“Too many whites” he wrote in Part 3, “unquestionably accept a system . . . that gives public schools serving disadvantaged children many fewer resources than those serving affluent children.” But then he pretends to be even-handed by saying “[w]e are not racists, but we accept a system that acts in racist ways.”
Our response: Who does he mean by ‘we’?
Staining a whole group with such a broad journalistic brush would be considered ignorant if not racist had it been written about anyone but white people. Mr. Kristof, a graduate of Harvard and Oxford, is an educated man. He wisely declares education the premier civil rights issue of the 21st century.
Therefore, his declaration that white people intentionally foster educational racism is no idle charge. But where his peers see moral courage, we see intellectual cowardice.
Earlier this year, the Times praised the mayor of Richmond for his allegedly unique commitment to helping African American children. He is African American, as are more than 90 percent of Richmond Public Schools students, most of whom come from families with modest incomes. Seven of the nine members of the school board are African American. White people, to use Mr. Kristof’s term, have not controlled the Richmond Public Schools system for many years. But Richmond doesn’t prove Mr. Kristof’s point.
The mayor continues to refused to find $2 million a year needed for health and safety repairs for the city’s crumbling school buildings. Students marched on city hall a few months back to highlight the problems, which were later confirmed in a special report.
But the mayor dismissed the students as whiny, a mere “11 percent” of the city population. He told them to take a back seat to the rest of his agenda. Did the city’s African American leaders stand-up to the mayor? No.
Neither the school board nor the city’s leading black organizations went to the mat for the children. The same for the African Americans on the city council.
There is no plan to fix these health and safety issues.
A local columnist showed the mayor where to find the $2 million. The mayor wanted to cut the property tax by a penny (per $100 of assessed valuation) for political reasons. It amounted to a $2 million-a-year cut in tax revenue. According to Mr. Kristof, the city’s white population should have been ecstatic. But they were willing to use this money for school repair bonds Not a single African American elected official backed this easy fix.
Instead, African American members of the city council were backing the mayor’s plan to build a baseball stadium on land the African American community wanted to dedicate as a slave memorial.
Recently, the mayor and the city council have promised $30 million worth of publicly funded financial incentives to bring a brewery to one of the city’s poor areas. If this sounds familiar, it should. It’s modeled on a similar lucrative deal that used public funding to bring the Washington Redskins training camp to Richmond. The city’s current budget gives its lowest overall funding percentage to K-12 operations since segregation.
Those “blame whites” columns pass today for an enlightened moral conscience. But these children need people to use their platforms to shed light on this truth: Richmond’s minority children, like millions of others, are victims of a political elite milking the system for pay, perks and special privileges at these youngsters’ expense. Sometimes that political elite is African American. But they always are able to find public money to fund their bloated pay, pensions and perks, even when it requires shortchanging poor African American children.
The operative color is not white or black when it comes to needed education reform. It’s gray — as in gray matter. Nick Kristof knows this, but he chose not to write it.