Monday, February 26, 2007

How To Keep America Competitive

How To Keep America Competitive - Washington Post

The words of billionaire Bill Gates carry a vital warning for Blacks, even though he does not say this directly. While No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and other initiatives struggle to get kids, especially Black kids, through high school with serviceable educations, it is the dearth of Black college-level science and math graduates that define Blacks as dependant consumers versus self-determining producers.

Sadly, the National Center for Education Statistics reports that in the year 2001 less than 3% of all doctoral degrees conferred in the engineering sciences went to Blacks, in stark disproportion to the group as 13% of the total US population. The number of Ph.D.’s in engineering science infers a technology assimilation measure for the group which is soberingly consistent with that group’s average performance within the current society.

If, as Mr. Gates states, our primary and secondary schools have fallen behind the world, to 24th of 29 industrial nations, there is little or no hope for Blacks gaining parity. As nearly 45% percent of Black kids are failing the graduation requirements, within already non-competitive school systems, what we have is a crisis multiplied times two.

For too many of these kids and their parents, education is not seen as the way to a better life. Success is more realistically becoming a rap-star, or a professional athlete or, when these lottery-chance outcomes dissolve, simply a ward of the welfare or criminal justice system.

Gates rightly blames the country’s advancement ills on political will, but the responsibility for Blacks ceding their dreams away rest solely on a lack of will to see education, by ‘hook or crook’, including math and science, as the group’s savior.

James C. Collier


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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Virginia Apologizes for Role in Slavery et al

Virginia Apologizes for Role in Slavery - AP

'Profound Regret' Is Warranted - Washington Post

It’s too late for apologies, but not because Whites lack sincerity in regretting the evils of slavery, or that Blacks aren't deserving. Rather, the country cannot afford the continuing distraction of the guilt exchange it encourages. Blacks too often default to moral strategies of good-and-evil followed by guilt tactics of advancement, which have repeatedly shown themselves ineffective.

The dance goes like this. Whites say they are sorry. Blacks ask what the group will be given to make amends. Whites offer some form of compensation. Blacks accept it, while watching their plight continue, only to say ‘not enough, try again’. Whites retreat, asking themselves when what they do will be enough.

The legacy of slavery, and the racism that followed, is broken motivation in Blacks. Too many of the group lack the fundamental drive to create something from nothing, starting with education. As Blacks have lived within a society that systematically blocks their chance to succeed, their attentions and resources have twisted to the role of ‘spoiler’, even if it means going down with the ship too. This must change.

Whites and Blacks need new leadership to acknowledge these difficult truths and stop playing the shame and blame game. Blacks don’t need to ‘get over slavery’, they need to put it in its relative context. Whites don’t need to amend their ancestors, they need to stop justifying insidious biases, derived from today's disparities.

Arguing over apologies, state by state, is a waste of time.

James C. Collier


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Friday, February 23, 2007

Test Scores At Odds With Rising High School Grades

Test Scores At Odds With Rising High School Grades - Washington Post

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) touts itself as a significant savior to grade inflation in school, but the real savior has always been free market forces in the workplace. The profit motive is smarter than any test, or ideological willingness to arbitrarily discriminate.

While people have historically focused on bigotry to explain the disparity in wages earned between races and genders, the greater culprit has remained the disparity in skills brought to that job market. Inaccurate measures like unearned diplomas and inflated grades present a continuing obstacle to education progress and parity.

It is no coincidence that disparities in graduation rates, skills assessments, and standardized test scores reflect, or foreshadow, the disparities we see in wages and income later in life. It certainly is true that discrimination plays a role in how kids are educated, and this deserves attention, but the disparities we see in earnings stem from real difference in abilities and skills that contribute to an employer’s success.

For Blacks, grade inflation fools the group into thinking that they are more capable than their actual skill sets reflect. The marketplace in turn makes its adjustment for the inflation by discounting wages to match actual skills. Blacks and others misread this as race discrimination by the employer, and this sets up a ‘chicken and egg’ confrontation that is a lose-lose proposition for both sides.

James C. Collier


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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Frank Snowden; Major Scholar of Blacks in Antiquity

Frank Snowden; Major Scholar of Blacks in Antiquity - Washington Post

The passing of Emeritus Professor Frank Snowden, of Howard University, is reason for pause to recognize his contributions as an educator and scholar. Dr. Snowden's contributions were many, but he was a near-zealot promoter of a more accurate and positive place for Blacks in antiquity.

Educated at Harvard, Dr. Snowden's writings described the participation of Blacks well before the historical dominance of the Atlantic Slave Trade and American Slavery. While there are those who criticized his emphasis, the victimization that thwarts present-day Black progress is greatly influenced by the limitation of the truncated history his work battled. Slavery was important, but still one chapter in a rich history book.

His teachings helped us to understand that racism took a giant leap forward with the formation of the United States. Until the US constitution declared that 'all men are created equal', there was little notion or need to describe any man as being less than a total man. The declaration that the Negro was 2/3 of a man, thereby making the White male supreme, was a feeble attempt by the founding fathers to morally reconcile slavery and democracy. The US continues living with the legacy of this misstep.

The reality is that no group has the franchise on being downtrodden. The contest for most abused leads us down the dead-end path of moral and guilt strategies that run out of steam before any useful destination is reached. Dr. Snowden saw this and did more than his part in laying the groundwork that helps our focus to shift. For his life, I am grateful.

James C. Collier


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Sunday, February 18, 2007

In Vermont, Prisoners Go To High School Behind Bars

In Vermont, Prisoners Go To High School Behind Bars - Associated Press

We have seen the future and it is Vermont.

Integrating high school education with prison systems is the only rescue effort we can undertake for the current generation of young people caught in the revolving door of crime and ignorance.

However, this rescue is as much for the rest of society as it is for those going in and out of prison. It's law-abiding people who are at greatest physical and economic risks from these unschooled outlaws. The cost of their criminal behavior and recidivism, plus the cost of further buffering society, far outweighs the additional cost of educating them, as part of paying their criminal debts.

When judge's sentence people there should be an assessment of their schooling needs to make them self-sustaining and lawful. It would be even better if GED achievement could somehow be mandated into requirements for release.

In the 'old days' youthful felons were given the option of going into the military instead of jail, and this approach straightened out many knuckleheads. However, the high-tech military of today needs kids with equal or above average intelligence, plus good attitudes, not street thugs fresh from drive-by shootings.

The long-term solution is higher expectations, better parenting, and better schools. But, in the short term Vermont is on the right track - integrating prison and high school. Half of all high school-aged Black males do not graduate, with prison as a likely next stop. No Child Left Behind meets No Person Left Behind. Something to consider.

James C. Collier


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Saturday, February 17, 2007

'No Child' Commission Presents Ambitious Plan

'No Child' Commission Presents Ambitious Plan - Washington Post

It is pleasing to see a more ambitious plan for extending No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Whether or not you agree with all aspects of the program, it is inarguable that the children that are being left behind are disproportionately Black and this program focuses attention on them, like never before.

Unlike affirmative action, this attention is not punitive on White kids, and those in need are getting the attention they too deserve. The Federal government is interceding, as a last-ditch effort, to raise performance expectations - something educators have consistently failed to do.

It will take time, but raising expectations with a deaf ear to age-old excuses, many of them racist in origin, will in part turn our society toward results that will advance the quality of our lives. Who knows, this strategy and tactic may catch on in other areas such as juvenile crime. Holding parents accountable, including community support programs, for the behavior of their 'thug-life-subscribing' offspring is not so different than how we are now looking at educators.

Those who are against the 'tough-love' of NCLB should accept that our society is dissolving into a polarized chaos of the haves, the greater have-nots, buffered by encroaching urban combat zones. If we do nothing but excuse the performance gaps, starting with education, we insure their growth and our accelerated retreat to guarded compounds.

James C. Collier


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Friday, February 16, 2007

Rep. Jefferson To Get Homeland Security Seat

Rep. Jefferson To Get Homeland Security Seat - AP

I'm sorry, but someone needs to inform House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that being appointed to Homeland Security is not the 'desk duty' that Representative William "IceBox" Jefferson has earned, while he awaits indictment for bribery.

Recall that this is the same Jefferson who took $90,000 in bribe money from the FBI and stashed it in his freezer. Yes, he is innocent until proven guilty, but his waiting time might be better spent on the House Committee on Standards for Official Conduct, or the new Joint Committee on Printing. Perhaps they could add a section on printing license plates to give Rep. Jefferson a head-start.

In any event, this appointment is a continuation of the Louisiana lunacy that sent this alleged crook back to Washington after he got himself so busted. I understand that the Cajun state likes their politicians with some dirt on them, and that's their business, but sending this snake back to Washington is too much.

Unfortunately, the bar for launching voter indignance has been raised to such a point that I suppose "Dollar" Bill needed to get caught laying in bed on top of the Bureau's 90 grand with a naked White woman, to capture the ire of La. voters.

James C. Collier


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Black Like Me? et al

Black Like Me? - Washington Post

The Right Question About Barack Obama - Washington Post

When Blacks, who are the ancestors of America's slavery, wonder if Senator Barack Obama is 'Black enough', the distinction is not one of mixture, but of immigration. If the measure of blackness was one of degree of European ancestry, Black America would quickly descend into chaos.

Instead, the challenge is the unspoken differences and results of immigrant Blacks and their children, as compared to US slave descendants. Black immigrants, like nearly all legal immigrants, have done quite well in taking advantage of this country's Ellis-island franchise of, 'bring us your tired, your hungry, your huddled masses yearning to be free…'.

American Blacks, on the other hand, have advanced individually, but with the group still holding a lock on the bottom economic rungs of the ladder. Black America continues to be under housed, under educated, health challenged and under employed, relative to Whites.

The Senator can be counted in the same category with the two-thirds majority of Black Harvard undergraduates who happen to be of Black immigrants. Their disproportion at the top of the education chain reflects the difference in immigrant behavior. Combining a willingness to work bottom up, long hours, multiple jobs, with tireless saving and a relentless pursuit of education for themselves and their children makes a winning difference.

Some American Blacks are suspicious of immigrants, because as son-of-an-immigrant Colin Powell so eloquently represented, hard work rules the day, and excuses don't cut it. This approach is counter to guilt-producing strategies and tactics that keep Blacks at the mercy of Whites.

So while Blacks claim the issue it about the Senator, it really is about how immigrants, especially Black immigrants, highlight the thwarting behaviors of Black America, and the painful emotion that follows.

James C. Collier


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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Bigotry Quiz

Whenever I see tests designed to search out racism I come away disappointed. This has to do more with the agenda of the test makers, making people feel bad about their biases, rather than helping understand them.

Once guilt inevitably begins to subside, the shame-game must either be invigorated or abandoned. To invigorate, there must be new reasons to make people feel bad. Old injuries must get new names and enhanced definition.

However, in a world of normally distributed disparity, is it reasonable that ideals of equal results should dominate? Whose ideals are right anyway? If Black males commit a disproportion of the violent crime, is not bias against them, with respect to violence, reasonable - even preferable? The better question might be if the bias is in the same proportion as the violence that is driving it?

The IAT, or Implicit Association Test, presented by Harvard's Project Implicit, give test takers a chance to see their biases in narrowed context of comparison, and with limited judgment. This gives these tests a glimmer of hope to be useful to the users.

Human disparities are a given in a world of disparate resources. Biases are a natural result. Stereotypes can be accurate and useful, with empirical backing. When we clearly see our biases, only then can we ask ourselves if they are fair, and advancing. Equally, when we see the biases of others against us, we should include the question of if we are the cause or the result.

James C. Collier


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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

'Eyes' Acting White - Letter

(Letter Edited for length:)

I have looked around the net quickly today in search of some reasonalby concise explanation of what it means for a black woman to be accused of "acting white".

My Lady is a General Manager at a Fast Food Resturaunt, she does not wear a uniform because she does not have to, she dresses nicely but not Formally, she wears make up, is beautiful (customers male and female follow her from store to store when they transfer her, she gets dozens of winks a day and a handful of date invitations from mostly white men), she smiles, is respectful of people, and generous.

But the people who throw this accusation/complaint at her take this attitude with her the moment they walk in the door.

It is mostly youg black males and females.

We have talked about this and neither of us really understand these people's complaint.

Is it the colored contacts?


Sir: As they say, the devil is in the details.

Indeed, it is the wearing of colored contact lenses that is encouraging the explicit accusation of acting white. Your partner's mannerisms may make some Blacks less comfortable, but they rarely elicit the response you describe, in that context.

Assimilation of advancing behaviors, which some Blacks errantly assign to Whites, does not include changing one's eye color. It is one of those attributes which correlates to fairness of skin, and serves no objective purposes other than to enhance one's visual appeal, in this case, directly on an exclusive European scale of attractiveness.

While eye color mutations occur randomly in all populations around the globe, they survived in northern hemispheres because they did not raise mortality rates in the process, and they enhance sexual attractiveness relative to whites with brown eyes.

Just as Michael Jackson can be rightfully assessed as acting white, by permanently stripping his skin of melanin, a black person who lightens their eyes with contacts is temporarily altering themselves to have a trait that only comes with a significant amount of European ancestry.

If your partner wants the accusations to cease, she needs to lose the colored contacts, or learn to expect and ignore those who are offended by her choice. But let's be clear, what Blacks are most offended by is her rejection of natural black qualification in attractiveness, which they associate with such an explicit and discretionary substitution.

James C. Collier


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Monday, February 12, 2007

Seeds of Leadership on a Va. Farm

Seeds of Leadership on a Va. Farm - Washington Post

Harvard's first women president, Drew Gilpin Faust, could do the university and the country a big favor by acknowledging the school's dismal leadership in studying the plight of 40 million Blacks and the true impact of that plight on the rest of America.

Instead of touting how better off the learning environment is by having a few 'choice' Blacks in attendance, she could challenge her faculty to tell us why Blacks predominate at the lower end of the economic scale, and are as a whole losing ground.

She could bring truth to the discussion by acknowledging that two-thirds of today's Black Harvard undergraduates are children of immigrants, disqualifying them as representative of the historical Blacks so in need of solutions. They disqualify because their behavior, following those of their immigrant parents, has very little in common with troubled Black America.

She could talk about the cons of affirmative action, whereby grades are depressed and graduation rates are punished when the admitted are given points for the color of their skin - points that can't possibly translate into competitiveness in the classroom.

But mostly, she could blow off the status quo and redirect the university's search for exceptional Black students to become one of a search for courageous analysis and understanding of those accumulating millions of Blacks kids who never make it through high school, let alone the prestigious gates of her now Harvard Yard.

James C. Collier, HBS'87


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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Leaders See a Black America Sailing Off Course

Leaders See a Black America Sailing Off Course - AP

Once I digested the hopeful feeling from reading an article that placed responsibility for Black ills and solutions on Black shoulders, I had an ah-hah moment. There was no talk of affirmative action.

It's not that those speaking of Black responsibility don't support this remedy, but rather it is just difficult to integrate the message of looking inside for the greater truth, while attempting to hold-feet-to-the-fire with guilt strategies and tactics. The two just don't go well hand-in-hand.

The idea of affirmative action was not a bad one, but it should never have been paired with equal opportunity. At the time, Whites and Blacks felt the need to thrust open a door that had, for so long, been held closed to Blacks. But a fit of guilt was not a long-term solution for a people who have been chasing advancement for thousands of years.

Awarding points for the color of their skin does not make Blacks better doctors, lawyers or business people. It does not instill internal or external confidence or trust, but rather raises suspicions and casts dispersions, even in those cases where performance meets or exceeds the norm.

America needs to focus attention on solutions that graduate and employ Blacks into the American dream. This promotion cannot guarantee success or circumvent failure. In concert, lawlessness and anti-assimilation needs to lose its commercial and social appeal. Blacks must be at the helm of this journey and belaboring yesterday's sins does not solve today's problems. Then was then, now is now.

James C. Collier


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