The 100-Year-Old Penalty for Being Black


There is no ‘fixing’ a system that was built on a broken foundation.

#“This could be the first trumpet, might as well be the last. Many more will have to suffer. Many more will have to die - don’t ask me why…”
~ Bob Marley


After some thought and re-reading the comments I think that we’re actually on the same page. Like you, I withdrew my kid from a psychologically damaging situation. And like you, my children will be attending their neighborhood high school.

And in the meantime, we are staying in this neighborhood. We will continue to vote and try to influence our local government. I’ll continue doing my job. I want very much to see the public schools actually serve the communities they are in. I want everyone here to be uplifted and have a better quality of life, and while I feel powerless against the majority party here, I’ll keep trying.

But It’s hard for me square what you are advocating with what you and I had to do.

OMG the edits, a combination of mobile phone typos and a real desire to choose the right words


I’m glad I read all the intervening posts, including this last one, before posting my replies, because I was going to say the same thing! Although I’m not a good writer, I have a strong vocabulary and no need for grammar or spell checking, so I often mislead people into thinking I can convey my ideas well. Keep up the good work you are doing, I am cheering for you!

Thank you @Max_Blancke for the book recommendation.

That is what I mean. The reason the psychologically damaging situations that wreck lives continue to exist and spread in the public school system is because the rich children aren’t there. The rich are the only ones with the ability to effect fast effective change in the schools, but we’ve made it far cheaper and easier for them to just opt out. It was cheaper and easier for me, and I’m only in the top 2% of worldwide wealth income*, not the top .001% that can really throw their weight around.

I have never advocated that. I support it. I don’t support using private school as a way to destroy the schools of the poor. I have nothing against the Hebrew Schools, Chinese Schools, Bible Schools, and other private schools that exist all over the country, which do not supplant publicly funded schools. If you want to give your children extra privileges and you are willing to spend your extra resources to do so, go ahead! But we have to stop wrecking the public school system by pulling all the privileged kids out.

* my income and wealth are misaligned because Mrs. Medievalist gives large portions of our money to social causes like Habitat & Heifer.


“Private school” means K-12, not supplementary. And like I said, its a nonstarter because the moment you do it those people will vote with their feet, unless you want to take away their freedom to move too.

I disagree that the future is written and change is hopeless because of our history. What I see in my diverse city (39% foreign born) is the families, whatever their color, who have not been poisoned by the culture of poverty & failure, do not accept failure as inevitable. From Jamaican or African blacks to Central American latinos they do not let others decide the fate of their children. I don’t know any 1st generation immigrants (and I know a lot) who aren’t working their asses off and instilling a work ethic in their kids, as generations of immigrants did before them. A lot of the kids we know who didn’t make it into the selective high school are still college bound. And as for the kids of color that make up >90% of the selective HS: don’t get in their way or you’ll be run over. That school is NOT a tool of white privilege, it’s a tool of bootstrapping strivers.


I do.

But they are rare, because you’re preselecting again. It’s quite difficult to get into the USA, either legally or illegally.

As long as you support providing the highest quality of education to only the preselected group of people who need it the least - the “strivers” as you accurately put it, and of course the degenerate spawn of the idle rich - you end up supporting the 100-year-old penalty for being black.

There are circumstances where a person feels justified in doing harm in order to achieve a nonharmful end. I’ve been there, so has @Sagoli, when your own child’s education is at stake things get really hard.


My point is the color of their skin is not holding these immigrants back even though they’re living next door to other people of color, which raises the question of just who owns more of this 100-year-old penalty for being black at this point in history.


So, who does?


It’s important to consider the effects that years of discrimination, disenfranchisement, and disadvantage can and do have on any group. High rates of incarceration break up families and increase poverty and stress. Living in areas with high in violence and trauma and no access to trauma treat ment actually contracts mental and emotional function. Healing from and moving through any of those things is difficult.

Circumstances like this are found among all groups, but some suffer at much higher rates due to long term systemic problems. Just one of those factors is a barrier to getting ahead. Multiple factors make getting ahead sisyphean.


Are you aware that the distinction has been publicly discussed with regard to the Obamas? Michelle is African-American; Barack is not. Yes, he has been on the receiving end of racial prejudice, of course, but he did not grow up with the same multi-generational oppression that puts African-Americans well behind the starting line before they’re even born.


Yes, that’s the point of what I was saying about the immigrants, which Obama essentially is. My argument is that external forces are not what they once were, and a significant part of the problem is self perpetuated by the community. In that case, focusing on the externals, what white people are doing to them, is not the most productive way of combating generational poverty.


I’m not sure if you meant to reply to me. But I want to ask you to consider what the effects of living as a slave might have on a human, and how much time has really passed since the abolition of slavery. Please consider that the Civil Rights movement is only about 60 years old.

External forces have not gone away, they have only become less overt. Bad schools, police violence, and high levels of incarceration are not self perpetuated, and those events have meaningful and lasting negative effects. We know that people of color are arrested at higher rates and suffer harsher sentances than whites. We know that unconcious racial bias is a real thing, and no one is free from it.

I don’t see considering these things along with my comment above as focusing on what white people are doing. I see it as valuable context in understanding race in America.


You’re confusing cause and effect. It’s because external forces are actually very similar to what they’ve always been, just more subtle than actual crosses on lawns, that the reaction by SOME is to give up trying.

Think of the studies that have shown identical resumes sent out with a stereotypical WASP name versus African-American: it’s the WASP resume that gets asked to come in for an interview at a significantly higher rate. What about the fact that teenage behavior is criminalized in young black men, so many of them start out adulthood with a police record, making it that much harder to get any legitimate job at all. Or spending your childhood having to walk through gang territory to a public school with no funding and overwhelmed teachers, sleeping in the bathtub at night to keep from being shot by stray bullets…and yet the vast majority of poor blacks do NOT go on welfare, do drugs, or commit crimes at the rate that poor whites do. As a group they already ARE a success story, merely by surviving in a culture that has thrown everything possible in their way for 100 years.

Think of the difference in how Irish, Italian, Polish, German, or Jewish heritage people are treated in the U.S. nowadays versus 100 years ago. There is one group of people who have literally not been allowed to integrate into U.S. society the way these other groups have been. So no, let’s not blame the victims for not having completely overcome everything that’s been done to them (and is still being done). It’s hard to pull yourself up by the bootstraps when you’re still being held under someone else’s boot heel.



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