Monday, June 23, 2014

Using Public Schools To Make Sure White Supremacy Continues

One of the things I pay a lot of attention to in the parish where I live is the fifty-year long process of refusing to racially integrate the public schools so that every student will get the same quality of education. By this I mean adequate books, libraries, equipment, fully trained culturally competent teachers and administrators representing all ethnic groups in the region, and school disciplinary policies that reflect a commitment to embracing all children to maximize their potential as future citizens. This is not currently happening and has at no point ever happened here, as 5th Circuit Judge Ivan Lemell will attest.

It's not reassuring to discover that we're not the only ones. And, unfortunately, it's not encouraging that we're hearing more about what is being called the "re-segregation" of the public school system nationally. I have long since realized that the public being aware of stupid, mean-spirited, classist, sexist, and White Supremacist practices and policies will do exactly nothing to fix social problems until that same public understands that these practices and policies are causing and will continue to cause problems for all of us in several ways.

First of all, under-educating millions of people in a society undermines the entire society because these under-educated people are not going anywhere. Capitalism claims that under-education serves the economy by making sure there will be lots of workers ready and willing to work like farm animals for practically no pay, which is admittedly good for the profit margin -- as is slavery -- because the workers who produce the profit get robbed. But if it makes a few at the top filthy rich while destabilizing the country socially and economically, is that a good thing?

A prime example of this mindset that has become a cultural icon is the nation's prisons -- especially private prisons -- which give corporations permission to pay these same under-educated workers twenty-five cents per hour to produce goods and services peddled outside the walls at regular market value, while the prisons themselves are listed as investments on Wall Street. This practice is marketed as "job training." Except that everybody knows convicted felons are blocked from being hired. And, in the meantime, jobs that don't go to some other country are moved inside the prisons to boost profit, increasing unemployment outside. This cavalier attitude toward everybody but the rich and famous destabilizes our social and economic fabric by pushing under-educated citizens until they may feel forced into a desperation manifested in the form of street crime, requests for government assistance, and a generalized lack of commitment to a community in which they feel neither welcomed nor respected -- with their under-education used as an excuse.

This shortchanges us all because our national coffers never see billions in taxes that would be paid if people were adequately educated to be fully functional in their own -- and the society's -- best interests. And this prevents the U.S. from advancing to a whole new level of prosperity for a middle class that is teetering on the brink of disappearance. Especially while corporations and the wildly wealthy get so many tax breaks, it makes the rest of us look like dupes.

Of course, adequately educated people would require a mandated minimum wage that represents the lowest levels at which a family's basic needs will be met instead of a minimum wage that is even lower than the federal poverty guideline. And it will also mean benefits. Including health care plans that are about keeping people healthy instead of making money for doctors and insurance companies. But why shouldn't all workers contributing forty hours per week to the common good be able to expect to meet the basic needs of their families? We're not talking about high rolling here. We're talking about basic needs: food, rent, transportation, health care, school expenditures -- the basics -- which a ridiculous number of us cannot count on providing for ourselves and our families right now.

On the other hand, adequately educating people isn't a panacea that would sprinkle pixie dust across our nation at this late stage. And in order to address the under-education of millions, we would have to be at least attempting to eradicate White Supremacy and class elitism -- not a minor matter. But how much mental, physical, emotional, and social dis-ease would begin to dissipate if we truly began dismantling these lethal aspects of our culture?  Obviously, the depression, rage, substance abuse, and poor choice making that are being suffered in epidemic proportions in this country today would not disappear entirely if every citizen was adequately educated, employed, paid, and respected as a full citizen. But it would be interesting to find out how much of it did disappear, wouldn't it?

In addition to robbing us as a society and an economy of all the potential contributions of millions of workers and future workers, under-educating millions exacerbates other social issues, such as racial and gender inequality, as well. In fact, that's how the whole "re-segregation" movement began and the formation of the so-called "religious right" was actually instrumental in that process.

Last month, Politico Magazine published an article by Randall Balmer entitled "The Real Origins of the Religious Right" and I don't care how savvy you are and how long you've been paying attention, this one's gonna give you pause. It's not that I didn't know the gist of it in general before reading the piece, but to get the nuts and bolts of the information the way Balmer outlines them is disturbing at least and disgusting the more you think about it.

The bottom line, as I keep saying, is that we are either going to have a nation with different levels of citizenship or we are not. If people of color, poor people, and women are going to be expected to accept a different experience of life than White males with money, then more than half our population is going to be second class citizens. And history has told us that dog won't hunt.

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