At the Corner of Progress and Peril

June 4, 2006 at 10:22 am 5 comments

Sean sent me a link to this MSN/Washington Post article.  I found it very interesting, so I thought I would share it as well.  The article discusses how despite all the visible successes of the civil right efforts, there are still challenges, pitfalls and discrepancies that remain.

The two items that stuck out to me the most:

College Degree Statistics

The percentage of black men graduating from college has nearly quadrupled since the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and yet more black men earn their high school equivalency diplomas in prison each year than graduate from college.

When you read the first clause of the sentence you think, "Yay, look how much better everything is!"  …then you read the second half.

During Talib Kweli's Visit to Virginia Tech, a student asked him why there was so much apathy towards activism nowadays, why so few were picking battles to fight.  This is paraphrased from memory, but Kweli said something along the lines, "When you turned on the TV 40 years ago, you'd see people getting attacked by dogs or blasted with fire hoses.  Now you turn on the TV and you see…. Will Smith."

We see the successes and assume everything is hunky-dory, when if fact, there is a deeper story to be told.

John B. Slaughter's Career Advice

Guidance counselors at John B. Slaughter's high school in Topeka, Kan., laughed aloud, Slaughter said, when he told them he wanted to be an engineer. They had never heard of a black engineer, and they told Slaughter he should pursue a trade. Slaughter ignored them and graduated from Kansas State University in 1956 with a degree in electrical engineering, launching a career that took him to the helms of the National Science Foundation, the University of Maryland and Occidental College in Los Angeles.

I found John B. Slaughter's story interesting because a very similiar thing happened to Malcolm X when he told his school teacher he wanted to be a lawyer (See the "Mascot" chapter of The Autobiography of Malcolm X).  

I wonder just how often the public school system tried to squelch aspirations.  I also wonder about the effect of those efforts.  Not every student can convert spite into success.  How often did the advice result in the student silently giving in? 

Entry filed under: Malcolm X, Sean, Talib Kweli, The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Clint  |  June 5, 2006 at 8:22 pm

    The mainstream media which chooses to conveniently ignore most major problems is part of the problem, and I daresay since it is all controlled by about 5 companies that it is a corporate conspiracy of complacency.

    There are also more blacks in prison than college, for the 18-30 demographic.

    As for squelching aspirations, that’s exactly what school is for. There’s only so much good stuff to go around, so apparantly there is no reason for everyone to excel.

  • 2. tgaw  |  June 8, 2006 at 8:48 pm

    I think that is definitely a contributing factor, but I suspect it may go deeper than that.

    Last week, someone posted the same article on Sean’s message board. There was a lengthy discussion on the thread– 92 replies. But– none of those posts dealt with the content of the article. Correction– one lone guy tried posting quotes twice. Meanwhile everyone else was poking fun at each other, busy posting images of beer, or exploring “serious” topics such as “whether or not men really call each other Shorty”.

    Granted this story was from the mainstream media. Still– whose to say if the stories about problems get out, they will really be heard?

    Some lyrics from NOFX’s latest album comes to mind:

    “With our ass in the air and our heads in the ground
    There’s no sense of despair, without sight, without sound
    We hold our ears and shut our eyes
    Distant screams morph into lullabies ”

    -We March To The Beat Of Indifferent Drum

    One more:

    “We call the heartland not very smartland, IQ’s are very low but threat levels are high.”

    – Leaving Jesusland

  • 3. Clint  |  June 10, 2006 at 1:06 am

    Yeah, you can get a good message OUT, but there’s no reason anyone will necessarily even receive it…

    “You hold that cigarette…
    Like you’re trying to understand.
    But what if the person next to you,
    Is taking the truth.. right out of your hands?”
    -Atari Teenage Riot, Revolution Action

  • 4. tgaw  |  June 14, 2006 at 10:28 pm

    Aww… I’m going to ruin our trend of quoting punk songs. There was an article in the July 2005 issue of Discover “HERE COMES EVERYBODY” that discussed the democratizing of media:

    “So many people have been willing to adopt new tools in such a short time because the tools have been designed to give them a voice, to allow them to shape the media.

    “OK, so this is hardly a utopian development. Democratizing media also means idiots and racists and pedophiles and all the people out there who happen not to share your political viewpoint has access to the most powerful printing press in history.”

  • 5. Clint  |  June 15, 2006 at 7:58 am

    …And that’s how it should be. That way, I can find them and tell them they are assholes!


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