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Blacks should be expected to overachieve in all areas of life

Armstrong Williams | 9/12/2013, 3:57 p.m.
Armstrong Williams

If we juxtapose public school coaches’ expectations of Black male players with public school teachers’ expectations of Black male students, the difference is night and day. Young Black men are expected to fail in the realm of academia. Consequently, most of them do. Go into any inner-city public school and you will witness excellence on the basketball court and failure in the classroom. Public schools reinforce society’s low expectations of Black males. The abysmal test scores among this group of students are largely a matter of social conditioning. If held to a higher standard, Black men would work just as hard to perfect their writing as they do their jump shot. However, unlike coaches, teachers don’t admonish Black males; they accept their failure and even reward it by passing them on to the next grade. By the time they reach high school, most Black men are so far behind, they simply give up. And those who do go on to graduate are hit with the stinging realization that their abilities as an athlete will not help them gain employment, unless, of course, they are one of the exceptional few who make the pros.

Young Black men must be compelled to compete in the classroom if they are ever to achieve success in life. However, the only way public schools will be compelled to lift Black men from the depths of academic despair is if they themselves are forced to compete with private schools. This can be achieved with school vouchers that would allow parents to put their children in schools that will hold them to higher standards in the classroom.

Such policy has not taken off because teachers’ unions vehemently oppose vouchers. They recognize that vouchers would mean fewer teachers, fewer membership dues, the likely defections by public school personnel to privatized systems that have traditionally resisted centralized unionization and the birth of competing collective bargaining entities. For the teachers’ unions, the idea of competition only means giving up leverage. Nevertheless, if faced with such competition, public schools would be forced to push their young Black men to succeed in the classroom just as they push them on the basketball court.

With that said, perhaps what is even more important than the expectations of teachers and society as a whole are the expectations of parents. According to the Center for the Study of Sport and Society at Northeastern University, a poor African-American family is seven times more likely to encourage a male child in sports than a white family. Sadly, many Black parents believe their children are unable to compete academically, so they push their child to develop athletically, and public schools simply reinforce this devastating mentality on a daily basis.

Will we ever reach the apex in this country where we are no longer hyphenated or balkanized Americans? We may all have come here on different boats, however, we are on the same ship now, and we are to either sink or swim together.

The term “minority” has been widely used in American political discourse over the last 30 years. The underlying idea in this term is that members of a particular race, ethnic group or religious sect are somehow different. It suggests that, because a person’s skin color is Black, or because their native language is Spanish, somehow they are not full participants in the American experiment. The minority label traps individuals into identifying themselves on the basis of their differences rather than shared values. The notion of a minority class, or race, has to be erased in order for America to live up to its true potential as a place where liberty and happiness can be achieved by all.