July 23, 2014

A Debt Still Unpaid

In 1860, almost 13% of the people living in America were slaves, which meant that the people who “owned” them could use them for any purpose they wanted, no matter how inhumane. The average slave owner had almost two thirds of their wealth in people who were primarily used as laborers to supply 75% of the world’s cotton.

In today’s America, many descendants of those who were enslaved have shortened life spans; black children are almost twice as likely to die before age 20 as white children. And this situation will only get worse unless we stop condoning the gangsta culture that is so prevalent in so many inner city environments. This thug culture is idealized by music, celebrated by the Hollywood elite, and even made respectable by comments from the President of the United States.

According to the report The Color of Crime by the New Century Foundation, blacks are 7 times more likely than people of other races to commit murder and 8 times more likely to commit robbery. For comparison, the report states that Hispanics commit violent crimes at about 3 times the white rate and Asians about one quarter the white rate. There is some debate about how the New Century Foundation arrived at those figures; however, every database I have searched indicated a significantly higher crime rate for blacks than other races.

There is no evidence that the higher crime rates are the result of a people’s ethnicity. There is however, compelling anecdotal evidence that the higher crime rates are the result of culture. Far too many children are growing to adulthood in inner-city environments bereft of moral guidance. This predisposes them to behaviors where instant gratification of every urge is “normal”. Well, it isn’t normal and allowing those children to be programmed to think it is, is depriving them of the societal rewards of living in America.

Shame on us for not interceding, shame on us for not having the courage to stand up and shout to the world that this is unacceptable. Our fears of being labeled racist or of being dismissed as an elitist prevent us from working to give these children the opportunities they deserve.

It is time to focus attention on the environmental conditions of these children. We need to ignore the race baiting, excuse making, and blame shifting and intercede so the newer generations will have a chance to realize the American dream.

We can’t change what happens, or does not happen, in their homes. But we can make a difference in their lives by directing the full complement of our resources at these children’s education, beginning in pre-school years. I am not advocating spending more money since many of these school districts already spend well above the national average per student. What I am saying is that we must do a better job supporting those teachers who are willing to give so much of themselves to make a difference.

I believe there are a lot of teachers ready and willing to go far beyond what standard teacher responsibilities are to help students in desperate need of direction. I know a highly motivated teacher who worked at an inner-city school who finally gave up and left because school administration was so risk-averse they would not support her even after she was threatened physically. I am confident that this same thing happens many times every year.

Teachers can change student’s lives by holding them accountable for their actions and non-actions; by teaching students that actions have consequences and that they are not immune to those consequences because of some label applied to them. Many teachers will work tirelessly to give students the direction their home lives lack, but they can’t do that if they are not provided full support from the educational system.

Politicians at all levels must have the courage to support those administrators who are willing to listen to what teachers in the classrooms are saying and direct changes to the school environment based on those teacher’s judgments. Teachers who are willing to deal with these children on a daily basis are the experts and must be respected as such.

We owe these children that! We have used their ancestry as an excuse for our inaction under the guise of racial sensitivity far too long. What we did to their ancestors cannot be excused; it can only be apologized for. So let’s apologize by interceding on their descendant’s behalf and ignore all the race- baiting rhetoric that those actions provoke.

Rex A. Hoover