Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Meaning Of Work - Being A Black Man

The Meaning Of Work - Being A Black Man - Washington Post

The plight of Black men is about as complex or as simple as one cares to make it. Side one opts for complex because side two's simple answer just seems too simple for explaining a group perennially down and out - so it is with the Black man.

Young men, like Chris Dansby, make review more difficult as they are not drug dealers, or gang members, or 'bad kids', but are nonetheless unplugged from the opportunity this country has long-held, even for those it claimed not to want.

This day their plight plays simple. We nix the long thesis; offer no multi-generational cause and effect; just a straightforward call-it-like-it-seems today. Tomorrow we are back to graphs and charts, spreadsheets, case methods and Socratics.

Today we ponder simply, the way Black men walk. It tells their story. They strut, even while their pockets are empty, and sleeves burdened. They walk slow, with no where to go that demands a quick step, or so they think. Crossing the street their gait is slower still, a lone power move - make them wait I will.

Today it is the bling-bling of shooting stars - LeBron, Snoop, Usher, or Beyonce to model Black kids away from books and to MTV's 'Cribs', pimpin' rides, trash talk and the empty dreams of empty minds. But the plain question of this day is how to teach a grown Chris to appreciate his steps. To take those steps one at a time, and as an old man once said, 'like you have some place to go', instead of pretending to fly, or walk, first-class to bravado's dead-end.

James C. Collier


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Monday, November 20, 2006

Black Enrollment in AP Surges in Montgomery

Black Enrollment in AP Surges in Montgomery - Washington Post

We should applaud the Montgomery students for their Advanced Placement (AP) efforts, as this looks to be an example where pushing the 'envelope' in school is substantially within their realm of acting 'right', versus the often miss labeled 'acting White'.

The numbers from the article, however, give us a window into the up-coming challenges facing these aspiring college-bound kids - and that view contains more than a dark cloud. If the average AP pass rate was 79%, this means that White and Asian kids are significantly above this mark, indicating a performance gap of more than 22 percentage points. When the Black kids apply to college, affirmative action admissions programs will give them added points based on their race, erasing the gap - and herein hides the problem.

"Of the Montgomery students who take AP tests, 79 percent earn passing scores of 3 or higher -- a remarkably high rate, considering that participation has effectively doubled in five years. The passing rate for black students is 57 percent, lowest among all racial groups..."

The extra points they get for the color of their skin, while making them 'competitive' on paper, will do nothing for their actual competitiveness in the college classroom. As a result, their performance in college will suffer. They will struggle in greater numbers than their classmates; their grades will be lower; their attrition will be much higher. The number of them that go on to graduate school will be lower, and the jobs and salaries they garner when they graduate will be lessened, reflecting their under performance and lesser abilities.

So what is happening to turn a program that was meant to help disadvantaged groups into one that actually hurts them? In admissions, affirmative action shifts these kids off their 'center of competence', or that place where they will perform at their best. In essence they trade the elite-ness of the school that affirmative action promotes them into, for the better grades and result that race-blind admissions would deliver, in schools that better match their true abilities. The phenomenon occurs at all tiers of schools, public and private. Research shows however, that it is better grades, not school brand or tier, which leads to more degrees, better paying jobs, graduate-level study, and greater career success.

In the debate of whether diverse learning environments are ideal, or whether affirmative action is unfair to Whites or not, we should add the direct harm that the program does to Black higher education progress, the very group it was meant to help! Affirmative actionomics, the objective study of the impact of this program, shows there to be a net loss of degreed Black professionals, when compared to race-blind admissions studies.

As difficult as this is to consider, it is imperative that we remove the emotion-fueled blinders of the past for the sake of our better future.

James C. Collier


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Saturday, November 18, 2006

O.J. Deal Leaves Sour Taste in Many Mouths et al

O.J. Deal Leaves Sour Taste in Many Mouths - Washington Post

Bad Blood - Washington Post

News Corp. Pulls Plug on O.J. Book and TV Show - AP

Like a bad penny, here comes O.J.

Let us hope city, state, and federal prosecutors spend significant tax monies reviewing everything he writes and says, on the off chance that his pseudo-confession can lead to prosecution.

Let us hope that Florida might be so incensed that their laws are an accomplice to his flaunting that they close the loophole that allows him to live wealthy and playing golf everyday, and dreaming up stupid stunts like "If I did it."

Let us hope that the people like Judith Regan and Fox, who would seek to profit from his crime, experience the wrath they so abundantly deserve, by virtue of providing him with even a nanosecond of exposure to spew more lies.

Let us hope that police everywhere will resist the temptation to 'help' the prosecutors by carrying out other than honest law enforcement, which aided the release of a double-murderer.

Let us hope that the money he receives will somehow benefit his abused children, through counseling, and airfare to places as far away as possible from this demented, egotistical lunatic.

But finally, let us hope that people everywhere, especially Black people, who looked at his race as a legitimate reason to free him, accept that he is proof that race or celebrity is no substitute for merit, because on merit he would be rotting in San Quentin on death-row, with others of his ilk, like Scott Peterson, and we would be spared this side-show.

James C. Collier


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Sunday, November 12, 2006

MI Affirmative Action - Not With A Bang, But A Whimper et al

Court Battle Likely on Affirmative Action - Washington Post

Michigan Rejects Affirmative Action, and Backers Sue - New York Times

New Focus on Affirmative Action - Washington Post

In all the excitement of the Republicans losing the control of congress and the senate, there has been nearly no mention of the passing of Proposition 2 in Michigan, that state's version of California's Prop 209, which eliminates the use of racial preferences in public universities and other state agencies.

Recall that the Supreme Court recently upheld the University of Michigan's narrow use of race as one component of the law school's admissions criteria, while also ruling that the university's undergraduate program's broad use of race in admissions went too far. The high court has thus far refused to weigh in on California's law, which has resulted in significant reduction of incoming Blacks at the state's top public schools, UC Berkeley and UCLA. Ironically, no one seemed to care that pre-209 graduation rates for Blacks at these schools was significantly less than Whites and Asians.

Perhaps the distraction of the Republican 'implosion' is not the only reason this vestige of the 1960's went out 'not with a bang, but a whimper', in Michigan. The most overlooked problem of affirmative action in college admissions is its placement of students in competitive academic spotlights, where a race premium cannot see them through to the graduation line. It is only adding insult to injury that when Blacks graduate at lower levels across the board, racism, not preparation, takes the blame.

Despite its promise, affirmative action could be no more than a temporary release to the pent-up demand of highly motivated Blacks, legally barred from educational opportunities since slavery. What it has not done, over the last 40 years, is erase disparities of behaviors and attitudes that have had Black students, on average, under perform Whites, from the much-studied time they first enter grade school. In fact, the proper study of the net effect of raced-based preference programs, under what I call 'affirmative actionomics', reveals a surprising and significant net loss of professional degreed Blacks as the actual result.

Simply put, the unrelenting adherence to the promise of this exhausted remedy is holding back Black progress. Pretending that affirmative action is still the cornerstone solution to Black plight denies Black kids the attention and resources they need, beginning with monies and programs for early age intervention in socialization, critical thinking, preparation, persuasion, and conflict management.

Reversing the effects of discrimination will take a lot more than giving any group extra points for the color of their skin and on the back-end of a compromised K-12 education. This is the same thinking, exhibited by the founding fathers, which initiated and has kept this country off-track from the start.

James C. Collier


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Friday, November 10, 2006

L.A. Police Case Gets FBI Probe et al

L.A. Police Case Gets FBI Probe - AP

Beating of L.A. Suspect Sparks Outcry - Washington Posts

Click here for Video...

William Cardenas is no Rodney King.

Shock is what any normal person experiences when they see a person strike another in the face. However, once we get past the visceral impact, we are left with trying to understand if the LAPD have run amok, ala Mr. King, or is this an example of police doing a difficult, dangerous, un-pretty job.

It is certainly reasonable to investigate police behavior, particular when the charge of resisting arrest is included, but it is also fair to consider more than the simple and obvious pummeling the suspect received during the course of the arrest. The law provides for standards of response that may challenge layperson sensibilities, but nonetheless protects the public, including the officers and suspects.

The philosophy of criminal law in this country is one of equal force. This means that the force used by the officers should match the threat of the suspect, no more. Once the officers began to grapple with the suspect in close quarters, the level of threat elevates to life threatening. Why? Because the lethal weapons they carry are now in reach of the suspect. Rodney King, rolling around on the ground, getting 50 baton strikes, was a limited threat to the officers who were hitting him. Mr. Cardenas, alternately, was indeed a lethal threat as the two officers lay on top of him attempting to handcuff him.

As for striking the suspect repeatedly in the face, or other vital locations for that matter, it would seem that this level of force, while distressing, is plausible considering that the suspect's continued resistance may result in a free hand that could acquire either officer's service weapon, potentially resulting in fatal injury, including to the nearby public. The video shows the suspects right hand as free at one point and near one officer's waist-belt, which holds his weapon.

Lastly, the suspect's plea that he could not breathe, while alarming, negates itself immediately. The audible plea, repeated more than once, evidences an unobstructed airway and the act of breathing. The suspect's breathing discomfort was consistent with having the body weight of two officers on top of him, and exacerbated by his struggle to evade their control.

With this said, Mr. Cardenas remains innocent of all crimes until proven guilty in a court of law, as are the officers, and review is definitely warranted. What is more difficult to see through our emotional lens is a struggle, arguably precipitated by Mr. Cardenas, where serious or fatal injuries were reasonably possible and where all manner of force would be acceptable to insure the paramount objective of the officers maintaining control of the suspect and their weapons in the close and combative quarters of an arrest.

James C. Collier


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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Red State and Blue, Reflected in Black and White et al

Red State and Blue, Reflected in Black and White - Washington Post

Deval L. Patrick (D) Massachusetts - Washington Post

At first blush, the outcome of a rich, Harvard-educated Black man winning only the second governorship of its kind would not seem instructive to the plight of the average Black man-on-the-street in Roxbury, Boston's long-challenged Black community. However, upon review it is extremely revealing.

The campaign complexities of Massachusetts governor-elect, Deval Patrick, cannot be simplified, except to say that he won because White people, the voting majority, saw something they liked in his offer and they voted for him. His capture of the hearts and minds of the majority electorate shows us how a Black man transcends his beginnings on an island, a housing project in Chicago, only to come to lead the Bay State.

The difference between what Mr. Patrick presents as challenges and solutions to the greater electorate of the state, compared to that of traditional Black leaders and their electorate in places like Roxbury, are far too distant from each other. This disparity makes it nearly impossible for greater Massachusetts, as they are inclined, to help Boston's Black community, including that community seeking the type of help that will make a real difference.

Roxbury, like so many others, continues to try to solve its problems through legal and moral attitudes and strategies born of the civil rights era. While these approaches were indeed effective for ending segregation and other gross institutions of racism, they are equally ineffective for taking on the problems plaguing today's Black community, that being the assimilation of themselves and their problems into the whole solution set of society.

The struggling person in Roxbury who fails to assimilate the values, strategies, tactics of the striving poor majority is destined to remain disenfranchised from the inclusion which follows. The first rule of this assimilation is the promotion of education at all cost and manner of sacrifice. Patrick's mother, as challenged as she was at the time, was willing to send her son away to school at a tender age, in order to get him the best education. That beginning sacrifice, ultimately leading to Mr. Patrick's historic victory, says it all.

James C. Collier


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Friday, November 03, 2006

Outcome May Rest On Black Turnout

Outcome May Rest On Black Turnout - Washington Post

As we approach yet another election day, what is brought to mind is the disparity of approaches that Blacks take in exercising their hard-earned right to vote.

The Webb-Allen senate race in Virginia illuminates an important dynamic in Black voting that describes the marginal position, relative to their absolute voting potential, that Blacks hold. Regardless of what is in their hearts and minds, both men evoke concern about current and former positions on race, highlighting the often-ignored reality that racism can and does exist in virulent forms on both sides of the isle.

However, this concern translates ultimately into whether or not Black voters will 'show up' at the polling stations on election day. Are there not other issues which those voters should care about that would motivate their participation? Surely there are a host of Propositions and other contests that matter as well.

Virginia Democratic and Black leadership concerns of turnout tracks back to the empirically fed, and accurate, stereotype whereby Blacks tend to vote for people ahead of the issues. If something about the lead personalities of the election turns them off, they turnout in lower numbers, with the disastrous impact this can have on the host of other critical issues of their region and influencing the plight of the group.

History is not saying that Whites are not similarly influenced, but rather that the influence is greatest in the lower socio-economic levels where Blacks are disproportionately represented, reflecting the Catch-22 problem the group is caught in.

For Blacks, as with all citizens, if they believe in anything about their better future, they must show up and vote, even if they abstain, as is also their right, from particular contests and issues.

James C. Collier


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