This article appears in The Huffington Post, where I am a contributor: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-is-losing-but-were-not-winningyet_us_59ca9a9ae4b0e02ffdb77f37
This article appears in The Huffington Post, where I am a contributor: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/tv-show-arrow-has-every-right-to-discuss-blacklivesmatter_us_59babf92e4b02c642e4a14a7
This article appears in The Huffington Post, where I am a contributor: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-the-racist-president-made-in-america_us_59960b5de4b033e0fbdec27a
This article appears in The Huffington Post, where I am a contributor: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/444-the-album-jay-z-always-wanted-to-makebut_us_595e6066e4b08f5c97d067b3
Get your violins out, your flutes and cellos
As I recount my days back in Monticello
The year America breaks from Europe’s chains
I’m still a slave shackled in America’s chains
And I’ll make it plain I was more than a slave
A founding father found me and he couldn’t behave
Y’all can call him what you want, America’s son
I call him a rapist under Virginia’s sun
Put him in the books for the country he claimed
But me, I’m just a blip y’all don’t know my name
Know nothing about from whence I came
Call me Sally or Sarah, some say I’m to blame
But I ain’t ask for this I was part of a deal
So hear my story as a slave just recountin’ the real
While Jefferson was workin’ so hard to plant nation
I was his concubine on his plantation
Tried to make it slick and just call me a nurse
While I was savin’ lives they put my soul in a hearse
Doin’ nothing but my best to help heal Mary
Then she go to sleep and I’m screamin’ hail Marys
Prayin’ I won’t be raped by this man so scary
Y’all venerate this man but on the contrary
I was in the room taking care of wardrobe
He comin’ from behind and he never wore clothes
Now he comin’ from behind and I’m caught in the throws
I’m special, presidential w-h-o
R-e, he birthed nation, I birthed his kids see
Y’all see his face everywhere but mine don’t exist see
I’m Sally Hemings case you didn’t know
And I was more than a slave more than Jefferson’s ho
So know my story it’s an American classic
How I survived for centuries from life so tragic
See I rep for my sisters that you’ll never know
The ones mastered by the masters, sexed on the low
Y’all say it was just a sign of the times
Then you rewrite history, rewrite the lines
But I ain’t ask for this and some say it’s my fault
Look down at my sisters now it’s still their fault
Janet sabotaged her bra, it wasn’t Justin
Rihanna pissed off Chris Brown—musta been
Tina Ike-d up just cause she tried to mic-up
Anita knocked off the Hill she tried to rise up
Halle Berry had it comin’ who she think she be
Damn… in retro she kinda look like me
But I digress, I distress when I have to digest
Centuries of women being blamed for men stress
But until we tell our story won’t nobody care
So sisters rise up and tell your tales without fear
When you educate a girl, you save the nation
When you teach girls to lead, they become our salvation
Digging wells isn’t just about digging holes
When a community is nourished, you’ve nourished its soul
Malaika Malaika, Swahili for angel
YOU are Malaika, helping girls succeed from every angle
Creating change agents for tomorrow
By focusing on the good, not the sorrow
If each girl can wake up with a possible new beginning
She’s waking up every day with the chance of winning
Building community, one girl at a time
And day after day, we’re seeing the signs
That an investment in girls is some thing never wasted
Because day by day, new trailways are created
All our girls need is hope and a chance
Then we can get out of their way and watch them advance!
I’m a preexisting condition because I was born
I was born
I said my life matters
I said my zip code shouldn’t
I said my education shouldn’t be separate and unequal
I bled along side my oppressed people
I’ve been told that poverty is expensive
I’ve been sold on the false directive of equality
I’ve been told inequality shouldn’t bother me
I see daily the rich getting richer
I was born into a world that doesn’t want me
I was torn by a past that continues to haunt me
I was ensured my country would cover this
I know no insurance policy that can cover this
I’m still waiting for this country to be as good as its promise
I just hope my preexisting condition won’t kill me in the process
This article appears in The Huffington Post, where I am a contributor: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/is-it-time-to-revive-critical-thinking-in-america_us_58e6c72ce4b0d6001f07f330
In July of the year 2000, then President George W. Bush spoke about his vision for education at the NAACP’s 91st annual convention. He made headlines from the speech in main part by his use of the term “soft bigotry of low expectations”:
“Discrimination is still a reality, even when it takes different forms. Instead of Jim Crow, there’s racial redlining and profiling. Instead of separate but equal, there is separate and forgotten…I will confront another form of bias: the soft bigotry of low expectations…we have come so far in opening the doors of our schools. But today we have a challenge of our own…There’s a tremendous gap of achievement between rich and poor, white and minority. This, too, leaves a divided society. And whatever the causes, the effect is discrimination.”
Truer have never been spoken as it relates to challenges we face in education in America, even 17 years later. As I watched the political rise of President Donald Trump and the low bar set for him, however, I find myself finding the “soft bigotry of low expectations” being more and more applicable to him. I have never seen a United States president have such a low bar set for him. The only reason I can find is that he is a rich, famous, white male, and like many others who occupy this group such as Brock Turner, Mel Gibson, Roman Polanski, Ethan Couch, and Ryan Lochte, the ultimate consequences towards these individuals vary, but the initial assumptions about their actions are usually excused or downright defended in ways other people simply are not.
U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte lied about being robbed in Brazil when he and his entourage were the guilty party for vandalizing a gas station. Ultimately he suffered some consequences but initially when his lie was unearthed, some called what he did a “youthful error” though he was thirty years old at the time. Mel Gibson, among other things, told his wife that he hopes she gets raped by a “pack of niggers” and sat front row at the Oscars in 2017. Roman Polanski admits to raping a child yet still in this decade receives standing ovations for his movies at the Oscars while some of our favorite stars appeal for his exoneration. Collegiate star swimmer Brock Turner received 6 months in a county jail for rape, or what his father called, “20 minutes of action” and was released after 3 months. Lastly, Ethan Couch committed vehicular homicide and got off because he suffered from “affluenza meaning he was too rich and spoiled to be held responsible for his actions. What these men have in common is that they are rich, popular white males and therefore they are given a benefit of the doubt, which so many other groups are denied, as Sady Doyle wrote in her brilliant article: “What we lose when we give awards to men like Casey Affleck.” Enter Donald Trump.
Throughout the campaign and well into his presidency, Trump has demonstrated a level of incompetence that we have never witnessed. All one has to do is compare the analysis of his campaign to that of Hillary Clinton. Despite Clinton’s many flaws and flawed campaign, the fact of the matter is that she, like President Obama, have had to be twice as good in their campaigns to receive just half the accolades showered upon Trump. Hillary Clinton by many accounts won all of the presidential debates, knew her facts when discussing the issues, and made her campaign about policy, demonstrated by her ability to speak knowledgeably on the issues. Trump focused much of his campaign on bombast, rhetoric, hate, hyperbole and outright lies and was praised by many because he “tells it like it is.” What does “tell it like it is” mean when what you “tell” is a lie?
From stating that President Obama wiretapped him, that he saw Muslims in New Jersey celebrating 911, that millions of people voted illegally for Clinton, and countless other fabrications, Trump has repeatedly lied and when he gets called out on his lies, he is excused because he is a “businessman” and not an actual politician. It’s so weird because, for everyone else, once you decide to run for political office, you’re a politician. It’s sort of like 1+1=2 for most of but for many Trump apologists, 1+1 can actually = 1.5 if he says so. Furthermore, Obama spent his entire two terms working imperfectly to unify America through his policies and social commentary in the face of massacres like Sandy Hook, while Trump gets called “presidential” for being able to read calmly from a teleprompter for an hour. This is the presidential equivalent of Chris Rock stating that fathers shouldn’t expect to receive praise for actually raising their own children.
At the end of the day, too many of us in America are quick to excuse the actions, ignorance, and downright crimes of white men of status, while we are quick to turn boys into men when they are murdered at the hands of law enforcement and others as we did with Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown, who had just reached the age of adulthood at 18. Comparatively, Ethan Couch was a juvenile when he actually killed four people and went home to sleep in his own bed simply because he was rich. President Donald Trump, a man well into his 70s, continues to get a pass and even be praised for his downright ignorance of basic common knowledge. He can say it’s OK to sexually assault a woman and call it locker room banter and it’s OK. He can admit to being a racist and an anti-Semite and it can be excused because he said he is the “least” of these. The list is exhaustive and will continue to grow until some of us in America make the conscious decision to no longer give rich white men a pass because the bar we set for them is set so low. This soft bigotry is indeed a new type of discrimination and is having hard consequences for the entire country.
As I look back at my days as a Boston Public Schools student, and as I look at the multitudes of black male students still being excluded from the educational process today, I’m left to believe that we are dealing with nothing short of a tragic epidemic. As a seventh grader in the early 1990s, I remember a white male teacher dragging me to the office telling me: “Do you think I’m gonna put up with your s_ _ _ all year you f_ _ _ _ _’ punk?” Fast forward to 2009 and I’m speaking to a black female principal in DC. She sees one of her students from a distance and says: “He’s really gonna make a great prisoner one day.” Here we have 2 different cities, over 20 years apart, 2 different races, and 2 different genders, but one overwhelming similarity—low expectations towards black male students.
My belief is that if you develop strategies to reach your black males, you learn techniques to reach all of your students. Below are some strategies that will assist you in improving not only the participation of your black males who may be struggling, but ultimately give you a diverse range of tools to pull from in order to make for a dynamic teaching experience for all of your students!
Have high expectations for all of your students and communicate them. Many teachers fail to communicate that they expect all students to succeed in class. By default, there are students who are going to feel as if they cannot succeed. Whether it’s by their placement in the back of the class, their watching the same students get chosen to speak, or even the different levels of discipline for different students, your message will be communicated one way or the other. If you truly believe everyone can succeed, show them!
Increase your knowledge about their history. One game I play when I conduct my trainings is asking teachers to name 10 black male famous athletes, actors, and musicians. In less than 30 seconds, we have the answers. However, when asked to name 10 famous black male (living) doctors, scientists, or authors, the list often is never completed. If you widen your knowledge of black male success, you will not only develop a better picture of what is possible for your students, but you will also help them craft an image of themselves that is greater than what society tells them they can be. What you know is what you’ll show!
Utilize a wide range of equitable practices in order to involve all students. Rather than calling on the same students, utilize random calling popsicle sticks drawn from a cup so every student knows they could be called upon at any time. Students are more likely to be prepared if they believe they’ll actually be asked to participate. You can also have random grouping so students do not get comfortable with the same students. Lastly, remember that every student does not always learn solely by written exams. Develop additional ways that students can present their knowledge be it through oral presentations, musical interpretations, or group projects. Much of these practices can be found in books like The Skillful Teacher by Saphier, et al.
If you make a dedicated effort to utilize the steps above and just have a mindset that, as Donna Graves states, there’s not an achievement gap but a teaching gap, you will turn yourself into a teacher with the ability to incorporate not only your black male students, but all students irrespective of race, creed, color, gender, or religion! Teach on!