Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

June 18, 2007

Rich, Black, Flunking: A Legacy of Racism?

Filed under: culture, history, politics — codesmithy @ 5:02 am

Digg ran this article recently, although it looks like the article is from over 4 years ago. You can look at the digg discussion here.

The controversial conclusion that Professor John Ogbu came to was the reason for the discrepancy between white and black students in Shaker Heights was due to black students not wanting to be seen as “acting white” and a parenting style of non-involvement in academics. The parenting style is a tad dubious because “… Ogbu’s research methods are flawed because he failed to do any comparative research on white families in Shaker Heights,” which Ogbu doesn’t exactly deny.

According to “Lies My Teacher Told Me” by James W. Loewen “Caste minority children – Native American, African American, and Hispanics – do worse in all subjects, compared to white or Asian American children, but the gap is largest in social studies. (pg. 301)” The theory is that the stigma of “acting white” is social contract between the minority group for “day-to-day resistance.” Loewen presents a summary on page 299 through examples in which students would answer nonsense answers such as “Blue Eagle: FDR’s pet bird who got very sad when he died.” Loewen makes the connection between these acts and slave resistance.

Of course, fooling the teacher is of little consequence. Quite possibly [the] teacher even knew of the ruse and joked about it with his colleagues, the way masters chuckled that their slaves were so stupid they had to be told every evening to bring in the hoes or they would leave them out in the night dew.

Loewen concludes that “day-to-day resistance” provides “a form of psychic distance, a sense that although the system may have commanded their pens, it has not won real cooperation from their minds.”

Social traditions, like “day-to-day resistance” are strange, because once ingrained there isn’t a sudden social transformation when preconditions are no longer present, but rather an evolutionary growth outwards.

Racism is real; Jim Crow was real. Segregation still exists. But the view that there are more opportunities for African-Americans today that are not being utilized to their maximum capacity shouldn’t be that controversial of an idea either. The fact that blacks that recently immigrate don’t display the academic gap is evidence that it is indeed a cultural artifact in the American black community invariably leading back to Jim Crow and slavery. This idea shouldn’t be damning, but rather empowering. Although, Black history is littered with examples such as literacy tests in which impossibly high standards were placed upon African-Americans allowing whites the pretense to “blame the victim.” We must consider the possibility that people of different color are not receiving equal treatment in the same classroom. Again, we are met with the fact that recent black immigrants do not show the apparent gap, it is unlikely that the discrepancy is due solely to differing standards based on race in the same classroom.

In conclusion, the legacy of racism persists on both sides, white and black. Invariably, we must look for explanations of the present through prevailing current conditions and our shared past. The stigma attached to “acting white,” being an “Uncle Tom,” or as Ogbu was called, a “Clarence Thomas,” is a natural form of resistance and defiance, but the defiance might be working against current progress. The defiance is counter-productive, by its original intent, to demonstrate passively that slave-owners had not conquered them. An act that an oppressed person could not demonstrate in an open or aggressive fashion. Admitting one aspect of the problem should not be that controversial, although it is one of many, but it just so happened to be the dominate factor in Shaker Heights scenario. It shows that even when progress is made, some social artifacts from history still remain and must also be dealt with.


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