Overcoming the Culture of Failure: Not Just a Message for Blacks
I read this article in the Washington Post by Juan Williams: "Banish the Bling: A Culture of Failure Taints Black America." I thought it was excellent, but I know that's easy to say for a middle class white guy. One reason I liked this article so much, though, was that I think much about this message is relevant for people of every race throughout our nation.
Williams says this about black kids living in the inner-cities:
Their search for identity and a sense of direction is undermined by a twistedI have spent my entire career in small towns in northern Minnesota, and I've only had two African-American students. Nevertheless, I have seen mind-sets similar to that described by Williams in too many of our Indian, Asian, and Caucasian children. It doesn't matter what race kids are or where they live; this mind-set is a recipe for failure.
popular culture that focuses on the "bling-bling" of fast money associated with
famous basketball players, rap artists, drug dealers and the idea that women are
at their best when flaunting their sexuality and having babies.
Williams praises comedian Bill Cosby and echoes the message he has been spreading to blacks across the nation:
Cosby said that the quarter of black Americans still living in poverty areThe failure to take advantage of opportunities is one of the biggest problems we have in public education today. Cosby sees this in the young blacks he talks to in the inner-cities, but I also see it in the low-performers that I've seen in the small towns where I've taught.
failing to hold up their end of a deal with history when they don't take
advantage of the opportunities created by the Supreme Court's Brown decision and the sacrifices of civil rights leaders from Martin Luther King Jr. to Thurgood
Marshall and Malcolm X. ....
Cosby asked the chilling question: "What good is Brown " and all the
victories of the civil rights era if nobody wants them? A generation after those
major civil rights victories, black America is experiencing alarming dropout
rates, shocking numbers of children born to single mothers and a frightening
acceptance of criminal behavior that has too many black people filling up the
jails. Where is the focus on taking advantage of new opportunities to advance
and to close the racial gap in educational and economic achievement?
Williams also blasts the mainstream civil rights leaders who have been critical of Cosby for failing to address the problems within black communities that need to be overcome:
Where is the civil rights groundswell on behalf of stronger marriages that willIt is true that prejudice and discrimination haven't been eliminated in the United States. It is also true that our country's history of discrimination is the reason that blacks are disproportionately poor. But it is also true that for people to overcome poverty, they must be willing to work very hard and to make sacrifices in order to make that happen. In other words, poor people must be willing to help themselves rather than being their own worst enemies. Cosby and Williams are doing a great service by spreading this message to African-Americans, but teachers around the nation see other kids and parents everyday who also need to take that message to heart.
allow more children to grow up in two-parent families and have a better chance
of staying out of poverty? Where are the marches demanding good schools for
those children -- and the strong cultural reinforcement for high academic
achievement (instead of the charge that minority students who get good grades
are "acting white")? Where are the exhortations for children to reject the
self-defeating stereotypes that reduce black people to violent, oversexed
"gangstas," minstrel show comedians and mindless athletes?