When Boycotting Goes Wrong

Every major city has it’s resident black media hound, Atlanta has Rev. Markel Hutchins of Kathryn Johnson fame.  This person is often out of the black religious tradition, not always, but often they are.  They often seek change and they attempt to do so through running for an elected office, be it city council, state representative or even U.S. Representative–Hutchins is running against incumbent John Lewis.

[The Street Committee has reported that certain ministers alliances in Atlanta pressured John Lewis from switching his superdelegate support from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama under pressure that they would in turn support Hutchins in the next election over him.]

This media hound suffers from Broken Clock Syndrome–they’re usually only right about twice a day out of 1,338 other minutes in a 24 hour time span.  Usually they end up hatching some hairbrained scheme that for the most part doesn’t make sense, ad lacks the planning and preparation needed to really fix what they’re hollering about.  However, oddly enough, what they’re hollering about is usually a major problem in those underserved communities, but for whatever reason they’re plan of attack usually only attracts a minority.

For Chicago, I’m talking about State Rep. and Reverend James Meeks.

No please don’t understand this as haterade, but really, this man has lost his mind, and apparently, he’s not alone this time.

Within the last seven days he proposed that Chicago Public School students boycott the first day of school in order to bring more funding to the district of Chicago and to show the inequities between the northern suburbs and the schools on the South and West Side.

Now, I know boycotts as far as the black community are a key feature and an effective tactical measure to effect change.  I mean, one need only mention the 1955 boycott in Montgomery, Alabama of the public transportation.  Or the boycott of F.W. Woolworth’s and other department stores down south for their segregationist practices.  These were effective not just because it brough public attention to severe social ills in this country, but ultimately because it began to hit these companies where it hurt, which was in the bank.

White folk never had a problem aking black folks money, green was and still is a color that has far reaching power that surpasses skin color.  That doesn’t mean that folks all of a sudden like you just because they have enough money to pay you off, but it does mean that they’ll tolerate a bit more from you.  I mean as deep-seated as some of the hatred ran with whites against blacks in the South, they sure knew how to do business with black folk.  Well, I guess you can hardly call sharecropping “doing business” but that’s for another post.

Now you tell me what major entity is getting hurt by black kids not going to school on the first day?

I think what pisses me off even more about this is the effed up system we have up here in Chicago as far as attendance and funding are associated.  Don’t get me wrong, all schools ae attendance driven, and I’m not sure how unique the state of Illinois and CPS is in their arrangement comapared to other major cities, but here in Chicago, if kids don’t come to school, that school’s funding is decreased.  With Mama Uppity on the Local School Council (another CPS idiosyncracy that came with School Reform in 1989 as a result of the late great Harold Washington not this fool we got sitting in office now) and working with not-for-profit organizations closely associated with CPS, I was well aware of this funding faux-pas.

So why in the hell are you gonna tell kids to boycott the schools that already are underfunded and then further jeopardize funding by telling the youth to not go?

Did I miss something.

No, I didn’t because it gets worser.  The Chicago-Tribune reported on Tuesday, August 12th that some ministers endorsed the boycotting of the first day of school.

Nearly 50 ministers on Monday embraced plans for students to boycott at least the first day of Chicago Public Schools classes, a move aimed at ramping up pressure on state officials to address widespread inequities in education funding.

The church leaders from the city’s West and South Sides pledged their support as lawmakers return to Springfield on Tuesday to meet in a special session Gov. Rod Blagojevich called to consider the funding issue that has vexed lawmakers for decades.

Gathering outside Marshall High School, 3250 W. Adams St., the ministers said they would urge their congregations and communities to participate in the first-day boycott Sept. 2 and attempt to enroll Chicago students in New Trier Township High School District 203 in north suburban Winnetka.

“We refuse to continue to allow the State of Illinois to orphan our educational system,” said Rev. Albert Tyson of St. Stephen AME Church.

Yeah, now the church folk have endorsed this anti-education crap.  I guess these ministers are smoking the same thing that Meeks is smoking.  I mean, I saw Mayor Daley hollering [Isn’t he always doing that on TV] on the news that “You wouldn’t tell someone to boycott your church?!?!” in typical blustering Daley fashion.  And then today, the Trib released this story.

A group of the city’s Baptist ministers Thursday called it “morally wrong” to suggest that Chicago public school students skip the first day of classes to protest Illinois’ school funding situation.

The Baptist Ministers Conference of Chicago and Vicinity instead suggested parents go with their children to school to meet their children’s teachers, said Pastor Steve Jones, who heads the group.

That’s the opposite stance taken by some other Chicago ministers, including Rev. James Meeks, a Chicago state senator who has called on parents to keep their children out of class Sept. 2 and attempt to register them in two wealthy north suburban school districts instead.

As the story goes, Meeks is planning to take a contingent of CPS students and attempt to enroll them in a suburban district, New Trier where the money spent per student is just over $17,000 which pales in comparison to Chicago’s roughly $9,000 per student.  However, Chicago is still far above the curve, let’s say over that of Cairo, Illinois down in Alexander County where 60% of the kids are below the poverty level.

Now, I’m not a big fan of Dennis Byrne, a columnist with the Trib, but I’m usually not a big fan of most of the white guys who’re columinists here in Chicago.  Top on that list is Neil Steinberg who writes for the Sun-Times, and I feel as though I’ve given my then thirty-five cents away when they decide to publish a Christopher Hitchens article.  Anyway, in an August 12th column, Byrne goes on to act as if spending disparities aren’t the real issue, but rather it’s one that solely rests in the black community.

Maybe a complex of factors, other than funding disparities, explains the troubling performance of black males, and thus, a large part of the schools’ problems.  Perhaps the same thing that accounts for the decay of neighborhoods at the hands of black male gangs, or for the absence of fathers in the unraveling African-American family. These are symptoms of a cultural climate—corrupted by loosening morals, radical individualism, materialism, Hollywood’s adulation of violence and parental irresponsibility, among other strands—that converges on African-American males in particular with all the focused and destructive force of a tornado. I dare say that in this cultural climate, if Chicago were able to spend as much as New Trier spends on each student, black males still would underperform. What is needed is not so much a change in the school funding formula, but a fundamental change in attitudes about family and society. [Emphasis added]

Yes, he went there.

Or maybe I’m just not a fan of these columnist when they start busting out the stereotypes about the black community.  I mean seriously, Soledad O’Brien should have made him a co-contributor to the “Black In America” series on Caring Negro Network. 

Byrne earlier in the article quoted his source as the Schott Foundation for Public Education saying that black males were at the bottom of the barrel as far as graduation expectancy.  But that how is it that the black female, Hispanic and white counterparts were able to suceed where black males so abysmally failed, and thats where the above quote came in.  But Byrne failed to research, perhaps, that even the Schott Foundation said the one of the primary problems facing black males in CPS is the lack of funding for resources.

I think where Byrne missed the boat COMPLETELY is that money makes a big difference.  Essentially Meeks is right that too many of our kids are still going to the “colored” schools and having to use the “colored” facilities.  Apparently, Byrne is incapable of going to the CPS website and read the raw demographics.  What he and many others fail to realise that whites only make up 8% of the 408,00 students while blacks make up a whopping 46.5%.  That alone is going to set up a disparity. 

It’s a known educational fact that better facilities engender a much better learning atmosphere.  Just ask Jonathan Kozol of Savage Inequalities.  Why in God’s green earth would any student in their right mind, irrespective of their background want to spend 6 hours of their day in a building that was literally crumbling down ALL around them?  I’m not saying that the nut jobs who go tee-peeing the bathroom or destroying property doesn’t set up its own set of problems–but when the white kids at New Trier do it, it’s chalked up to boys being boys, but if they did it at Marshall High School on the West Side, it’s considered criminal activity.

Where I depart ways with Byrne et. al. and Meeks is on two fronts.  As far as Byrne is concerned, I’m sick and doggone tired of folks operating in stereotypes, both black and white.  Let’s stop talking down to people and putting people down, and lets lift up the archetypes in our community.  Trust me, I’m a perfect example of a black male who graduated from high school and went on to graduate from college.  Yes, I had a supportive network and I am one of the 3% of black males who graduated from CPS schools in 2002 to go on to graduate from college, but guess what–it’s doable.

With Meeks, well…he’s just dumb and perhaps he needs to take a Miss Levias approach.  Just fast forward to about minute 1:50.

She’s right, getting school funding and cleaning up the schools is only half the battle.  Changing mindsets is the hard work and I can guarantee that pulling kids out and doing this symbolic gesture of attempting to register kids outside of the district is one of THE dumbest things and is the first to get filed in my Fried Chicken and Watermelon category, now dedicated to black folk who do dumb things that ultimately make us look silly and stupid.

Or maybe they need to have a Joe Clark approach to doing school from the beginning and not be afraid to make the hard decisions.

I think this clip with Mrs. Barrett shows the searing tension with education, but in the midst of the rousing sermonic tones that Morgan Freeman intones as Joe Clark, I side with him when he said “Sit down with your kids at night.”  

Well, I know my critics are saying, didn’t Byrne say the same thing.  Well, yes he did, but he said it in the same air that the “personal responsibility” critics holler about.  You can’t holler personal responsibility unless the playing field is level.

I mean, if we can find money in this country to fund this war in Iraq and Afghanistan; if we can find money to bail out federal entities such as FannieMae and Freddie Mac; if we found money to bail out private airline companies following 9/11; if this friggin city found money to put up a bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics, they most CERTAINLY have money to fund the school system.

Do you think that Meeks is right by calling for a boycott?  Moreover, do you think the ministers who are supporting him are shirking, perhaps, their moral duty by telling kids to not go to school?  Is this a fair way to fund schools, based on daily attendance number which does nothing but cycle downward if a school has lower attendance number?

Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL

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