Sunday, April 18, 2010

Responses from my last email

I got two responses to the rant in my last email (, which I called "arrogant, ignorant and racist":


I always read through your emails, and I had a strong reaction to the piece from the 'friend of a friend of a friend,' as I'm sure you and most of your readers did.  Yes, it is clearly racist, and in the worst possible way, in that the person is ignorant of his bias.  The entire piece is written from an 'us versus them' perspective, with the argument essentially being that white people care about education, are decent parents, and provide their children with two parent homes.  Black children come from broken homes that do not value education.  Is it a reasonable conjecture that the writer lives in an insular community and cannot count many non-whites among his group of friends?  If there is any doubt about the writer's racism, I think it is confirmed when he explains that "the best teachers" "don't want their cars stolen during the day, or to be mugged or car-jacked on the way to and from school."  He evidently assumes that the best teachers are necessarily white, or at the very least could not possibly come from the community.

I don't think it's really worth my time teasing apart all the arguments, but the most saddening part to me about the piece, beyond the hate, is this person's utter disinterest in historical precedents.  The writer dimisses facts like 74% of students at elite colleges coming from top quartile homes as "stating the obvious."  Well, how did our country end up with the great disparities that we see today?  Evidently "they" (minorities) are at fault here too, because they should have "assimilated, like our ancestors did."  (WHOSE?)

My favorite line is that "schools do not underperform; students do."  The writer places the burden of achievement squarely on the shoulders of the thirteen year old sitting in that crummy school.  It's an interesting attitude that a lot of white people in comfortable living circumstances are happy to adopt.  "You have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps," that sort of a platitude.  Well, I'd like to know how much struggling the writer really had to do, and how that struggle entitles him to the finger-wagging.  If a child in a middle-class school were underperforming in school, the chances are far greater that he would receive educational interventions to help him along (and this does not necessarily have anything to do with his parent requesting it).  Unfortunately, in bad schools, kids are lost in the shuffle...but lets go ahead and blame the student and his parents.

What worries me for the future of the country is that people like the writer are happy to sit back, point fingers, and whine about how bad our country is becoming.  For the sake of argument, let's grant the writer his core assumption: bad parenting is to blame for sub-par educational attainment.  Apparently he feels no obligation/has no interest in trying to change the realities for these children.  I'm willing to bet that, in fact, he'll be mighty pleased if they "spawn" early, and the cycle gets repeated.

The writer's real complaint is, "This country is not the color I remember it being."  And, "Why should I care about helping some black and latino kids?  Nobody helped me!"  Well, the country is changing, and since the civil rights movement, our minorities are no longer silent, or out of sight, out of mind.  And, believe it or not, they actually feel like they have a right to a decent education?  Crazy, I know.

I'd like to end by saying that I am white, and I came from a very comfortable, middle class home.  I have worked in education (with public schools in Harlem and Washington Heights) for the last six years, and none of this writer's depictions of educational/community realities resonates with my experiences.  It's too bad that some people are so threatened by what they do not know.




It's probably a bit harsh to call this screed racist.  It may be crude and the politics aren't to my liking but a number of very valid observations are being made.   I've heard worse at cocktail parties on Martha's Vineyard when no white folks were around…The idiocy of the note is the conclusion.   According to your 3rd derivative friend we should be able to solve all of our educational problems with a gift certificate to Home Depot and a free eHarmony membership for all the single mothers…Were it that easy.  Keep the faith…and hope this friend manages money --- weak competition is a good thing.

 Subscribe in a reader