Showing posts with label Ronald Ferguson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ronald Ferguson. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Deal With It

A couple of months back, as part of continuing education, I participated in a two day seminar titled "Beyond Diversity." For the most part, I consider myself to be a racially sensitive person but I quickly found out how many things I take for granted every day. For example, see any Band Aids at Target or elsewhere that are NOT white flesh colored (other than the cute kiddie ones)? How about hair care products that are made for the type of hair that black people have? These might seem like minor things but this is our culture. For the time being, anyway, it is a white dominated culture and that's a problem. The evidence is in the numbers but I'll get to that in a moment.

If these examples don't convince you, ask someone you know that is black if, when they teach their children how to drive, if they also teach them how not to get shot by a police officer (regardless of said officer's skin color). Every parent in the seminar, who had children of driving age, taught their kids where to put their hands, how to talk to the officer, and how, because they were black, they had to be more careful than white drivers. Since I knew that the people at the seminar were probably very tuned in to race issues, I decided to ask every black person I see regularly if they had children of driving age or older and if they taught them in the same manner.

Every single one said the same thing as the folks at the seminar.

Whether we want to admit it or not, we still have racial issues in this country. More importantly we have four basic areas of denial or avoidance that are illustrated beautifully in comments on this blog nearly every day. Before I detail what they are, however, I want to make one thing very clear. There is one reason and one reason alone why I am talking about this: The Achievement Gap.

The achievement gap has long been documented between whites and blacks and is numerical evidence that our culture is still white dominated. Even today, we see the same problems we have seen for decades.

“There’s accumulating evidence that there are racial differences in what kids experience before the first day of kindergarten,” said Ronald Ferguson, director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard. “They have to do with a lot of sociological and historical forces. In order to address those, we have to be able to have conversations that people are unwilling to have.”

Conversations people are unwilling to true...especially here.

But how does this unwillingness that Ferguson mentions manifest itself? Through the following four areas

1. Ignorance. We see two different types here: unconsciousness (I don' t know what I don't know) and Dys-Consciousness (I don't know but I think I do). The former describes myself when I learned about the band aid colors. The latter describes someone who would say "I'm not racist. I have a Black friend." Something else to avoid here is, when discussing issues of race, don't make your black friend a spokesperson. "Well, he's black-let's ask him?" essentially says that all black people think alike because of their race.

2. Denial. This describes some of my readers. Many of you bitch that "it's all over now-why can't the blacks just get past it?" Or "we've already had this discussion." To answer the first question, because of the achievement gap and to answer the second, it's not good enough because of the achievement gap. Face the numbers. Deal with it.

Another element of denial is something else we see all the time: Blaming the Victim. There are great examples of it in comments all the time. I'm certain we will see several after this post. If Bill accuses Hank of being prejudiced or participating in discrimination, somehow (as if by magic, see: out of someone's ass) Bill is the problem, not Hank. "He brings it on himself" is the phrase we hear most commonly.

3. Redefinition. Another area in which several of my readers reside. "It's only a few people" or "It's in human nature. There's nothing I can do about it." I've said the latter myself and I was most assuredly wrong to do so. We also here people say that it's not race but behavior...which is actually prejudiced if you think about it. So, if they are black, they behave a certain way?

4. Counteratttack/Competing Victimizations. This is the area in which most of the right wing pundits reside. The obsession with the wise Latina remark by Sonia Sotomayor is a great example of this. The New Black Panther voting "story" is another. Simply mention that someone is prejudiced on any right wing blog and watch this area unfold in all its glory as well as both of these comments. You'll see them faster than flies screaming to shit.

In looking at these four stages of avoidance, it is quite clear that they all exacerbate the problem. Folks, we need to start having these conversations and not fall into any of these stages because the numbers don't lie. As long as we, as a culture, continue to fail black people, the issue of race is going to continue to come up and the wheel of perpetuity keeps on spinning like wheels in a good, old fashioned Minnesota snow storm. The word "racist" will be heard over and over again. I know many of you don't like it when it does.

So, you don't like it when the issue of race comes up and it makes your head hurt? Fine. Work on fixing the achievement gap which starts with a conversation. Face the problem and deal with it rather than being a dick about it.

After all, it's honestly in your self interest if you think about it.