Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Rejecting Racial Representation

I was having a conversation the other day about the redistricting controversy at Racine Unified School District. The Racine chapter of the NAACP is opposed to the idea of neighborhood schools, as they prefer efforts towards greater desegregation. I wondered aloud whether the NAACP is very representative of the average black person. Then I wondered how I would feel if an organization presumed to represent my interests because I have whitish skin.

I can tell you that the very idea would be abhorrent to me. My views, my hopes, my dreams are not the inevitable result of my whiteness. I have spent the better part of my life thinking, reflecting on experience, etc... as I attempt to carve out a consistent, logical, and moral world view. It would be insulting to think that a group could presume to represent my interests by consulting a color chart. I am more than that. And so are black people.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

i don't think the NAACP is representative of all black people. Just like Republican and Democrat Party leaderhsip isn't reflective of all Republicans and Democrats. Is the DRC reflective of all downtown businesses, people and interests? I would say not to that question as well.

There are many organizations right here in racine that subscribe to racial representation for white people as well. They just don't advertise it that way, but if you look at membership and activities, you'll see that.

My opinion is neighborhood schools are not that bad of an idea. What is bad about the neighborhood school concept is that society will go back to a seperate and un-equal state. Neighborhood schools will recieve less experienced teachers, teachers won't be given any incentive to work in these problem schools, limited financial support as federal aid to preserve integration will be eliminated, "problem" children or children with special needs will be dumped into these schools with no assistance to teach or take care of these children. The negatives outweigh the benefits.

Anonymous said...

also, you can't realistically put yourself in a situation that is comparable to anyone who has experienced repitative discrimination. I think its safe to say that you've never been discriminated on a consistent basis because of the color of your skin?
You haven't been shut out of opportunities because of the color of your skin. You haven't been followed in stores because of the color of your skin.
Some of your neighbors weren't disgruntled when you moved in to a neighborhood full of people who don't look like you. You won't hear the sound of car doors locking when you walk passed someone sitting in a car. Your business isn't constantly being scrutinized for illegal activity because of the skin color of your patrons. Until these things happen to you, you have no idea of the need for these types of organizations.

Anonymous said...

so because you haven't lived the life of people who have been historically discriminated against, its probably natural for you to reject the notion of racial representation.

Denis Navratil said...

Anon, please identify the " many organizations right here in racine that subscribe to racial representation for white people" if you would.

With regard to your question: "Is the DRC reflective of all downtown businesses, people and interests?" You are missing my point. DRC is not seeking to represent my interests as a white person, they are seeking to represent my interests as a businessman. The question as to how well they represent my interests or anothers interests is irrelevant to this discussion.

As for the issue of neighborhood schools vs desegregation, that is not something I am particularly interested in because the real solution to our education woes lies in greater choice for parents.

Denis Navratil said...

anon #2: You write "you can't realistically put yourself in a situation that is comparable to anyone who has experienced repitative discrimination. I think its safe to say that you've never been discriminated on a consistent basis because of the color of your skin?... Until these things happen to you, you have no idea of the need for these types of organizations."

This argument always irritates me because if you think about it, nobody would ever be able to make an observation or deliver an opinion about anyone else, unless they have walked a mile in the others shoes. Well, nobody can ever walk a mile in anothers shoes, but that should not preclude us from thinking about others and the issues that they face. You argument is the equivilant of those who would say: "If you are not black, shut the #@%$!&*% up."

I think all people face discrimination at some point or other. There is little you can do if someone won't give you a chance because you are black or white, ugly or fat or, like me, short and balding. All you can really control are your own actions. Many people of all types will use discrimination as an excuse for their failures.

eric said...

NAACP has currency in the black community because they fought for civil rights and affirmative action and won - so just as whites, especially us white men, appreciate and admire the USA's founding fathers, I'm guessing blacks ascribe similar affections for NAACP. I believe the NAACP's problem is that they are wed to tactics of the past without a full vision and stratedgy for today. It's understandable that they wish to continue integration efforts in hopes of attaining equitable school opportunity, but without similar efforts to encourage 2-parent families, valuing education, and safe inner-city neighborhoods, the integration effort rings hollow and is merely a campaign for equal bricks, mortar, wires, ducting, and plumbing. Without families partnering with the schools, the schools won't work, and a significant portion of the inner-city doesn't bring the right attitude to school. Furthermore, proposing to bus kids into the inner-city, a fair consideration from one angle, but it fails to factor in that if families perceive a danger to their children they will not send them to an unsafe school or neighborhood. Perhaps the NAACP hopes that by integrating both the inner-city school and neighborhood with suburban kids that both the inner-city school and neighborgood will benefit. Problem is that safety considerations will trump good intentions. Families that can will pull kids out, and a new Caledonian district might in fact rise. The NAACP constiuency and correlating political power is shrinking relative to the overall population. Meanwhile the growing Hispanic population goes to great lengths, sometimes illegal and risky, to earn money for their families and gain more access to education. The NAACP needs to figure out how to get it's constiuency moving in that direction.

Anonymous said...

Eric, i do agree with you on some of your points particularly with the naacp. they do have internal struggles and issues just like any other organization, and just like any effective organization, an internal assessment needs to be made to align their strategies and methods to the 21st century, which they have yet to do in my opinion.

However, you state .."Furthermore, proposing to bus kids into the inner-city, a fair consideration from one angle, but it fails to factor in that if families perceive a danger to their children they will not send them to an unsafe school or neighborhood..." statistics show that suburban schools are victimized more by their own students which result in death or severe injury ...(i.e Columbine and a plethora of other school shooting examples) more than inner city schools. So that argument is based on stereotypes, and not the whole truth. Also, do you really think suburban schools do not have a majority of the same issues as city schools? do you think drugs are not a problem in suburban schools? teenage sex/pregnancy? bad attitudes from staff and students alike? If you don't think so, i would advise you to become more in tune with reality.

Seperate but EQUAL i don't particularly disagree with, as african americans have developed formidable education systems to accomodate them when mainstream america wouldn't and during times when mainstream america tried everything to prohibit people of color access to information to better themselves. Historically Black Universities are great examples of this by the way.

Denis, you state..."I think all people face discrimination at some point or other. There is little you can do if someone won't give you a chance because you are black or white, ugly or fat or, like me, short and balding. All you can really control are your own actions" This is where we really part ways in thinking. There is MUCH you can do. This lay-down-and-die attitude you speak of is not what our country was founded on. Its not what the numerous social, political and religious movements were about. My parents, grandparents, and ancestors have always instilled in me to fight for what you believe in. Americans don't roll over and shut up just because big brother tells them to or because they're not powerful enough. This is not what Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Susan B. Anthony, Cesar Chavez, and even George Bush himself stood/stand for.

And that attitude is even contradictory to your own beliefs of individuality and being given the freedom to be as you are without government interference. Also their is an extroidinary difference between "experiencing discrimination at some point in your life" and experiencing CONTINUAL discrimination at ALL points in your life. Discrimination tears at your soul, your inner being as a person because you know that you are being judged solely on something that you have absolutely no control over (skin color), not for who you are and what you represent as a person and a contributing member of society. It really stings.

As far as those organizations, open your eyes, their all around you.

I'm particularly interested to hear how you've been discriminated against based on the color of your skin.

Kathy said...

I think that neighborhood schools are a great idea. At the elementary school level there will be racially unbalanced schools. However, at the middle and high school levels the schools will be fully integrated. So for that short time in our children's lives I feel that the children themselves will learn better being in an environment that is close to home surrounded by neighborhood friends and that their parents will have more ability/opportunity to be involved in the schools. That to me is the key. The schools that are successful in this district have tremendous parental involvement. So, if you're a parent, get up and help your kids!

I find it extremely sad that there is a presumption that if we go to neighborhood schools that society will go back to this seperate and un-equal state. Things have changed since the 60's and 70's, people need to step into the now. The real problem isn't buildings, computers, or funding...its expectation. Low expectations are crippling our kids, black and white alike. People need to realize that schools are reflective of our community. Maybe if the community took an interest in our schools, and our kids, this community would be a better place. Am I the only one who is disgusted that our prisons are nicer than our schools? We as a society need to demand more for and from our kids and define what is acceptable and unacceptable for and from them. So, if you're a member of this community, step up and help the kids!

Denis Navratil said...

anon, my point is that individuals can not contol the internal judgements that others will make. I am not suggesting that anyone should "lay-down-and-die" in the face of unfair judgements and actions. I think the best course of action is to improve yourself and ignore the person who judges you unfairly. If the person has an open mind at all, your actions will could disprove the negative initial assessment. And if you act like an idiot, you will likely confirm and further entrench stereotypical judgements, unfortunately.

Also, I asked you to identify the "many organizations right here in racine that subscribe to racial representation for white people" and you replied, "As far as those organizations, open your eyes, their all around you." What kind of a copout answer is that? Why don't you identify one of our whites only groups here in Racine? Could it be that there are none? C'mon, you are anonymous here, go ahead and embarrass yourself.

As for the discrimination that I have faced, I can never know for sure, and I don't dwell on it as it would be contrary to my personal philosophy. Have I been passed over for a business opportunity because of a mistaken judgement by another person? How should I know unless I could climb into someone elses head?

But I was routinely and overtly discriminated against when I was younger. In my youth, I was an exceptionally quick athlete, and I was pretty good at basketball. I would often go to various parks around Chicago to play. It was always a struggle to get on the court, initially. I suppose by your way of thinking, I should have started a social movement, to confront the stereotypical and discriminatory thinking that causes great distress to the height challenged white basketball player. Instead, I worked harder to prove myself. And do you know what happened? Eventually, black people welcomed me, even sought me out, to be on their teams. Why? Because winning at basketball was more important to them than maintaining mistaken judgements about me. I am perhaps more optomistic about people than you are anon. I think that people will change their attitudes towards people in the face of evidence that disproves their initial judgements. Their are opportunities galore for black people who are willing to work hard. The USA is more meritocratic than any other country that I can think of. The answer is not to whine about the attitudes that impede progress. The answer is to ignore those people, work hard, and leave them in the dust where they belong.

Anonymous said...

The "ignore people who judge you" theme does have some validity to it when dealing with people who don't have any effect on your life, but what do you do when these people who judge you make decisions that affect your life and well being? such is the case with governers, mayors, aldermen, county board supervisors, county executives, US presidents, business CEO's, purchasing agents, HR personnel, boards of directors, and the like? What if the people who should be ignored account for practicely everyone in decision-making roles? You see, its not that easy to escape to a world of fantasy as you'd like to, you have to deal with realities, and dealing with realities doesn't mean ignoring them.

As far as the organizations are concern, i never spit off at the mouth for the sake of talking, everything i said or have said in the past is based off factual events and circumstances, not hypothetical illusions.
The organizations i speak of are harder for you to see because you don't even know that the problem exists. How can you fix a problem if you dont even know the problem is there in the first place?
But i will tell you this, the organizations i speak of are some of the most long-standing, well-known, well-funded, organizations in the city, are right under your nose, and have large membership bases and influence in the city. Seriously, you should do your homework as i have and you will discover this if you really have the open mind as you claim to have.

Comparing your shortlived childhood bball experiences to lifelong adult discrimination experiences is like comparing apples to oranges and really is an insult to people who face these issues throughout their lives and have even given their lives to end that inhumane treatment. We're talking about real life here, not a game.

But your bball story does illustrate some of my important points perfectly. Eventually, you were given an opportunity right? You had to fight for that opportunity right? All you wanted was a chance, right? You didn't stop until you recieved a fair chance to play the game, right?

You say..."I think that people will change their attitudes towards people in the face of evidence that disproves their initial judgements.." how will they if they're not given an opportunity to be able to disprove initial judgements?

Also too, i do want to say, that despite the fact that we disagree on about 95% of the topics discussed in this blog, i do commend you for at least talking and debating about these issues and problems, and that's a great start. You've done more with this blog than any local politician has done in a long time.

Denis Navratil said...

Thank you anon for the complements in your last paragraph. We agree that the discussion is worth having. True, being left out of a basketball game is hardly a life threatening situation and I never intended to equate it with more serious stereotyping. Rather, I used it to demonstrate the proper response to stereotyping. If someone thinks that you are inferior, prove them wrong. While that may be impossible with respect to hardened racists, I think it is the best possible response. It is interesting that you mentioned the problems of racism with respect to "governers, mayors, aldermen, county board supervisors, county executives, US presidents, business CEO's, purchasing agents, HR personnel, boards of directors, and the like." Many of these are government folks, so to the extent that the problem exists in government, my calls for less government would seem to be prudent, wouldn't you agree? Others on your list are employers. While I won't deny that people may make mistaken initial judgements about others, be assured that it is not in the interests of employers to pass over good black candidates for less qualified white ones. Why? Because businesses that purposely choose lesser candidates will lose out, just as a basketball team will lose if they pass on a good white player while choosing a weaker black one. In other words, it is not in the interests of business owners or their agents to select lousy employees, whatever their skin color might be. And lastly, I think it is laughable that you refuse to point out the white racist organizations alledgedly in our midst. If racism is the huge problem as you claim, wouldn't it be proper to call attention to the racist organizations that are causing all the problems? If your claims are based on "factual events and circumstances", why are you being so coy? Tell us the facts and circumstances. Expose the problem if it exists. But you won't because the problem is a figament of your imagination, useful politically perhaps, but nonetheless imaginary. And you prove this by your ongoing refusal to expose the so-called racist organizations in Racine.

Anonymous said...

wow, i think i'm getting through to you, you're starting to sound like me and alot of other people..."be assured that it is not in the interests of employers to pass over good black candidates for less qualified white ones"...i'm a textbook example of that, and can personally attest to that issue! I could of sworn i said that before too....

So you think less government will make the problem of discrimination vanish into thin air? You're in your fantasy land you love to live in so much, you can't possibly believe that. That's avoiding the problem once again.

Also too, you use the term racist very loosely, most intelligent folk, of any color, know that that is a very strong accusation and must have been fully analyzed before such accusations are thrown out there. What i said is that their are organizations that provide representation for a predominately white constituency, without officially claiming they do or promoting that fact in their newsletters, brochures, and websites.

As far as those organizations, this isn't the forum to name drop as nothing can or will be done in this blog to remedy the situation. But i highly encourage you to analyze for yourself two of Racine's largest business organizations that are right downtown (under your nose) for starters and tell me what you see. Then i'll tell you about their relationship with business owners of color, taxpayers and property owners of color, relationships with business organizations based on racial representation (you know the ones that disgust you so much), i'll also tell you what their diverse business recruitment and inclusion efforts consist of (don't worry, that one won't take long).

Now, i ask you, is this problem still a figment of my imagination?

Denis Navratil said...

Anon, you wonder whether you are getting through to me. No, you are simply irritating me. If you would like to discuss this further, please provide detailed and specific information about actual organizations in Racine that "subscribe to racial representation for white people." If you can't or won't do that, any further discussion on the subject is a waste of my time.

Anonymous said...

i'm about finding solutions Denis, and facing problems head on. I'm a person of action, not talk. If this is the forum to bring some solutions to this issue than i'd definitely love to discuss further.

Since you claim you want a Free Racine, i'm sure you wouldn't mind assisting in addressing and bringing these issues to light with these organizations. If your willing to help, i'd love to discuss at length.

eric said...

You know, condescension just doesn't have the desired effect from someone called anonymous. I learned years ago when someone says, " i would advise you to become more in tune with reality" or 'the fact of the matter is ...', you're usually about to learn about the commentator's opinion and very little about reality or the facts.

Regarding the comparison of safety in inner-city vs. suburban schools, I can find no statistics to indicate that students in suburban schools are more inclined to encounter violent crime than those in inner-city schools. Perhaps these statistics are kept hidden by the RAAWP (Racine Association for the Advancement of White People)? There does seem to be universal agreement that inner-city schools have trouble hiring and keeping staff - why is that do you think?

You can't put lipstick on this pig - safety is a bigger concern in the inner-city and even altruistic parents will not compromise their children's safety if they don't have to.

The start of this discussion focused on the NAACP and it's opposition to neighborhood schools. I think the NAACP needs to ask itself, is integration a means to an end, or the end they seek? Too often NAACP acts like it's the end they seek and that a diversified school is a panacea to heal all woes. I would counter integration is meant to be a means to a better education that could help heal some of the NAACP's woes. But in an era where school choice is becoming more prevalent (secular private, Christian, parochial, charter, magnet, home, open enrollment)I would counter attempts to force integration are being overcome by events. Rather the NAACP should move to advocate full fledged voucher system that brings together schools and families that really care about education. Further, they should push for government guaranteed higher education for all African American students that can earn admission to a college of their own choice.

Anonymous said...

Eric, your beating a dead horse. Please read these posts before you comment. I'm not the NAACP, you should sit down and talk with them. As i've said on numerous occasion in this blog, i don't particularly disagree with the principal of neighborhood schools. How much more clearer can i make that?