Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

The Sad Truth of Racial Stereotypes in Memphis City Schools
FrontPage Magazine ^ | May 23, 2003 | William K. Richardson

Posted on 05/25/2003 5:14:27 PM PDT by Sonny M

Since the myriad of diversity and tolerance organizations tell me that black stereotypes are merely vestiges of America’s racist past and do not exist, then I must be, like the speaker in Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven,” delusional, seeing things daily that clearly are not there.

I began teaching in the 87 percent black Memphis City Schools in 1991, logging time at a south Memphis middle school and my current post at Westside High School in the Frayser section of the city. From my first day in the classroom in October 1991, I have seen behavior that is intolerable at best and criminal at worst. Said behavior is eerily similar to the most vile of black male stereotypes: violent, criminal, anti-intellectual, lazy, shiftless and promiscuous. How can this be? I mean, such things do not exist, right?

The U. S. Department of Education reports that, nationally, 33 percent of the students expelled from public schools are black, even though blacks only make up 20 percent of total students in public schools. Ironically (or not), these figures mirror those of the U.S. Justice Department that show in some cities one in three young black males is connected to the justice system, either in jail, on parole or awaiting trial. Author Earl Ofari Hutchinson believes many young black males do live up to (or is it “down to“) stereotypes, writing, “Many young blacks further validate racial stereotypes by aping and exulting the thuggish bluster and behavior of gangster rappers…” Mr. Hutchinson also writes that many black males “…measure their status or boost their self worth by demonstrating their proficiency in physical fights or the sexual abuse of black women, and of course, by creating havoc in the classroom.”

Mr. Hutchinson could very have been a fly on the wall of my classroom the last dozen years, for he aptly captures my workday.

“Phillip,” (not this little “darling’s” real name), embodies the whole “black male as ignorant thug” thing. A seventeen year old ninth grader, Phillip is a unrepentant hoodlum who is proud of his dismal school record and gang membership. When he is not on suspension or in jail - which, thankfully, is not often - he saunters into class (always late), no materials in sight and no intent to do anything but sit and disrupt. Phillip speaks whenever he feels like it (usually some loud profanity laced “check” or gibe at one his classmates), tries to intimidate the younger students (especially the females) and openly defies direct orders, eventually offering, “Well, just send me to the office. I am tired of this s--t!” Phillip openly brags of his lengthy criminal record, gang membership and drug abuse. To call him stupid would be an insult to bags of rocks which are truly stupid. Socially promoted since middle school, Phillip is gleefully ignorant by choice. He has failed my class twice, with number three coming in June, when final report cards are issued. The only use he has for a book is to throw it at someone. This is sad, but so true. I only wish Phillip was an isolated case.

The peer pressure for many young black males to be a stereotype (read thug) is enormous at my school. Students who try to perform well in school are accused of “acting white,” while students who get involved in school activities are called “sell-outs.” Some of our athletic teams struggle to field teams, not because we do not have the students, but because there is little interest. If hard work or commitment is required, many students at Westside High simply will not do it. Yet if we had an “auto theft” team, I imagine we would have to hold tryouts and cut folks for this likely championship “team.” Such are the interests at Westside.

I remember once (but certainly not the only time) admonishing a class of mine about their work and study habits, as well as their behavior in class, only to be met with, “Coach, you just want us to act like white folks!” I guess linguistics professor and author John McWhorter is right: “To be culturally black, sadly, almost requires that one see books and school as a realm to visit rather than to live in.”

It is my twelve years in the Memphis public schools that has made me admire and appreciate the handful of students I have taught and coached who have done well. Despite the taunts, the extreme peer pressure and the negatives all around them, these young men have persevered and thrived, leaving their former classmates behind, mired in the swamp (of their own making) of ignorance, poverty and criminality that is sadly their lives.

These kids, who shook off the “ghetto mentality” - Anthony, Daniel, Leavy, Courtney, Lozie, Chris, Antonio, Demarkus and others - deserve much applause and credit. Allow me to be the first to laud their efforts, character and toughness.

Another day lies ahead for me tomorrow, a day when I will see what is not there and hear what is not being said. Boy, I can hardly wait.

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Front Page News; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; Philosophy; US: Tennessee
KEYWORDS: africanamerican; atriskstudents; education; race; school
This is truely sad.
1 posted on 05/25/2003 5:14:27 PM PDT by Sonny M
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: GailA

No surprise to you, of course. We have this same garbage in Nashville.
2 posted on 05/25/2003 5:22:29 PM PDT by fieldmarshaldj (~Remember, it's not sporting to fire at RINO until charging~)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: fieldmarshaldj
It is the content of their character not the color of their skin. Yes, the top selling noise is filth from two black guys, their character not their color. Black Enterprise is a good periodical to find some people with the character that's not on the streets or in the movies. Promise Keepers has significant groups of men of character who happen to be black. I don't deny your assessment of what is happening. I just say that trashy character is because of trashy character. Being black doesn't excuse it; and being black doesn't cause it. (Same for white.)
3 posted on 05/25/2003 5:39:46 PM PDT by kdf1
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Sonny M
I was teaching in public schools when the "change" occured. Bad behavior was not allowed. Deans of Boys and Girls would walk the halls and peek in windows to spot trouble makers and pull them from class. Then admonish teachers that didn't send the troublemakers to their offices. This all changed in the early 60's. Our state legislature, (California) in reponse to the Black community passed laws that would keep trouble makers in class. They used the Democrat Party to achieve this classroom mess. The Democrats got their votes, and the kids stayed off the streets. Overnight, the trouble makers were allowed to do anything they wanted in class. As a classroom teacher, one day class disruptions were not allowed, the next morning, you didn't understand the needs of the "Churun".
4 posted on 05/25/2003 5:45:27 PM PDT by Blake#1
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: kdf1
I will bet you anything that those thugs have NO fathers in their household. Lack of fathers and lack of strong positive Black male role models around these youngsters is one of the greatest problems in the Black Community. When I was in the 6th grade, going to an inner-city Nashville school (1985-86), I had a very strong Black male teacher (Korean War vet), and he absolutely did not tolerate this type of foolishness in his classroom.
5 posted on 05/25/2003 5:50:43 PM PDT by fieldmarshaldj (~Remember, it's not sporting to fire at RINO until charging~)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: Sonny M
I especially like school vouchers because they put more & more students in private schools where there is basic discipline & the ability to expel chronically disruptive students.

We have to start somewhere.
6 posted on 05/25/2003 5:50:58 PM PDT by Republic If You Can Keep It
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Sonny M
A 1989 movie with Morgan Freeman as a school principal called in as a last ditch effort to square away an inner city school...

Excellent movie... Excellent message... excellent mothods

7 posted on 05/25/2003 6:04:35 PM PDT by Wings-n-Wind
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Sonny M
My in-laws are both teachers in Prince William County, Va. They've said the exact same things as this article and worse. Our boys are bad trouble and we certainly can't blame it on whites.
8 posted on 05/25/2003 7:00:21 PM PDT by thathamiltonwoman
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: kdf1
It is the content of their character not the color of their skin. Yes, the top selling noise is filth from two black guys, their character not their color. . . . I just say that trashy character is because of trashy character. Being black doesn't excuse it; and being black doesn't cause it. (Same for white.)

Yes and no. I retired after 25 years teaching in an inner-city community college. The worst problems from high school never graduated, of course, so we never saw them--except, alas, in the neighborhood. But the behavior described here was not unlike that of the younger college students, and the problem was clearly racial. No, not "color" racial, but "culture" racial. The vile noise that passes for music among most younger African-Americans is (in their view) an expression of this so-called culture. In my judgment, it is a truly evil set of behaviors fostered in a subset of society without adequate guidance from adults, especially adult males. The only possible hope for inner-city kids (and their more affluent admirers in suburbia) is to eradicate every trace of it.

9 posted on 05/25/2003 7:09:54 PM PDT by madprof98
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: madprof98
If only this stupid idea that being a thug was acceptable ( or even model) behavior were confined to one race, or even one class within a race, but alas, I see evidence of it almost everywhere.

10 posted on 05/25/2003 8:33:17 PM PDT by VietVet
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: Wings-n-Wind
LEAN ON ME.... Excellent movie... Excellent message... excellent mothods

I've actually met Joe Clark, I couldn't stand the SOB, the guy came to speak at my college, wearing a purple suit, a top hat with a feather in it, and a cane. I talked to him, and he was a first class arrogant simplitic twit.

Alot of people have stated that the movie, by and large, has serious credibility problems, and either falsified parts or exagerrated in general. I like the methods used in the movie, but in real life, many of those methods, were in fact not used. I do belief that if some kid doesn't want to learn, he shouldn't have to, just toss him out on his rear, that'll bring disipline back real quick.

11 posted on 05/25/2003 8:34:55 PM PDT by Sonny M ("oderint dum metuant")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: Sonny M
It is very sad. These kids are so filled with anger, and I believe that it is the fault of certain leftist's in this country who build a career around making sure they feel defeated.
12 posted on 05/25/2003 8:41:40 PM PDT by ladyinred (Freedom isn't free, remember our fallen heroes)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: madprof98
And did you know that 60%of"gangsta rap"is bought by white kids in the suburbs who get some kind of vicarious thrill out of this perversion of the "black experience"?
I have taught full and part time in schools such as the author describes and I have seen the same type of desrtuctive language and is truly shameful and often horrifying.
Yet,to the author's credit,he mentions a number of his students by name who do NOT choose the road to perdition and are steadfast in their desire to succeed.As Joe Marshall of Omega Boy's Club has said,"sometimes a real man must stand alone" and for blacks to"collaborate in their own oppression"is the ultimate tragedy.
I sub now and mostly in the hard core ghetto schools.My "rap"basically goes like this-"I am not here to make you comfortable.I am here to provoke and challenge you,to teach you HOW to think,not WHAT to think.Street language is for THE STREET.This is an academic setting and it is not appropriate in my room.You latecomers(it is common for kids to wander into class fifteen and twenty minutes late),let me tell you something.You try that at Pac Bell or the Post Office you won't have a job for very long.Oh,you think thats funny?Well,son,the joke will soon be on you!"
Then I do a little positive reinforcement-"I'm here for YOU,ok?Anyone want to know how to get into college or find a summer job?I'll be here for a while after school if you want to drop on by.But if you're not serious DO NOT waste my time."
One thing I have noticed that racial animosity has greatly DECREASED since the early Seventies when it was quite common to hear black kids say things like"I don't have to listen to no WHITE man"or"White folks stink",etc.I have taught over fifty days so far this year and not ONCE has a negative comment been made about my ethnicity.
I think that is cause for true hope combined with the fact that it is rare outside hard core racist circles to hear"nigger",an epithet that was very commonly used in my 1950's all white California suburb.

13 posted on 05/25/2003 9:27:41 PM PDT by Riverman94610
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: Blake#1
I agree! "Philip" will graduate eventually after getting socially promoted, he will blame "The Man" for his being unemployable, then the RATS will offer him salvation in the form of a generous welfare check, and in gratitude he will vote for the RATS. Diabolically clever, eh?
14 posted on 05/25/2003 9:39:19 PM PDT by Frank_2001
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: fieldmarshaldj
No it is not a surprise to me..saw an article in the "fish wraper" the other day 65% of 8th grade failing? East parents want facts
15 posted on 05/26/2003 5:28:01 AM PDT by GailA (Millington Rally for America after action
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Frank_2001
Men rarely receive welfare unless they are the unemployed single father in the home (not likely). More likely is that we will subsidize these young men's room and board via jail and prison.
16 posted on 05/26/2003 8:58:27 AM PDT by happygrl
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson