Rodney King is dead – and his death has ratcheted up the national debate about race, police brutality, alcohol and drug abuse, and violence in America and all related topics.
Rodney had a sad and tragic life. While we mourn the death of any person, we are cautioned to not make him a hero or role model. His beating by police became an iconic reference to urban violence triggered by criminal police action, followed by acts of rage across a wide stratum of Los Angeles: oppressed blacks, Korean shopkeepers, other police and citizens of every stripe.
Rodney King will pass into history as a major footnote in the story about how America is dealing with its “chickens that have come home.”
Race in America is the story of the day — again.
Pick any media and there it is: in books (I’m now reading The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness by Kevin Young); on television (see the serialized Soledad Obrien’s Race in America on CNN); across the Internet (just type in “race” on any search engine); in the beat of the music; in the lyrics of popular rap songs; on street corners; and in the New York City schools.
In the past two weeks, coverage in the New York Times has been devoted to how Brooklyn schools have become the most segregated in the city. Resolutions have included using magnet programs to attract white and Asian students into those schools. Sounds familiar?
Next, we have the 2010 Census report saying that, for the first time in our country’s history, white births have fallen below 50 percent. The browning of America is well underway: by births; by an executive order to allow undocumented students to remain, under specific conditions; by an increase in the number of multiracial children; and, according to my own theory, the survival of the fittest — blacks who have for generations been naturally selected to not only survive but also to thrive in America.
About thriving, I have no doubt that during the summer Olympics in London blacks will dominate in any and all events in which they compete. Is that racist? I’ll defend my position.
There has been practice, for sure, but there are also high expectations and rewards for performing well on the field, on the courts and in other arenas of physical competition. Besides, the peculiar American slave system promoted breeding to ensure the fittest for the fields of labor that guaranteed the maximum return to the slave owner.
So why does black dominance not transfer to the classroom? I contend that there has not been the requisite expectation or reward for high performance in academics as there is with sports and other competitive physical activities.
Where’s the money? Knowledge for knowledge sake is not a part of the philosophy of public education. In this country, we go to school to be prepared to get a good job as the end goal. But good jobs are diminishing and pay for work is not keeping up with costs – and so on. It’s a losing proposition.
The American system of public education, where blacks are concentrated (see Brooklyn), ultimately devalues learning and education and creates a disincentive for pursuing higher educational goals and performance in the classroom.
But what about the natural tendency for blacks to excel in competitive environments?
The modern classroom seems to function as holding cells for youth until they can legally enter the job market and/or, in my cynical estimation, simply a transfer station from the community to the legal justice system. So many more of our youth, especially our boys, have been targeted to enter the criminal confines based on their reading levels, the third-grade level being one of the predictors being used to project needed prison beds. How’s that for competition!
What can we do? Short of rioting out loudly and in public, our internal riot should compel and propel those of us who have escaped from the locks and binds of the American system of mis-education to stand for nothing less than excellence in the expectations and the rewards of achievement in the classroom where our children are getting educated.
Alternative schools abound. Charter schools are for the making/taking. Start one. Educational philosophies based on excellence should be the only ones tolerated by the black community. Run for a School Board seat. Home schooling, education collectives, after-school tutoring, role-model programs, enhancement activities, etc., should become part of our collective consciousness. Join one.
Once upon a time when we were self-reliant and self-directed, we developed our communities for greatness, not to go to work for someone else. Be a part of organizing.
So, about Rodney King, the Olympics and education: We don’t need to all get along. We need to get going, to take all the gold on the fields of play and in the classroom and in life in these United States of America.
Antonia Williams-Gary is a consultant with Miami-based Savings and Grace Enterprise. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.