Serious Sunday. Every Sunday the The Block will connect with you on a deeper level. Our writers will give you something to think about and discuss as we address issues from various aspects of life. This is our opportunity to be deep and introspective, creating a dialogue we hope you will join. You are now rocking with the best Chris Collins and this is Serious Sunday.
Separate but Equal?
Before the landmark case of Brown vs. Education schools were completely segregated, 100%! At no time since then have schools been more polarized. Only now it’s not simply a black and white issue. Now, it’s a black, white, brown, yellow, Puerto Rican, or Haitian issue. And on a deeper level, an if you ain’t got no money take you broke butt on issue. The difference in the level of education kids get is directly related to the area in which the school is located. Schools in more affluent neighborhoods typically produce academically superior students period. You don’t believe me? I’ve had several educators tell me about honor students at the top of their class from Houston’s inner city school’s that transfer to the districts in the burbs and struggle to keep up in on-level courses!! Since most of the people in these neighborhoods are white, it explains both the racial and socioeconomic education gaps plaguing our country.
But things have not always been this way. There was a time when African-Americans valued education more than almost anything. And even though we didn’t have anywhere near the opportunity and access that we have today, there were more brothers in college in the 1940’s – 1960’s than now. It’s like things were better when we didn’t have anything but each other. There seemed to be so much more pride and desire to get SOME TYPE OF EDUCATION! I know that a great deal of that pride stems from the fact that two or three generations prior to those “glory years” it was illegal for black folks to even read. So education was like the new shiny toy you get on Christmas. For the first few weeks you eat sleep and breathe it, until it just isn’t cool anymore. But, as I try to understand why we no longer value education like we used to, I know it’s not cause the shiny new toy effect has worn off. My great grandaddy (Grandaddy TuTu) was born to slaves and could only read the bible…he signed his name with an X (no Malcolm). My grandaddy had to teach himself to read and write by practicing writing letters from the newspaper, my mom marched with the likes of Jesse Jackson and the Black Panthers for equal rights, while fighting every other day because she was one of a few new black kids in her elementary school on the south side of the Chi. She then went on to a few years in college in Iowa, need I say more. Now you may not identify with every part of my family tree but this is the story of a lot of African-American families, so the shiny new toy effect couldn’t possible have worn off yet, could it? Not when there are still so many first generation college students attending school every year. I don’t know what happened, but I have some ideas about how to fix it. I wrote a blog about it, you wanna hear it, well here it goes:
1. Put education back into our family values:
My mom never gave me an option about going to college. I only had two choices after high school, go to college or get the hell out! The thing is, I was going to college to get a good job and make good money, not for the empowerment that education brings. It wasn’t until I got to Texas State University and was influenced by a great faculty and staff, that I understood the power in knowledge. Education should not be a means to end but the end goal itself. My Granddaddy TuTu would always ask me, “boy did you get yo lesson, cause they can’t take dat ‘way from ya, ya hear?” I didn’t get it when I was 10 and 11 yrs old, but I believe in it now and my kids will to, like it or not.
2. Put our money and our time back into education:
Stop promoting athletics as a means of our kids going to college. It’s a good option, but it ain’t the only one. Until we put as much passion into our kids academics as we do when they score a touchdown or have a wicked jump shot we will continue to promote more Latrell Sprewell’s than Grant Hills. We can talk about education as much as we want, but our message is clear. The recent lockouts of the two African-American dominated sports demonstrate the need the for even our million dollar athletes to have an education.
3. Support our own:
I think one of the reasons education was valued so much in the separate but equal times is because we owned it! We taught our kids, we saw them grow and develop and the entire community was our witness. It is vital that we get back to those times. We need to support efforts by people like Tom Joyner, Howard Jean, Marc Lamont Hill, and Jackie Thomas (here in Houston, TX www.leadandsucceed.org) to encourage and develop the bright minds of our community on every level. Force yourself to volunteer or present a workshop or something at least once a month. Be a village, not an island.
4. Handle your business:
If we don’t take care of our business on the education tip, we look like hypocrites. I can tell you that in my house education is everywhere! I’m exploring Masters programs, my wife is getting her Masters as I type, my brother in law is a freaking genius, Caesar works in higher ed, and the other writers on this blog have more wisdom in their ice cold thumbs (s/o to the bruhs) than most talking heads you see on TV have combined. My kids see me reading and writing and wish me luck when I travel and leave them to go speak somewhere. They see me teaching at church and at community events. They might not get it now, but the foundation is being laid.
I am in no way suggesting that we go back to pre-segregation times (though economically, geographically, and socially we are just as separate if not more than back then), I am pointing out that when we had no one to depend on but ourselves we made strides at a more efficient and impactful pace. And as I step of my Jeff Johnson soapbox, I ask you what can we do to be integrated and equal?