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The Obamas’ Race to the Bottom

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by Sikivu Hutchinson

Michelle Obama’s recent speech on the anniversary of the Brown decision gave every indication that she understands structural racism and injustice in education. However, her husband’s Race to the Top program has “opened the floodgates to privatization, dumbed-down curricula, and a permanent regime of high stakes testing which undermines teacher creativity and guts teachers’ unions.”

 

The Obamas’ Race to the Bottom

by Sikivu Hutchinson

Over the past several years, the Obama administration has been a leading architect of the kind of pernicious re-segregation that Michelle Obama assailed in her speech.”

During her commencement speech at a Topeka Kansas high school commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of the 1954 Brown vs. Board ruling, Michelle Obama launched into a pointed critique of structural racism and injustice. Her comments were among the most frontal she’s ever made about the connection between racist stereotyping, public policy and systemic oppression. According to the First Lady, “Many young people in America are going to school largely with kids who look just like them…Too often, those schools aren’t equal; especially ones attended by students of color, which too often lag behind, with crumbling classrooms and less experienced teachers.”

Some cheered her stance as a welcome acknowledgment of racial politics in a terminally gutless administration. Yet the loving pass many in black America continue to give the Obamas—especially Michelle, one of the most powerful black women on the planet—on the race/gender disparities of economic apartheid smacks of complicity.

Hand-wringing from her ivory tower, Obama’s lament about the tattered legacy of Brown would have been comical if it weren’t so bitterly ironic. Over the past several years, the Obama administration has been a leading architect of the kind of pernicious re-segregation that Michelle Obama assailed in her speech. Ganging up with the neo-liberal free market evangelists of the Right, the administration has all but ravaged public education. Its 2009 Race to the Top policy opened the floodgates to privatization, dumbed-down curricula, and a permanent regime of high stakes testing which undermines teacher creativity and guts teachers’ unions. Nationwide, public schools are being systematically targeted by foundations, corporations, and hedge fund managers who’ve brokered multi-million dollar charter conversion deals with corrupt politicians in big city school districts like Newark, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Chicago. The neo-liberal magic bullet for “reforming” K-12 education is carving up schools for the highest corporate bidder. As a result, special needs students, foster care students, English language learners, and other “problem child” demographics are shunted out of the schoolhouse and into the jailhouse.

The neo-liberal magic bullet for ‘reforming’ K-12 education is carving up schools for the highest corporate bidder.”

After pursuing policies that have deepened racial segregation, the Obamas’ eleventh hour “awakening” to racial inequality is yet another kick in the teeth to people of color staring at the brutal mirage of economic “recovery.” While income, wealth and employment outcomes for affluent white households continue to improve, African American employment rates have stagnated. A recent New York Times article zeroed in on the race and gender paradoxes of declines in unemployment. Increasingly, lower unemployment figures reflect the “disappearance” of workers who have simply dropped out of the labor force due to a lack of education, inadequate childcare, and chronic frustration over diminishing job prospects. Moreover, because of the disproportionate impact of mass incarceration on communities of color, many African Americans and Latinos are virtually unemployable due to employer discrimination against ex-felons. Following the lead of Michele Alexander’s male-centric book The New Jim Crow, much of the mainstream literature on prison re-entry has focused on the dismal job prospects of male offenders. Yet black women are three times more likely to be tried, convicted and incarcerated for felony offenses than are white women. And because over fifty percent of black women are the primary earners in their households, employment discrimination against ex-felons should be a source of feminist human rights outrage.

But these are issues that President Obama and company appear to be only nominally aware of. Last ditch efforts like the administration’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, which seek to pump millions of private dollars into youth leadership projects for black and Latino males, don’t address the structural issues highlighted in Michelle Obama’s earnest speech. As the Times reports, “Income for households in the exact middle of the income distribution declined 4.26 percent from 2009 to 2012…For white households, mean income declined by 2.2 percent. For black homes, the decline was 4.5 percent; for Hispanics, 4.2 percent.” Job stats also showed that African Americans and those with no college education have comparable employment rates—further underscoring the toll the prison economy has had on African Americans of all class backgrounds. Despite the anti-feminist myth of black women’s economic ascendancy over black men, women in general and black women in particular have taken big hits. According to the Center for American Progress, “African American women only earned $610 per week, whereas African American men made $666 and white women’s median usual weekly earnings were $718 in the second quarter of 2013”. Further, black women are more likely to be earning the minimum wage than are white women and their employment rates have languished since the 2010 midterm elections.

Clinging to the bromides and symbolic allure of a Talented Tenth presidency has had devastating consequences for African Americans. As the gilded glow of the Obama era fades, black America approaches 2016 joined at the hip with a Party which banks on shoving yet another corporate dynasty down its throat.

Sikivu Hutchinson is the author of Godless Americana: Race and Religious Rebels and Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars.

 

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Your comments, as usual, Beverly, are excellent and dead-on, particularly the one about the "devils" who are suppose to be on our side screwing us the most.

Graduations would be a lot

Graduations would be a lot better if there were no commencement speakers.  Just have the college president or high school principal say a few brief words of congrats and then hand out the diplomas.  The bullshit and yakity yak of commencement speakers are a joke or 20 minutes of propaganda, especially if said speakers are from the entertainment, military, and/or political fields.

I'll assume this Kansas school was predominately white since Mrs. Droneman didn't do a wag the finger speech aimed at chastising the black students for their "slackass" ways (see: she and husband's abominable tongue lashings given at black colleges a couple of years ago).  These two hustlers have perfected the art of talking late and doing nothing.  It's almost time for their asses to be kicked to the curb in DC and now he's got some lame-o Brother's Keeper do gooder shit and she's suddenly discovered the "structural racism" and all that.  But the bleeple still eat this shit up. I don't know what is sadder - the ruthless cunning of the black misleadership class or how the bleeple allow said class to get over on them for all these decades.  Jim Crow, racism, globalism, Fox News - I don't know; the devils who are allegedly "on our side" seem to be screwing us over more than the right wing ones.

Ugh God yes..I cannot stand

Ugh God yes..I cannot stand to even look at this race prostitute or hoe..that's all she and her husband are, updated versions of sambos..what fanon called  'black skins and white masks'...they have served their masters well but when the shit goes down, they will meet the same fate as those hiding in the shadows who fund their 21st century minstrel show. I'm sick of these sambos. Any and all of these so called 'leaders' are nothing but gatekeepers for 'massa'...nothing new but black people again seem to be suffering from historical amnesia. I really wonder if there isn't something being fed to us to usher this in every so often cuz it sure seems to be a re-occurring happening. I think if black people finally come to realize that as Dr. Welsing & Dr. Marimba Ani (amongst others) so brilliantly laid out--whites as a collective ain't never gonna give up white supremacist ideology/global apartheid. They NEED it to survive. If we lived in a truly egalitarian world where we all lived, loved together and had mutual respect for our brethern-whites would CEASE TO EXIST. Period. So they will NEVER allow world peace. Never. They need to control all interpersonal relations to ensure their genetic survival. So since that IS the case and when you think about it, who would voluntarily consign themselves to genetic suicide--then black people and other people of color who are the world majority--need to figure out what WE are going to do...save ourselves or stand by idly while whites effectively wipe US out? Cuz peaceful co-existence is not gonna happen. We need to get over that pipe dream. Look at Agenda 21 and all of the other black ops pogroms that are being carried out right before our eyes. We don't need to just wake up, we need to galvanize and organize and ACT. Jesus is not coming back cuz he was never here in the 1st damn place (Heru(Jesus) is a based on kemetic MYTH like the greek Zeus)...get over it and realize we have all been bamboozled too long.



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