"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

In the "No Excuses" Bubble, Is Death a Valid Excuse?

This morning as I write this post Attorney General Eric Holder and the Dunc are meeting with Mayor Richard Daley in Chicago to offer more money, no doubt, to put more police in and around the apartheid Renaissance schools of Chicago. No doubt Mr. Holder, reflecting the views of the President whose political sense regarding racism and privilege has displaced his moral sense regarding race and the lack of privilege, sees the death of honor student, Derrion Albert, as a tragic result of gangs out of control, thuggery on the rise, and a lack of community involvement. The political calculus, in fact, does not allow Mr. Obama or his surrogates to even discuss the systemic institutional racism and privilege that provide the ever-present grounding for any of the overt, figural actions of bigotry or prejudice that President Carter alluded to some weeks back, and that Mr. Obama denied.

Derrion's death is so upsetting to so many because it respresents an affront to the cheap solution of racial containment and the gospel of individual initiative that we apply to the social symptoms of a problem that no billionaire philanthro-capitalist is vaguely interested in tackling. If AIG was too big to fail, poverty in America is too big to fix--at least in the view of those who want to continue to shrink democratic governance to the point that it can be dragged into the bathtub and drowned to benefit the virtues of selfishness and unrestrained capitalism.

Derrion had done everything right, after all, hadn't he? He had worked hard and been nice, keeping his nose to the grindstone and was making grades that put him on the honor roll and on the path to college, it would seem. He had passed the Cosby Quiz and the Thermstrom Test of "No Excuses." He even had a family that loved and supported him.

So what solutions are available to a society unwilling to talk about a system of racial privilege that we all take advantage of and participate in, while denying that white privilege even exists? A system that labels this murder "black-on-black violence?" How about more police, or even the Army, as Jesse Jackson has suggested in Nadra Kareem's blog post:
. . . .During Albert's funeral, the Rev. Jackson focused on students rather than black-on-black violence in general, according to newspaper reports. He told funeral attendees that the National Guard escorted black students to an all-white Arkansas school in 1957 to ensure that they could walk to and from school safely. He declared that similar intervention is needed in present day Chicago.

The irony here is that in 1957, the Little Rock Nine needed protection from violent white segregationists. Today, black youth need protection from one another. Whites historically devalued black life with race-related terror, but somewhere down the line blacks have also learned to devalue black life. Given this, I'm not sure that a stronger police presence will end the violence. What's needed is a psychological intervention of sorts. Black youth not only need to know that their lives are salvageable but that their lives and their peers' lives are worth living. In short, killing other black youth really does amount to self-destruction. The question now is how do you address the psychic wounds created by the legacy of racism and the resulting social ills that have taught blacks their lives are worthless?
So then we need a psychological intervention, as the author suggests? Notice that this would require only to fix the insides of children's heads, rather than fixing the crumbling communities and schools and families and despair and lack of health and dental care that our system of privilege has created for those who must be denied so that others will thrive. And we have that psychological intervention on the boards ready to scale up, as evidenced by recent corporate media coverage on NBC and MS-NBC for the apartheid KIPP Schools, Inc., which contain children in total compliance school sects and brainwash them through an applied program of intermittent learned helplessness and learned optimism.

We are going to heal those psychic wounds, alright, even if it is with a corporate charter school shortcut that, in fact, preaches there are no shortcuts.

And when the next impoverished honor student in the President's hometown is beaten or gunned down (no one notices when it happens in Arkansas), our rage will be reignited, and more police will be added, again. Perhaps if the President is re-elected, he will be able to really hold a national town hall to discuss our capitalist system of privilege and zero-sum games. And maybe the President will realize that when he was growing up and being called Buster by his white mom who drug him out of bed early in the morning to do homework, he did not have to worry about being murdered on his way to school in white Kansas. He didn't even have to worry about getting into Harvard--his father went there.

1 comment:

  1. I hope no one is under the illusion that the death of another 16-year-old child of color will actually move the corporate mauraders and their political shills Obama and Duncan to change course. Their public relations based response to Derrion's brutal murder has been as predictable as it has been perverse. It's a technocrat's "data driven" approach that will be as ineffective in the real world as it has been in the schools.