This is a reply to a thread on the blog Fireside Roundup where education is discussed. A number of posts to the thread used a very broad perspective with which I agreed in principle felt required too much of most people to grasp. I guess that makes me one of those elitists.
This thread leaves me feeling torn. OTOH, if we are trying to reach a wider audience with the notion that discrepanies in educational attainment are due to socio-economic inequalities, we will lose them if we assume on their part the ability to make the connection between the low-performing schools in the poverty-stricken areas of their city and labor policies found in 18th century Brazil. It’s just too much of a stretch.
OTOH, it is clear to me that these discrepancies do go back to the colonial foundations of our society. No one who had studied societies around the world would be surprised to find that a group of people, a caste, that had been held in slavery within living memory (my late father-in-law remembered his grandfather, who had been a slave until 1865), was still operating in the society at a disadvantage. No surprise there.
What is different about the U.S. is our insistence that we are different from other societies in distinct and unique ways, so-called American exceptionalism. Other countries may restrict people’s rights based on their religion, ethnicity, social class, and so on, but not us. So to get the public at large to grasp that we are not dealing with shallow-rooted causes but with the deepest, endemic patterns dating from the foundation of our society in slavery and imperialism, is crucial. Otherwise, we have the remedies we saw with the civil rights movement where the way was cleared for those ready to take advantage but the rest were left in the dust and remain there.
Here in Arizona it was not long ago when the Hispanics in positions to leverage themselves into better positions were mostly from small mining towns. Their parents had earned much more than the average Hispanic in the state and those average people either lived in rural areas and benefitted from Cesar Chavez’ leadership or lived in big-city barrios where they have much the same problems that African-Americans do.
The picture is further complicated in AZ by the presence of reservations. But at least not that much enlightenment is needed for the public to get the connection between reservations and racist conquest policies of imperialists intent on annexing large tracts of land.
What to do? Piece-meal approaches do not work b/c schools fall back into desuetude once interventions have run their course by the committed parties moving on. A few have mentioned radical approaches on the thread; let me offer my own, which is indeed radical but does not demand a high level of sophistication in political science.
I’ve called my approach “enclaves” for some time. It is simply the idea that, in my case, African-Americans settle into reasonably sized tracts of land that include cities and suburbs and rural areas, so the size of a county. As more and more A-A move into the area and get into political office and professional and governmental service, the structural racism that hounds us (few Whites are avowed racists with the intent of keeping Blacks out, it just somehow happens…… and I can give you many examples of that).
Once an area has “gone Black”, the essential services will be designed to serve everyone, incl any non-Black people who choose to remain. In actuality, this has happened in many areas; it is one reason so many Blacks are ironically moving back to the South. In East Texas where I visit, I am always the only White person in the crowd b/c Whites and Blacks do not mix socially there. Segregation, even in the schools, is still the rule. But Blacks are not in control and bad things still happen (again, personal examples available upon request).
I’ve heard that Canada in Harlem is doing something similar, converting block by block. If you don’t like the way things are going, you can always move. If you stay, you will be expected to maintain reasonable behavior.
Old liberals like me bristle at such language b/c we were raised in the conformist 50s and cut our teeth on rebelling against a hypocritical morality and racist social structure. (Again, personal examples available upon request). But what faces people in poverty areas, urban and rural, is so dire that ruthless methods look attractive; thus the KIPP and other programs with their own radicalism (these approaches all have inherent contradictions and conflicts).
We have to recognize that people are desperate. If we set up a model that allows a gradual absorption of all willing parties into a healthier environment, we can at least control that environment and work to spread it. I noticed that despite a relatively low Black population here in AZ that the healthy food markets attract a lot of Blacks. Having lived in a Black neighborhood here and having relatives who still live there, I know how structural racism works to deprive them of healthy food.
In the same way, schools are not places for learning and, in fact, are disaster zones (for Hispanics as well). Housing is inadequate and exploitative. Essential services are restricted….. well, you know it as well as I do.
So, my offering? Enclaves.