Consider carefully the U.S. when children were subjected to horrific labor.
Were the children culpable for that abuse? Did children have the physical or political power to end the abuse?
Or were the adults responsible—the only agents of that process capable of ending child labor?
These may seem to be silly questions with obvious answers, but when racism, classism, and sexism are confronted in the U.S., many shift the accusatory finger to the victims, calling for the victims themselves to right the wrongs leveled against them.
Black and brown people in the U.S. did not create racism, do not perpetuate racism, and cannot end racism. Poor people do not cause poverty, and despite what pandering conservatives believe, cannot “think [their] way out of poverty.” And women are not the cause of rape culture, inequitable pay, and domestic abuse; they cannot end them either.
Change ultimately lies with those who have power—physical, political, financial, ideological.
And there isn’t a damn thing fair about who has power in the U.S.—or who does not.
And while the U.S. has mostly eradicated child labor through laws, we are still confronted with Tamir Rice—a boy, a child shot and killed by a police officer sworn to protect and serve.
Tamir Rice was a child.
For the most part, those people with power don’t give a real damn about Rice’s tragic story. There is some passing rhetoric, but there is no action to prove otherwise.
Philando Castile lies before us now. His tragic story also means almost nothing to those with power, but the lessons are dark and powerful:
“What Mr. Castile symbolizes for a lot of us working in public defense is that driving offenses are typically just crimes of poverty,” says Erik Sandvick, a public defender in Ramsey County, which includes St. Paul and its suburbs….
Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve, a professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at Temple University and the author of Crook County, which documents the problems in the criminal justice system of Chicago, said Castile was the “classic case” of what criminologists have called “net widening,” or the move of local authorities to criminalize more and more aspects of regular life.
“It is in particular a way that people of color and the poor are victimized on a daily basis,” Gonzalez Van Cleve said.
Rice and Castile were criminalized—rendered by the mere facts of race and class.
Being black or brown, poor, or female are burdens from which people cannot take a vacation. Because of systemic racism, classism, and sexism, the condition of scarcity “leaves citizens with no good choices — having to pick, for instance, whether to pay a fine or pay for car insurance,” as Castile represents.
Interpreting Tamir Rice as older than his age and violent, dangerous was nested in the police officer—not Rice.
That officer was an agent of systemic racism that justifies excessive use of force, racial profiling, and a whole host of criminalizing practices by the state.
From school-based discipline polices to zero tolerance, we have ample evidence that formal schooling creates criminals in the same ways policing creates criminals in some neighborhoods (read poor and black, brown).
But as we ignore the tragic stories and lessons of Rice and Castile—among so many others—we also ignore who controls the game.
One day, marijuana possession and sales are crimes, and then, the next, marijuana possession and sales are good ol’ business. In the first case, criminalizing disproportionately black and poor people, and in the second case, making monied white folk wealthier.
There is nothing inherently right or wrong about using or selling marijuana; only who controls the right and wrong matters.
Racism targeting blacks in the U.S. suggests the problems lie in blacks themselves. Classism in the U.S. blames laziness among the poor for poverty. Sexism deems women inferior to men and the cause of their own sexual abuse.
All of this, however, is as obvious as the opening questions.
Brock Turner—privileged, white, and drunk—and Judge Aaron Persky—white, male, and drunk on privilege—are the problems to be addressed.
The even uglier reality is that the power to admit these problems of white privilege and to do something about it rests in people just like Turner and Persky.
…so feared by a patriarchal world…
But their remedies do not cure the disease: they merely prolong it.
Indeed, their remedies are part of the disease.
Oscar Wilde, “The Soul of Man under Socialism”
Let’s start with a fact that few are willing to acknowledge:
Despite endless debates between and about the Right and the Left in the U.S., there is no substantial Left in the U.S.—a country that is solidly right of center and distinctly so when compared to Canada or European countries with a vibrant Left.
The U.S. Left is Obama and the Clintons—neoliberals who nudge at the left edge of capitalism and a country in perpetual war.
The U.S. Left is a sort of polite progressivism of rhetoric that sees almost no fruition in action of any kind.
The U.S. Left meekly raises it hand and whispers: “Might we consider how we could be a tad bit less sexist, racist, and homophobic—and if that isn’t too much trouble, a little less violent?”—before shrinking away for fear of the response.
And those whispers—or God forbid a direct shout—are met with what we have now in the U.S., a newly butthurt Right, an outbreak (dare I say “epidemic”) of white-man vapors.
Nicholas Kristof—nice-guy, cardboard “progressive”—thinks the nasty Left in the U.S. has excluded the Right from academia (and we all know how powerful academia is in the U.S., right? nudge nudge), and the education reform movement (a bi-partisan assault on public education that is entirely a rightwing enterprise) is all atwitter because of the contentious Left/Right divide (Gosh, they are fuming, if those nasty BLM folk don’t settle down, all the Righties will flee the reform movement!).
All of this butthurt on the Right is very much reflected in both the rise of Trump in the wake of Black Lives Matter and the silliness of Kristof and edureform butthurt.
The white-man vapors are triggered by Michelle Alexander’s relatively moderate confrontation of the New Jim Crow, the polite left-of-center Ta-Nehisi Coates, and the Norman Rockwell Obama family just as they are accelerated by BLM, Cornel West, and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
And the butthurt messages come from faux-progressives (Kristof) as much as they come from the rabid Right—political leaders, religious leaders, and law enforcement publicly stating that gays slaughtered in Orlando deserved the massacre or calling on gun owners to shoot black protesters at Trump rallies and the Republican convention.
The polite and articulate butthurt punditry on the Right, like Michael Petrilli trying to shame BLM for having the audacity to name racism “racism,” is very little different from the bully racism of Trump; in fact, they are an inseparable part of the U.S.’s conservative nature reflected in the necrophilic South.
In fact, the U.S. once chided the South for its backwardness, its illogical Bible thumping and gun toting, but we stand today in a U.S. where the essence of the entire country is just like that South.
The white-man vapors are upon us, but we must not fall prey to the same-old faux-liberal solution to yelping Rightwingers; we must not shrink against the fears of the most powerful people in the country who see their ill-gained fortunes and power slipping away.
No, the butthurt Right is a sign that women, black and brown people, the LGBT+ community, and people of all faiths and nationalities are demanding to be heard, are standing on the right side of history, which is ironically on the Left.
Higher education does not need a diversity of thought that includes traditional bigotry, misogyny, and a blind faith in disaster capitalism.
And let’s hope the neoliberals (self-identified as both Right and Left) throw up their hands and exit stage right the education reform movement—which has rained terror on the vulnerable populations of students who need our public schools the most.
James Baldwin wrote in The Nation (July 11, 1966), “The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer.”
He was naming racism “racism,” both in the acts of specific police officers and as a systemic reality of the U.S. codified in the judicial system.
Baldwin was not being impolite. He was not ostracizing the Right or shaming white male patriarchy.
Baldwin was speaking necessary truth to power—and it resonates to this day because the butthurt Right slips into the vapors every time they are held accountable for the wreck of the ship they built and captained.
The barely audible Left in the U.S. has pushed the door slightly open to the House White Male Privilege built.
The owners are clutching their pearls as they lean against that door chastising the intruders to please simmer down.
We must not step back. We must push the door open, throw out the Masters, and start anew.
We were in Rye, passing the First Church, and the breeze from the ocean was already strong. A man with a great stack of roofing shingles in a wheelbarrow was having difficulty keeping the shingles from blowing away; the ladder, leaning against the vestry roof, was also in danger of being blown over. The man seemed in need of a co-worker—or, at least, of another pair of hands.
“WE SHOULD STOP AND HELP THAT MAN,” Owen observed, but my mother was pursuing a theme and, therefore, she’d noticed nothing unusual out the window….
“WE MISSED DOING A GOOD DEED,” Owen said morosely, “THAT MAN SHINGLING THE CHURCH—HE NEEDED HELP.”
A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving
I wrote Ignoring Poverty in the U.S. to reject the decades-long focus on education reform targeted in-school only accountability driven by ever-new standards and high-stakes testing.
But that work also reveals the incredible power of stereotypes about adults and children living in poverty in the U.S. Despite our cultural myths about rugged individualism and boot-straps success, the impoverished in the U.S. are overwhelmingly vulnerable populations.
Consider the following sobering statistics, illustrated in the figure above:
- More than a third of those who live in poverty are children. More than 15.5 million children lived in poverty in 2014.
- About 13 percent of those living in poverty are senior citizens or retired.
- A quarter of those who live in poverty are in the labor force—that is, working or seeking employment.
- A tenth of those in poverty are disabled.
- Eight percent of those living in poverty are caregivers, meaning that they report caring for children or family.
- Students, either full- or part-time, make up another seven percent of those living in poverty.
- Just three percent of those living in poverty are working-age adults who do not fall into one of these categories—that is, they are not in the labor force, not disabled, and not a student, caregiver, or retired.
- Five stereotypes about poor families and education, excerpt from Reaching and Teaching Students in Poverty: Strategies for Erasing the Opportunity Gap, Paul C. Gorski
Stereotype 2: Poor People Are Lazy
Another common stereotype about poor people, and particularly poor people of color (Cleaveland, 2008; Seccombe, 2002), is that they are lazy or have weak work ethics (Kelly, 2010). Unfortunately, despite its inaccuracy, the “laziness” image of people in poverty and the stigma attached to it has particularly devastating effects on the morale of poor communities (Cleaveland, 2008).
The truth is, there is no indication that poor people are lazier or have weaker work ethics than people from other socioeconomic groups (Iversen & Farber, 1996; Wilson, 1997). To the contrary, all indications are that poor people work just as hard as, and perhaps harder than, people from higher socioeconomic brackets (Reamer, Waldron, Hatcher, & Hayes, 2008). In fact, poor working adults work, on average, 2,500 hours per year, the rough equivalent of 1.2 full time jobs (Waldron, Roberts, & Reamer, 2004), often patching together several part-time jobs in order to support their families. People living in poverty who are working part-time are more likely than people from other socioeconomic conditions to be doing so involuntarily, despite seeking full-time work (Kim, 1999).
Beyond the obvious—that they are all joined by the field of education—what links the National Reading Panel (NRP) and No Child Left Behind, the edureform documentary propaganda Waiting for “Superman,” Teach For America, and edusavior Steve Perry?
While I count myself among English language arts (ELA) teachers who are skeptical of the Great Books mindset—that we have essential books all children must read—I am moved today to endorse how many of those works remind we puny humans about the folly of pride. Not the “I am proud of you daughter/son” pride, but the arrogance pride.
The “‘My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;/ Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!'” kind of pride.
What on earth possessed politicians to form the NRP to find out what we know about teaching children to read? Did anyone point out that we have had a vibrant field of literacy in the U.S. for a good century? Isn’t it sort of obvious that we have dozens upon dozens of people across the U.S. who know exactly how to teach children to read (and have known for decades)?
But it isn’t just the teaching of reading.
Naive experts, often journalists, every week roll out yet another book in which she or he researches a field in which real experts in that field have been doing authentic work for decades—the history of teaching!, how to teach poor children!, the glory of 10,000 hours of practice!
Paternalistic, self-important, blowhard politicians daily puff up in front of the public to be that “Superman” at the center of the great lie documentary noted above that ironically serves as a perfect representation of everything that is wrong with education reform.
But one need not go back to that complete failure of film making. Try within the last week.
I consider myself a student of Andre Perry and Vilson, as I work to navigate my own white male privilege in a way that serves others—specifically those marginalized by race and class.
I am a product of white privilege and colonialism, and therefore, must not serve those corrosive forces.
Here, I urge you to read Andre Perry and Vilson, but also to act upon their messages.
And I want to offer a tentative framing informed by their charges.
First, I am compelled by the new 30 for 30 series on O.J. Simpson to suggest that Simpson himself is a cautionary tale about the dangers of white privilege and the costs of whitewashing blacks in order for them to be allowed into mainstream society.
Next, I find troubling parallels in the work of Steve Perry with powerful blacks (Bill Cosby, Clarence Thomas, and Simpson) who negotiate the whitewashing in their favor at the expense of all other people of color.
The demonizing of dreadlocks, the finger-pointing at sagging pants, the judgmental finger-wagging at black English—yes, these are the tools of white privilege, but they also serve the cult of personality unmasked in Steve Perry, for example, by Andre Perry and Vilson.
Finally, although specific people have to be addressed when confronting the cult of personality, the problem is that those people are serving larger forces that are driving education reform, a movement that uses “civil rights” as a mask to implement policies that are perpetuating colonialism and whitewashing.
“No excuses” charter schools committed to “grit” are about “fixing” black, brown, and poor children.
Zero tolerance policies and grade retention policies disproportionately turn black, brown, and poor children into criminals and drop-outs.
High-stakes testing and accountability produce and perpetuate so-called achievement gaps among race and social class—as well as gate-keep in order to keep “other people’s children” in their place.
Teach For America fuels the historical inequity of access to experienced and certified teachers: White Students Get Experienced Teachers, While Black Students Get Police In School.
Whether the face of education reform is Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan, Geoffrey Canada, or Steve Perry (or the long list of celebrities who decide education is their hobby), and while we must necessarily confront each person as we confront what they represent, the ultimate challenge in rejecting edureform while also calling for building public education as a vehicle for equity and liberation is to call colonialism “colonialism,” to just say no to policies and practices designed to erase who children are so that they can be assimilated into society.
There are profound and significant differences in Andre Perry’s work, Vilson’s daily classroom teaching, and Steve Perry’s bloviating (think Donald Trump).
Andre Perry, Vilson, and Chris Emdin, for example, celebrate black students, their humanity as inseparable from their blackness—while Steve Perry celebrates Steve Perry as one who erases the black from children in the service of white privilege.
We are way past time to stop believing in and listening to these false idols, self-proclaimed “Super(wo)men.”
Ozymandias, please recall, was a fool in king’s clothing whose words mocked him:
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Let’s not form any more panels, let’s not crown any more edusaviors, let’s not print and/or buy any more bestselling books by educelebrities (who have never been teachers), let’s not worship at the altar of hollow Ted Talks.
Just as we didn’t need the NRP to “know how to teach children to read,” we have ample knowledge right now how to eradicate racism and classism in our society and our schools.
Edureformers, edusaviors, and educelebrities are in the service of keeping us from that vital work.
As Andre Perry asserts:
Let’s be clear: Belt wearing isn’t the reason white children are educated in wealthier schools. Haircuts and etiquette classes don’t lead to the technological innovations of Silicon Valley. Lower incarceration rates aren’t because whites use drugs less often. The wage gap isn’t caused by white men’s hard work ethic.
But social and educational inequity is the consequence of white privilege.
So I ask now that you listen to carefully and then act upon Chris Emdin‘s confrontation of edureform as colonialism and what choices lie before teachers:
What I am suggesting is that it is possible for people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds to take on approaches to teaching that hurt youth of color….
I argue that there must be a concerted effort…to challenge the “white folks’ pedagogy” that is being practiced by teachers of all ethnic and racial backgrounds….
The time will always come when teachers must ask themselves if they will follow the mold or blaze a new trail. There are serious risks that come with this decision. It essentially boils down to whether one chooses to do damage to the system or to the student [bold emphasis added]. (pp. viii-ix, 206)
Especially in our schools, and especially among our most vulnerable students, we need service, not saviors.
I. School Choice, Charter Choice
Choosing a School for My Daughter in a Segregated City, Nikole Hannah-Jones
When the New York City Public Schools catalog arrived in the mail one day that spring, with information about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s new universal prekindergarten program, I told Faraji that I wanted to enroll Najya in a segregated, low-income school. Faraji’s eyes widened as I explained that if we removed Najya, whose name we chose because it means “liberated” and “free” in Swahili, from the experience of most black and Latino children, we would be part of the problem. Saying my child deserved access to “good” public schools felt like implying that children in “bad” schools deserved the schools they got, too. I understood that so much of school segregation is structural — a result of decades of housing discrimination, of political calculations and the machinations of policy makers, of simple inertia. But I also believed that it is the choices of individual parents that uphold the system, and I was determined not to do what I’d seen so many others do when their values about integration collided with the reality of where to send their own children to school.
One family, or even a few families, cannot transform a segregated school, but if none of us were willing to go into them, nothing would change. Putting our child into a segregated school would not integrate it racially, but we are middle-class and would, at least, help to integrate it economically. As a reporter, I’d witnessed how the presence of even a handful of middle-class families made it less likely that a school would be neglected. I also knew that we would be able to make up for Najya anything the school was lacking.
As I told Faraji my plan, he slowly shook his head no. He wanted to look into parochial schools, or one of the “good” public schools, or even private schools. So we argued, pleading our cases from the living room, up the steps to our office lined with books on slavery and civil rights, and back down, before we came to an impasse and retreated to our respective corners. There is nothing harder than navigating our nation’s racial legacy in this country, and the problem was that we each knew the other was right and wrong at the same time. Faraji couldn’t believe that I was asking him to expose our child to the type of education that the two of us had managed to avoid. He worried that we would be hurting Najya if we put her in a high-poverty, all-black school. “Are we experimenting with our child based on our idealism about public schools?” he asked. “Are we putting her at a disadvantage?”
Just as mass incarceration from the war on drugs continues institutional racism once found in slavery and Jim Crow, education reform, especially the “no excuses” charter school movement, resurrects a separate but equal education system that is separate, but certainly isn’t equal. The masked racism of mass incarceration and education reform share many parallels, including the following:
- Both depend on “racially sanitized rhetoric,” according to Alexander, that thinly masks racism. “Getting tough on crime” justifies disproportional arrests, convictions and sentencing for African Americans; “no excuses” and “zero tolerance” justify highly authoritarian and punitive schools disproportionally serving high-poverty children of color.
- Both depend on claims of objective mechanisms – laws for the war on drugs and test scores for education reform – to deflect charges of racism. Alexander recognizes “this system is better designed to create [emphasis in original] crime and a perpetual class of people labeled criminals, rather than to eliminate crime or reduce the number of criminals,” (p. 236) just as test-based education reform creates and does not address the achievement gap.
- Both depend on racialized fears among poor and working-class whites, which Alexander identifies in the Reagan drug war agenda: “In his campaign for the presidency, Reagan mastered the ‘excision of the language of race from conservative public discourse’ and thus built on the success of the earlier conservatives who developed a strategy of exploiting racial hostility or resentment for political gain without making explicit reference to race” (p. 48). The charter school movement masks segregation within a progressive-friendly public school choice.
- Both depend on either current claims of post-racial America or the goal of a post-racial society: “This system of control depends far more on racial indifference [emphasis in original] . . . than racial hostility,” Alexander notes. (p. 203)
- Both depend on a bipartisan and popular commitment to seemingly obvious goals of crime eradication and world-class schools.
- Both depend on the appearance of African American support. Alexander explains about the effectiveness of the war on drugs: “Conservatives could point to black support for highly punitive approaches to dealing with the problems of the urban poor as ‘proof’ that race had nothing to do with their ‘law and order’ agenda” (p. 42).
This last point – that African Americans seem to support both the war on crime and “no excuses” charter schools – presents the most problematic aspect of charges that mass incarceration and education reform are ultimately racist, significant contributions to the New Jim Crow.
For example, Carr reports that African American parents not only choose “no excuses” charter schools in New Orleans, but also actively cheer and encourage the authoritarian policies voiced by the schools’ administrators. But Alexander states, “Given the dilemma facing poor black communities, it is inaccurate to say that black people ‘support’ mass incarceration or ‘get-tough’ policies” because “if the only choice that is offered blacks is rampant crime or more prisons, the predictable (and understandable) answer will be ‘more prisons.’ ” (p. 210)
New Orleans serves as a stark example of how this dynamic works in education reform: Given the choice between segregated, underfunded and deteriorating public schools and “no excuses” charters – and not the choice of the school environments and offerings found in many elite private schools – the predictable answer is “no excuses” charters.
II. GPA v. SAT/ACT
The Alaska study, conducted by a regional research laboratory funded by the U.S. Department of Education, found that SATs, ACTs and the placement tests used by the University of Alaska were all poor predictors of how a student might do in a college-level math or English class. Many students who did well on these exams bombed their college classes, and vice versa. Instead, the researchers found that if college administrators had simply looked at the students’ high school GPAs, they would have done a much better job at figuring out who needs to relearn high school material and who doesn’t.
“We definitely should be including GPAs when assessing college readiness,” said Michelle Hodara, the lead author of the study and a senior researcher at Education Northwest. “We found the same thing that community college researchers and practitioners are finding, that high school GPA is a really powerful measure of college readiness, even for students who want to earn a four-year degree.”
This study examines the postsecondary readiness of first-time students who enrolled in the University of Alaska system over a four-year period. The study calculates the proportion of students considered academically underprepared for college and how placement rates for developmental education (that is, non–credit-bearing courses) vary for different groups of students. The study also determines the proportion of students placed in developmental education who eventually enrolled in and passed college English and math. Finally, the analysis looks at whether high school grades, rather than exam performance, are a better predictor of success in college-level courses.
Results show that developmental education rates were higher in math than English for students pursuing any degree type and increased as the gap between high school exit and college entry grew. Among students pursuing a bachelor’s degree, developmental placement rates were highest for Black students from urban areas of the state (in math) and Alaska Native students from rural areas (in English) compared to all other student groups. Almost half (47 percent) of students placed in developmental courses eventually passed college English and almost a quarter (23 percent) passed college math. For students who enrolled directly in college, high school grade point average was a stronger predictor of college-level English and math performance than were SAT, ACT, and ACCUPLACER scores. Secondary and postsecondary stakeholders can use the findings to help identify students in need of support to be college-ready and to consider further conversation and additional research regarding whether and how to use high school grade point average as part of the placement process.
Manuel Alfaro is the former executive director of assessment design and development at the College Board.
Beginning on May 15, 2016, Alfaro has published a series of posts on Linkedin in an apparent effort to reveal the haphazard construction of the new SAT, released and first administered in March 2016 and again, in June. (He is also posting info on Twitter: @SATinsider.)
Below are excerpts from Alfaro’s Linkedin posts, all of which provide an enlightening read concerning the sham Coleman has thrown together and labeled the “new SAT.”
A decade ago, I was confronted with an incredibly uncomfortable situation when my first-year English class overwhelmingly believed the Duke lacrosse team was innocent and the woman accusing them of sexual assault was fraudulent.
There was a significant mixture of irony in the tension resulting from my trusting that the class—atypically majority male at a university consisting of mostly privileged and white students—was biased by their collective and individual privilege as that conflicted with the eventual revealing that the Duke lacrosse team was in most ways innocent (although I would argue that is a simplistic conclusion supported by technicalities of law): the irony, of course, being that I—white, male, and privileged—was proven wrong about my claims of the U.S. being, in the language of today, a country in which white male lives matter most.
Just this May, another class included, again atypically, about a third black students, some of whom were eager to argue for corporal punishment and then several of the black male students felt compelled to speak up for males wrongly accused of sexual assault.
At that, I asserted that in the U.S. today it remains easier to be a male wrongly accused of sexual assault than to be a woman actually raped or sexually assaulted.
But I could not have anticipated both the Baylor University scandal and then the Brock Turner rape judgment and sentence, which has been followed by a disturbing pair of commentaries by Turner’s father and a female childhood friend.
The light sentence of Turner, by a judge who like Turner attended Stanford University, was justified because of the consequences this rape would have on Turner’s life. Turner’s victim has rebuked this decision in her own statement.
Both the Turner sentence and the Baylor scandal returned me to my examination of The Martian, an unintended allegory of the hyperbolic concern in the U.S. for the white male at the expense of women and people of color.
Having been raised in the sexist and racist South, I have spent my adult life—going on four decades—working against my privilege and learned bigotries.
I am aware of and fearful of whitesplaining and mansplaining, the white gaze and the male gaze in every interaction I have in both the real and virtual worlds. I shudder to think, on social media especially, how often I creep toward the line crossed by vicious male trolls, how often women and people of color see in my words the very things I abhor.
As a writer, I am hyper-aware that my one-more-white-man’s voice is crowding out space for women and people of color; we simply do not need more white male perspectives.
As a scholar and academic, now full professor and tenured with a significant body of published works, I am equally hyper-aware I continue to do the same in academia.
Much of my work has been devoted to calling out racism, but I have also addressed misogyny and mansplaining often. In both cases, I have tried to confront the inevitable “yes, but” from men and whites.
But I look at the one picture of Turner, and I see me—white male. I think about the judge in the case, and I am among the disproportionate number of white males in power in the U.S.
What woman would trust me, especially from a distance? Why would black and brown people believe my solidarity?
And while I am writing about me, this is not about me; this is about the daily doubling down in the U.S., proving that white male lives matter most—and the corrosive consequences for everyone.
That fact—the light sentence for Turner, the failure to hold police officers accountable for taking black lives—sustains a hostile world for everyone; we are pitted daily against each other because the greatest threat to power is solidarity.
As a privileged white male, I am insulated enough that I can offer these observations that remain mostly about my own minor inconveniences that are devastating realities for vulnerable populations and people oppressed because of race, gender, sexuality, or age. As a privileged white male, I seek to use my privilege to eradicate privilege.
But most of all, my greatest act of solidarity remains my role as a student—I listen, I read, I heed.
And even then, I fall short.
I have failed enough women, children, and people of color to last a dozen life times—and “I’m sorry” seems trivial against that.
White male privilege has created a vicious world that needs to be dismantled, and in its place, we must imagine something better, a world brought forth from the mouths and minds of those rendered less human and thus more aware of the beauty and grandeur of being human.
As Adrienne Rich offers, “the sea is another story/ the sea is not a question of power.”
Most people know “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” but the Turner verdict and sentencing remind us of what Lord Acton offered next: “Great men are almost always bad men.”
Daily, this is proven true as we watch white males double down again and again on white male lives mattering most.
Once edujournalist Paul Tough and “grit”-genius Angela Duckworth realized their significant contributions to the “grit” industry were gradually being unmasked, they discovered ways to cash in on backpedalling (slightly) to keep the train rolling.
Regretfully, many very good people have praised Tough and Duckworth for their much-too-late and way-too-little—somehow ignoring the incredible damage that has been done to vulnerable populations of students—and even recommend Tough and Duckworth’s “new” books.
Please, I beg of you, do not forgive and forget, and especially do not fund further the “grit” industry.
Let me offer instead a few alternatives:
Scarcity: The New Science of Having Less and How It Defines Our Lives, Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir
For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood…and the Rest of Y’all Too, Christopher Emdin