Sunday, July 10, 2005

Making a Case for Racism Part II

A friend passed on a blog I wrote a while ago (read 'Making a Case for Racism') to a forum/discussion about issues pertaining to racism and white guilt. You can read the discussion at

It's a smart discussion and about 45 points are brought up which I feel compelled to respond to; however, I have had three glasses of wine and I doubt I could be coherent. Ergo, I will simply relate the end of the story with Will.

Will failed. The contract which we set up did absolutely nothing as far as motivation was concerend. He continued to blow off homework, and he continued to perform poorly on some tests (though he did well on most tests which did not require him to vocabulary). Some other details: Will lived with sister, not his parents. His father is not in the picture and his mother lives on the east coast. His sister was as frustrated as I was with Will's performance, but at the time she was nursing a newborn baby so trying to motivate Will obviously was not first on the priority list. The ill feelings of Will's family toward the school (i.e. that racism existed and was not being properly addressed) seemed to continue. Will told me that if he failed his freshman year that he would be returning to his mother's home back east, something which he said he did not want to do (he said that he was made fun of for doing well in school there; in a primarily black school he was called Oreo for selling out and doing well). Of course, what 9th graders say they want and what they actually want can be quite different.

So the end of the story? It seems Will will be moving East, our school will lose one of only 3 or 4 black students, and I think all parties lose.

I'm not sure I've found a satisfactory answer to the question of should a white teacher in a predominantly white school treat a black student differently. My friend Alysse brings up the idea of equality and equity being different things, and I think she's right. What she's saying goes beyond race (students with special needs are certainly treated differently, but this "unequal" treatment is meant to provide a fair opportunity for learning). So within the murkiness of making things "equitable" in regards to race I suppose we just muddle our way through student by student.

Will has the capability to succeed academically, and at some point he'll decide to start working. But the school system, which of course is just a microcosm for our entire financial, judicial and social systems, isn't working properly. And it seems like very, very few people are truly working on fixing this particular problem.

Here's a different issue/question: How do we get more black students to come to this school? And once we do how do we hold on them? We just failed 25% of them! How do we get even one black teacher (we have zero black men/women on staff. ZERO!) here? I've been told that the school has tried to attract black educators but there's been little interest. That may or may not be true (it's hard to argue that the school has been doing a fair job when we have ZERO black teachers). I think if I was a black man I would not want to live and/or teach in this community because even though the kids are motivated, I'd feel like I was in shark-infested waters.


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