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What goes for "good  parenting" has much to do with class. The point that Guinier makes

is that elite educational institutions (whether private or public) are presently set up

to serve upper middle and upper class kids, whether black or white or Hispanic.



Responses to Race as a Decoy for Class

By Rodney D. Foxworth, Jr. and Rudolph Lewis


Rudy, I appreciate your response to the Guinier interview. I come from a stable, working class black family that promoted education to the highest degree. I have been lucky in this regard. Many of my peers have not been so. Had I not had my parents or a "natural aptitude for schooling," as Barack Obama terms it, I would have been at a severe disadvantage in Baltimore.

I have always questioned this idea of black progress, and I know this is not the most popular thing to do. Yes, it is true that some black families have entered into a life of comfort and opportunity, but we also know that this is certainly not the case for the majority. Only a minority of blacks have accumulated such opportunities and comfort, and they have brought up the rear for lack of a better phrasing, when it comes to statiscal medians in the like. This should be clear when one enters a Detroit, or Baltimore, or D.C. or any number of other U.S. cities.

As you recall, Skip Gates and Guinier made headlines a few years back about how Affirmative Action was being used. Elite institutions (and not so elite) began to recruit minorities from outside of the U.S., or, the students were children of recent immigrants. The point being, indigenious minorities were not benefiting from the affirmative action policy, which is essentially what you have pointed out. For example, a school like UMBC, where I attend, has relatively high percentage of minorities. But how many blacks from Baltimore city? Very few. The indigenous minorities who do attend are not from poor or working class families, by and large. And UMBC, as far as the rankings go, is just a second-tier public university. One can only imagine what occurs from more elite institutions.

I went to Washington and Lee University for one year, and I felt alienated from both the blacks and whites. The blacks weren't familiar with my working class background, and I often had to pose as though I could relate to their middle-class upbringing. It was expected that I might not mesh well with the aristocratic Southern whites; it was my strained relationship with the blacks that I didn't expect. I recall one black peer, who had attended the Baltimore private school McDonogh, telling me that he was shocked that I was accepted to W & L because I had attended City College, a public school. He then went on to say, "I thought all you guys went on to Coppin or Morgan." Here, we have a double-attack that speaks to class. One, that I could not compete with him and those of his class-group. The other was an attack on Coppin and Morgan, which admittedly have lower admission standards than the other Baltimore area colleges and universities, but also service primarily working class black students. I had turned down Harvard primarily because WnL offered me more money and I didn't want to be a financial burden to my family. All my advisors told me not to attend. But hindsight is hindsight.

We must confront this class divide head on. We have to acknowledge that policies have been developed that work against working class minorities while supposedly promoting the interests of the "race." Working class minorities simply have diminished opportunities and access. This is simply a reality. I'm happy that schools like Towson University have developed Top Ten Percent programs for Baltimore City Public School students. Is it enough? Of course not. Every public university in the country ought to do something similar. Of course, this does nothing to heal the inequitable secondary education system.

In any event, Rudy is correct. We must begin thinking about future decades. We also need, of course, to help alleviate the blight of the current and upcoming generations. The Baltimore City schools will be crap during the entirety of my sisters' tenure within the public school system. This I know. Within a few years they have less opportunities than even I had while I was in the system. But we can't resort to cynicism and defeatism, though I understand that the temptation is great.

Rodney D. Foxworth, Jr.
Associate Editor, LiP magazine
cultural journalist & freelance writer
Ronald E. McNair Scholar
Ph.: (410) 978-0045

"If we - and now I mean the relatively conscious whites and the relatively conscious blacks, who must, like lovers, insist on, or create, the consciousness of the others - do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country, and change the history of the world." - James Baldwin

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Children are seldom as great as their parents, those so-called self-made men and women who achieve greatness, like MLK and Coretta King. We will be foolish to expect in their children their intellectual genius, grace, and willingness to sacrifice. That is the problem with the privileges of aristocracy. Those special qualities that we admire in the greats are not in the blood or in the genes. But these children, as society is now organized, profit by their parents history and achieved stature.

This kind of corruption of the aristocrats we can read in the plays of Shakespeare and in the  writings of the novelist D.H. Lawrence. Their responses, however, are not adequate, for they wanted to substitute one hierarchy for another. They believed in a natural aristocracy, which they believed was repressed by a blood aristocracy from assuming their rightful place of authority in society.

What Lani Guinier is talking about in her "meritocratic" argument is that a democratic society ought to level and broaden the field by law for a greater number to rise and compete for resources available in society, as in the Texas Ten Percent Plan. She goes farther and argues that those from the lower and working classes tend to provide the needed and necessary leadership for the communities from which they rose. As a theorist of democracy, Guinier advances the notion that support for the education of the poorer and working classes advances democracy in our society. The "meritocratic" standards now in place only sustain and advance those classes that already have wealth and power. They exclude white, black, and Hispanic children of the poor and working classes.

We know it within the race that aristocracy is problematic. We know it here in Baltimore in the children of the great black families, e.g. Mitchells and the Murphys, and others of such ilk. These descendants of privilege do not take upon themselves the same measure of racial and social responsibilities as their great forbears. We find no Parren Mitchell, no Madeline Murphy among them. Their children become just as greedy and grasping as the white elites we accuse of those faults. They, as the other racial elites whatever their color, hide behind the mask of race and they are no more interested in the advance of the poor and working class communities than the whites with great social status, and in some cases, less. For their use and abuse of race strategies, these racial elites who use race for self-promotion must be outed  before we can move forward.

What goes for "good  parenting" has much to do with class. The point that Guinier makes is that elite educational institutions (whether private or public) are presently set up to serve upper middle and upper class kids, whether black or white or Hispanic. She went farther and said that Affirmative Action was not used fully to lift up the children of poor and working class families but rather those children of upper middle class and upper class black families. In turning against Affirmative Action, the courts got it wrong.

Some black parents can afford to raise their children in a manner that they can compete in the way American society is organize. But the problems most black kids have have much more to do with class rather than race. That's the point Guinier is making. Successful parenting has everything to do with class. But we got into the habit in the 80s and 90s of saying, according to Floyd Hayes, of describing these working class kids as “culturally deprived” or “culturally disadvantaged.” Middle and upper class parents can more afford the love and attention that poor parents cannot who lack the leisure and resources of their betters.

Highly concerned with "standards" these elite institutions achieve diversity in their schools by importing Latinos and blacks (from the Caribbean and Africa), rather than recruiting poor blacks and Hispanics from communities within the USA. Their upward mobility is not on the charts of their educational planning. The imported minorities are alienated from these indigenous minority communities and have little interest in providing leadership for their cousins, the USA poor and working class communities or in fighting for social justice in the USA. That is, the interests, intentions, and energies of these imported minorities are oriented toward their countries of origin, rather than the expansion of democracy in the USA. In that regard, they are more like those who have markers of wealth, than those students who are from USA poor and working class families.

I am against all defeatism, cynicism, and pessimism. I do not speak of change coming from the top, from Republicrats. The top is about money and power, by any means necessary. I speak of the social evils we experience and endure that have their source at the top rather than the bottom. I am not for doing a Bill Cosby on the poor working classes. They have had too much of that in the last three decades. Though I don't personally care for Michael Eric Dyson, basically because I find him a little too glib, I applaud Dyson for denouncing and outing Cosby, someone I grew up admiring. Dyson got skills and was on the mark and timely.

The Conservative revolution that black kids now suffer under was not done in a day. And some of our liberal black politicians signed onto it when Clinton was in office. Read Ron Walters. It took decades and all their present policies are proving a sham and now they desire the Democrats to take over the House, to clean up and take responsibility for the mess they made of things. But neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have the answer for the Fourth World. There's a need for fresh ideas and the black elites and politicos will not provide them. They have been bought off (and that includes the NAACP), and they gonna ride that horse to their graves.

Today we must think in decades. Today we must lay the ground work for a rapprochement of the indigenous USA peoples black, white, and Latino working classes. And we must indeed out the black elites for their divisive use and abuse of race as a means to sustain their class privileges. This is needed and necessary work. Such concepts as Third World, Black Nationalism, Pan Africanism, or any kind of racialisms are anachronisms for a Fourth World that wants and decides to move forward in the 21st century.

We need fresh ideas and we should be encouraging rather than disparaging our young scholars and activists (black, white, Latino; Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, agnostic) to be about that work. We do not need and must not bow and give credence to "situations--corrupt, materialistic, capitalistic, illegal, unethical--as we find them." We must use the fullness of all our intellectual resources (cultural, political, and social) and actively challenge and undermine those notions that sustain and hold up such situations.

Rudolph Lewis, Editor

ChickenBones: A Journal

posted 12 March 2006

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This subtle, brilliant examination of the period between the War of Independence and the Louisiana Purchase puts Pulitzer-winner Ellis (Founding Brothers) among the finest of America's narrative historians. Six stories, each centering on a significant creative achievement or failure, combine to portray often flawed men and their efforts to lay the republic's foundation. Set against the extraordinary establishment of the most liberal nation-state in the history of Western Civilization... in the most extensive and richly endowed plot of ground on the planet are the terrible costs of victory, including the perpetuation of slavery and the cruel oppression of Native Americans. Ellis blames the founders' failures on their decision to opt for an evolutionary revolution, not a risky severance with tradition (as would happen, murderously, in France, which necessitated compromises, like retaining slavery).

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Gil uses Lennon's violent end as a brilliant parallel to Dr King's assassination and as a biting commentary on the constraints that sometimes lead to newspapers getting things wrong. —Jamie Byng, Guardian / Gil_reads_"Deadline" (audio)

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Ancient African Nations

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