Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Media Appearance and Eductional Debt

First, I want to thank Fatima Ashraf of Radio Tahrir for interviewing me this past week for Pacifica Radio's Informed Dissent series. We did a brief interview on Proposal 2 and how it's been swept under the rug in light of the "Democratic Sweep." You can find it on the Nov 18th in part one about half way through.

Last night I was reading and talking to one of my boys and I told him I was reading about the achievement gap. To which he responded, "You love to read about that ish." Which I do, it's the motivation for my research. While we talked I lamented over not really learning anything "new" from most publications on it. He responded, "Well if you're going to publish on it, why don't you just write the book that someone's going to write in 25 years. Just say it (the achievement gap) ain't going no where." While on the face this remark is fatalistic, I think he's actually right on. I was further confirmed of this when I woke up and finally read through Gloria Ladson-Billings' 2006 American Educational Research Association's Presidential Address. The talk was entitled "From the Achievement Gap to the Education Debt: Understanding Achievement in U.S. Schools." The talk is really amazing and I encourage you read it, it's a little longer than most things that I link to, but well worth it. Or you can watch it here.

She uses economics to discuss educational inequality but not in predictable ways. She uses economics to talk about people.
I am arguing that our focus on the achievement gap is akin to a
focus on the budget deficit, but what is actually happening to
African American and Latina/o students is really more like the
national debt. We do not have an achievement gap; we have an
education debt.

The talk is based on the idea that we do not know what really causes the narrowing of the gap.
However, when we begin looking at the construction and compilation
of what I have termed the education debt, we can better
understand why an achievement gap is a logical outcome. I am
arguing that the historical, economic, sociopolitical, and moral
decisions and policies that characterize our society have created an
education debt.

She powerfully weaves a narrative of black, brown, yellow and red children's cumulative educational disadvantage. She makes powerful policy metaphors from Plessy v. Ferguson, Brown v. Board of Ed, the Voting Rights Acts all the way to the responses to Hurricane Katrina. She leaves us with fertile ground to start our work toward improving children's lives and opportunities. I can't encourage you enough to read it, it gives a richer context to discussions of the pursuit of educational and social inequality.

New Media... Same Old Story?

So a number of things have come past my desk recently that display the pernicious nature of racism and violence in America. Below you'll find two now, unfortunately, popular videos. If you haven't literally watched them, I encourage you to. They are much more sobering than that coffee you just drank.

The first is the video for the University of California-Los Angeles and features Mostafa Tabatabainejad, a student, being tasered repeatedly for not showing his id in the library.

Since then, students have been mobilizing to bring light to this issue and get some justice. The catch unfortunately is that "thanksgiving" break is approaching and continuing momentum across breaks has always been an issue. Additionally, a subtle dynamic is that the taser weilding officer was a Black man. One of my good friends out there told me that he thinks that has in part affected the cross-lines organizing. We'll see how this unfolds, please keep spreading the word about this.

The second thing that has gotten some attention was the posting of hatred on John Andrews' facebook wall. While the article is not new, I think it's always amazing to read people's comments. I know John, I know before this broke he was talking about it, and I'm reminded by these comments that people are more than willing to turn an ignorant eye, ear, or whatever!

The third thing that should get you ready to go for the day is the video of "Kramer" going off at the Laugh Factory on Friday night. I know that you may have read the comments, but you should really watch the clip.

So something that is really interesting to me is the way that people begin laughing when he begins with his comments about lynching. Ha, ha, ha.. what the F**K is wrong with people? I was also amazed at how slowly people left. Of course the next day Richards performed at the Laugh Factory and now he's barred from performing there.

Taken as collective, I'm just reminded that even with new media, we can see old hate.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Uncle Ruckus & Ward Connerly

I'm on the run, just got back in town, lots of deadlines. So no original blog post coming out for a little. In the meantime, probably the funniest image I've seen in a long ass time. Respect to Julio for passing this along.

Friday, November 10, 2006


1. Does Harold Ford's loss prove that light skinned brothas are not in style?
2. With Ed Bradley and Gerald Levert passing, can Black men get a break?
3. Without Affirmative Action will Black folks ever get a break?
4. Why do I feel like niggaspace is owned by Rupert Murdoch?
5. Why am I holding my car together with tape (literally)?
6. If I had all that was owed to me, would I work as hard as I do?
7. Why does everyone think they're the exception to the rule?
8. If people are so busy, why are they always on myspace, facebook, friendster, blogging, etc?
9. When was the last time you had a good cry?
10. Why doesn't Mr. T wear gold anymore and where did TV Land find him?
11. Why is Lil Wayne wearing all those diamonds when NOLA looks like it does?
12. I wonder if she's thinking the same thing?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Ballot or the Bullet?

Well, it looks like Proposal 2 passed in the state of Michigan last night 58% to 42%. The passing of Proposal 2 does not surprise me, but it does disappoint me tremendously. Over the past few years I've seen leaders emerge from the U of M community and beyond to fight this measure. While it passed, I want to take this time to thank everyone who put their time, heart, and souls into stopping this thing. To you all I remind you, that your work will never be cancelled or distilled by this measure. You have served to heighten awareness among the unaware and provide fertile ground for the future battles that we will fight as we work to maintain civil and human rights.

While the nations applauds the Dems taking the House and the nation awaits very
tight senate races, I'll be in mourning. It's naive to think all the "allies" that we found in the fight against Prop 2 will be around today to comfort, walk with, and get ready for next steps, they'll be busy returning to their jobs saddened, but not disappointed. For me the mourning is realizing that the very reason that I am able to attend U of M is under attack again. As a first generation college student and graduate of African-American descent, I was able to take advantage of programs such as the Rackham Merit Fellowship and the resources on campus targeted to people like me, who didn't come from the best of circumstances, but when I look back down the pipeline, there will be fewer "me's" coming in the door. Michigan voters have neatly shut the door behind them and many will continue on today with "business as usual."

This year, like a number in the past, have continued to make me feel electoral politics failed me. The representation of "minority" issues in the electoral process rarely comes out in the minority group's favor, no surprise right? But I realized that with Michigan's battle of Proposal 2 that there is a silent tide that has been rising vis-a-vis the ballot proposal. While the highest courts in the land may rule in one way, the ballot proposal has become a tremendously dangerous tool to use local sentiment to contradict decisions by "activist judges."

Last night I learned that abortion, English as the official language, gay marriage, and minimum wage were on the ballots of a number of states. Some of the bedrocks of American freedom and opportunities lay at the hands of a populous, mind you a populous that just seemed to figure out a Republican run nation was not doing us too well- but I digress. Out of all these measures the one that I think gives me the most hope it's the increase in minimum wages, but even that is not enough (pun intended). The willingness to raise the economic floor is simple, in fact common sense. The abortion ban just got defeated, 45% of voters voted for it and they say it didn't pass because it had too few exceptions... scary! English as an official language ... I can't even start to go there on this one. The ban on same sex marriages further demonstrates that the American people believe in freedom, for some.

Collectively, these ballot initiatives literally mean the bullet for many civil and human rights, but they all happen relatively beneath the radar. In the past week, it would be hard to count how many folks from around the country didn't know that Affirmative Action was on the ballot here. I would be lying if I said I knew all these key issues were on the ballots around the nation. The national silence around these issues makes it difficult to build coalitions and responses, but one by one these propositions and proposals are passing. Today it was Michigan, I hear Wisconsin you're in the cross-hairs next. Until we learn how to turn out state level populations that are willing to vote against equality, we will be seeing this tide for years to come. Forget all the talk about "the tsunami" (by the way, does anyone else think its tremendously globally insensitive to refer to political shifts by the name of natural disasters that the world is still recovering from? I mean, what happened to good old landslides, at least we Americans know what that's like) the state level initiatives are going to continue to creep in, be on the look out.

Finally, I've already got a number of inquiries about what I think the passing of Proposal 2 means. Well since the best comparison we have is California this is my quick take. The passing of Proposal 2, theoretically would mean the ushering in of a California-like system. While to some this may seem "alright" there are a couple of major differences between Michigan and California: 1) demographics- Cali's racial demographics (majority minority -I know it's an oxymoron) make it "easier" to talk about successes without Affirmative Action 2) economies- Michigan's economy has been shrinking and will continue to, and 3) breadth of educational system- California's UC system is way larger and more diverse than what Michigan has to offer.

To me, this means that you will fundamentally see a large drop in entering students of color, particularly Black because of the state's composition. You will not see these students going to other schools four year institutions, I'd guess community college and other high cost urban schools will get flooded (in a best case scenario). You will see Michigan continue to be less competitive economically as the Black middle class flee to areas that consider their race in decision making. Lastly, you'll see Universities in particular do their best to maintain the representation of marginalized groups, but with at best marginal success.

This may serve as a wake up call to some, but I kinda think if you're not awake already, you may not be waking up. As the nation barrels ahead and waits for the "Democratic awakening" please remember that for many of us, the party politics will not save us and in some ways, I'm not sure the ballot will either.

For the folks who are in A2 and on U of M's campus today there are two things going on of interest: 1) at noon Mary Sue Coleman, president of U of M, will address the student body about Proposal 2 and 2) the Multiethnic Student Affairs office is hosting an Election Recovery space at the Trotter house all day.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

One of many???

Well a few moments ago I ran to the polls and made sure to vote, especially on Prop 2. There are a number of other important issues on the ballot as well. I meant to post this earlier, but with about 7 hours left in the polls if you're looking for a cool voters guide, my friend wsoftheart has posted one here.

On a bigger note, my boy called the Hussein verdict and its potential for gaining GOP support... we live in a tricky place. Speaking of tricky, really computer voting machines, why am I not suprised?

And lastly, the only thing more ridiculous the youtube video of Connerly endorsing the Klan's endorsement of Proposal 2, is Zarko's defense/revision of Connerly.

And one last thing, why do I feel like the nation has not even really noticed Proposal 2 is on the ballot in Michigan?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A simple question.

For the past few years, I have watched patiently as Proposal 2 has come into the spotlight. It's been a long trip for this little "ballot intiative." Most people who read this know that I don't support Proposal 2. I have a million reasons that I can spout out to people about why the intiative is deceptive, naive, and destructive, but I've given up on screaming at walls. I guess I'm writing for those who still haven't made a decision or for those who may have recently talked to a family member who is in the "undecided 15%" or whatever the latest poll says. I'm voting No on 2 because I remember Detroit and its children.

Let me make this clear, I am not from Michigan, not for Detroit, but I remember Detroit. We all carry idealized notions about the past, but that's not what I'm talking about. I am talking about remembering the city of Detroit when you step into that ballot booth tomorrow (you better be voting!) I've had a number of conversations that make me feel Michigan voters are just as confused on Prop 2 as California voters were on Prop 209.

For me behind all the rhetoric, debates, and disagreement are the lives of real people. The lives that I am most concerned about are children. A basic feature of our society is that children of different races are born to vastly different life circumstances. You can look at birth weight, neighborhoods, incomes, wealth ... in all of these areas Black and Brown babies stand at a serious disadvantage to White children. This doesn't mean that they're aren't White poor folks, it just means that if you look at where we come from, on average, our worlds are still separate and unequal. Behind the numbers and statistics are real lives.

I spend a lot of my weekends in Detroit and I travel along the city's streets I realize that Detroit is a city that the state of Michigan has forgotten. While the politicians of the legislaturet and the mayors have done battle, the real costs of these contests have been the children that will grow up in, survive in, and die in the city. For many the city "was great" and "before Coleman Young" it was utopia, but the reality is that inequality between races in Detroit has always been an issue. The uprising of the late 60s (which weren't race riots) simply cast the light on the problem of deep seated difference. The seeds planted in the 40s and beyond are still coming to fruition in the generations that live the costs of racial and economic segregation.

The truth is in 2006 race and class inequality are so intertwined it's ridiculous to separate them in our analysis of inequality. But this does not mean that one is a substitute for the other. Race and social class together mean something powerful, something more powerful than the individual parts do. Affirmative Action, as we know it, has never been simply about race.

This brings me to my simple question: Will your vote on Proposal 2 be a vote for the children?

For my money's worth, if you look at the supporters of Prop 2, who among them has been doing the work to help the children of Detroit? To help the children of Flint? To help children, besides those born into privilege? How many of the supporters travel into Detroit and make sure the legacy of gross inequality that exists is addressed? How many have done outreach to populations that haven't had an equal chance from birth?

This does not clear the opposers of Proposal 2 from action either, but if I ask myself this same question, the difference between the two becomes more clear for me. When we think about who has been doing things for the children, for the marginalized, for the poor, for the oppressed, an answer emerges. Affirmative Action has and should be about opportunity. Opportunities that at birth are grossly different between races in particular.