by Solomon Comissiong
Last week, Barack Obama once again “felt the need to lecture black people about what they can and cannot complain about.” No excuses, no excuses, the president hectored – as if to delegitimize Black struggles for redress of real grievances. “On the one hand he knows not to upset white folks by pointing to America’s legacy as a bastion of racism and white supremacy. And on the other hand he knows there are virtually no restrictions on how often he can castigate, vilify, and reprimand the black community.”
Public Education in America: A Pillar of Institutional Racism
by Solomon Comissiong
“In President Obama’s book of fairy tales, institutional racism is merely an 'excuse.'”
When discussing public education in America it is quite difficult to find a starting point from which to address the deepening gully of racially based inequities. The US has painstakingly woven racism and white supremacy into the very fabric of the educational experience – the purported “keys” to our children's future. The legacies of American institutional racism and white supremacy are embedded within the public educational system. Racism in the public school system is, at times, conspicuously inconspicuous. As a matter of fact, racism in present day America is conspicuously inconspicuous. It is much like the silent killer that carbon monoxide is; before you know it you're “dead” not knowing what the hell hit you. Institutional racism kills physically as in the case of police brutality, and also kills cognitively through the public educational system: “Cognitive Decapitation,” as author and educational activist, Jonathan Kozol, calls it.
Even with the “victory” of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case, there are still two sets of educational standards. After all, has desegregation cleansed the black community of the infestation of American racism and white supremacy? Integration only truly works when the integratee is allowed the same rights, respect, and overall privileges as the integrator. More than 50 years after Brown desegregation simply means that black and brown youth have to adopt the Eurocentric mores and values of white America. And half a century later we see virtually the same racially segregated schools as we did in the 1960s.
“Integration only truly works when the integratee is allowed the same rights, respect, and overall privileges as the integrator.”
Disparate educational standards are the rule in present day America, broken down by way of race and income. These inequities are more race-based than they are class-based. For example, even so-called “well to do American-born Africans” that reside within predominately white suburban communities, are strongly persuaded to worship white supremacists, slaveholders, and murderers like George Washington (owned over 300 African slaves), Andrew Jackson (murdered countless of Seminoles) and Christopher Columbus (murdered tens of thousands of indigenous people of the Western Hemisphere). These students must learn to accept and admire repugnant white historical figures, regardless of the pain and damage they inflicted upon enslaved Africans and indigenous people. This is nothing short of white supremacy in the raw.
Even these “well to do” American born African youth are taught that in order to succeed in America they must embrace the very system that continues to oppress millions of fellow blacks from stolen coast to stolen coast. The public “educational” system’s history books are riddled with unsavory and oppressive historical figures. It is a direct affront to force any student of color - or any decent human being! - to endure studying these characters in a positive light, as if they should be exalted.
The racial double standard requires black students to work two and three times as hard as their white counterparts simply to get the same opportunities. But just because it is true does not mean it is something that we should accept.
“Obama felt the need to lecture black people about what they can and cannot complain about.”
Can you imagine the white community allowing themselves to be lectured to, as we are, that it is impermissible to take into consideration real facts of the past and present, when evaluating the performance of various white demographic groups? Of course not. Yet it seems that America’s racially challenged but phenotypically black president does not understand the complexity of the nation's problem. Last week he, once again, felt the need to lecture black people about what they can and cannot complain about. In President Obama’s book of fairy tales, institutional racism is merely an “excuse.” At the 100th anniversary celebration of the NAACP Obama declared:
“We've got to say to our children, yes, if you're African American, the odds of growing up amid crime and gangs are higher. Yes, if you live in a poor neighborhood, you will face challenges that somebody in a wealthy suburb does not have to face. But that's not a reason to get bad grades -- that's not a reason to cut class -- that's not a reason to give up on your education and drop out of school. No one has written your destiny for you. Your destiny is in your hands -- you cannot forget that. That's what we have to teach all of our children. No excuses. No excuses. You get that education; all those hardships will just make you stronger, better able to compete. Yes we can.”
“It is a system so nefarious that several states base the building of juvenile detention centers and prisons on deficiencies in first grade reading scores”
I guess “complaining” and refusing to accept institutional racism in America’s public school system is just an indicator of black people making excuses. I guess black people from inner cities should simply accept lack of educational funding for their schools get predicated on the inadequacy of property taxes. I guess black parents should accept the streamlining of their children into sewing classes instead of AP (advanced placement) courses. I presume that black parents should accept the very real “school to prison pipeline” that has been created for black youth. It is a system so nefarious that several states base the building of juvenile detention centers and prisons on deficiencies in first grade reading scores. This means that instead of using state and federal money to invest in programs that bring grade school kids up to par in reading they use the money to build prisons for them knowing that illiteracy is a major indicator of someone’s future in “crime.”
I also guess that black parents should not complain, worry about, or fight against the fact that school administrators throughout this country are allowing their schools to be privatized or controlled by the military. President Obama’s secretary of education, Arne Duncan, has a history of turning predominately black and brown schools into military schools. I presume that this works out well, in the long run, for President Obama given that he just as much a war monger as his speech impaired predecessor, George Bush. He is also requesting and spending more money, militarily, than Curious George (Bush) ever did. Such facts may be a shock to members of the “change you can believe in” cult, but they are facts nonetheless.
I wonder what President Obama meant when he said, “No one has written your destiny for you… No excuses. No excuses.”He would never try to feed that kind of crap to the white community. Obama knows his limits on both sides of the racial spectrum. On the one hand he knows not to upset white folks by pointing to America’s legacy as a bastion of racism and white supremacy. And on the other hand he knows there are virtually no restrictions on how often he can castigate, vilify, and reprimand the black community - as if African Americans are a group of children that need to know and accept their proper place in society. When he said, “You get that education; all those hardships will just make you stronger, better able to compete. Yes we can,” he was pretty much telling the black community that we need to sit down, shut the hell up, and accept the institutionally racist and white supremacist country we live in. When he proclaims that our hardships make us stronger he is demanding that we acclimate ourselves to occupying an unnatural position at the bottom of society. American-born Africans have always overcome tremendous odds in Amerikkka, but that does not mean that we should stop fighting, organizing, and protesting until we are given the same human rights that whites have in this country.
“He would never try to feed that kind of crap to the white community.
Obama is placating white America each time he scolds black America for being the victims of the American nightmare. He is quite comfortable with blaming the victims and not the institution. He speaks in masterful code much like the Joint Chiefs of Staffs to whom he is beholden. So when he said, ”No one has written your destiny for you”, he ignores the fact that masses of black and brown skinned youth are presently having their destinies shaped for them from one institutionally racist classroom to the next. For each black child that works three times as hard as some privileged white kid in the suburb in order to “succeed,” there are scores of black youth who are devoured by an institutionally white supremacist system.
If there is one thing we know it is that institutional racism cannot be fought with passivity. We cannot go the way Obama and his white handlers want us to go. We must organize. We must protest. We must never be silent. And we must never capitulate until every institutionally racist fiber of this system is shredded. Mr. Obama, save your damn patronizing speeches for the Wall Street bankers you bailed out, the Israel lobby that you genuflect to and the institutionally racist segments of America you accommodate! You will hear from Black America until we have equality!
Solomon Comissiong is an educator, community activist, author, public speaker and the host of the Your World News radio program (www.blogtalkradio.com/Your-World-News). He may be reached at: [email protected].