Report on Under-Funding Baltimore Education
for Career Education Especially High
On the Need to Refurbish Career and Technology
Education (CTE) Programs
Conversations with Rodney, Jonathan, Miriam, Tiger,
To help BCPSS explore the status of CTE in
city schools and its potential role within Baltimore’s
workforce development system, The Abell Foundation published the
March report, “Help Wanted: Career and Technology Education
[CTE] in Baltimore City Public Schools.” The report brings
into stark focus CTE’s promise for Baltimore, its
recent and rapid demise here, and the unambiguous reality
that in its current form it is unable to provide the career
orientation necessary to realize the employment prospects
spelled out above. A victim of drastic funding cuts, federal
policy that favors academic achievement over career skills, and
management oversight, CTE in Baltimore is currently failing
its students and fast becoming obsolete.
Albeit real, the funding and policy
challenges posed by the No Child Left Behind Act are hardly
unique to Baltimore; school districts nationwide are struggling
to re-invent career programs and keep them afloat. But the high
stakes, lack of intervention, and even irony characterizing
CTE’s local demise may be: CTE is unraveling without any
consideration by school officials of its worth or potential—in
a city where high school completion rates are dismally low and
increasingly specialized jobs are going unfilled.
Baltimore City needs to be in the business
of workforce creation, a process that needs to start, in a
meaningful way, during the high school years. This article, a
synopsis of the larger Abell report, argues that BCPSS should
review its CTE program and weigh whether CTE in some form has a
rightful place among today’s high school reforms, rather than
simply let it die—particularly if unintentionally—from
neglect. . . .
For more than 30 years, the federal Carl
D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act has
channeled federal dollars to CTE programs nationwide. In 2005
that pot totaled $1.3 billion—just 10 percent of vocational
dollars overall, yet the single, largest source ever of federal
high school spending.
Now, the Bush administration is angling to
eliminate all Perkins funding from its 2006 budget and redirect
it to support NCLB initiatives. While this doesn’t
necessarily pose a new challenge for vocational programs—local
school districts have been siphoning vocational funds to pay
for high-cost NCLB mandates for years—the possible removal
of Perkins money as a reliable funding stream, coupled with
stepped-up pressure to produce academic results, has CTE
programs across the country scrambling to remain both relevant
and viable. . . .
Nowhere would that scramble seem more
probable than in Baltimore, where public school system dollars
are scant—recall last year’s $58 million deficit—and
career programs make sense: Technical jobs abound,
unemployment of able-bodied workers is disproportionately high,
and less than 60 percent of entering 9th grade students make it
through public high school.
According to a March 2004 article in The
Baltimore Sun, Baltimore City ranks sixth from the bottom
among the nation’s 100 largest cities when it comes to labor
Because some 200,000 residents 16 and
older don’t have jobs, just 57 percent of the city’s
working-age residents actually work.
Roughly half of all high school students
drop out and nearly one-third of city adults lack a high
school diploma or its equivalent, yet because many jobs
require this credential there are few positions for those who do
not have it.
In short, Baltimore has a labor pool; it just
doesn’t have people in that pool equipped to meet current and
emerging workplace demands.
Baltimore also has jobs. In its March 2004
report, the Baltimore Workforce Investment Board identified the
five industry sectors with the best employment prospects for
citizens of working ability and age. Within all five, demand for
workers with specific skill sets—but not necessarily college
degrees—is on the rise.
Baltimore’s largest employment sector, employs 17 percent
of the local workforce and was one of just three industries to
grow in Baltimore City between 1990 and 2002—by 9.3
percent. Wages grew 26 percent during that time and
throughout the industry vacancies and career ladder
opportunities both exist, and pipeline strategies are underway.
Business Services, which employs 12
percent of the local workforce, also grew 9.3 percent
during the 1990s, and statewide wages for the industry were up
Hospitality and Tourism employs 8
percent of the workforce, and while industry wages are
characteristically low, they increased 36 percent
statewide during the 1990s.
Construction Development accounts for 3
percent of total employment in the city, and average weekly
wages for the industry increased 46 percent during the
Finally, Computer, Internet and Data
Services represents 5.5 percent of Baltimore’s
employment—thanks to steady growth during the 1990s in which
employment grew 10 percent and wages increased 47
percent—and of all Baltimore industries, it pays the
highest weekly wages.
Just as jobs and potential workers exist in
Baltimore, so apparently does the will and need, to work
immediately after high school.
Between 1999 and 2002 some 35 percent of
BCPSS graduating 12th grade students reported to the
Maryland State Department of Education’s Pre-Graduation Survey
that they planned to seek employment following graduation; in
2003, 6,488 of Baltimore City’s 25,543 high school students
were enrolled in CTE courses, more than half of them at
neighborhood schools slated for reform. Clearly what is lacking
in Baltimore is the means to connect—in a strategic and
significant way—these sources of supply and demand, to train
Baltimore’s prospective workers to fill its jobs.
Next Steps: Concrete Actions to Strengthen
Should BCPSS conclude that CTE is indeed
worth preserving, there are some early and critical steps it
1. Clarify CTE enrollment and programming
for current 2004-05 school year.
As CTE data for this report was available
only through 2003-04, prior to the dramatic 60 percent budget
reduction, it is strongly recommended that the Office of
Career and Technology provide enrollment figures by school, program
and CTE teacher for programs offered in the current, 2004-05
school year. The Abell Foundation has offered external support
for completing this process on a timely basis.
2. Align CTE planning with High School
Based on the Blueprint for Baltimore’s
Neighborhood High Schools, high school reform is moving
forward with little consideration for what a well supported CTE
program might do to improve outcomes—despite the fact that most
of the CTE enrollment is in the nine neighborhood high schools
currently undergoing break-up and reform. This matter deserves
the attention of the High School Steering Committee.
3. Build staffing, oversight and
accountability of CTE department.
BCPSS’ CTE program reflects numerous
oversight lapses that have contributed heavily to the
program’s spotty system of accountability. These lapses must
be addressed through increased staffing and establishment of
a reliable process for identifying and tracking CTE programs
outcomes. For years, CTE has functioned as an autonomous
division within BCPSS. In 2001 a separate office was created to
aid the High School Reform Initiative; it is strongly
recommended that CTE become part of the High School Area Office
to facilitate coordination and alignment of CTE programs with
the creation of new high schools.
4. Conduct a program review with an eye
Staffing and funding issues necessitate a
rigorous review to determine essential programs and areas for
expansion. Key steps in this review process would include: eliminating
programs with low enrollment and high program duplication;
strengthening current or adding new programs in BWIB focus
areas; making BWIB a CTE planning partner; re-activating
industry advisory boards, beginning with Health/Biosciences and
Business Management; and ensuring that CTE funds are
allocated equitably and fully provide for program needs.
Bottom Line: CTE Holds Promise
As mandated by No Child Left Behind, meeting
the needs of all Baltimore City’s public high school students
will require meaningful programming. Career and technology
education engages students through their high school education
and offers them a firm first step into the “real world.”
BCPSS should fully investigate the problems and potential of its
CTE program before dismantling it. On the brink of extinction,
CTE may yet be a valuable strategy to meet the needs of both
career-bound students and Baltimore’s workforce in the 21st
Abell Report (May-June 2005)
* * *
Conversations with Rodney, Jonathan, Miriam, Tiger,
Rodney: I hope that your holidays
were happy ones. I have a question for you: I was just reading the
May/June Abell Report that suggested
that workforce development and high school reform ought to be
done in unison. That is, vocational programs need to be expanded
in urban centers like Baltimore, because there are jobs
available in certain industries (the report cites 5 in Baltimore
specifically), and a potential labor pool, albeit an unprepared
labor pool. It seems that with the wide-spread segregation of
school systems, suburban and private school students will be
able to continue with a "traditional" education, while
urban students are being prepared for industries needing
employment immediately (and at low wages).
The report notes that 35% of Baltimore City
Public school graduating seniors seek full-time employment over
college, but there is no consideration on the high cost of
college (which many BCPSS students can't meet) or the fact that
the BCPSS underprepares students for college to begin with. I'm
probably reading too much into it. If you could take a look at
the report and give me some feedback, it will be greatly
Rudy: Rodney, I read the Abell
Report. It seems excellent and on point. One cannot help
but conclude that the Baltimore City Public Schools System (BCPSS) is
failing the city and its residents and especially blacks.
I was struck by this figure: "Some
200,000 residents 16 and older don’t have jobs, just 57
percent of the city’s working-age residents actually
work." The city has a population slightly over 600,000
Abell considers Career and Technology
Education (CTE) programs the best approach to deal with
unemployment and the 50 percent drop out rate. I agree.
Seemingly, BCPSS as well as the federal government has cut
funding for these programs, and the federal government is
contemplating new cuts in order to fund No Child Left
Behind. Not only lacking funding, those
schools with CTE programs suffer from lack of staffing and a
high percentage of the staff is near retirement as well as out
of date programs that do not meet the requirements of jobs
available in the Baltimore area.
I doubt that this problem of funding and
school reform will be resolved. I do not think that state and
federal politicians have a real interest in resolving the crisis
of urban education in Baltimore or any large city with a high
black population. I do not think that BCPSS nor these
politicians can walk and chew gum at the same time.
For any of these reform programs to work there has to be
a real commitment on the part of the city school system, the
business community, and local & federal governments, but I
agree with you, Rudy, that there is very little real commitment
to improving urban, predominantly-Black schools.
The situation is so complex and it needs a
wholistic approach, which is missing. One component, for
example, is the teachers. Are they equipped to offer
courses that prepare students for careers in medical and
information technology? Would teachers who have received a
"traditional" liberal arts education be willing to
retrain or to encourage the hiring of career-oriented teachers?
One institution in the D. C. area that is
using the wholistic approach is SOME (So Others May Eat), I
think it is. It's located in Anacostia, the poorest
neighborhood in D. C., and operates on the philosophy that you
should give people a hand rather than a hand out. They
work primarily with poor and homeless people and do the
clothing, food, and housing—but
they also train people for the work force.
The director did a jobs survey to see where
there was the most need, and then concentrated on three
programs, which I can't remember exactly, but I think it was
medical technology, hotel management, and computer sciences.
The program is offered for a modest sum (around $50) to make
people feel that they're contributing to their own development.
They give career counseling, clothes for
interviews, follow-through with the students, etc. They
have been able to place almost 100% of their graduates, some
into jobs paying as much as $80,000.
The public schools should adopt some of
these successful models. Many of the charter schools in D.
C. have also had great success in their programs; they are
usually small, with a good teacher-student ratio, have dedicated
One thing is certain: something has
to be done because of the high drop-out rates and the high rates
Rudy: I am quite overwhelmed by the
enormity of the problems facing blacks in Baltimore. A union friend
told me last evening there is a 60 percent black male
unemployment in Baltimore. A third of adults in the city
lack a high school diploma or GED, and it's probably higher
among blacks, and even higher than that in some neighborhoods.
We must not consider any of this accidental
or coincidental. As you saw from the Abell Report,
BCPSS does not have the funds to deal with the No Child
Left Behind (Bush) program. That has taken up so much
focus that the CTE, an answer to the problems of dropout and
unemployment, has been under-funded and understaffed. The
teachers themselves seem to have no overview of the crisis and
their union leaders have little or no vision of how to respond
to the crises.
You may note that Abell Report
had nothing to say about the State or State funding or State
responses to the problems of under education and under-funding
of education in Baltimore City. It leveled most of its attack
against the BCPSS, which only receives funds, from the State and
the Federal government and at times foundations. It did
note however the federal threat to the Perkins
funding. The kinds of programs you referred to are patches.
There is, as you pointed out, no wholistic approach. Such an
approach requires State and Federal intervention, and not merely
with just accountability schemes, but overall rehauling of
employment, adult education, counseling, and housing. There's no
cheap way to solve these problems.
With the state of Conservative politics in Congress and in
the nation, any kind of effort to improve the conditions of
blacks in urban cities will be frowned upon. It will require
money that is now blown to the winds in Iraq and squandered in
tax cuts to the rich. Furthermore any federal program
viewed as an advancement of blacks is perceived as a threat
to white privileges. If you have not done so I recommend you and
others read a discussion on "policy racism" by Ron
Walters in White
Nationalism, Black Interests. In my view, it is necessary
reading to have an overview of where we are presently and the
forces now arrayed against us.
Miriam: Yes, the problems facing the
Black community, not only in Baltimore but in all of the urban
centers, are overwhelming and extremely complex. The inner
city schools are suffering from all of the social and economic
problems that face the community as a whole: unemployment,
drugs, inadequate housing, lack of health care, disproportionate
rate of HIV/AIDS, high rates of incarceration, an untrained
labor force, etc. Education alone will not solve all of
But where to start? There has to be
state and federal support for any kind of reform of the schools,
but those governments respond to the electorate, to their
constituencies. That is why I believe that we, as Black
people, must use the power of the vote and of the dollar to put
pressure on elected officials at all levels.
Jonathan: rod, i looked at the abell report.
i also read rudy's anlaysis which is excellent.
baltimore, cleveland, detroit, d.c., new york, milwaukee, newark.
. . . the numbers are basically the same. i think rudy puts it
best when he says that white americans equate the reconstruction
of u.s. cities with a loss of white skin privilege.
how to confront this new white racism, this re-invention of
white supremacy, is the question. my view is that it can be best
approached from the standpoint of an attack on corporate
profits. this requires the leadership of a civil rights-centered
yet the dems are going down just like the labor party in israel—they
haven't been heard from since oslo. i think the dems will perish
completely within 5 years.
in the meantime, the task is the same: to build a systemic
alternative. this, to me, means a total withdrawal of all
african americans from the democratic party. the feminists and
"organized labor" are not doing it. it should be led
by folk like john conyers and cynthia mckinney, barbara lee. i
don't see any alternative at this point. we need a new
mississippi freedom party.
the basic demands would be: (1) single-payer healthcare system;
(2) 30 hour work-week for everyone, zero unemployment; (3) a
moratorium on corporate profits, meaning huge progressive
taxation at the state level; and (4) a national education
funding system in which every district gets exactly the same
money. the demands can be met by simply reforming labor law and
taxing the hell out of the rich. if the rich don't like it,
we'll charge them with treason and seize their passports.
Rudy: Jonathan, Rodney, Miriam, Floyd, Herbert, Sandra,
I recommend that we all read Ron Walter's White
Nationalism, Black Interests, if we have not done so. I
think this work might get us all on the same page. We must get
beyond a lot of naivete and racial and male stereotypes now
prevalent in our own communities. It is an excellent analysis of
the forces now arrayed against the working class and blacks in
general, including the black middle class. It is well documented
and scholarly to the nth degree.
As you might have noted, after the New Orleans tragedy, the
view of the New Orleans elites is not merely directed against
the black poor, they are also operating so that New Orleans
black middle-class does not reconstitute itself and its power.
Part of the problem of black middle class thinking is that there
is a widespread belief that it has
overcome and thus it is not fully conscious of its true
position in American society.
There is a White resentment of two kinds, Walters points out, 1)
competition from middle class blacks and 2) forward progress of
many blacks "in real and popular terms." Conservatism
in America is racially constituted: its intent is to
"change the offending elements that prevent tradition from
becoming prominent once again." That "tradition" involves
white dominance. Further, their "policy
of racism" or "politics of resentment" is
geared toward "enhanced rewards for middle-class virtues
through changes in taxation and welfare programs."
I sent out a couple of days a poem "The Gift Outright" by
Robert Frost and we all had trouble analyzing it. For no one
wanted to say that the poem was racist, though we concluded that
it was indeed from a white racial point of view, which whites do
not like to discuss openly or in the media or in the history
books or in English courses.
What I'm saying here is that Walters has provided us a rhetoric
by which to discuss this recent "White Nationalism,"
which he says in essence is that what we have now replicates the
reactionary forces of the first Reconstruction, about a hundred
years apart. Check this passage out from Walter's book:
"The idea that the racial/ethnic
majority would dominate the state was an integral part
of the context from which European ethnicities emerged
to establish control over America. . . . The various
white ethnicities coalesced into a 'White' majority
group that proceeded to establish a privileged social
status which has expressed its dominance over non-white
groups and over the major institutions of American
Now this is the reality of American life and politics.
According to Rogers Brubacker,
At the heart of Anglo-Saxonism lay the
conviction that the Anglo-Saxon (British) race possessed
a special capacity for governing itself (and others)
through a constitutional system which combined liberty,
justice, and efficiency. It was a gift that could not be
transferred to lesser peoples. (14)
So here we have Frost's "gift outright." This
attitude is being globalized in the Middle East and will not be
so easily undermined again as it seemingly was in the 60s and
70s when the state acted independently of the white masses.
Practically, I do not think that African Americans politicians
will abandon the Democratic Party for the abyss, the unknown.
For there are individual and private gains still to be had. But
what we can do, as Walters suggests, is to understand that the
game has changed since the 60s and 70s and that the rhetoric of
that era will not work today. White politicians have wised up.
Our job today is to make ourselves more aware of the
politics of the Democrats as well as the Republicans. We
then must make use of alternative media to present a different
narrative than those allied with the Democratic Party.
In the first Reconstruction era we were allied since the 1860s
with the Republican Party, and they gave us up to the wolves of
the Southland and gave their blessings to the Plessy
Decision, terror and disenfranchisement of the Negro.
The Democratic Party, our allies that we allied ourselves with
in the 1960s and 1970s now have given us to Conservatives of
every stripe, the new wolves, and they have done it out of
political expediency. For example, Clinton and his welfare
initiative and state block grants.
What has occurred in the last three decades will not be
easily turned around. The last time it took us a century to
restore the black vote. It might take us half that time to
restore the social safety net programs now being whittled
We indeed have to move beyond this blind alliance with the
Floyd: Yes, I used Ron Walters' book
in courses on Black
politics and the politics of racism when I taught at NCSU a
few years ago. What is also significant about his piece is
the discussion of mounting right wing development in Black
communities. In my judgment, it is this trend that Tommie
Shelby overlooks in his recent book, We
Who Are Dark: The Philosophical Foundations of Black Solidarity."
This conservative shift threatens to fracture Black communities
in ways that we may not be able to comprehend at the present
time. Don't forget Kalamu's critical comment about the
mayor of New Orleans.
Miriam: I'll pick up a copy of the
book as soon as I return to D. C.
Kam: Will order the book.
Tiger Davis: Rudy, This is consistent with the
european critics as well. For instance, Philip V. White,
in his discussion on racism, suggested that "racism derives
its significance from the differential power among racial groups
such that one group is capable of consistently dominating other
groups, thereby reinforcing its belief in the inferiority of
other groups... Racism can not be studied outside of the
configuration of power in which it is embedded." He
concludes that this "configuration puts the European in all
manner of relationships with the non-European world without ever
losing the upper hand."
Ron Walter has hit the nail on its head;
however, most black leadership ignores this reality.
thank you for recommending ron walters's book. i'm going
to read it next week. i wanted to respond to the passage you
quoted from his text:
The idea that the racial/ethnic majority
would dominate the state was an integral part of the
context from which European ethnicities emerged to
establish control over America. . . . The various white
ethnicities coalesced into a 'White' majority group that
proceeded to establish a privileged social status which
has expressed its dominance over non-white groups and
over the major institutions of American society.
this is obviously true, but at least in
this passage the onus is put on the poor and propertyless
euroamericans (white workers) rather than on the anglo-american
capitalist class. i have been reading closely this new
discipline called "whiteness studies," and i've
published a few essays on it (see in particular "peculiar
relations," in socialism and democracy... it can
be read on-line, and also "inside the white race
corral," in the minnesota review, and "the
generalist versus the professionalist," in politics and
the problem with whiteness studies, in my opinion, is that it
lets the ruling class off the hook. katznelson's new book, which
has been highlighted by rudy on chickenbones ("when
affirmative action was white") is an exception to this
general pattern. i think katznelson's thesis is excellent and
i've read his book closely, it's a very important book. he shows
convincingly that white racial oppression has been a deliberate
ruling class social policy, designed to bamboozle white workers.
his focus on the new
deal policies is exactly right, because it was
here that the ruling class showed its hand: to avoid a mass
multiracial or multiethnic working-class struggle against
capital during the great depression, the capitalists bribed the
poor whites with white affirmative action, on the condition that
they keep blacks down and out.
this same story is told by theodore allen in his great work, the
invention of the white race.
thus when walters says that through white nationalism
"European ethnicities emerged to establish control over
America," he seems to suggest that white workers actually
run the u.s. government. i will read his book to find out more.
as rudy just pointed out with respect to katrina and the
dispossession of the poor in new orleans, the veil has been
lifted: the white workers have no control over the government.
if they had any such control, the u.s. government's policies in
new orleans would not have been anti-worker, as they have been.
they would have been aimed directly at solving the crisis from
the standpoint of the workers in the gulf, not the capitalist
employers. and this worker-centered approach would have
immediately benefited the vast majority of african americans in
new orleans, who are workers.
"white nationalism" is a tricky term because it
implies a poor white direct involvement in the government, a la
german nationalism under the nazi regime. yet the socioeconomic
facts contradict the white nationalism thesis. white workers
have not benefited at all from u.s. imperialism in latin
american and the caribbean, nor have they benefited from the
u.s. destruction of iraq and its pro-israel policy in palestine.
compare this with german workers under nazism. under nazism, german workers saw their wages improve as well as their standard
of living. this was a classic case of racial nationalism. you
can also see this with french workers and french imperialism in
but in the u.s., white workers have seen their wages decline and
their standard of living erode substantially. can you imagine,
under german racial nationalism, berlin losing 800,000
manufacturing jobs in less than 10 years? yet this is exactly
what's happened in new york city. if you look at detroit today,
this fact is painfully obvious: hundreds of thousands of jobs
gone and never coming back. this is "white control over
america"? if this had happened under german racial
nationalism, the german workers would have overthrown the nazi
regime in less than a week.
everything in the u.s. is upside down. i like how langston
hughes once put it in his essay "hold tight--they're crazy
white": "it's like alice in wonderland walking upside
Rudy: Jonathan, I agree that
Walters' book needs to be supplemented. It is not however a
"white studies" book. It is probably best classified
as a "policy studies" book. It primarily deals
with the turn around in the 80s and 90s of government policies
and the action and interactions of the Democratic and Republican
parties in developing policies or legislation that undermines
political gains made under FDR (30s and 40s) and LBJ
(60s and 70s). Most of all, it deals with how race or a "white
nationalist" ideology uses blacks as a
"target" as a means of passing legislation that
benefits ultimately neither white workers nor the nation as a
Here's Walters' carefully crafted
definition of "White Nationalism":
White Nationalism might be
defined as that radical aspect of the Conservative
movement that intends to use both unofficial power and
the official power of the state to maintain White
Supremacy by subordinating Blacks and other non-Whites
I quite agree also that white workers have
consistently voted against their economic interests by
installing a Conservative Congress and Conservatives in the
White House of both parties. Why have they done that? And how
have they done that? And what is the policy impact of these
Republican and Democratic regimes on black progress? These are
the questions that Walters attempts to deal with. He does not
consider, he reminds us, that every white person is a White
Nationalist. And, according to Floyd, he does not let blacks off
the hook for their collaboration with such policymakers.
But of course we do not need
"all," just a critical mass to achieve the same ends.
White workers probably do not run the government but a
substantial mass of white workers are still subject to white
nationalist sentiments and thus the attraction of the Republican
Party. I think this is the point that Walters is making. I am
still in the process of reading the book. So I might have my own
criticisms of the shortcomings of the book.
I indeed recommend that we take a look at
New Deal / Raw Deal and his books or Theodore Allen's The
Invention of the White Race. What is pressing about
Walters' book is that it deals with issues and struggles that we
are all familiar with in the last two decades. I am
having the Introduction of White
Nationalism, Black Interests typed to post so as
to present a clearer sense of the direction of the book.
The tie of "whiteness" and
government policy seems to me central to developing a movement
to deal with how corporations fuel the disruption of unity among
workers. You might have noted the anti-unionist and racist
stance of the readers of both the Times and the Village
Rodney: Rudy, Jon: "There is
really very little conflict between labor and capital. The
conflict in my section, if any should come in the future, will
not assume the form of labor against capital, but of race
against race." —John C. Calhoun, 1883
"The money power will endeavor to
prolong its reign by working on the prejudices of the people
until all the wealth is aggregated into a few hands and the
republic is destroyed."—Abraham Lincoln
I think that these two quotes situate the
conversation quite nicely. Jon, you know that I've read your
criticisms of "whiteness studies" with critical
interest, and by and large, we are on the same page. While there
might be disagreement about whether or not this is "white
nationalist ideology," as Rudy terms it, might be
debatable. However, while white workers might not benefit
materially as the German racial nationalists that you cite,
white workers think that they benefit from white nationalism,
and this informs political behavior. Whether or not they
actually do benefit from this "quasi" or
"pseudo" form of racial nationalism doesn't take from
the fact that they believe that black interests are oppositional
to white interests. And this belief is utilized by
Rudy, you know about working class Dundalk,
predominately white. Now, I worked out there this past summer
and the racism is thick in the air. The City Paper
received a letter from a white working class gent from Dundalk
claiming that he voted Republican because Blacks vote Democrat
en masse. This is not sound political thinking. As we've seen
from the past two elections, winning the Presidency is about
mobilizing the white vote. Kerry only gets 41% of the white vote
and loses, despite having over 70% of "people of
color" voting for him.
The political realities are present in the
Calhoun quote. Barbara Fields, the Columbia professor, has a
problem with race being considered a social construct, her
rationale being that everything is a social construct. Jon,
we've had discussions about the political utility of race, and
we find it in the Calhoun quote. I understand the need not to
demonize white workers; they aren't in control either. I find it
amusing that white, middle-class suburbanites in
Towson aren't able to stop construction going on in their
community. If white middle-class people are unable to affect
change in their own communities, we finally realize where the
true power is.
Rudy: Rodney, well said and argued.
My interest in Walters' book White
Nationalism, Black Interests is that it will help raise
the general discussion among all classes within the black
community. There was before Katrina, at least, the naive view
among many in the black middle-classes that they had overcome.
Second, we need to learn a new language in how to talk about
this new situation and what has to be done to indeed overcome,
which I do not think is going to be quickly achieved, unless
there are some outrageous objective factors, and even then we
need to be solid in our rhetoric and in what programs we argue
The present program of black politicos is
to help the Democratic Party win back the Congress and the White
House. Even if every black registered voter voted for the
Democratic Party, that party's leadership still needs to deal
with the question of fiscal Conservatism as well as the "disequilibrium"
felt by a critical mass of white workers who feel
In short, the Democratic Party would still
have to rule from the right of center and so all the problems
associated with blacks—poverty,
education, welfare, etc.; all of which require redistribution of
wealth and the refueling of social programs—will
not suddenly breeze through Congress. The fiscal Conservatives
of both parties will combine with the radical Conservatives of
the Republican Party to squash those kinds of policy
changes and program spending.
So telling people to go out and vote for
the Democratic Party is not going to be a political program that
is going to make a whit of difference in dealing with the
Conservative program for the subordination of blacks and putting
a halt to black middle class progress.
According to Walters, the greatest "Black
Threat" is not the black poor and inner city blacks for
mere violence and incarceration can deal with that, but rather
competition coming from the Black middle classes who desire
to assert their equality. One of the attitudes expressed toward
the strike in NY was that the nonwhites of the Transport Workers
Union were overpaid. They average around $45,000 a year. The
idea that these nonwhites should be making that kind of money
disturbs these radical Conservatives.
So again, for me, Walters book will get rid
of some of the naiveté that exists within our own communities
and help us to reshape or retool our rhetoric for the 21st
century. I am not for the old black cultural nationalist
arguments of demonizing whites at all. As a practical program
that will not work. We indeed need the white working classes in
order to make the changes we all desire. The question remains
what is the best way to deal with that. My impression is Walters
has done yeoman work and that we should take advantage of it.
Rodney: Rudy, You are absolutely
correct when you say that "telling people to go out and
vote for the Democratic Party is not going to be a political
program that is going to make a whit of difference in dealing
with the Conservative program for the subordination of blacks
and putting a halt to black middle class progress." I
t reminds me of the Sept. Anti-War rally.
There were so many signs and posters displaying people's disgust
with Bush. Granted, Bush has been very upfront and bold about
his political abuses, but many of the rallyers seemed to
think that if only the Democrats were in charge, everything
would be okay. Only if Kerry was our leader, the world would be
While we can all blame Bush
and all the other politicos for the inept Katrina response, we
must also realize that New Orleans was a city ignored for
decades, much like every other majority poor city in the
country. Ignored not just by Bush, but all of the
political higher ups. What happened with Katrina was
simply endemic of the politcal and social structures of the
country. We are a culture that assigns blame and anger to
personalities rather than systems and structures, which diverts
us from the real culprits.
Kevin Zeese, the lone independant running
for U.S. Senate in MD, noted after the 2004 elections that if
white labor and blacks were to organize together, it would be
the end of the Dems. Of course, Zeese's analysis doesn't assess
the politics of racism employed to keep this from occurring.
Still, Zeese, who takes on many stances that should resonate
well with the black community, might find that the black vote
will be split between Steele and whom ever wins the Democratic
Black leadership will simply drive the
black vote to the Dems, as usual. Remember how the CBC attempted
to persuade Nader from running? I wrote Elijah Cummings a letter
condemning them for their action: How can our leadership
support a party that has been absent for so many years? Is their
loyalty with us, or with the Democratic machine?
As you say Rudy, we need the assistance of
the white working class as a practical means, but also, we all
want a better country in general. It is clear if one looks at
this country's demographics. The question, as you have posed
before, is whether our white brothers and sisters (a significant
number) are willing to assist us. Now, how do we figure out this
conundrum? What rhetoric, what propaganda, what grassroot
actions must we employ? I suppose I'll spend the rest of my life
attempting to answer that one.
Rudy: Rodney, we are now doing that
necessary work. So many don't know what we are now learning. All
of this discussion is part of the process of raising
consciousness. You did all of us a great service by bringing to
our attention the Abell Report and asking for feedback.
This is how the work of change happens. And then we have to have
a medium or media that is interested in this kind of
consciousness raising and discussion. There are no instant cures
or remedies and a lot of it have to be figured out in the
process. Again, you have done well.
So I am still hopeful. There will be those who
will stand and do the right thing. The other thing is that there
will be penalties that Conservative policies will have to pay.
The objective reality, the consequences of their policies, will
smack them in their faces, that is, the nation will pay for this
kind of mismanagement of the nation's business. As we have seen
with New Orleans and Bush's war policy. Part of our job is
getting rid of some of the naive responses to these actions and
prepare people to meet this kind of Conservatism face on and
avoid the okey-doke.
and rudy, it's transparent that white workers believe they're
benefiting socially and materially from white-skin privileges,
as rodney says, otherwise they would rebel against the rich folk
who have conferred these anomalous privileges on them, which
have not provided them with any social mobility, just a
monolithic and persistent mediocrity—and a situation today
that is becoming totally catastrophic. today white workers are
being forced to compete against 2 billion of the world's poorest
people. in many ways, it is simply too late for them. baldwin
said whiteness would come at their own peril and finally the
bell has tolled. they're going down fast and taking all
americans down with them.
yet this limits the question to psychology, which has been the
"whiteness studies" approach, including the work of
tim wise, david roediger, robert jensen, and noel ignatiev and
all the race traitor people at harvard. their work is useful but
it tends to go no farther than the "psychological wages of
whiteness." roediger, for example, is a big fan of dubois
and claims what he's doing is duboisian scholarship, but i
disagree. dubois in black reconstruction says explicitly that
whiteness is "the achilles heel of the u.s. labor
so it's not a psychological problem but rather a labor problem.
if white workers believe they're benefiting from white-skin
privileges, then this is the fault of their own leadership, the
so-called "white radicals."
we can expect the ruling class to be engaged all the time in the
most blatant trickery and deceit, for this is the nature of
their game. but what about the labor leadership? this is the
question that dubois was asking constantly: when will the white
left stop being so white race conscious and become class
the american communist party made a major breakthrough in the
early 1930s when they became for the first time militant
opponents of white supremacy within the white working classes.
this triggered a huge outpouring of excellent art and culture
and also political organizing. but it lasted for only a few
years. when the war started, they forgot about white supremacy
and fought european fascism instead. langston was always talking
about "hitlerism at home," but his words fell on deaf
white radical ears.
i think the psychological approach is actually a re-invention of
the old biological theory of race, and it produces the same
gloominess. the fact is that we can always change things. all it
takes is for the white left to stop being so eurocentric. this
is what distinguished the american communists of the early
1930s: they started to study african american writers and learn
from them. langston called this "reintegration."
posted 30 December 2005
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posted 22 July 2008