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The Other Side of the Tracks blog by Word Press

Do You Feel American?

The Other Side of the Tracks: A Socially Speaking commentary

February 15, 2010

By Perry Redd

I have to ask myself, like any other American, do I feel American?  One thing I know, is that if I voice that I don’t, I may get attacked by the Right as not being so.  So I better be careful of what I say…naw, I don’t think so!  I don’t feel American; and there’s a damned good reason why.

I’d like to say that I feel that I am a piece of this American fabric, but right now, it ain’t happenin’…There is no “don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, there is no anti-immigration battle going on about us.  Is that to say that all is well with Black folks?  Hardly. 

Have you heard the State of the Union Address?  Our President takes no leadership on addressing the dire needs of Blacks.  As of January 2011, the unemployment rate among Blacks is officially upwards of 16% (no telling what it is unofficially), compared to 8% for whites.

I’ve said in several of my commentaries past that “we’re under attack.”  I mean that in several ways…as those of us not rich, we’re under attack; for those of us who own nothing, we’re under attack; for those of us who are Black, we’re under attack.  What we know is that there’s a disconnect that hinders Blacks from evenly competing in American society.  The perks and the work must come at the same rate for all races.  If it doesn’t, then we, Black people, fall behind.

What am I talking about?  Since Blacks have been shown to “underperform” on standardized tests and graduation rates, getting to the root causes of the “underperformance” is crucial.  What we know is that all human beings have pretty much equal potential from birth.  The environmental circumstances dictate how well a person may or may not do.  Blacks (and the Supreme Court) have learned that a lack of resources, lack of exposure and/or a lack of proper teaching methods can hinder a student from attaining superior results. When this happens, its not accidental.

A Pennsylvania high school has scrapped a mentoring program, which allowed students to be taught by instructors of their same race for a few minutes each day.  What followed was a storm of criticism over the initiative.  Why the criticism?

McCaskey East High School in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, instituted what it described as a pilot program meant to enrich “students’ experiences through mentoring” and was derived from research “that shows grouping black students by gender with a strong role model can help boost their academic achievement and self esteem,” according to a school statement. The junior class at McCaskey East voluntarily divided themselves “by gender, race and/or language.” The groups met for six minutes each day and for 20 minutes twice a month.

Educators at the school said they initially noticed strong bonds being formed between all students and mentor teachers,” according to a statement.  Though the principal of the school defended the policy, some analysts—critics—said the experiment was misguided.

“In visiting the classrooms, I saw students planning their path for success after graduation,” said school Principal Bill Jimenez.  That’s something that previously had not been a part of the norm.

A 1954 Supreme Court case ruled that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, overturning an earlier ruling in a decision that determined “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”  The critics used Brown v. Board to undergird their argument.

But as educators look for new ways to improve student aptitude, some pointed out that McCaskey East High School could have the right idea, noting that the “mentoring” idea had nothing to do with separate educational facilities.  But this program came under attack—from those who used [reverse] racism to dissuade a methodology that “helps lift sinking boats.”  Knowing that property taxes, employment opportunities (of parents), access to resources and legacy factors, all play a role in the growth and success of a student.  Aside from all things in the school setting being equal, if the outlying factors aren’t equal, then actual success of the student won’t be either. 

These critics are the epitome of attacking black (and minority) men.  Unfortunately, corporate mainstream media giant, CNN, reported the story I refer to, and thus failed to identify the critics.  That’s sort of like, the Klu Klux Klan: you know someone opposes you, but their hood keeps them anonymous.

But someone reminded me that the President does care, is paying attention. Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to President Barack Obama, sat inside the stately Secretary of War Suite in the White House late last month and looked to the future for young African-Americans. Jarrett, who is perhaps Obama’s most trusted confidant, said the administration understands the growing impatience among Americans – and African-Americans in particular, who are faced with a 15.8 unemployment rate. The problem is this: The black unemployment rate is rising as the overall unemployment rate is dropping.

People want you to believe that the Obama administration is listening carefully to the black electorate, particularly as Obama gears up for a rough-and-tumble 2012 re-election campaign.  There is nothing in the past two years that you can show me that indicates that.  They only thing I can conclusively allude to that this administration has unequivocally championed on behalf of the black constituency, is the 100-to-1 crack-to-powder disparity in sentencing…and it still isn’t equal.

It’s hard to feel American when other Americans are eroding the gains you’ve made (civil rights laws), eviscerating the remedies that were put in place to correct past wrongs (Affirmative Action), and downgrading the cultural stakes that brought you to a place of equality…it’s February, and you can’t even tell it’s Black History Month!  No, I don’t feel American, because we’ve been swept under the rug at best, forgotten at worst.  The recent proposed budget cuts only make my case stronger.  Discretionary cuts hurt poor and working class Americans; a larger proportion of the Black population.  That’s why, I don’t feel American today.  Check with me tomorrow.

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One Response to “Do You Feel American?”

  1. […] black guy Perry Redd wonders: do you feel American? I have to ask myself, like any other American, do I feel American? One thing I know, is that if I […]


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