Wednesday, May 16, 2007

BMD Examines “The Warrior Method”

Nature vs. Nurture vs. Negative Proof*

Part of what “The Warrior Method” seeks to examine is how much of the way in which our boys view themselves and are viewed by our society, has to do with the social (read: racial) forces that gently film over the very eyes through which they perceive their Being. Although the text and it’s author do not allow for wholesale “blaming” of the social order for the behavior and circumstances of black boys in this country, its position begs caution to parents/guardians/educators and concerned citizens, insisting that we not allow the very present effects of society’s personal, political and institutional biases against our boys to go unexamined.

Dr. Winbush writes:

“As an educator who specializes in the development of African American adolescents, I am constantly asked if there are any successful techniques to be used to help raise healthy, confident African American males. Of course. But far from easy because psychologists and educators are reluctant to offer techniques that factor in the role of racism in the development of African American boys. The preferred method of explaining black male behavior is to focus on internal rather than external issues that determine their lifestyles.

“Not so clear however is why explanations of white adolescent behavior are commonly offered in the context of how social forces shape their behavior. Mary Pipher’s best selling book Reviving Ophelia discusses how sexism plays a nefarious role in the development of white females, particularly as it relates to their dependence on male approval. It is nearly unthinkable to exclude social factors in explaining white adolescent behavior, yet explanations of black adolescent behavior often focus on the internal pathologies of black life in America.”

Despite being a mother who is adamant that my son understand and execute an exacting measure of personal responsibility, it is impossible for me to disregard what I see as - more clearly as the years pass - a carefully orchestrated, if unconscious, campaign at the most fundamental levels of society, to see our sons take their place at the awful bottom of all things.

I suspect that there are many mothers who fear acknowledging this fact will relegate them to the ranks of those who buck-pass, shirk or even worse, give their son(s) the impressions that any outside intent could ultimately determine his fate.

Is this a legitimate concern? Are there mamas who feel like this is a phantom dilemma?

*Negative proof is defined as that which occurs when there are two competing explanations, and neither can be confirmed by observation.

Visit your local bookseller and purchase The Warrior Method by Dr. Raymond Winbush

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Objectifying Black Babies...A Teacher's Comment to My Child

Cleveland, OH
3 Children - 2 boys (9)(12),1 girl(18)

Recently in one of my daughter's classes her teacher said she wanted to find a black man to have black babies with because 'they are so cute'. She then singled my daughter out, the only black person in the class, to ask her if she agreed with her. I-bop said she tried to be non-comittal and change the subject, but the teacher persisted. Then after school i-bop went to talk it over with the assistant principal, who then talks to the teacher about it.

Then this woman went to the drama practice (i-bop is rehearsing, she's in the spring play) all crying and AGAIN putting i-bop on the spot, talking crap about how it's an 'aesthetic' thing like preferring the color pink and she just loves black people blah blah blah. Then she left.

I am writing a letter to her & the assitant principal but I am super-pissed right now. I have to be careful how I word things lest these people dismiss me and i-bop as 'angry black women'.

Ok here is the letter I just emailed to her:

Hello Ms. ------,

My daughter ------ is a student in a Spanish language class of yours. She bought to my attention comments you made yesterday (2/28/07) about wanting to find a black man to have a child with, because you feel black babies are so cute. You also singled her out to ask her opinion on the matter, I presume because as the sole black person in the class you wanted her to validate your opinion.

I find your comments offensive and problematic to say the least. I am certain that you meant no harm, however I am unable to ignore or excuse your conduct because I am appalled at your lack of sensitivity and unprofessional behavior. Your job is to teach, not to express to students your racial preferences in regard to your future mate. Regardless of the context this subject came up in, as the teacher and the adult you should have re-directed the conversation and kept your race opinions to yourself.

I also feel compelled to tell you why your comments are so ignorant, because you repeated them again when you apologized to ------, and again when you called my home and discussed this with my husband (------). This tells me you are truly confused as to why your comments are ignorant and offensive. Ms. ------, blackness is no more a monolith than whiteness is, but that, among other things, is implied by your comments. Not to mention your complete and utter objectification of black babies and black people. Black babies are not little inanimate dolls for you to play with and talk about how cute they are because of maybe their features, skin color, and hair is so different from yours. They are living breathing people just like white babies.

After ------ told me the things you said when you came down to her drama practice (how it's just an 'aesthetic' thing and it's your 'preference') it became painfully obvious to me that you are simply unaware of how obtuse your feelings are in regards to this matter. Ms. ------, choosing a partner and subsequent child is not like picking a color scheme for your house.

There is so much range and diversity among black people, just like among white people or any other 'race', but you seem unaware of that. Your comment that you'd like to find a black man to have a black baby with indicates that you think we are all the same. Which black man? Will he be the same religion as you? Will he share similar political views? Have the same morals, values, and code of ethics as you? Or are those things irrelevant to you as long as he is black and can give you a cute black baby to play with? Ms. ------, I am told you have grown white children. Surely when you chose to be with their father, there were a lot of things you considered. Understand that when choosing to be with someone not of your race background the very same factors should be considered as well. If you are unable or unwilling to understand that, at the very least keep your fetishizing of black people to yourself.

I am certain that you still do not see your comments as wrong since you repeated them 3 times. You probably feel they were benign or even positive comments. I want you to understand I am not attacking you; rather my concern is about what you said and its effect on my child. I would like you to understand that racism isn't only about hating on other races. It is also embedded in the seemingly innocent ways that we think, talk, and respond to a race not our own. On the surface your comments may seem like a benevolent statement but when looked at through the lenses of American history and a person of the race being discussed, they are very rooted in racist ideas.

I would also like to point out to you, that whether ----- or another black person was in the class or not, your comments were inappropriate to the white students as well. You should not assume all white people believe erroneous ideas like this such as yourself, and you did your white students a grave disservice by assuming they did or that they would not be offended. In short, it was wrong of you to discuss your
racial preferences in choosing a mate to your students, period. You owe the whole class an apology.

Finally, your coming to ------ at her drama practice being all loud and crying was wrong. While I appreciate your apology...Thank You! I resent your putting her on the spot in front of her peers again and I am deeply saddened that you repeated your statements again to her. And the crying...give me a break. Ms. ------, what on earth did YOU have to cry about? And I am struggling to understand why you came at my daughter like that. As her teacher and an adult you are already in a position of authority over her. I feel your crying was a manipulative ploy to make her feel responsible for your mistake and that it was her fault simply because she spoke up. Perhaps it was subconscious, but surely upon reflection you can see why I feel your response was selfish, completely disregarded ------'s feelings, and made her feel bad for speaking up about your highly inappropriate comments.

------ did nothing wrong here. She tried to avoid being drawn in the discussion in the first place and she then voiced her concerns to the assistant principal. We have lived in ------, a primarily white, conservative community, for going on 7 years and in all this time my daughter has been a model of self-restraint when dealing with racist comments, from out-and-out racial slurs to comments like yours from students. She is not known for being a 'race-agitator' or as being overly sensitive to race comments, Ms. ------, because she is not. ------ tries her best to get along with the majority white population of students here, and she often, quite often ignores race comments said to her at the high school by the white students in the interest of getting along. So when she expressed how disturbed she was by what you said and your subsequent apology I could tell she was deeply hurt. The one time she speaks up to a person of authority the teacher acts like it's her fault? How dare you.

I am forwarding this letter to the principal and assistant principal. I am also writing a letter to the superintendent of ------ City Schools, including this letter and a suggestion of sensitivity training in regards to racial issues for ------ City teachers. It is not my desire or intention to get you into any trouble, rather I want a written record that this occurred and my suggestion of sensitivity training noted, if nothing else. I am disturbed that any teacher in ------ City schools would make a comment such as this. The reason we decided to live here was because of the caliber of the school system. I am truly dumbfounded that a teacher would make such comments as I did not expect that from a professional within the school system. You have deeply disappointed me, Ms. ------. I hope you do not further disappoint me by acting out against ------ academically or singling her out in any way regarding this matter again. Rest assured, if you do, I will take appropriate measures.

Ms. Breckenridge