Minority students – a continuation of posts

I had hoped to continue this thread. A post from flteach member, Marilyn, with a link, decided me to try again.

First, I’ll post Marilyn’s reference and you can read the article, and after Marilyn’s post, I’ll post my response.

Then I’ll add in something.

Marilyn wrote:

An article today by Marie Arana of the Washington Post is very thought-
provoking. Entitled “He’s Not Black”, Arana discusses how the
language has not kept up with today’s reality. (The link)

Highly recommended reading…


I responded:

Maybe I’ll distrubute this at my school. It is sad that the principal is
planning to bring my wife in to do “diversity” training b/c our 15 and 16
year old students sound like they’re back in the 1950s when it comes to race
and religion. And it comes directly from the homes. Obama’s election
elicited some ugly terminology when the student supporters of the various
candidates clashed over the results. The staff was aghast at what they were
hearing from students. One wonders what Obama’s election and his family
occupying (is that a good word to use?) the White House will do for this
whole issue.

BTW, I’m sorry that the term multicultural has been usurped and no longer
seems to mean, at least to young people, what it meant when we were young.
The politics of it has taken over, so now how do we describe someone who is
not parochial and disparaging of other people, ignorant of how anyone
outside of Phoenix lives and thinks? We’ve lost a good word to politics; how
are we going to replace it?>>

OK. Assuming you’ve read the article by Ariana, let me point out some things.

First, I don’t consider Obama an African-American; I consider him a Kenyan-American. Big difference. He makes his adoption of Black “syle” even more impressive. Keep in mind, Obama was not raised in a Black environment nor by Blacks, not even African Blacks. Where would he have learned to ’act Black’? Nowhere. So he learned all that after he had grown up and most likely on the South Side. My son went through a similar enculturation. I still get a kick out of his Black English, which has the words and intonation and pronunciation but lacks the grammar.

So what does this mean about Obama? It means he has absorbed the Black experience in the U.S. through his associations, esp his wife and her family. If all of it wouldn’t be so politically loaded, it’d be interesting to hear him discuss the process. It may have been similar to mine, ie you can remember when you did not see the world through the Black experience and can compare the world views.

This is important b/c Obama escaped the crushing legacy of imposed inferiority. He may have felt different and may have had identity issues (my wife has read his books, I havenít), but he never lived in a little town in East Texas that was divided in every way between Whites and Blacks with a hill in town designated for lynching. Big difference.

Obama is young, growing up in a world where you could walk into a bank and expect to see a Black teller, walk into a doctor’s office and see a White nurse and a Black doctor or vice versa, fly a plane and see a Black stewardess (i.e. flight attendant – Oh? Does that get ridiculed as ’p.c.’? Then why did we see only mini-skirted cutie-pies flying the skies united when I was young?), and so on.

Just last night we were telling our friends’ son, 21 y.o., about the pre- and post-sexual revolution periods and that drifted into pre- and post-Civil Rights eras…… his reaction? I’m glad I live in an enlightened time and I don’t want to hear about all that. And, we shouted at him, what do you think is happening right now with immigrants, with gays, with Muslims………? Same thing without the time depth of sexual and racial oppression (Oh, that’s right, we can’t call it oppression b/c that would make America sound bad – let’s call it sexual and racial inappropriate behavior – e.g. lynching and wife-beating).

It’s probably inevitable that the first Black to ascend to this office would not be an African-American but rather a Jamaican-American like Colin Powell or a Kenyan-American like Barack Obama. Seemingly more improbable, it’s actually the opposite – the real improbability is that we, the American people and not just the inner-city mayor electors of Newark or Detroit – would ever elect a Black man who would remind us of the on-going stratification of society into the previously-enslaved and the prior enslavers. My wife made her point last night by telling the boy that he dad remembered his grandfather, who had been freed from slavery as an adult. That’s mighty close. How many Americans trace their ancestry back to a great-grandfather who came from Europe or China or Japan? African-Americans trace theirs to slaves.

Being as this is a list and not a blog, I’ll stop here without the implications of all that. I hope I haven’t imposed on the good-will of Latin-bestpractices; I also am posting to a small group who reads Alfie Kohn and, of course, my friend, Brian. I’ll put this on my blog, too, if you care to respond there. My blog address is under my name below.

Pat Barrett pbarrett@cox.net


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