Blogs > Liberty and Power > Black, White and _Brown_

Jun 28, 2006 10:54 am

Black, White and _Brown_

In a post below ("Hunter is Hunting Black Males"), Ralph Luker takes me to task for seeming to be indifferent to the plight of black males in higher education. My response below is to correct any misconception and raise the issue of "where do we go from here?" with the stunning educational gap between black males (in particular) and other groups? In my view, the constant obsession with "diversity" has blinded us to the problem of black male underachievement which Ralph raises. My short response follows. I'd be interested in what others have to say about solutions to this gap?

Jonathan Bean
Professor of History, Southern Illinois University
Dear Ralph,

Your comment was apt and I did not mean to write off black males -- indeed, there IS a crisis and I empathize. The National Urban League has listed the black male shortage among college graduates (2:1 gap between women and men) as one of black America's top problems.

I am not one of those who thinks we can gloss over this terrible educational gap between young black students and others. I have long criticized racial preferences, for example, not simply because of moral or constitutional reasons, but because they take our focus off the K-12 disaster. (I know because many of my former History-Ed students have gone off to teach in the "war zones" of Chicago school district. Moreover, I have witnessed it in my own community). With reservations, I'm an advocate of school choice and radical educational reform.

I also see a place for HBCs--note that I termed them a success. On this point, I think Clarence Thomas may be right: You can get a good education in an all-black HBC. That is partly why Thomas criticized the Brown decision -- because of this condescending attitude that black success in education _necessarily_ requires interaction with whites in all cases. Thomas believed the Court should have struck down the principle underlying segregation, declare our constitution color blind, and leave neighborhood schools alone. If they are mixed, fine. If they are predominantly black, that's OK too. Zora Neale Hurston had the same reaction to Brown when it was announced, and she was no apologist for Jim Crow.

My point, which was a bit flippant because of the nature of the story, is that here we have Afrocentric professors teaching diversity theory when we ought to be doing the basics. God knows our Colleges of Education need a major overhaul in this and other respects (I spent two solid years on a task force to "reinvent" teacher education at SIU. The problems are so insoluble they require cutting some Gordian knots).

On HBCs (Ralph taught at one, Morehouse)*:

I had a student, and now good friend, who came from an HBC in North Carolina, and he said that there was more openness, and less nonsense (e.g., "diversity theory") at his HBC than at SIU and UNC (where his wife attended). Ralph, did you find that there were advantages to HBCs? Are they less prone to some of the fads that afflict the rest of higher education?

So, if I came off flip, it's because of the silliness that attracts attention, while a Bill Cosby, the Thernstroms (_No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning_), and others are demonized by the academic "deep thinkers" for trying to address the problem you and I care about.


Jonathan Bean
Visiting Scholar (Summer 2006)
Social Philosophy and Policy Center
Bowling Green, OH

*Morehead was a slip -- my sister-in-law went there in Kentucky. Of course, I meant Morehouse.

comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:

Jonathan J. Bean - 6/28/2006

Amen. Not a total solution but when are we going to get a realistic policy regarding drugs? The Democratic Party under Clinton learned to dissociate itself from excusing "crime" (Dick Morris's advice) and the GOP is beholden to social conservatives. The Party doesn't do much for social conservatives but will certainly avoid unnecessary political trouble.

My own hometown recently announced a "fine 'em, don't bust 'em" approach to marijuana enforcement. The problem is that individuals don't know what they are getting, and the DEA will still be going after "dealers." (I work out with a DEA agent and he concedes the meth epidimec is hopeless while at the same time opposing marijuna legalization because it is a "gateway drug." At least, this keeps him employed.

Keith Halderman - 6/28/2006

If somone wants to do something to help Black males in this country how about ending the war on people who use certain kinds of drugs.