Monday, August 26, 2013

Being Accountable to the Dream

Our nation celebrated two milestones recently in the journey toward racial healing and equality.  In (1954), the United States Supreme Court overturned Plessy v. Ferguson, which allowed state-sponsored segregation in public schools.  The Warren court paved the way for integration in public schools, which presumably would allow blacks access to quality education.  We celebrated 50 years of the Brown decision in 2004.
Brown v. Board of Education

Last Saturday, we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. march on Washington and the “I Have a Dream” speech.  Thousands gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to commemorate the historic event and leaders spoke, including Attorney General Eric Holder, to say there is work yet to be done.  I agree.

With celebrating these milestones, it is alarmingly clear that the generation intended to benefit from the struggles 50 years ago simply are not in touch with what was hard fought.

Integrating schools after Brown only led to white-flight to private and parochial schools leaving blacks in the public schools in the South and in worse shape than they were before integration.  Instead of valuing education and seizing the moment, now only 62% of blacks graduated from high school in 2010 up from 49% over the preceding decade. Whites graduated at a rate of 80% and Hispanics 68% in 2010.[1]

In remembering the march on Washington an enduring memory for the civil rights movement for educational freedom and equality for all, the core of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was racial harmony.  Yet just over the past two weeks, we witnessed the senseless killing in Oklahoma of Chris Lane, an Australian baseball player, at the hands of two black teenage (and one white) gang members who said they were bored and did it for fun. Rev. Al says he did get involved because it wasn’t racial!

Then the very next week, we heard about the murder of an 88 year-old WWII vet Delbert Belton in Spokane, Washington, again at the hands of two black teenagers who robbed and savagely beat him to death.  Let’s not forget about the three black teens beating up a white teen on a school bus in Florida earlier this month.  Was Dr. King’s dream and non-violent philosophy taught to these black teenagers?  This generation seems to have made the wrong turn in the fork in the road.

Further, unlike with the killing of Trayvon Martin, these three black on white crimes were not plastered all over the news by the Main Stream Media.  In fact, few people even know about them.  The media’s double standard that says white victims don’t deserve news coverage and outrage is alarming.

The other tragedies we don’t hear about are the black-on-black murders happening daily.  The news media doesn’t find these crimes worthy of national attention either.  Reporting is limited to white on black crime so that those who perpetuate their own notoriety (where only blacks are victims) can be heard. (It should be noted that credible sources indicate that murders are most likely to occur within one’s own race and therefore white on white murders are prevalent as well.)

It is telling however, that the media only report non-black on black victimization.  Well the media be damned.  It all matters.  They matter a lot.

First, blacks have come to accept the high rate of murders in our communities.  It’s the norm. We don’t see it on the news but we hear who got shot last night. Gang members fight over territory; drug dealers protect their boundaries; and the effects of poverty and homelessness take its toll in a variety of ways.  It’s all commonplace and has become invisible except by those families left behind to cope from the tragedy of it all.  Even the silent murder of millions of innocent babies goes unnoticed.   It’s a tragic scene anesthetized by the culture of victimization.  Most blacks feel no power to change this plight or they simply don’t care to change it.

This is not the racial harmony Dr. King dreamed of.  The honesty of the progress of the civil rights movement was accurate.  We’ve come a long way.  However, the moment to lift us, the moment to chastise us, the moment to provide a model was wholly lacking by most of the commemorative event.
On a rare occasion, Rev. Al Sharpton said it right.  He said, "Don't disrespect your women. Make it clear that you know that Rosa Parks wasn't no 'ho,' and Fannie Lou Hamer wasn't no b----," Sharpton bellowed from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Alternatively, he chastised a society that he said leaves these young men without a moral compass. "We need to give them dreams again, not to worry about sagging pants, but sagging morality," Sharpton said. "If we told them who they could be and what they could do, they would pull up their pants and get to work."[2]

With the exception of the remark “not to worry about sagging pants,” I absolutely agree with Rev. Al Sharpton-finally.  Say more of that Al and maybe I’ll even watch MSNBC. He must add, however, that getting to work will mean saying no to Uncle Sam’s food stamps and the like. He may find that a more challenging directive for others to follow.

Second and in honor of Brown, take back our education system.  An example of that was the recent implementation of the Parent –Trigger Law in the Los Angeles Unified School District.  The parents of the 24th Street Elementary School ousted the principal and her team and chose a new operator for the failing school.  For the first time in LAUSD history, the school district is partnering with a charter school (Crown Prep Charter Middle School) to set educational standards that will change the future or those kids.  They took their school back for the benefit of their community.  The Brown decision is long in the past.  Now we simply have to hold those in charge of the system, the school districts, accountable for quality.

We cannot only wish for the dream Dr. King spoke of; we have to make it happen.  It’s been 50 years and we’re still sleeping and wishing.  Dreams cannot be realized without taking action to make them a reality.


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Monday, August 19, 2013

Build a Life, Don't Live One

“I believe that opportunity looks a lot like work. I never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job. Every job I had was a stepping stone to my next job and I never quit my job before I had my next job.”

“The sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart. And being thoughtful and being generous. Everything else is crap.  I promise you.  It’s just crap that people try to sell to you to make you feel like less. So don’t buy it. Be smart. Be thoughtful and be generous.”

“Steve Jobs said when you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way that it is. That’s not the way to go through life.”

“Everything around us that we call life was made up of people that are no smarter than you, and you can build your own things and you can build your own life that other people can live in. So build a life, don’t live one, find your opportunities and always be sexy.”

These three principles, typically uttered by reviled conservatives, were spoken in an acceptance speech to a crowd of teenagers by Ashton Kutcher at the Teen Choice Awards. 

Each remark was met with great cheers.  Perhaps  these words were something the teens had never heard; perhaps Kutcher was filling a hole in their desperate need for the truth about what life is really all about.

For me, I simply could not let such remarks pass by what I presumed to be a Hollywood liberal the likes of which typically lack any tether to reality. He was inspiring and he was right!

My hat is tipped to Mr. Kutcher.  Only a fool could disagree with him.

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