Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Heat Is On

Many social reformers have long said that low academic achievement among inner-city children cannot be improved significantly without moving their families to better neighborhoods, but new reports released today that draw on a unique set of data throw cold water on that theory.[1]

There seems to be an all out effort of late to roll back the progress and to discredit the data that supports the efforts to continue that progress. First we have the Supreme Court reversing Brown, then we have the Putnam study[2] of neighborhood diversity, and now improving neighborhoods does not improve academic performance study.[3]

The findings of these studies seem to suggest that for all the “social engineering” and all the integration efforts of white liberals and moderate blacks, there is no hope for the Black community in America. Our children are unable to learn under any circumstances and nobody wants to live next to us. Is there no hope left for the Black community? Are we relegated to third class life in a first class nation; the built in impoverished quotient in capitalism? According to what I am reading and hearing there is a growing sentiment in this country including among some progressives, that we have done all we can do for the Black community. The issues we face are to systemic and intransigent to ever be overcome.

No matter what remedies have been tried the past 40 years the results have been abysmal. Many have said that the breakdown currently going on in the Black community is a direct result of many of the programs designed to foster improvement in those communities. The programs themselves have created more problems than they have solved. These programs have created an “entitlement mentality” that has robbed the black community of its initiative and self-reliance. Instead of looking to itself to solve issues like poor academic performance, crime, and single mother households we are looking for outside forces to create remedies for us.

I have recently been studying some Native American writings and I have come away with some interesting concepts. Many Native American writers believe that the cause of many of their ills today was the imposition of a foreign culture at the detriment of their own culture. They suggest that because the problem was the disturbance of their own culture by western culture, the solution cannot come from that same culture that created the problem. The solutions offered by the offending culture will only create other problems will it attempts to solve the original problems. They also suggest that the only way to overcome these problems is to remove themselves from the dominant culture and return to their own culture. That in doing so they will be able to produce their own cultural solutions to overcome the problems they feel inflicted on them by the integration of the western culture.For them the solutions will not be generated by outsiders, but by the ones familiar with the needs of their people and their cultural differences

I think for too long we in the Black community have allowed others to determine what our goals should be based on their cultural dynamics. That while these goals may be benevolent and worthy, they are destined to fail because they may have a cultural bias. In other words these may not be the goals and aspirations of the majority of Blacks. The Native Americans have come to the realization that those goals offered to them by the majority population do not correspond to their cultural ambitions and that by trying to achieve the goals of others they have lost sight not only of their culture, but of their morality. When you try to achieve the aspirations that others have defined for you, you are destined to fail even when you succeed. How many people have fulfilled the ambitions of a parent or other loved one only to be supremely unhappy with the results? While the goal may provide what is considered success, once achieved there is an emptiness in purpose. There are many unfulfilled successful people, who long for the opportunity to reach their dream, defined by them.

Are the symbols of White success applicable to the Black community? Has seeking after the manifestations of another cultures success actually harmed the success of our own culture? Do we as a culture value education, marriage, and material success or are these the expressions of a foreign culture that we have tried to emulate? That once attained we find them empty and hollow of any deeper meaning and we are left with that emptiness; is this all? Does achieving success in this culture actually alienate us from our own culture, hence the ridicule and animosity towards successful Blacks? To be truly successful in the dominant culture do Black people have to assimilate into that dominant culture and lose the bonds to their own culture in the process? Is there now a disconnect between those Blacks perceived as successful and those Blacks that are perceived as not being successful?

I guess the question I would ask is; do the majority of Blacks believe that the American dream is their dream? Not that they can’t obtain the dream, but do they want to? The Blacks that have achieved success in this culture often look at other Blacks as not “getting it” for their lack of success, but maybe it is the successful Blacks that aren’t getting it?

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