)