May 17, 2004, marked the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. That decision overturned the “separate but equal” doctrine, and paved the way for the integration of public schools.
Forced segregation was an injustice, but was forced integration the proper remedy? In some ways, yes.
Justice demands that every American have equal access to all public services. There is no doubt that many black children benefited from access to the same resources enjoyed by white children. And many white children are better off today because of the friendships they built with black classmates.
If segregation were the only problem, then the 50 years since Brown should have seen black students reach the same levels of achievement as whites. But is that what we have seen? We all know better.
According to recent National Assessment of Educational Progress exams, 9-year-old black students scored an average of 38 points below their white peers in science. They scored 25 points below whites in math.
The gap widens with age. Black 13-year-olds scored an average 40 points lower than whites in science and 29 points lower in math.
There are many reasons for the persistent gap, and race plays little part. The reasons are economic and cultural.
Technical Assistance and Support Consultants reviewed the findings of a national study and concluded that “the home environments of many disadvantaged students — approximately 33 percent of whom are African American — are not conducive to student learning due to such factors as: lower likelihood of adequate books or places to study, lower levels of participation in educational activities outside of school and lower expectations for educational achievement.”
None of these factors relate to race, segregation, or anything other than a lack of encouragement and support.
One does not have to be wealthy to provide opportunities for their children to learn. One must simply spend time reading to their children, encouraging them, and providing an environment at home where learning is cherished.
Unfortunately, many parents do no such thing.
A party was held to celebrate the anniversary of the Brown decision. Washington’s Constitution Hall was the venue, and the guest list was a Who’s Who of stars and civil rights activists.
One of the speakers was none other than Dr. Bill Cosby, whose “Cosby Show” put the model of a black middle-class family in our living rooms every week for a decade. Cosby played an obstetrician, his wife was an attorney. Little did the anniversary attendees know that Doc Cosby was not there to dispense the usual rhetoric about racism and oppression.
According to WashingtonPost.com and Newsday.com, Cosby turned the evening into a shootout with the civil rights gang. He said, "Ladies and gentlemen, the lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal -- These people are not parenting.” They spend [hundreds] on a pair of sneakers, he said, but "won’t spend $200 for 'Hooked on Phonics.'"
He continued, "They’re standing on the corner and they can’t speak English. I can’t even talk the way these people talk: ‘Why you ain’t.’ ‘Where you is.’ ... And I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk. And then I heard the father talk. ... Everybody knows it’s important to speak English except these knuckleheads. ... You can’t be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth!"
He also shot at those who call blacks in prison “political prisoners.” "These are people going around stealing Coca-Cola. People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake, and then we run out and we are outraged, (saying) ‘The cops shouldn’t have shot him.’ What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand?"
He challenged parents who say their children shouldn’t be in jail. "I am talking about these people who cry when their son is standing there in an orange suit," he said. "Where were you when he was two? Where were you when he was 12? Where were you when he was 18, and how come you didn’t know that he had a pistol? And where is the father?"
Ted Shaw of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund angrily responded to Cosby’s remarks, following up by reminding the crowd that systematic racism was, and still is the culprit.
According to the New York Times, black scholar "Michael Eric Dyson said that Mr. Cosby’s comments ‘betray classist, elitist viewpoints that are rooted in generational warfare.’"
Mr. Dyson, a professor of religious studies and African studies at the University of Pennsylvania, said Mr. Cosby was ‘ill-informed on the critical and complex issues that shape peoples' lives.’”
Yes, I suppose Doc Cosby is firing blanks. He suffers from the ridiculous delusion that people are to blame for their failures and are responsible for their successes.Mike North is a professional land surveyor, amateur historian and former member of the Walker County school board. For past columns and contact information, visit In My Humble Opinion.