Pound Cake or Segregation? Comedian Bill Cosby or Governor George Wallace?

“Wallace’s (George) speech – and its delivery – was vehement…mean-spirited…hateful. It’s like a rattlesnake was hissing it, almost.” Wayne Greenshaw, Newspaper Reporter

Hannibal Buress’s comments interest me for three reasons: Calling Bill Cosby a rapist, Calling Bill Cosby a hypocrite, and making reference to Bill Cosby’s 2004-Pound Cake speech on the 50th anniversary of Brown vs.the Board of Education Decision.

Whether Cosby is guilty or not, he has a moral obligation to respond to the accusations and he needs to do it sooner than later. He may not subscribe to the ‘where there’s smoke there’s fire,’ philosophy but surely he can understand why 19 billows of smoke is causing people to at least scratch their heads in wonderment. Cosby needs to step up because he was a welcomed visitor in homes across the country once a week for eight years, and because for some African-Americans, gathering around the TV to see what the Huxtables were saying and doing was a required weekly family affair. He, not his attorney, needs to do everything he can to clear up the smoke. He should not put the same public that bestowed upon him the title of ‘America’s Dad,’ in the position to have to ask about the smoke. If he does not have the courage to do that and it turns out that he is not guilty, it will not matter because he would have given us the finger and that he will not be able to take it back.

If Bill Cosby did what he is alleged to have done, he should have to dance to the same music choreographed for any other person found guilty of sexual harassment, sexual assault or others categories of behaviors related to sexual violation. However, the optimal word is “If.” And, that is one of the things that bothers me about what is appropriately termed “Hannibal Buress’ violent tirade.” He did not say, “Bill Cosby has been accused of rape. He did not say Bill Cosby alleged raped 13 women. He said, “You are a rapist.” This is surprising because Hannibal Buress is recognized as a smart talented stand-up comedian who, according to Comedy Central, is “a brilliant observer of life and its absurdities” and if you listen to his comedy sketches, you may see why Jamie Masada (West Hollywood Laugh Factory) said Buress, “Does a lot of topical stuff.” It seems his style is to talk about people not to attack them. I can only speculate about what made him want to bring Cosby “down a couple of notches” but that is not the purpose of this writing. Masada also said, “I really don’t think he intentionally meant to hurt Bill Cosby.” If Cosby did what he is accused of, hurting him is the last thing that matters. In this case, turn around is fair play so neither him nor his supporters can whine about him being hurt. Buress does not have to apologize for calling attention to something that may have been buried simply because the accused had the money and the help of his peers to make it go away. But, that does not alter the fact that social attitudes about black men and rape requires everyone, including a comedian of Buress’ caliber, to remember innocent until proven guilty is a civil right.

Cosby is according to Buress, “hypocritical” and therefore had no right to present himself as American’s Dad. It’s hard to argue against that if “America’s Dad” was stripping the daughter of other dads of their dignity and self-respect and then strong-arming them to protect his image and his wallet. But, discrepancies between the values associated with a particular kind of work and the behavior of people doing that work is far more common than we want to acknowledge. If these ever become a determining factors in who gets to work, the unemployment line is going to get real, real long.

Buress called out Cosby and because of it at least nineteen accusers who might have been muzzled with money or muffled by fear and shame and “whose going to believe me anyway.” will be heard. And, that is a good thing! But, I wonder if Buress’ advocacy on behalf sexually violated women everywhere will make him regretful about his attitude about rape? Will he think about how his jokes about Date Rape in two of his comedy sketches, Animal Furnace and My Name is Hannibal, were instructional – just what a budding date rapist needs? Will he be concerned that people might ask, “If, as you say, Cosby is guilty of actual rape, are you guilty of passive rape?

Buress also mocked Cosby by using words from his famous and infamous 2004, Pound Cake speech. “Pull your pants up black people. I was on TV in the 80s. I can talk down to you because I had a successful sitcom.” Hannibal Buress finished his tirade with, “But you rape women, Bill Cosby. So brings you down a couple of notches.”

The speech to which Buress refers was given on May 17, 2004 at the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. the Board of Education Decision. It is the speech that ten years later is still causing some Black people (not all of them middle class) to treat Cosby as if he is our very own Benedict Arnold. While I can understand how people did not like how Cosby delivered his message or some of the phrases he used. (If he had asked me I would have said, “Maybe you want to leave that one out or say that another way.”) And, I get why some people are disturbed because he did not put his criticism in the historical context of institutional racism. But I do not understand this prolonged anger or the reference to Cosby as betrayer of the race. Nor can I begin to understand the stance taken by Michael Eric Dyson, who seems to have positioned himself as the defender of all things black that might be criticized by the black middle class. In his book, Is Bill Cosby Right or has the Middle Class Lost its Mind, Dyson gives an explanation. “Cosby has refused to explore race in his comedy, rejected the role of crusader or leader on issues of race and resisted bearing the burdens of racial representation in public with grace.”

In Dyson’s thinking, Cosby has not earned the right to speak about the social ills of poor blacks. This, in my opinion, is a narrow perspective on how race might be explored. Cosby did not, as Dyson points out, use his place on the national stage to address race and racism in the style of Dick Gregory and other comedians. Cosby did however use it to promote higher education by doing shows on historically Black Colleges, displaying jerseys from HBCs and making the setting for Different World a factious college. He provided many blacks and other ethnic groups with their very first view of paintings and sculptures by black artists such as Annie Lee (Died November 24, 2014) and Ellis Wilson whose painting, The Funeral Possession, was made famous because it hung on the Huxatable’s living room wall. Black performers such as singer Mavis Staples (Respect Yourself) and dancer Judith Jamison (Alvin Alley Dance theater of Harlem) often made appearances. Cosby collaborated with Varnette Honeywood (Died 2010) to create Little Bill Books for beginning Readers that included children doing homework and showed other examples of black life.

In spite of what Dyson says, Cosby’s more inductive approach to addressing race and racism is as legitimate as the more deductive approaches chosen by other comedians. Rather than focusing on what we as black American do not have or what “They” are doing to us, Cosby consistently uses his platform to emphasize possibilities, potential, personal responsibilities. A good example is the show called Regular People, when Theo was getting “Ds” in his classes and thought his parents should not worry because grades do not matter if you get the kind of job regular people get.

Race and racism are complex issues. There is no one right way to engage in this debate. It seems to me using a family show to re-position or position the values of education in the minds of children and adults was an effective strategy for combatting racism. Stimulating interest in higher education by using historically black colleges (HBC) to create memories, tap into emotions and encourage conversation after the show was over, increased the chances of transferring learning from TV to real life should not be discounted as way of honoring Brown vs. The Board of education – a decision that
as Cosby said, was passed because “People marched and were punched and hit in the face with rocks.”

In addition to his television shows, Bill Cosby and his wife Camille had, at the time of the speech, donated at least $40.000,000 dollars to historically black colleges and social services agencies that work with and on behalf of the families that are unduly affected by what Dyson identifies as “White supremacy, unfair housing practices, segregated public accommodations, Jim Crow Law, Unequal health care, racial disparities in wealth, disproportionately high infant mortality rates, unjust criminal justice sentencing practices, unequal higher education, etc.” Despite what Dyson say, if the television shows and the philanthropy had not earned Bill Cosby the street creds needed to make his poignant but imperfect speech, then they are probably impossible to earn.

The accusations against Bill Cosby are pouring from the past like water from a faucet turned on full force. If he cannot prove his innocences he will be forced to step down as American Dad, as he should. But I hope we are able abhor his treatment of the women without discounting the importance of the call to action that was embedded in a speech that he deemed fitting to deliver before the NAACP, the civil rights group the made possible “one of the greatest Supreme Court decisions of the 20th century.”

As I said earlier, it was not a perfect speech. It was a speech given by a man who, like the rest of us is flawed. But Black people found it in their hearts to let go of anger at another flawed man who on January 14, 1963 delivered a speech that was described as “vehement, mean-spirited and hateful in its words and its delivery.” Dan Carter, Historian and author of the Politics of Rage, said, the streets of Montgomery were packed that day. “George Wallace’s followers, many of them wearing white flowers meant to symbolize their commitment to white supremacy” were crowded round the platform:

“Let us send this message back to Washington. From this day, we are standing up, and the heel of tyranny does not fit the neck of an upright man. Let us rise to the call of freedom-loving blood that is in us and send our answer to the tyranny that clanks its chain upon the South. In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw a line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and say, segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.”

“Violence quickly followed Wallace’s inauguration, said, James Poe, President of the Montgomery Chapter of the NAACP – night-riding and burning crosses; the police beat down people and ran over them with horses, put tear gas on them.” Later that year, four girls were killed in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Alabama and Governor Wallace stood in front of the door to prevent two “unwanted and unwelcome” black students from integrating the University of Alabama.

Pound Cake and Segregation. Two speeches. Two men. Comedian and Philanthropist, Bill Cosby. Governor of the State of Alabama, George Wallace – both spoke words that impacted Black people. One speech was about failure to take advantage of opportunities; the other about denying opportunity. One speech; an expression of disappointment because of missed opportunities; the other a statement about race-based exclusion. Both speeches – a call to action. One a plea to overcome apathy that requires us to turn our attention to the speaker’s intent even if we do not agree with the content and the context. The other an order to keep us “in our place” by any means necessary and ultimately required the speaker to ask for our forgiveness and we gave it in abundance. In later years, Wallace sought and received the forgiveness of black civic and church leaders. He won the 1982 governor’s race with 90% of the Black vote and nearly half of the 25,000 people who attended his funeral were Black. The forgiveness expressed by Rev. Jesse Jackson: “He was a figure who represented both tragedy and triumph” and a female black mourner, “I sure hope he wasn’t too lonely these last years,” says it all.

Unless I am missing something, Bill Cosby’s speech does not, in my opinion, require forgiveness. But, whatever it requires, if we can feel just a modicum of the compassion we seem to have willingly given to George Wallace, Buress will be the last black person who will mock Cosby about his speech. We will not let the accusations against Cosby (even if they are proven true) to be yet another excuse for not acknowledging that the laundry Cosby hung ten years ago is still on the line. The laundry does not, as Dyson insist, belong to just black people who are poor. It belongs to all black parents who are not assuming full responsibility for their children. It belongs to all black students who are not fully investing in their education. It belongs to all black adults who are not role models for what is positive. It belongs to all black educators whose expectations for girls and boys are low.

We have to stop being overly concerned about white people seeing our dirty laundry and interpreting its meaning. It is not like their line is not full. And, from where I stand some of it looks very much like what is on our line. “What you think about me does not matter. It’s what I think about me that count,” is a clique that indicates both flip-ness and arrogance. Fortunately, it is not a motto by which most of us live. On the other hand, too much attention to impression management can lead to excuses and explanations for behaviors that in my opinion, need to be unacceptable.

For example, I am not, as Dyson, says fashion adverse when it comes to young people using clothing as a form of self-expression and group identity. But I must be one of those “dismissive and demeaning elders” who do not understand that “The baggy pants style may symbolize, consciously or not, their restricted mobility in the culture or baggy pants and oversize clothing in general, may also cover black bodies subject to unhealthy surveillance or maybe black youth who can’t hide in their skin are forced to hide in their clothes or the more they are swallowed up in a sea of denim or cotton, the less likely they are to drown in a naked scrutiny of vulnerable limbs.”

Dyson is right. I do not understand. I do not understand because I do not know what being black has to do with the dress of the young man and woman (both looked old enough to have voted at least once) who a few weeks ago, sat with their backs to me and other diners in a downtown restaurant. His pants were so low I could see almost all of his red, white and blue plaid underwear that matched his red, white and blue high top gym shoes. The woman, with matching shoes, was also wearing low riding blue jeans except, “She didn’t have on no red, white and blue underwear.”

This, by itself, is enough for us to continue to explore, without so much emotional hindrance, the question Cosby asked in his speech, ”Is this a sign that something has gone wrong?”

Does Adrian Peterson’s Actions Speak Louder Than His Words?

Interests are advanced by power, while ideas and values depend on thought and can be promoted only in a community of people who think for themselves and with others.

Thomas E. McCollough
The Moral Imagination and Public Life

The Peterson Questions: Should he be in jail? Should he lose his job? The first question was answered November 4, when the charges, based on a plea deal, were reduced from a felony -reckless or negligent injury to a child to a misdemeanor – a lesser charge of reckless assault. Whether Peterson should have gone to jail or not is debatable. Is time in jail the most effective punishment? Will it be a deterrent for other football players? Can the family recover? And, what does a four-year old do with, ‘I made Daddy go to jail? ‘

Will Peterson lose his job? Not If reporters and fellow players who think he has suffered enough and the fans who think he was just doing what a parent is suppose to do have anything to do with it. Not if the grievance filed by the NFLPA on behalf of Peterson makes the NFL fumble its corporate football more than the thought of loosing millions of sponsor dollars. Not if the words of the Mother of the abused little boy, who “Hope the NFL doesn’t impose additional punishment,” carries any weight. Should he lose his job? What good would it do? What would it change?

Here is the problem. Nobody would be wrestling with either of these questions if Adrian Peterson was an ordinary black man, the one making $31,300 a year working for an ordinary company doing an ordinary job. Chances are there would have been no plea bargain. If there were such a plea, state child protection impact services would be wrapped around Mr. Ordinary Adrian Peterson tighter than Saran Wrap around a store-bought sandwich. Your answer to the question at the end of my November 7 post ‘Power and money or the safety and protection of all children’ is_______

Peterson’s job is up in the air but he got off with no jail time, a fine, community service, and the permission of the court to resumed immediate contact with his Son. But, this is what privilege looks like. It is what happens when privilege is afforded not because of skin color but because of connection. As authors Christakis and Fowler discuss in CONNECTED, culture is local in ‘the sense of being confined to groups of interconnected people in one region or niche of the social network rather than in one geographic place or among one group defined by shared religion, language or ethnicity.’ This is the culture into which Adrian Peterson has assimilated. He has earned his place in it and therefore do not have to justify or apologize for it. But, our black culture cannot be the blanket he uses to cover his ass when he needs an excuse of doing something that is just plain wrong.

A lesser charge does not change the meaning of what Peterson did to his four-year old son. But there is another reason I think 80 hours of community service, 40 of which will be used for public service announcements, and a $4000 fine is about as adequate a punishment as a drop of water would be for the severe three-year drought California has endured. There is something Peterson is not getting. He said, “I did not intend to hurt my son.” I think that is true. He says every chance he gets, “I love my son.” I believe he does. He said, “I take full responsibility.” I think he believes he has. Even though Peterson has offered more excuses than reasons: Throwing Bonita and Frankie all the way under the “It is your fault” bus. Blaming his culture. Blaming his Son. Blaming the switch – I believe everything he has said represents sincere efforts to get the public to understand and maybe even accept his point of view. Peterson has said, “I’m sorry.” more times than I can count. I think he is. But if I accept the Rules of a True Apology (Harriet Lerner, Ph.D.; Psychology Today September 2014), I also have to question the worth of Peterson’s apology. According to Lerner, a true apology (1) does not include the word “But.” (2) Focus on your actions, not the other person’s response. (3) Does not include who started it and who is to blame. (4) Indicate that you will do your best to avoid a repeat performance. (5) Does not make your pain and remorse overshadow the feeling of the person you hurt.

If Peterson’s told the police, He “regret his son didn’t cry” because he (Peterson) would have known the switch was doing more damage than he intended;” if he said in a text to his Son’s mother you are “going to be mad about one of the scars – the one on the child’s leg;” and if after gesturing to hit another of his four-year old sons in June 2013, causing the child to flinch and hit his head on the car seat, Peterson texted, “I felt bad but he did it to his-self,” his apologizes violate the rules of a true apology.

In all fairness, Peterson did say, he wants to learn from his mistakes and be a better father so it is not that he has not said the right words, put together the right phrase. It is, I think related to whether he thinks he did anything wrong. I can understand his not wanting to be called a child abuser but he seems unable to acknowledge that his behavior was abusive.

Inflicting injury or causing someone to injure his self and transferring responsibility for the injury to that person happens more often than we probably want to acknowledge. Suppose I do something that I cannot deny doing. I am sorry I did it but I am as concerned about what you think of me, as I am sorry. In order to resolve this dilemma, I have to figure out how to make myself less blameworthy. So, I offer a justification for my behavior by saying something that will shift a portion of the blame to you. If I am successful, the image I want you to have of me (Role Model, Hero, Martyr, Victim, etc.) will stay in tact. I will be judged less harshly and the negative consequences will be less severe. Transferring blame from self to a peer is understandable if not acceptable. But the transfer from adult-to-child should be unacceptable and troublesome because it increases the child’s vulnerability and therefore the possibility of repeating the behavior that led to the initial physical and/or emotional abuse because the child is between some rocks and a hard place: It must be my fault. I don’t know what I did to make him that mad but I will work real hard not to do it again and even harder to please him and even harder than that acting like I do not remember what he did to me. The child’s desire to maneuver these rocks is strong. His capacity to do so? Zilch.

Adults who shift the blame to a child tend not to understand what is age-appropriate. They have unrealistic expectations, are demanding and impatient with little or no tolerance for anything less than a quick and correct response to an order to do or stop doing something. Consequently, the child will mess up. The adult will mete out a punishment that will be harsher than he intend. The adult will be sorry and will explain why the child has to take some of the blame for the abuse. The child will be between some more rocks in that same hard place. And, the adult will continue to defy the age-old adage, “Actions speak louder than words.”

For the benefit of Peterson’s supporters, I am not saying this is exactly who Peterson is but this is a parent/child situation that lends itself perfectly to “What if’” questions. Since they are my favorite, I cannot pass up the opportunity to ask a few. “What if Peterson did not see the switch wrapping around his son leg because on the day he beat his son, he had also as he admitted at his first court appearance, “smoked a little weed?” What if Peterson continues to think hitting a four-year old boy “10 to 15 times with his pants down is proof of “Never going overboard?” What if he continues to believe he gave his son, “A normal spanking.” What if he thinks “fully cooperating with law enforcement and voluntarily testifying before the grand jury” will convince his non-supporters that he is not that word he does not want to be called? What if he does have a “whooping room” and what if it is down the hall from his man cave? (I made up the man cave part) What if hitting and pushing his pre-school sons is as much about ‘manning-up, not being soft or acting like a punk as it is about discipline?

None of us know the answers to these or other what if questions you may be asking. But answers will not matter if there is another child abuse incident. Someone said, “If you have to Err, let it be on the side of the child. Taking action on behalf of just one child may prevent harm from coming to other children.“ That is the best reason, in my opinion, for making sure the $14,000,000 a year Adrian Peterson gets the same support and oversight that would be court-ordered for the $31,300 Adrian Peterson. It would most likely include but not be limited to court mandated individual, family and child therapies, parenting classes, anger management, limited supervised visits with son and since there was a previous report of child abuse (Reportedly not investigated) home studies to determine if visits with his other children need to be supervised.

After his November 4 court appearance, Peterson supporters, some of whom still insist that he would never do anything to hurt his child, want him back on the field immediately. As one said, “The NFL put him on paid leave, gave him time to address his legal issues without adding to the stress of an already fragile family situation and lost of income.” How football-ish of them? One of his supporters ask us to imagine the power of Peterson and the NFL taking this opportunity to help parents understand the difference between child abuse and punishment. Peterson seems to support his supporter. He said, as he left court, “I am just glad this is over.” Since then he has been vocal about wanting to get back on the field. He says the NFL investigation is unfair and he should be allowed to play until a decision is made. Now, here is what worries me. What if Peterson does not know it is not over for him. It is not over for his wife or the mothers of his other children and that it has just begun for the child who was beaten and all of his siblings? If he knew, would he, instead of being impatient and accusatory, be thinking about this time differently? Would he be filled with gratitude because unlike other fathers and mothers who beat children years older than his son, he is not getting up every morning putting on a shirt with big bold prison numbers stamped on the back or going to sleep every night in 8 by 6 cell or waiting for his once-a-week visiting day? Would he be using this time to begin the process of healing for his self and his family that will go along way “toward learning from his mistakes and being a better father?”

As for some of his supporters, I think they are encouraging him to put the cart before the horse.

Peterson has earned the right to be called the best starting Running Back in the NFL so he is obviously capable of seeing how things fit together. He clearly understands cause and effect. But what if, for some reason he is not making the connection between his treatment of his son and the perception of him as a child abuser? Peterson needs to make this connection because as surely as he will make another amazing run across another of America’s football fields, one of his seven children, will say a bad word, push someone and/or engage in sibling rivalry, especially if he is the visiting child competing with the child who gets to live with Daddy all the time, Peterson will once again demonstrates what happens when a parent does not know hitting a four-year old long enough and hard enough to ‘bruise his back, legs, hands, scrotum and buttock is nothing less than a beating. Beating equals abuse.


Whipping, Beating, Spanking and Swatting Children – What Do These Words Mean Anyway?

“Words! What power they hold. Once they have rooted in your psyche, it is difficult to escape them. Words can shape the future of a child and destroy the existence of an adult.
― Vashti Quiroz-Vega

I am, to my surprise, agreeing, at least in part, with Charles Barkley. Charles is right when he says, southern blacks whip their children and a whole lot of black parents would have been jailed if the current child abuse laws had been in affect prior to the 1970s. But, Charles is dead wrong when he gives the impression that race and geographic location can be used to identify parents who are most likely to “whop” their children. So, I asked sixteen randomly selected blacks, Hispanics and white people “How did your parents discipline you?” Well, My belief was confirmed. All things being equal, white and Hispanic parents would have been jailed too because, like the black people, their children either experienced physical discipline, knew family members, school mates, friends or neighbors who had and knew, without a doubt that their parents and the other adults in their circle would not, as one woman said, “Hesitate to give me a tune-up if necessary.” They laughed, chuckled and/or smiled while describing “Tune-ups.” Some added without prompting, “My parents didn’t beat us (me).”

How a parent carries out his or her parental responsibility is influenced more by the parent’s culture of origin than by child protection laws and child development experts in spite of the fact that the negative impact of hitting children is discussed on Dr. Phil, The View and other popular shows; is written about in parenting and other everyday living magazines and is discussed during segments of the morning afternoon and evening news. According to Child Trends, a national research group, a study done in 2012 found “77 percent of men, and 65 percent of women 18 to 65 years old agreed that a child sometimes needs a “good hard spanking.” This proportion has declined modestly since 1986 among women, while approval among males, after declining in the early 1990s, remained steady since then.”

Parental corporal punishment, which is legal in all fifty states, is defined as hitting a child whether with an object or a hand, pinching, pulling ears – any action a parent takes that intentionally inflicts pain. The government has a ‘leave no stone unturned’ approach to protecting children from parents who might physical abuse them. This means a parent who hits a child on the back of the hand and leave no scars and one that hits child with a switch hard enough to draw blood could be arrested, separated from their child, charged with some level of child abuse and at a minimum, court-ordered to take parenting and anger management classes.

Here is the problem. What, some parents call parental responsibility, the government calls corporal punishment or in some instances, child abuse. So, what we have are expectations – legal and cultural –that are presumably driven by the same goals – to ensure that children are free from physical and psychological harm and as the people with whom I spoke said, “raise children who feel good about themselves, are “successful, law bidding and contributing members of society and are God-fearing, loving parents who raise their children right.” But as the Child Trends study shows, cultural expectations are honored more than legal expectations are feared. This is not good. It is not good because both allow for accusations and excuses. They allows the child welfare system to accuse groups of well-intended parents of physical child abuse and allows some not-so-well intended parents to use culture as an excuse for physically abusing their children.

Obviously we want and need a child welfare system that protects children. But, Duncan Lindsey, author of The Welfare of Children, has given us something to think about. The provocative title of chapter seven: Dealing with Child Abuse, The Red Herring of Child Welfare; offers the following: “It is not difficult to understand why agencies have a preoccupation with child abuse to the exclusion of everything else. Public outrage fanned by media coverage and horrifying incidents have tended to grossly misrepresent the dimensions of child abuse.” How we talk about how parents discipline their children is, in my opinion, one of those dimensions. And, we need to talk about it because (1) some parents believe physical punishment is a form of discipline while some child development experts say it is not discipline. It is just punishment. (2) We seem not to have an agreed upon understanding of what child abuse is and is not.

We need (even if we do not want to) to recognize and accept the role culture plays in the use of particular child-rearing practices. Educator Barbara Sizemore (“The Politics of Curriculum, Race and Class, Journal of Negro Education, winter 1990) paraphrases Sekou Toure’s definition of culture: “As the sum total of the artifacts—the history, language, literature, poetry, drama, art, music, philosophy, religion, science, ideas, constructed tools and objects—created by any group in its struggle for survival and autonomy.”

Robert LeVine (Child Rearing as Cultural Adaptation), said, “In no human population, under normal circumstances, are child-rearing practices an irrational or random set of activities; rather they form a part of a culturally organized system which evolved to meet people’s needs within their effective environment.”

The words of both Sizemore and Levine speak to why culture is important to parents and the impact it has on how a parent parents. Culture shapes beliefs and practices. But just as culture influences it is also influenced by the process of socialization. Socialization is not static. As we learn new skills, we expand our knowledge base, alters our perceptions and our values for better or worse depending upon your view and we change our way of thinking and being in the world. Herein lies my disagreement with Charles Barkley (and other sports figures) who attributed Adrian Petersen’s forceful discipline of his four-year old son solely to culture. Some parents follow “The proof is in the pudding “philosophy – that’s the way my parents raised me. Others reject the practices used by their parents. Most regardless of race, education and income, find the truth in the middle of these two extremes. They acculturate by retaining some things from their culture of origin and integrating those with what they learn (and like) from the larger society. And, people do this even when there are social and emotional consequences. That is why I believe so many parents are able to keep physical corporal punishment in their parenting tool kit knowing they will not use it as often or in the same way as their would-be-jailed parents.

It seems there is general agreement that culture is the centerpiece of parenting. But, when racial groups are compared in an attempt to determine what motivates parents to use physical discipline, the findings indicate that culture is the enemy of black children. Black parents (89%) possibly because they are “less educated and less affluent” use physical punishment more often than Hispanic (80%) and white parents (79%). They, according to Elizabeth Gershoff, University of Texas and other researchers also “use more violent methods against their children; are “invested in giving their children a beating;” and get rid of their anger and frustration by whipping their children.” And, black parents do this because “harsh whipping is a legacy left by the brutality of slavery.”

The numbers reported in research studies vary by a few percentage points but in every instance, black parents are reported to be the biggest users of what is termed corporal punishment and are therefore by implication, the ones who abuse their children most often. While I cannot knowledgeably challenge the statistical significance of the 89, 80 and 79 percent I can, based on what I know about human nature, ask, does the quote, “It is easy to believe someone if they tell you what you want to hear,” apply in this situation? I say with confidence, it does.

As a black woman, I am not shy about saying there are some self-absorbed black parents who could benefit from some parenting classes and few other unmentionable interventions because they use either physical punishment or the threat of it with the same frequency most of us use the pronouns “she”, “he” and “it.” But, I don’t believe for one moment, (even for the “less educated and less affluent,”) that this is less true for some parents of other races any more than I believe black people love fried chicken more than white people and white people love watermelon any less than black people. Is it possible that the difference in the numbers is because black parents are, more than other parents, willing to tell the whole truth about their parenting practices?

Concerns about the impact of parenting practices on the development of children are legitimate but the Adrian Petersons, Charles Barleys and others who generalize their valuable but limited childhood experiences to all or most black parents; and researchers who compare black parents with white parents and use their conclusions to influence policies and practices are perpetuating negative stereotypes. Some of you may accuse me of picking at linguistics straws. Maybe I am. But, I believe the words we use when talking about physical discipline by black parents (whipping and beating) and white parents (spanking and swatting) are an example of such stereotyping. Both require an adult to hit a child with the intention of inflicting pain and yet spanking and swatting is softer, more palatable than the words, “whipping” and “beating” which conjures up disturbing images – images so disturbing that some black people who want to distant their parents from such cruel behavior will say, “We (I) didn’t get whippings. We (I) got spanked.” Before anybody says it, this has nothing to do with “Trying to be white” or “denying your culture.” It has to do with what it means to whip someone and be whipped. Whipping and beating is what white slave masters and overseers did to black slaves. I do not have to give examples of the humiliation whipping and beating heaped upon slaves nor do I have to provide evidence of the satisfaction slave owners and overseers got when they beat and whipped slaves. But, I say without a speck of doubt that the feelings of most black children who get a whopping does not duplicate that of slaves and black parents are not, as they whoop their children saying as in 12 years of Slavery, “ I will have flesh and I will have all of it.”

There is nothing to prove white, Hispanic and Asian parents deliver physical punishment less “violently” than black parents so how can individuals and researchers say that with any degree of certainty? Well, they cannot unless they are comparing our understanding of and emotional reaction to the words – spanking/swatting and whipping/beating. Words as Vega says, do hold power. In this case, I think they hold power because they fit with the metanarrative – the story behind the story that images black men as violent and black women as angry and black parents as being “too hard” on their children. The effects of slavery are far reaching but even with that black people are not so emotionally, spiritually and intellectually delayed that we have not, cannot separate how they treat their children from how slave masters treated their ancestors. I know all of us are influence by our past, but I am not buying for one minute this notion that a 29-year old talented, highly successful, well-recognized man whose lifestyle is an indication of his ability and willingness to acculturate and assimilate to the norms of larger society is a victim of his culture and therefore on a day in May of 2014 beat his four year old son because a white slave owner beat his ancestors on a day in May of 1914.

Black parents suffered at the hands of slave masters and so did their children. But those scars were healed with love, a sense of community and a fervent belief that we would overcome. I get it that we are still overcoming. And, maybe there is no way of completely overcoming cruelties such as slavery, the holocaust or the abduction of girls at the hands of a Nigerian extremist. But, in spite of our history, it is irresponsible for researchers and individuals to suggest that black parents are hitting their children just because they are victim of the past. According to this thinking, their decisions are not value-based. Their reactive brain is on full throttle. They are suffering from ‘victim-mology,’ and therefore have little control over what they do to their children. Please! Do we have our share of Adrian Petersons? We surely do. In fact we have far too many. But so do white people and Asian people and Hispanic people and other ethnic group because people who abuse their children AP (Adrian Peterson) style do not come in any one color. And we cannot identify them by their education or location.

We are famous for saying the children are our future. This Peterson situation indicate that we either do not know what this means or these are just some words we borrow from a beautiful song. I am going to assume that neither of the above are true and make some recommendations to ensure that we do the best we can at all time to protect children from parents of all races who are either abusing their children or will be inspired to do so after seeing Adrian Peterson’s handiwork..

First the black people who are pretending like Adrian Peterson’s hand slipped need to stop. If they cannot say he abused his son without chocking, they need to not talk. The white people who are trying to explain why he did or did not abuse his son need to stop too. As is commonly said, “It is what it is.” Everybody I know, including me, keeps asking, “What could a four-year old child have possibly done to be beaten like that?”

All of us need to stop making comparisons based on race. It is divisive. We have no way of knowing how much we can trust the self-reported physical punishment data and yet we draw and make public our conclusions. And, since race and economic class so often determines who gets the harshest punishment, children who are not of color or poor are not likely to be protected from their abusive parents as quickly and severely as their less well-off counterparts. Guess there is a blessing in everything.

Take the starch out of the words used to differentiate physical punishment by race. The word spanking spoken by an abuser will feel like a beating to the child. The word beating spoken by a non-abusive parent will feel like whatever we think a spanking is. So, let us think of these words as homonyms – words that have more than one meaning.

We need to decide what child abuse is. Reportedly, Peterson admitted to bruising his son’s back, legs, hands, scrotum and buttock and we are still having this “did he, didn’t he” conversation. Parental corporal punishment is legal. Over 50% of parents across racial and economic lines say they exercise their legal right to physically punish their children. This mean clarity is urgent. Clarity provides greater opportunities to prevent child abuse through parent education and other social supports. Reasonable rather than reactive intervention strategies can be implemented when abuse is suspected. And parent, most of whom are not abusing their children will be, I suspect be more willing to talk openly about their parenting practices.

There are two sides to the parental corporal punishment debate. We can, based on a shared understanding of what child abuse is, create more opportunities where it is safe for parents to talk about their parenting values and style and how that relates to their fears and wishes for their children. We can help parents understand how to deal, without shame, with a hard-to-parent child. We can do more to support healthy parenting or we can let this become a red state blue state situation by trying to prove who is right and who is wrong and therefore miss a chance to expand our understanding of the dimensions of child abuse. Then, we can be assured that history will repeat itself. The next time an Adrian Peterson who make approximately $14,000,000 abuse a child, he can say as he walks out of the courtroom, “I am just glad this is over.” And, an Adrian Peterson who makes $31,300 a year can leave the courtroom in handcuffs on his way to jail for at least few years.

Power and money or the safety and protection of all children?

JRW is Exceptional. But, It’s Team Members Are Not The Exception.

“We’re African-American boys from the South Side. For so many people, the South side is only about bad things. Something good can come from the South side of Chicago, period.”

Marquis Jackson, Player
Jackie Robinson West Little League Baseball team

Marquis is right! Thirteen young boys from the South side of Chicago; they earned the title of Little League World Series United States champions. They deserve all of the individual and collective praise, recognition and professional respect that politicians, community and business leaders and sports figures can heap upon them. They filled us with pride. While I do not want to minimize the importance of expressing the pride we feel, I hope it is as much about their achievement as it is about the color of their skin and where they live because The Jackie Robinson West Little League Baseball Team is exceptional but they are not the exception.

There is a tendency to treat the accomplishments of these and other African-American boys on the South side of Chicago as if they are what the late Jerry Sternin (Professor of Nutrition at Tufts University, co-author of The Power of Positive Deviance and Director of Save the Children Program in poor Vietnamese villages) terms “a positive deviance from the norm.” They are not. But because so much attention is given to the destructive behavior of the small number of young (and not so young) African-American males who are reeking havoc on some South side communities through gang related activities, we, with the help of the media, are perpetuating the belief that the attitude and behavior of the “1%” is representative of the “99%.” That is not so. But here is a solution. Put them – the 1% – their Glocks, AK-47s and whatever other military weapons they like to shoot along with cartons of Pampers on an airplane. Their mission: Help defeat terrorism. That done, we can put this “Jack-In-The-Box” reaction to young South side African-American males who display what we used to call “home training” – well-mannered, well-spoken, polite, hard working, goal-directed and being a credit to your race – to rest, permanently.

Positive deviance is based in the belief that the solution to an “intractable problem” can be found in the environment and among the people most affected by the problem. There are, this theory holds, “observable exceptions” that can be replicated to replace “failing norms” with desirable norms. A key element, as stated by the authors is, “retraining ourselves to pay attention differently and cultivate skepticism about the inevitable ‘that’s just the way it is.” This, in my opinion, is the intractable problem – not paying attention to the many south side African-American males who are having a successful and fulfilling childhood in spite of the challenges they may face in their home, their communities and their schools. Natasha J. Cabrera, PH.D and author of an article titled, Minority Children and Their Families: A Positive Look said it best. “We know more about maladaptation than adaptation among minority children. We know more about why minority children fail than we know about why they succeed. The results is an unbalanced picture that over emphasizes the deficits and pays little attention to the assets or strengths that minority parents and children bring to the table.”

Two factors to which we need to “pay attention differently” are motivation and the quality of the guidance and direction provided by adults. I present the factors in this order because I believe there is no such thing as an unmotivated person – child or adult. Motivation causes us to do whatever we are doing and everyone is doing something. Whether a child is doing what is expected or socially acceptable or age appropriate is not what determines whether she or he is motivated. For instance, a child who does not do homework is not unmotivated. S/he is simply more motivated to do something other than homework. So, the question is not, why aren’t children motivated? The questions are: “How do adults help children understand that motivation is something they already have? How do adults assist children in using their motivation?

Whatever we are motivated to do requires an investment of time and energy. Therefore people, who are motivated to do “this”, generally are less motivated to do “that.” For instance, research shows that children who have specific educational goals tend to postpone sexual involvement or are sexually responsible so as not to do anything to disrupt the future they envision. Studies show that youth who become drug involved may lose interest in school, extra curricular activities and abandon relationship with family and close friends. Drug usage demand a lot of attention, thus robbing the person of the energy to do things that were previously important. Girls who do not return to school after their first baby is born tend to have more subsequent pregnancies than those who do.

The JRW team is made up of 13 boys who were motivated to invest the time and energy needed to practice their craft and do whatever else they needed to do to become world champions. This probably means there are things they just do not do. Since getting good at anti-social behavior requires the same investment of time and energy as pro-social behavior, I venture to say, the 1% also practice their craft. There are things they just do not do either because they too are motivated to become “world champions.”

The other factor is guidance and direction from adults. Just like all children are motivated to do something, all adults give guidance and direction. It is the quality of the guidance and direction that influences how children use their motivation. Cabrera talks about the presence rather than the absence of something and refers to that presence as “Promotive factors” – behaviors, attitudes, values – “that support the positive development of minority children.” For me this raises an important question. “What is it that we adults are promoting and how is that influencing what African-American males are motivated to do?”

I suspect JRW are champions today because parents, coaches and the other adults with whom they engage promoted high but reasonable expectations, set and communicated acceptable standards of behavior, taught consequences, personal responsibility and return on investment. I also suspect these boys cannot miss practice and do not get I-pads for showing up. They obviously get positive reinforcement when they win and meaningful support when they lose. Because of these promotive factors, they have, at the tender ages of 11, 12, and 13 began the process of answering the question, “How can I use my motivation to achieve my goals.” These are also reasons JRW Coach, Donald Butler was able to say, “They are horrible losers.”

It is no different for the 1%. The adults in their lives – either by commission or omission- promote expectations, acceptable standards of behavior, consequences, personal responsibility and return on investment. The 1% is often referred to as unmotivated. They are not. They are highly motivated because they are influenced by promotive factors too. While these factors are not what some of us consider positive they are helping the 1% “win games,” get recognition and learn how to use their motivation to achieve what they believe to be positive goals. Their coaches would echo Butler – They are horrible losers.

Many other young African-American males on the south side who are not a member of a nationally recognized team, will probably not be pictured on the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine or make the news for a gang-related crime are doing well as they make the journey from boyhood to manhood. Marquis said “something good can happen on the south side. I say something good is happening and we need to learn how to “pay attention differently.” Accomplishments by young African American males are not deviant and these young males are not nearly as unmotivated as we like to think they are. It is the quality of the guidance and direction that children get that determines whether they are motivated to be in the 1% or the 99%.

What do young African-American males need, especially from African-American adults? They need for us to stop being invested in deficits. They need us – parents, teachers, politicians and community leaders – to stop harping on what is “wrong with them.” This does not mean we should deny problems and challenges or be ashamed of our dirty laundry. It means changing our perceptions and raising our expectations. We need to stop seeing and referring to young black males as unmotivated. We need to think about how we are guiding and directing them to use the motivation they have. We need to take to heart the words of Carol Brunson, PH.D. In an article titled, Faith and Confidence, she said, “In a sense, the state of Black children is a direct reflection of adults’ values, beliefs and perceptions of them-how we see them can essentially affect who and what they become.”

Our Automobiles or Our Kids. Which Is More Important?

So what if, on our way to work in the morning, we put $3.00 worth of corn syrup in our gas tanks? This question obviously does not require an answer. In fact, The FTC Consumer Information Report says people “spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year,” on higher-octane gas than their automobiles require because they want to increase the chances of them
performing to maximum capacity especially under adverse conditions. Now, this certainly does not guarantee that these properly nourished automobiles will not have a bad day but it does give them an edge.

So, what if we are paying more attention to what goes into our automobiles’ gas tank than we are to what goes in our children’s bodies? This question does need to be answered. I hope my observation will help us do so.

Counting generic black plastic bags – you know the generic ones you get when you buy something from the dollar store, the gas station or what is called “the corner store” even if it is in the middle of the block? I was on the bus. The time on the electronic bus announcer said 7:32 a.m. It was Wednesday, a school day.

When I ride the bus, I’m either reading, talking or observing. I did not want to read. There was no one to talk with so I was people watching which is why I noticed that most of the elementary and high school kids got on the bus carrying one of those bags. My compulsion to count kicked in. As the bus traveled from 300 East to 1700 West, I counted 23 kids who got on with a bulging black plastic bag.

I can safely say the black plastic bag carried by each of the kids had at least three of the following: a bag of flamin’ hot (chips or fries), a chocolate bar, chewy or hard candy, a flavored drink. These foods are rendered seductively appealing to the eyes and the palate by adding food coloring (yellow 5 and 6, blue 1 and the infamous Red 40), fats and critic acid that make candies and drinks taste like real fruit.

A 1/1/8 oz. bag of flamin’ hots cost 25 cents (kids generally buy more than one) has 160 calories, 11 carbs and 250 grams of sodium. A 16 oz. psychedelic colored flavored fruit drink in a hard plastic BPA-laden bottle that brags about having 100% vitamin C supplies kids with 100 calories, 25 gram of carbs, 23 gram of added sugar and 130 grams of sodium.

A chocolate bar can have as many with as 280 calories, 33 carbs, 27 grams of added sugar, and 120 grams of sodium. A package of hard candy (serving size 3 pieces) can have as many as 70 calories, 11 grams of added sugar 17 carbs and 10 grams of sodium while a serving size of chewy candy (9 pieces) can have 130 calories, 34 carbs, 22 gram of added sugar and 40 grams of sodium. In the interest of full disclosure, some of the candies and chip do have a speck of fiber and a dribble of protein.

For 14 city blocks, I watched kids laugh, talk and playfully tease as they consumed colorful “MNV” (minimal nutritional value) foods – foods that has little or none of the protective properties needed to nourish growing bodies and developing brains: whole grain foods such as vitamins, minerals and fiber. If, by the time these kids got off the bus, (some of their bags were empty) they had eaten just one serving of each of the MNV food described above, they walked into the first class of their five-hour school day under the influence of 740 empty calories, 34 simple carbohydrates, 83 grams of added sugar and 1,050 grams of sodium peppered with critic acid and assortment of food coloring, fats and other things that have unreadable and unpronounceable names.

Teachers with whom I spoke said the first 90 minutes or so of the school day is devoted to reading – a subject that requires kids to attend, concentrate and comprehend. But, here is the problem. The kids are not, like our automobile, beginning their day with high performance fuel. Consider the following.

Taking age and gender differences into consideration, the recommended daily number of calories for the average active school age child is between 1,200 and 2,400 and between 2,200 and 2,800 for the average active teen. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), at least 40% these calories should come from nutrient-rich foods such as grains, fruits, vegetables, protein and dairy products. Both the CDC and the Harvard School of Public Health says 1,500 grams of sodium per day is “adequate” for children. For kids between the ages of 9 and 18 years the recommended limit is 2,300 grams. The America Heart Association recommends five to eight teaspoons of added sugar (equal to approximately 21 to 33 grams) as the daily consumption for preteens and teen. Remember, these numbers hold only if kids are active.

So, imagine these kids in their first period class doing an individual reading assignment or group reading project or taking a quiz or a midterm exam with bodies and brains fueled with approximately 33% of the recommended daily allotment of calories, 65% of the sodium and over 50% added sugar (equivalent to approximately 19 teaspoons) and it may not even be 9:00 o’clock in the morning.

I am not ignoring individual differences nor am I naive about the many variables that impact how children respond in a learning environment but these differences do not lessen the need to ask, “Are our automobiles more important than our kids”? We are meticulous about the fuel we put in our automobiles because we believe there is a relationship between what we “feed” them and what we want from them which is consistently high performance over a designated period of time. Understandably, we want the same things from our kids. Problem is, their “on-the-way-to-school” snack fuels their bodies and minds with substances that make consistently high performance challenging for some and nearly impossible for others. And, according to teachers, kids are, by mid-morning, tired, sleepy and short-tempered and distracted. Teachers’ observations and descriptions of their students’ behaviors is supported by pediatricians, brain scientists, nutritionists, and health and social science researchers, all of who say one way or another that the consequences of eating MNV foods on a regular basis is not just limited to these immediate affects. Kids can also experience “complications like learning problematic eating patterns, childhood obesity, chronic illness, low self-esteem, food addictions, type two diabetes, depression and suicide.” In 2012, the Center for Food Safety said, “Obese children are also more likely to develop high cholesterol and heart disease later in life.” The Women’s and Children’s Health Network warn that poor eating habits during the early years can cause “changes associated with disease at a more advanced age.”

I am probably pushing this point beyond what is necessary. But, humor me. If kids consume some version of MNV foods before arriving at school every morning, by the end of a school month (20 days) their bodies and brains will be saturated with 21, 000 grams of sodium and 380 teaspoons of added sugar and 15,600 empty calories. Multiply these numbers by nine (months in the traditional school year) and we are talking about kids who can perform about as well as an automobile whose engine no longer revs up as soon as the key turns in the ignition. Keep in mind, these numbers do not include after school and weekend consumption. Nor do they include fast foods and breakfast cereal. What makes this critically important? The accumulative affect. There is no arguing with the research. A steady diet of MNV foods can negatively impact every aspect of a kid’s life during school years and beyond. .

What can we do? The first thing is not to play the famous, “whose to blame” game – pointing fingers at “these trifling parents who are too lazy to get up and fix breakfast for their kids.” While I have no doubt that this is an accurate description of some parents, I think we limited our ability to search for meaningful solutions if we assume that nutritional neglect is the primary reason kids eat MNV foods on their way to school.

I also have no doubt that some of these kids ate breakfast at home – the one most enjoyed by this age group – boxed cereal purchase by adults who understand the importance of not going to school hungry. As well intentioned as this is, EWG (Environmental Working Group) says, “181 of the 1,556 cereals” on store shelves are marketed to children. They have “40% more sugar” than those that do not target children. This means kids who eat a breakfast of dry cereal (or pop tarts or instant hot cereals) and then consume MNV foods begin their school day at greater cognitive risk than kids who do not eat breakfast at home.

If we are not going to blame, what can we do? We can be guided by the perspective of Dr. Sylvia Rimm, Family Achievement Center, “Children and adults alike are influenced by their peers, but children who are still in the process of developing a value system are more vulnerable to negative influences, “and ask, “what if this behavior is more representative of a social norm than of anything else?” This would give educators, youth development specialist, coaches and others a way of partnering with kids and parents to change the norms that drives this behavior.

Social norms are established when we believe participating in a particular activity gives us credibility among the peer group to which we belong or want to belong. This has been documented around behaviors such as binge drinking among college students and smoking among kids as young as eight years old. If going to the store, buying the junk food and eating it on the way to school is part of a kid’s social identify, this behavior will continue because as Dr. Rimm said kids have not yet developed “a value system” that will allow them to make wise dietary decisions.

Stopping at the store and buying junk food on the way to school did not begin with this generation. It is the difference in the times that has created the need for adult intervention. The most significant of these differences seems to be working parents, the wide variety of MNV foods that are available, the amount of discretionary money kids have, neighborhood store owners who may not be personally connected to the communities in which they do business and the frequency with which kids eat processed and fast foods.

Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, authors of Connected were asked, “Can people work to change their neighborhood environment to create positive effects on themselves and their community? Their response: “Yes, absolutely! Make good behavior visible.”

Can we make good nutritional behavior visible? Yes, absolutely. We can increase our understanding of how the foods kids are consuming in the morning are affecting their interest and behavior in school. And, we can implement an “It takes a village” approach to developing and implementing strategies that will ultimately empower kids so their decisions about what goes into their bodies are as thoughtful as the decisions we make about the gas we put in our automobiles.

CPS and CTU – Are You Just Pretending to Care About The Kids?

Rahm Emanual, as he is spoken of in some circles, may be the biggest asshole in this city and the worse Mayor Chicago has ever had. I don’t know because I don’t know him. I’m sure he’s made his share of mistakes and told his share of political lies. Be mad at him for that if you want to. Don’t vote for him in the next Mayoral election if you don’t want to but stop acting like he broke the Chicago public School system. He didn’t. It was broke before he was born. And, like so many school systems across the United States, Chicago’s system is staying broke because too many people at all levels are more invested in protecting the brokenness than they are in doing what needs to be done to fix it.

Systemically, CPS has been a disorganized mess for decades in spite of the fact that its classrooms are and always has been graced by some highly qualified, extremely talented, deeply committed people who are not only teachers but also educators. For years, CPS had no formal professional development requirements for every teacher in the system. Consequently a teacher could teach for years with no education beyond undergraduate school. The primary motivation for an advance degree, for far too many teachers, was getting to the next pay lane. Some of these teachers got degrees in guidance and counseling so they could “guide” and “counsel” the same students they didn’t want to be bothered with in the classroom.

In far too many instances, becoming a principal or another school administrator had more to do with who you knew rather than what you knew. Sometimes horrible teachers became even worse principals. Just as with teachers, there were principals and other school administrators who were highly qualified, extremely talented, deeply committed people who understood what it means to educate students within the context of their race, culture and community. But CPS didn’t seem to care about leadership ability and if it did, principals were too often treated like the oldest child left with the responsibility of caring for the younger children but without the necessary authority. So, Rahm Emanual and company shouldn’t be wounded because some Union members, some teachers, parents and a portion of the general public are suspicious of their willingness to act in the best interest of children, especially Black children.

Historically, the Chicago Teachers’ Union has protected teachers at the expense of children. If teachers knew nothing else, they knew CTU had their backs. This includes teachers who didn’t know how to teach, teachers who didn’t want to teach and teachers of all colors who showed blatant disregard for students. For years, principals who dared to give a teacher a “bad evaluation,” had to jump through so many of the Union’s justification hoops, some felt it wasn’t worth the trouble. If a principal “did this” to the wrong teacher, her or his job might be in jeopardy. If after a few years a persistent principal succeeded in getting “rid” of a low or in some cases, a no performing teacher, the Union in conjunction with CPS, employed the Roman Catholic Church strategy and simply transferred that teacher to another school. So Karen Lewis and company shouldn’t be wounded because some members of the CPS leadership team, some Union members, teachers, parents and a portion of the general public are suspicious of its “children come first” mantra.

CPS on one side! CTU on the other side! Based on the reputations they’ve earned over the years, there’s no reason for anyone to trust either of them to do what’s best for those in the middle: The students. In spite of this, people are asking and attempting to answer critical questions such as, what is a good school? What is a good education? What does a “good education” mean for Black students who are attending schools that are failing to educate them and then failing them because they’re not educated? These questions mean things are changing. But, in order for change efforts to pay off, we have to stop pretending.

Lets’ stop pretending like Rahm Emanual’s decision to close 54 schools came after he consult the Ouija Board. Conversations about attendance, student achievement, the physical conditions of these schools and teacher performance have been happening for years. CEO Byrd-Bennett simply did what the previous administration didn’t have the guts to do. Did she get everything 100% right? I don’t know but here’s the deal, the person who has the gut to make the hard decisions will also make the most meaningful mistakes and as a result, create the greatest opportunity for meaningful change. CEO Bennett might mess around and turn CPS into what Peter Senge (The Fifth Discipline) calls a learning organization.

Let’s stop pretending like black students in low-performing school were doing just fine academically until all those white teachers who are scared of black kids were sent to replace “good” black teachers who knew how to teach black kids. That’s not true. There are from what I hear, white teachers who are deathly afraid of black kids and expect very little from them. They need to be gone immediately but so do the black teachers who are not afraid of black kids but have equally low expectations. Highly qualified, extremely talented, deeply committed people, who are not only teachers but also educators, come in all colors. And, kids don’t care about a teacher’s color when they’re respected as individuals and as learners.

The cover story in the December 1991 U.S. News & World Report: The Exodus – Many parents view the public schools as ineffective and dangerous, and are exploring other options states, “The nation’s faith in its public school is fading fast. A steady stream of reports from the nation’s classrooms about drugs, violence, bureaucratic bloat and ill-educated students is eroding public confidence in American tradition of “common” schooling that reaches back to the early 19th century.” That was 23 years ago. So, Anti-charter school people need to stop pretending like public schools would be just fine were it not for these educational interlopers. The anti-public school people need to stop pretending like all charter schools are superior to public schools when we all know some of them are just bad public schools by another name. Charter schools aren’t intended to be the only solution. They are an option. When we have a public school, that has only 55% of its students performing at grade level, after six years of turn around efforts, those parents and students need an option because as sung by the Rolling Stones, “Time waits for no one, no favor has he.”

Because the Rolling Stone’s lyric applies to individuals and organizations, CPS and CTU need to work together to create a system where academic excellence is the norm. However a major challenge is that current school improvement efforts are pushing against an organizational culture that is as rooted as a fifty year old Oak tree. Organizational culture is an invisible but powerful force that dictates, among other things, workplace values, attitudes toward work, and assumptions about the work. The OPF/CTU culture has fostered assumptions about teachers and teachings that are difficult to change. These include: (1) Anyone can be a teacher. (2) A teacher never has to worry about being laid off (3) A teacher only works nine months out of a year. (4) This is my classroom. These are old deeply embedded assumptions that factor into what it means to be a teacher. For some teachers, their professional esteem might be tied more closely to these assumptions than to student success. Proposed changes such as length of the school day, year-round school and teacher performance and evaluation are meeting with resistance partly because teachers (not all of them of course) are feeling as if that to which they’re entitled is being taken away.

So, What to do? There’s no single or easy answer. After all, we’re talking about a culture that has nurtured these assumptions for generation after generation of teachers. But to start, we can stop pretending. CTU can stop pretending like everything suggested or implemented by CPS is laced with racism and is therefore intended to rob Black students of educational opportunities or put them in harms ways or slap Black parents and the Black community in the face. This isn’t to suggest that CTU doesn’t need to be concerns with racist policies that influence the distributions of resources, curriculum content and student outcomes. It doesn’t mean CTU needs to rubber stamp proposed changes that will surely impact teachers professionally and personally. Nor does it mean CTU’s “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me,” philosophy is completely flawed. It does mean CTU needs to meet CEO Byrd-Bennett and her team, at least half way, because without teachers, there’s no chance of changing people minds, fixing the system and beginning the process of re-creating the culture.

American Skips School: Why we talk so much about Education and do so little? This question was posed on the cover of Harper’s Magazine in November 1993. The author, Benjamin R. Barber identified issues that threatened our children’s education: aging buildings, budget battles, length of the school year, teacher’s pay, professional respect, violence, school dropout, prison for young black males, gangs, drugs, teen pregnancy, etc. – that was nearly 21 years ago. The bad news is these are still threats. The good news, at least in Chicago is we’re not just talking a lot about education, we’re also doing more than just a little. People are having tough conversations and making even tougher decisions. Teachers are participating in professional development opportunities that enable them to prepare children for the world, as it will be when they come of age rather than the world as it was and is now. Principals are facilitating the development of learning environments that are student, teacher, parent and community friendly. And more and more black kids are engaged in educational experiences that are designed for students who are expected to learn, achieved academic excellence and succeed in life. This is progress. To build upon it, we have to stop name-calling. We have to stop taking sides. We have to stop being against someone rather than being for something. We have to stop pretending something is worse than it is or better than it can possibly be just because we’re more interested in being right than in sharing responsibility for what’s wrong. We have to stop this unless we’re just pretending to care about the kids.


Sell Drug to Them. It’s OK

Every time I hear someone say African-American people – children and adults – sell drugs because schools didn’t adequately prepare them for the workforce so they can’t get jobs paying at least a decent wage, I just want to scream. This is not to say the education of African-American children in far too many schools is not substandard or that limited and low-paying employment doesn’t make it difficult for people to take care of themselves and their families. I want to scream because I know far too many African-American men, women and teenagers, some of whom grew up in Robert Taylor, Cabrini Green, Ida B. Wells and other public housing developments with single mothers who earned minimum wage, worked two or more jobs and still struggled to meet their basic needs who wouldn’t even think of dealing or selling drugs. On the other hand, I know and know of African-American people who grew up in two-parent families in solid middle and upper middle class communities where parental support was beyond adequate who sold drugs just so they can buy the latest hot non-essential item.

Selling drug to feed one’s family is, in my opinion, an excuse, not a reason. I don’t doubt that drug dealers/sellers buy an occasional box of Captain Crunch, bring home a couple large Domino pizza on a good night, and give the newest “baby-momma” some money. But, I believe Notorious B.I.G. (Biggie Small) tells the real truth in “EVERYDAY STRUGGLE.” “http://.justsome”>http://.justsomelyrics.com</

Having said that, I acknowledge that a number African-Americans I know, some African-American politicians, noted community leaders and authors are certain this is the case. My close friends who believe I’m wrong about this say I don’t understand. I’ll be the first to admit they could be right but more importantly, there no way we can disagree about the negative impact this entrepreneurial approach to family support is having on children and adults who live in African-American communities famous for their drug activity. And, since there is no short-term solution to the systemic educational and employment problems, we need to brace ourselves. Drug dealers/sellers will continue to need money to care for their families. This means we can probably look forward to more weeks that end with ten or more of our people murdered or shot. And, even though “mandatory sentencing” is no longer a threat, the number of incarcerated African-American males probably won’t decrease so neither will the number of children who’ll see their fathers only on visiting day. This seems to be a trap and a tragedy for everyone.

This isn’t ok with me and at the very least those who support drug dealing/selling in certain communities must be torn because African-Americans living in communities traumatized by drugs cannot, in all consciousness, tell their children not to get involved with drugs because someone needs to use Crack, Heroin, Meth and other drugs so those who deal/ sells can feed their families. Given this, I am proposing that we implement The CWR (Collective Work and Responsibility) Initiative, named for a principle of Kwanza that means working together because “we have a role to play in our community and in the world.” CWR will be a partnership between African-American drug dealers/sellers and African-American Communities. The purpose is to make sure the burden of helping drug dealers/sellers support their families is not on the shoulders of just a few African-American communities. Here’s how the Initiative will work. African-American Communities across the United States will keep up a database with the following information.

1. The names and contact information of every resident who believes people deal and sell drugs to support themselves or their families. 2. The names and contact information of African-Americans who are currently dealing/selling drugs in the African-American communities that are hardest hit by drug-related activities. (3) All of the community residents listed in the data base will agree to buy enough drugs so dealer/sellers in the database can earn the salaries needed for their families to have nutritious food, affordable housing and other necessities such as movie size flatscreen TVs, big expensive cars and trucks, jewelry, multiple pairs of athletic shoes and the latest cellphone.

Not only can this make our drug dealing/selling brothers and sisters feel understood but they might be motivated to stop fighting over territory and killing their African-American competitors along with other African-American children and adults. But if they don’t the people who are murdered because they are, as we like to say, “In the wrong place at the wrong time” will live in African-American communities in various parts of the city.

I’ve also heard some white people express this same belief so they can participate too. Explaining their participation to white drug dealers/sellers might complicate things but it probably won’t stop these understanding, compassionate white people from participating. They will, without a doubt, make sure every one of the white residents in surrounding areas understand the purpose of CWR so when they see those African-Americans dealing/selling drugs in their communities, they won’t panic and called the police.

Being a member of the CWR is a selfless thing to do. The acceptance and understanding of drug dealing/selling is expressed in statements such as, “he just sells to his teenage friends to earn extra money” for shoes and basic things his parents can’t afford, or selling drug is not a violent crime,” makes me think CWR members might need to talk about three realities that are a part of living, raising kids and working in a community where a few people hold families and neighbors and business owners hostage as they walk up and down the street dealing and selling drug as freely as kids use to sell newspapers

1. Packages of Crack, Heroin, Meth, etc. do not have triggers but they do as much damage in drug-ridden African-American communities as an AK-47.

2. African-American drug dealers/sellers do not sell Crack, Heroin, Meth and other drugs to trees. They sell those drugs to other African-American people. Some of these African-American people pay for those drugs with Pamper money and rent money and food money or the few dollars they get after they steal and hock the family TV or their toddler’s only toy or their teenager’s favorite tee shirt. They pay for those drugs with the $10.00 and the bus pass they got out of the purse they snatched from a working single African-American mom’s coming home from her minimum wage job, or the $256.00 they stole after they knocked a 71-year old African-American man who had just cashed his social security check at the currency exchange to the ground.
3. And, like the predatory payday loan industry, dealers/sellers do not play. They extend credit to their customers who need a fix or hit or whatever they call it but don’t have cash. When customers cannot pay their debts on time, these family oriented dealers/sellers will demand collateral which could as easily be selling that customer’s per-teen African-American daughter for sex as easily as they might take that customer’s State ID or LINK Card. Or, they might shoot in a living room window, kill the whole family or shoot a Bro in the back to make sure he spends the rest of his life a wheel chair – little stuff like that.

What to do with the drugs you buy? Give them to your children or other members of your family so they can learn the tricks of the trade. That way, those who live in gated communities or on tree-lined streets can have drug-related experiences similar to those of brothers and sisters who live on or near busy thoroughfares decorated with liquor, cellphone and payday loan stores, storefront churches and other businesses hiding behind bulletproof glass and prison bars. Or, freeze them like some people do Girl Scout Cookies.

The CWR Initiative is not intended to be a permanent solution but at least nobody can accuse us of not doing anything while we wait for the school system to get fixed and beyond minimum wage job opportunities to increase. So, With everything laid out, The CWR is a go, right? Unless what you really mean is:

“I understand why you deal/sell drugs and I will gladly explain and defend, if I have to, what you’re doing and why as long as you do it over there where BaBa lives. It’s all right to sell to BaBa and her kids because she “ain’t done nothing with her life and, no matter what you do, her kids ain’t going to amount to nothing either. Since they’re going to use drugs anyway they may as well buy them from their undereducated and unemployed African-American brother and sisters.” The CWR Initiative – Silly? Maybe. Worth thinking about? Definitely.