In the 1982 comedy 'Tootsie,' actor Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman) is desperate for work. A casting director tells him what's wrong:
The reading was fine. You're the wrong height.
I can be taller.
No. We're looking for somebody shorter.
Look. I don't have to be this tall. See, I'm wearing lifts. I can be shorter.
I know, but we're looking for somebody different.I can be different.
We're looking for somebody else.
Some people, in a word, cannot be satisfied. Trying to please them is like playing whack-a-mole: their dissatisfaction has no remedy. You're sure you've bopped it on the head, but there it pops up again, and then over there, and over there... is there any way to nab it once and for all?
In our blank-slatist world, where all groups are presumed equal, puzzling 'performance gaps' leave some feeling outraged. Rather than shake their fist at Mother Nature (the real source of disparities), they continue to demand action that they are sure will Close the Gap. When it doesn't, the target changes. Then changes again. And again, and again... The endless merry-go-round of recriminations and demands is a clue that what they seek cannot be found. Has all logic gone down the mole hole? Pick up your mallet and follow us...
1) 'Black kids must be with white kids'...
School segregation (de jure in the South, de facto in the North) was long seen as a handicap to black student success. When de-segregation didn't magically bring the races together, a more muscular solution was called for:
[The 1966 Coleman Report] was one of the largest [government-commissioned] studies in history, with more than 150,000 students in the sample. The result was a massive report of over 700 pages.[...] One conclusion from the study was that, while black schools in the South were not significantly underfunded as compared to white schools, and while per-pupil funding did not contribute significantly to differences in educational outcomes, socially disadvantaged black children still benefited significantly from learning in mixed-race classrooms. Thus, it was argued that busing (as opposed to simply increasing funding to segregated schools) was necessary for achieving racial equality.
...'Black kids must be with black kids'
As time has worn on and Gaps have not closed, some black educators have begun singing a different tune:
The KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) charter, which opened last fall in Jacksonville and has 96 percent black enrollment, recently received accolades from Gov. Rick Scott for helping minority students achieve academically. That's justification for grouping students by race or ethnicity in charter schools, supporters say.
"I would not call it segregation," said Patricia Levesque, executive director of former Gov. Jeb Bush's Foundation for Florida's Future, a lobbying group. "Charter schools may target minority communities because they want to provide those students with options."
Nebraska's only black state politican wants to go further:
Ernie Chambers is Nebraska's only African-American state senator. ... He was also a driving force behind a measure passed by the Legislature on Thursday and signed into law by the governor that calls for dividing the Omaha public schools into three racially identifiable districts, one largely black, one white and one mostly Hispanic.
The law, which opponents are calling state-sponsored segregation, has thrown Nebraska into an uproar, prompting fierce debate about the value of integration versus what Mr. Chambers calls a desire by blacks to control a school district in which their children are a majority.
Eighty-year-old black teacher Ruby Forsythe, gives some perspective on the question in 'Black Teachers on Teaching':
"When the children were integrated into white schools, they lost something. Integration has helped in some ways, but it has hurt our black children in some ways. Now, instead of seeing black children winning prizes for their achievements, you see them all in special eduaction classes. This has caused them to lose their pride, their self-esteem. They have been pushed back, as far as leadership is concerned. Instead of being taught to lead, they are being taught to follow."
Together or separate? We cannot seem to decide...
2) 'White teachers must teach black students'...
Yesterday's segregationists tended to agree with the Southern Educational Association, who declared in 1907, 'We believe that for practical, economical and psychological reasons negro teachers should be provided for negro schools.' But the Civil Rights Movement changed all that. Part of the fairy dust that made white schools so successful was, of course, their white teachers. Busing, as mentioned, was used to spread this wealth around.
...'Black teachers must teach black students'
The tide has turned and many Afros are agreeing with the old segregationists--black students need black teachers:
This is a hard truth that teaching staffs all over the country have witnessed. With black students, the black teacher just doesn’t have anywhere near the discipline problems as white teachers. Pervasive and continuing disproportionate African-American suspension and expulsion rates lead to only one fatal conclusion, that is, if you’ve got the guts to go there. White female teachers cannot, as a rule, handle black male students, much less educate them.
'100 Black Men School' in San Francisco isn't coy about who it thinks best suited to teach black boys; it's right there in the name.
"[...]It's about recognizing that the status quo isn't working and identifying the specific needs of African-American young men. Not all teachers are prepared to deal with those needs," said Derrick Bulles, of the Bay Area 100 Black Men. The innovative school is modeled after a similar project by the 100 Black Men New York chapter in 2004 that boasts a graduation rate of more than 80 percent.
Science is even weighing in:
A group of researchers has found that minority students in community colleges tend to perform better when they’re taught by minority instructors — particularly those of similar race or ethnicity. In a new working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research, three economists explain how the minority performance gap narrows:...
White teachers or minority teachers? If only we could decide...
3) 'Force teachers to be accountable'...
As the years passed after Brown vs. Board of Education, high hopes of equal outcomes began to fray. One began to hear murmers of a persistent Gap:
In 1966, for instance, activists in Oakland, California formed the Ad Hoc Committee for Quality Education and began to publicize what came to be known as the "achievement gap": students in predominantly black schools had less than half the average percentile rank of their counterparts at all-white schools on standardized math and reading tests. Poor students, regardless of race, actually tested worse as they advanced from grade to grade.
As The Gap refused to narrow, angry Blacks began demanding action. The government delivered:
Echoes of the 1960s were plain to see in the passage of No Child Left Behind. When George W. Bush decried "the soft bigotry of low expectations"—when he and the Congress created a law that broke down achievement data by race and socioeconomic status in order to shine a light on achievement gaps—they took their cues and rhetoric from black educators and activists in the civil rights era.
The black community demanded accountability-- and got it:
[Under NCLB], if a school misses its AYP [Adequate Yearly Progress] target for a fourth consecutive year, the school is labelled as requiring "corrective action," which might involve wholesale replacement of staff, introduction of a new curriculum, or extending the amount of time students spend in class.
A fifth year of failure results in planning to restructure the entire school; the plan is implemented if the school fails to hit its AYP targets for the sixth year in a row. Common options include closing the school, turning the school into a charter school, hiring a private company to run the school, or asking the state office of education to run the school directly.
...'Forcing teachers to be accountable is racist'
...Putting words into action, however, can be painful. When Washington, D.C.'s public school system went under, wunderkid mayor Adrian Fenty gave newcomer Michelle Rhee carte blanche to fix the system. The results were...controversial:
In her first year on the job, Rhee closed 23 schools, fired 36 principals and cut approximately 121 office jobs. ... [In 2010] Rhee fired 241 teachers, the vast majority of whom received poor evaluations, and put 737 additional school employees on notice.
The outcry was enormous, costing Fenty his mayorship and Rhee her chancellorship. As George Schmidt put it,
Rhee was viewed by most of the members of the Washington D.C. local of the American Federation of Teachers as a racist who not only fired massive numbers of African American teachers, but slandered them in the process.
Many black teachers across the U.S. were able to avoid firing by assuring their kids' test scores met the mark. How? Massive cheating:
How did cheating become normal in America’s schools? “No Child Left Behind has created a culture in which people will do anything to keep their jobs,” says Diane Ravitch, an education historian at New York University and a leading critic of corporate-inspired school reform. “There are states that have gamed the systems, there are districts that have gamed the system, there are people who have gained the system.”
Teacher cheating has been shown or suspected in, among others, Dallas, Detroit, St. Louis, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Chicago. But by far the most intense has been Atlanta:
[Beverly] Hall, the former superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, and 35 other educators have been indicted by a Fulton County grand jury in a cheating scandal that involved large, unexplained test score gains in some Atlanta schools back in 2011. They were ordered to turn themselves in by Tuesday, April 2, 2013.
Accountability, or the status quo? We'll have to think about it...
4) 'Allow [black] kids to leave failing schools'...
As urban schools seem to get more segregated and lower-performing every year, parents have begun to demand the possibility to 'leave failing schools.' Voucher-loving conservatives have thus found themselves some strange bedfellows:
[Tim] Scott is not the only African-American senator who supports school choice. His colleague across the aisle, Cory Booker of New Jersey also does. ... But the emergence of [Black] Rep. [Sheila] Jackson Lee as a voice for school choice indicates that supporting the school choice movement is increasingly a less fraught move for Democrats. At the Texas rally Lee explained her support for the school choice movement as part of her record of standing against injustice. "And I'm going to fight that injustice” she said describing limited education opportunities, according to The Houston Chronicle.
'Open enrollment,' charter schools and vouchers are seen as ways to let black kids get out of their sub-standard schools. But every pancake has two sides...
...'Don't allow [white] kids to leave failing schools'
...What if white kids, too, want to leave failing schools? Out of the question. Hoboken School Board President Leon Gold:
We’re being hurt by increasing white flight from our school system [to charters], and we’re being strangled financially: Because of the [tax] cap that they put on in Jersey, we can’t even pay the amount of money that we will have to pay out from local tax levy, to support the charter school expansion. ... The Elysian and Hoboken charter schools were created for exactly the right reason. [But] now that reform has taken over the public school systems … HoLa [Charter School] has now become an alternative, in my opinion, white flight school …
Minnesota's 'open enrollment' program has faced the same paradox:
A state program intended to help integrate school districts and balance academic opportunities for children of all races has actually resulted in increased racial segregation. A new University of Minnesota analysis finds that more white students than students of color across the Twin Cities metropolitan area are leaving racially diverse districts to enroll in predominantly white districts, a variation of the “white flight” of the 1970s and 1980s ... Further, according to the analysis, the trend is growing stronger. The study recommends that the state monitor and correct the situation.
An escape hatch for me but not for thee...
6) 'Imposing white standards is racist'...
Educational theorists are starting to push the idea that a Euro-founded, Euro-majority country shouldn't expect cultural assimilation from Latinos and Afros:
For many White teachers working in pre-dominantly non-White school systems, the misconception that students contain the same knowledge as their own children can lead to many obstacles. When teachers instruct their students based on what they believe they should already know, some students may get left behind. In other words, “the child who did not come to school already primed with what was to be presented would be labeled as needing 'remedial' instruction from day one...” (Delpit, 91). ... By taking this approach, teachers are not recognizing difference in culture and again may impose their own culture onto their students.
For a more specific example:
A University of California Los Angeles professor recently came under fire from a number of students for what they described as racist behavior. According to professor emeritus Val Rust, the entire controversy arose from his effort to instill in his students a higher grammar proficiency.
“I have attempted to be rather thorough on the papers and am particularly concerned that they do a good job with their bibliographies and citations,” he explained in a letter, noting “these students apparently don’t feel that is appropriate.” He claimed that some students accused him of “micro-aggression” for pointing out mistakes in grammar and punctuation.
...'Not imposing white standards is racist'
...But if subjecting non-Euro kids to Euro standards is damaging, apparently so is NOT subjecting them to such standards:
[Researcher Kent] Harber and colleagues developed a poorly written essay that they gave to the teachers to grade, under the pretense that it was the work of a student. In some cases, the teachers believed the student was white, in others black and in others Latino.
The researchers found that, indeed, the teachers were prone to give more praise and less criticism if they believed a minority student had written the paper, as opposed to a white student. "These results indicate that the positive feedback bias may contribute to the insufficient challenge that undermines minority students' academic achievement," the researchers conclude.
Low expectations or high expectations? The jury is still out...
7) 'Quotas at elite colleges are good for NAMs'...
Despite sixty years of school integration, quotas are apparently still necessary to shoehorn non-Asian minorities into elite schools:
The study concludes that African-American and Latino students are under-represented at the nation’s 465 “most well-funded, selective four-year colleges and universities,” while they are over-represented at 3,250 open-access two-year colleges. ... Georgetown’s Carnevale calls the nation’s higher education system one of “racially separate and unequal institutions.”
The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education admits bluntly:
... The white [MCAT] score was about 18 percent higher than the mean score for blacks [in 2005]. The racial gap in MCAT scores has been virtually unchanged for the past decade. ... If these institutions were to choose their students solely on test scores and college grades, it is clear that in the intense competition for places at medical schools in the United States, African Americans would be at a severe disadvantage in relation to the highest scoring whites. Under these circumstances no blacks would be admitted to the nation's most selective schools of medicine.
...'Quotas at elite colleges are bad for NAMs'
...But what happens to them once they get in? Graduation at much lower rates:
Even among the students who score highest on the SAT and ACT tests, whites graduate college at a much higher rate (70 percent) than similarly qualified black (52 percent) or Latino (49 percent) classmates.
As well as the embarassing problem known as mismatch:
The mismatch effect happens when a school extends to a student such a large admissions preference -- sometimes because of a student's athletic prowess or legacy connection to the school, but usually because of the student's race -- that the student finds himself in a class where he has weaker academic preparation than nearly all of his classmates. The student who would flourish at, say, Wake Forest or the University of Richmond, instead finds himself at Duke, where the professors are not teaching at a pace designed for him. [...]
- Black college freshmen are more likely to aspire to science or engineering careers than are white freshmen, but mismatch causes blacks to abandon these fields at twice the rate of whites.
- Blacks who start college interested in pursuing a doctorate and an academic career are twice as likely to be derailed from this path if they attend a school where they are mismatched.
- About half of black college students rank in the bottom 20 percent of their classes (and the bottom 10 percent in law school).
- Black law school graduates are four times as likely to fail bar exams as are whites; mismatch explains half of this gap.
In addition to mismatch, there is the pesky problem of other people noticing that the token is a token. An anonymous 'assistant professor at a liberal arts college' vents her spleen:
...Faculty of color too often are made to feel that our presence on our campus is a testament to the institution’s diversity accomplishments.
For the rest of the college community we are the people who breed resentment. Instead of seeing us for everything that we bring to the job, we are seen simply as "diversity candidates." ... [We're] trying to survive in an environment where our colleagues see us as less worthy and less able. Has anybody stopped to consider what the constant and overwhelming emphasis on our "diversity" does to and for us? We constantly have to "come out" about our academic achievements, constantly have to prove to our colleagues that we do in fact deserve to be here.
My experiences at Princeton have made me far more aware of my 'blackness' than ever before. I have found that at Princeton, no matter how liberal and open-minded some of my white professors and classmates try to be toward me, I sometimes feel like a visitor on campus; as if I really don't belong.
Do college quotas help us or hurt us? We'll sleep on it...
Having seen the victimization whack-a-mole at work in our schools, let us turn to its effect on our neighborhoods.
1) 'Bring down the hammer on crack dealers'...
One of the most fearful drug waves of the late 20th century became a rallying cry for harsh justice. Heather MacDonald:
...Black leaders were the first to sound the alarm about the drug, as Harvard law professor Randall Kennedy documents in Race, Crime, and the Law. Harlem congressman Charles Rangel initiated the federal response to the epidemic, warning the House of Representatives in March 1986 that crack had made cocaine “frightening[ly]” accessible to youth. ...
Queens congressman Alton Waldon then called on his colleagues to act: “For those of us who are black this self-inflicted pain is the worst oppression we have known since slavery. . . . Let us . . . pledge to crack down on crack.” The bill that eventually passed, containing the crack/powder distinction [5 years minimum for 5 g. of crack], won majority support among black congressmen, none of whom, as Kennedy points out, objected to it as racist.
...'Bringing down the hammer on crack dealers is racist'
This legislative effort has today been shoved down the memory hole, as another chance for victimization whack-a-mole presents itself:
The disparity in penalty triggers between crack and powder cocaine is one of the most notorious illustrations of racism in the criminal justice system. ... The National Conference of Black Lawyers helped to convene a national symposium in 1993 ... The near unanimous consensus from those assembled was that the sentences for crack cocaine are not medically, scientifically or socially supportable, are highly inequitable against African Americans and, thus, represent a racially discriminatory national drug policy.
The Coalition also sponsored a legislative briefing which culminated in Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY) introducing a bill to eliminate the disparity and make the sentences of those convicted of crack cocaine offenses equivalent to the current sentences for powder cocaine.
Heather MacDonald again:
It takes shameless sleight of hand to turn an effort to protect blacks into a conspiracy against them. If Congress had ignored black legislators’ calls to increase [crack] cocaine-trafficking penalties, the outcry among the groups now crying racism would have been deafening.
Toughen the laws, but don't toughen the laws...
2) 'Root out the criminals in our community'...
As black youth in the U.S. continue to gun each other down with alarming efficiency, a common complaint is that police are not doing enough to stop the violence. Jesse Jackson:
Chicago knows how to protect people when it has adequate resources. When NATO came to town, the police secured the streets and protected the guests. Historically, when the violence heads [to white] uptown, the police react faster and investigate more thoroughly. More police have been dispatched to [NAM] neighborhoods where the murders have spiked, but citizens there still aren't protected as well as our guests or uptown [white] businesses are.
Aiken, South Carolina: Mary feels this type of [drug dealing] problem can be prevented if the neighborhood saw more help from police. "We need more police protection in our neighborhood. I would feel more safe if the police would travel more through here," she says.
Richmond, Virginia [post-shooting]: However, one Fulton Hills resident, who spoke with CBS 6 on the condition of anonymity, said city leaders could do one thing immediately that she thinks would help. “We need more police officers. We need more resources,” she said.
...'Rooting out the criminals in our community is racist'
Despite its lauded efficiency at turning up illegal guns, NYC's 'stop-and-frisk' policy has come under fire:
While other statistics show that the majority of stops and frisks occur in communities with the most violent crime rates, such as Brownsville in Brooklyn, the practice creates more friction, mistrust, and fear of authority (specifically the NYPD) than it actually stops crime. These same communities that are being targeted by the stop and frisk policy are the most disenfranchised, the ones with the least economic resources, and those who are already scarred by systematic racial profiling and major incidents of police brutality.
As the director of Harlem Mothers, [Jackie Rowe] Adams is one of Stop and Frisk's highest-profile supporters in any black or Latino community. While Adams admits that the program isn't perfect, she credits Stop and Frisk for lowering crime in Harlem and keeping it low. When I asked her what would happen if the program was curtailed, she responded, "You better start wearing your bulletproof vest."
A muscular response is a racist response?...
3) 'Living separated from whites is unbearable'...
The decline of once-thriving neighborhoods and even entire cities like Detroit, Camden, Memphis, or Gary, IN has been blamed on Euro-Americans leaving the premises en masse:
Gary: My home town of Gary, Ind.,was another thriving, though smaller, urban area before the late ’60s. ... White flight threw Gary and its neighboring towns into an unstoppable tailspin. Today it stands as a city destroyed, left in large part to fall into ruin without the capacity to successfully rebuild.
Detroit: But if suburbanites are honest about the history of southeast Michigan, they will acknowledge that white flight, which reached a far higher level of retreat in Detroit than in other metropolitan areas, was the clincher that gradually bled the Motor City dry.
The ability to live near Whites is considered so essential that court battles are being fought even today to preserve it.
Some Georgia cities formed over the past few years are too white, according to members of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus who have filed a federal lawsuit calling to dissolve the city charters of Dunwoody, Chattahoochee Hills, Sandy Springs, Milton and Johns Creek, Atlanta Business Chronicle broadcast partner WXIA-TV reports.
A town in Connecticut deliberately tried to keep out non-white residents from settling in the area, according to a lawsuit [by the Connecticut Fair Housing Center]. Winchester, a rural town with a population of just 11,000, is 94.4 per cent white ... The organisation further argues that, as the [housing] programme does not allow families to move to Winchester, it is 'ensuring that overwhelmingly white communities remain overwhelmingly white'.Our president himself has plans to keep Euros from running too far from their dusky brethren:
Obama is a longtime supporter of “regionalism,” the idea that the suburbs should be folded into the cities, merging schools, housing, transportation, and above all taxation. To this end, the president has already put programs in place designed to push the country toward a sweeping social transformation in a possible second term. The goal: income equalization via a massive redistribution of suburban tax money to the cities.
...'Living near whites is unbearable'
K.S. Moore argues in her article that there is a distinction between black gentrification and white gentrification. ... Among the strategies [Philadelphia neighborhood] Brickton utilized in keeping the community black was the recruitment of more middle- to upper-income black residents who can afford a more expensive neighborhood, make the choice to remain in the community without promoting the displacement of current low-income residents.
Filmmaker Spike Lee, on NYC:
Here’s the thing: I grew up here in Fort Greene. I grew up here in New York. It’s changed. And why does it take an influx of white New Yorkers in the south Bronx, in Harlem, in Bed Stuy, in Crown Heights for the facilities to get better? The garbage wasn’t picked up every motherfuckin’ day when I was living in 165 Washington Park. P.S. [Public School] 20 was not good. P.S. 11. Rothschild 294. The police weren’t around.
... I mean, they just move in the neighborhood. You just can’t come in the neighborhood. I’m for democracy and letting everybody live but you gotta have some respect. You can’t just come in when people have a culture that’s been laid down for generations and you come in and now shit gotta change because you’re here? Get the fuck outta here. Can’t do that!
Journalist Gavin McInnes tells some truth about NYC's Bushwick neighborhood:
Several of my friends have scoffed at this trend and traded their own yuppie hipster Williamsburg for Bushwick, an area of Brooklyn struggling to remain 100% black. Guess what. It doesn’t go well. When phenomenally naïve Canadian immigrant and long time drinking buddy Dan Morrison picked up the paper and saw $650 a month for rent, he jumped on the subway and headed over.
He got off the train, paper in hand, and almost immediately, a woman in a phone booth interrupted her conversation, poked her head out, and yelled, “Oh I KNOW you ain’t moving to THIS neighborhood.” His two-block walk was littered with dubious glares and when he eventually got to the “For Rent” sign, a loiterer on the stoop cut all the pretense and bluntly stated, “Don’t move here.” Dan did an about-face and got back on the train.
The headlines say it all:
Living near Euros: something to be preserved at all costs, or avoided at all costs?...
* * *
Multiethnic societies are delicate things. Euros and non-Asian minorities living side-by-side is challenge enough. When we start declaring everyone is equal, yet different groups consistently show different outcomes, we invite anger. We invite panic. We invite finger-pointing and jealousy. In order to square this circle, we launch a never-ending game of whack-a-mole, trying desperately to find the formula that will close The Gap once and for all. But it never comes.
Let us get off the merry-go-round and allow ourselves to see the truth: Natural selection has led us down vastly different paths. What NAMs are looking for is not equality with Euros, but genetic equality with Euros. Until gene therapy reaches Gattaca levels, it's simply not in the cards. Equality is a lovely idea, but inequality is a stubborn fact--one with which policy-makers must come to term before our society fractures irrevocably.