Wednesday morning Mayor Daley, School Superintendent Ron Huberman, Police Superintendent Jody Weis, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Father Michael Pfleger were in a members-only breakfast club meeting that came about because of black youth violence in Chicago. Wow!
When I was a pastor on the West Side of Chicago I found myself in the middle of rioting public school students on more than one occasion. I've testified about this violence before the Board of Education, when Arne Duncan was the superintendent, on more than one occasion as well. What happened? Since the riots weren't caught on video, we didn't get any help from the White House or anywhere else for that matter. Community groups (and a Chicago Public Schools security team) stepped in and stepped up to provide safe passage for the students the rest of the school year.
At one time there were funded patrols made up of neighborhood folk but the funding was eventually withdrawn and so were the patrols because the neighborhood folk could not afford to be on the corners without any kind of stipend. It's very expensive to be poor.
Living across the street from one of the troubled schools I saw the problem for what it really is. The condition of the school was the direct result of America's historical social ills -- racism, a fleeing industrial base and poverty. As southern blacks moved to the West Side during the Great Migration, the local industrial base began making plans to leave the West Side and eventually did just that. This is the kind of regional racism that has been extensively written about by Ohio State University Professor John Powell.
Holder said in his press conference that youth violence needs "a comprehensive and coordinated approach ... one that encompasses the latest research and the freshest approaches." I'm sorry, Attorney General Holder, but what exactly does that mean? Renaissance 2010? Olympics 20Never? The meeting of the minds at this morning's breakfast club that included no major black leaders (and Chicago's loaded with major black leaders)?
I would suggest to the breakfast club that we do a school swap. Physically swap a well funded and equipped school (just the building and facilities not the students) with one that is not. You will find that the 'bad' schools have significantly less options than the 'good' schools. The teachers even have different attitudes. Being created equal doesn't necessarily mean equal treatment.
I attended Corliss High School in Chicago. A brand new school. We even had an Olympic-size pool. A white gym teacher made our black co-ed swim class get out of that pool so a class of visiting white girls could have a black kid-free swim. The next day a desk was discovered at the bottom of the pool so the water was tested and found to be contaminated with rat poison.
Am I trying to excuse Derrion Albert's killers? No. His assailants are dangerous. They've proven that beyond the shadow of a doubt. However, they were not born dangerous. The illegal and immoral structural inequities of their communities contributed greatly to their negative shaping. A few escape. Many others never leave the 'hood.'
My point is that minority students are valued differently than white students.
Holder -- protect the civil rights of our children and communities, and I guarantee we the people care enough to do the rest.
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