5 Things I Learned from Coaching "Poor Black Kids"
Here we go again: first Gene Marks' simplistic Forbes column, "If I Were a Poor Black Kid," and now the inevitable knee-jerk backlash. The song remains the same: "White folks" pontificating in broad generalities about "black folks"; and black folks lecturing white folks with the same tired arguments about the "historic" and "structural" causes of black male academic underachievement. You'd think the election of an African-American president would put an end to this nonsense, but it seems to have made it worse.
Here's a suggestion: please, for the love of God, stop this obsession with race, and the polarizing, un-helpful discussion of "white privilege," as if "white imperialism" is, was, and forever will be the cause of all that ails "people of color." Instead, for once already, let's talk about real people, as they are, not in some aggregated, delusional "white middle class male" fantasy, but in their fuzzy, messy, defiantly indefinable humanity.
Let's talk about John, Jim, Reginald, Ryan, Jordan, and, yes, Kevin. Let's about their individual struggles to succeed. Let's talk about their highly particular schools and about the particular things those particular schools are doing, often against daunting odds, to insure academic greatness for their particular set of students. Let's talk about these important things without all the leftist tropes trotted out to justify failure, including "historic inequality," "classism," "social injustice," "race," and the undeniable "privileges" that came by virtue of race (all you racism-cataloguing wannabe Cornell West's, please hold your indignant finger-pointing for just a nanosecond).
When are we as humans, as Americans -- right, left or center -- going to get off this racialist obsession and, at long last, get granular with how we educate our citizens, regardless of what they look like, where they come from or what's been done to their ancestors. If we group individuals into convenient categories like "poor black kid," it's an easy and effective way to write them off or, better yet, ignore our direct physical responsibility to them as humans.