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|Posted on January 26, 2020 at 10:16 PM||comments (47)|
Jan. 26, 2020 --My research into Hempstead continues. I finished writing my novel, The Day America Turned Black, and am revising it while looking for agent representation. Meanwhile, as my research progresses, I get insight into the murky part of racisim: people believing that they are not racist, but not realizing the racist matrix in which they live.
I found an article from 1935 commending the Hempstead Harriet Tubman Club for setting up a home where up to 12 needy young Negresses could be housed. Negresses! Can you imagine such a term in use today? But back then, it was a term of respect. The white people of Hempstead seemed more concerned than in surrounding communities about the welfare of their Negro population. (Nobody says "Negro" anymore, either -- but back in 1935, it was, like Negress, a term of respect.) Hempstead' whites went to a lot of trouble to commend and aid efforts like the Harriet Tubman Club. The question is, were the nice white people doing anything like what the Harriet Tubman Club decided to do?
|Posted on January 25, 2019 at 8:45 AM||comments (9)|
In several articles that I have downloaded and kept in a file, a difference between black achievement early in the twentieth century and early in the twenty-first century is notable. It lies in the emphasis on education, which was heavier among black people in the first part of the twentieth century than in the second part. There were black lawyers and university professors during the 1800s and early to mid 1900s, at a time when education was segregated and black people were purposely sent to inferior schools during the days of Jim Crow. These black intellectuals overcame all the limitations placed upon them. They joined the NAACP and fought for the right to equal – truly equal – schooling. I assume that among the materials they studied were Greek and Latin, foreign languages, classic European literature – material that, white though its origin was, nonetheless was intellectually demanding. Equipped with the power of reading, writing, and oratory, black people in every field won cases in the courts -- Thurgood Marshall being just one example. The leaders of the civil rights movements in the 1950s and 1960s were college students, highly trained pastors like Martin Luther King, Jr., and thinkers such as Stokely Carmichael and Malcolm X, who trained their minds, opened their mouths or unleashed their pens, and conquered a nation's most shameful laws.
The NAACP also fought for the legitimacy of black professional athletic teams. After gaining that legitimacy, the next victory was integrated pro athletic teams rather than segregated teams. Then black athletes became the heroes for young blacks, especially young black men, starting with Jackie Robinson. Black entertainers, too, were in the public eye.
Resistance to black athletes and entertainers was less than to black intellectuals. Black athletes and entertainers made lots of money for the white people who ran the athletic associations and the entertainment industry. They were marketable.
Being marketable is one thing. Being accepted for one’s intellectual ability is another. One would think that the election of Barack Obama not only in 2008, but also in 2012, signaled the acceptance of black intellectual ability. Instead, not only did prejudiced whites view him as an anomaly and point to his white mother and his upbringing with white grandparents as the real cause of his brain capacity, but even black people did not all see him as truly black. When I viewed rapper Killer Mike’s recent segment on Netflix in which he proposed that children should not be taught to dream intellectually, but be taught trades instead, I was sickened. Killer Mike asks a black principal if she agrees that intellectual training was really useless. She absolutely does not. She points to Obama as an example of genuine black intellectual ability. Killer Mike says, “But he’s biracial” – as if that made Obama not actually black. Subsequently, Killer Mike goes to a community college and seeks to prove that combining trade schooling with pornography would enhance learning, regardless of race.
I wasn’t so much nauseated by Killer Mike’s ignorant ideas as by Netflix’s willingness to publish his segments. Killer Mike stands as a black man who has made millions from being an entertainer, now publicly opposing serious education for any and all students. It’s horrifying. Killer Mike confirms what Dr. Boyce Watkins wrote about in a 2015 article called “Why Aren’t Black Men Graduating from College?” Dr. Watkins sees young black men taking athletics and socializing seriously, but not intellectual studies. Meanwhile, black professors are not hired and retained at nearly the rate of non-black, even in historically black colleges and universities.
Few people can be an entertainer or an athlete at the level of making enough money to live on. Furthermore, the need for professionals in medicine, law, technology, literature, and history is ongoing. When black people are prominent mainly as entertainers or athletes, they are not taken seriously as intellectual forces. Fewer young black people will aspire to challenging intellectual fields if they think they can make money faster as athletes or entertainers. We can’t afford the loss of black people’s intellectual production.
|Posted on December 8, 2018 at 2:05 AM||comments (298)|
Dec. 8, 2018
On the first Tuesday of November, I delivered my historian report at the Hempstead Village Board of Trustees meeting. Trustee Lamont Johnson commented to me that my book, Hempstead Village, was a miserable failure because it did not include certain events. These events occurred starting in the 1930s, and constituted what he considered to be black people's achievement in the village. He added that if I wanted to write a book that would detail these milestones, he would be glad to work with me.
My response was self-defensive: that I had done more to uncover and publish information about the village than had been done in 75 years. Furthermore, I had gone to a lot more trouble than surrounding municipalities had in their Arcadia histories to represent the presence of people of color going back to the village’s founding. But, I added, a project of black achievement could be exciting and important.
After I went home, I realized that a dichotomy exists in views of this village. Generally, surrounding communities view Hempstead as a place that lost its financial stability and its excellence as a school district half a decade ago. But to many African American long-time villagers, Hempstead is a location of black achievement: first National Association for the Advancement of Colored People branch on Long Island (1932), first village to have African American teachers starting in 1957, first African American policeman in 1952, home of a Tuskegee airman, and more.
Since that board of trustees meeting on the first Tuesday of November, many indications have come to me that Mr. Johnson's evaluation of my book is not widespread. Without directly saying so, Hempsteadians around Village Hall have shown me that they appreciate me and the book.
Meanwhile, I think Trustee Johnson has a point. I'm proud of what I have done so far as Hempstead Village historian. However, a book specifically about black achievement in this community could supply vital encouragement to its residents.
|Posted on June 3, 2018 at 8:08 PM||comments (10)|
The more I study the history of the Hempstead Public Schools, the more it looks to me as though the needs of the district's children succumbed to the fear of unemployment among some of the African American people on the school board and in the Village of Hempstead.
I didn't believe it at first when some people claimed that the school system was ruined by decades of patronage, in which one particular school board member got herself into a position to hire unqualified applicants in exchange for portions of these applicants' paychecks. But with time and research and talking to people who worked in the school system -- teachers and service providers who actually were qualified -- I realize that yes, this person actually was given de facto control over hiring. The only reason I can imagine this scenario being allowed is that African Americans have, not always, but too many times, been betrayed by a white-dominated system when seeking jobs.
This fear of not getting employed could (and apparently did) lead to a system of bad record keeping and hiring of incompetents that kept village African Americans employed, but dreadfully betrayed the village's children.
I don't get it. The whole scenario makes me sick. I can understand one person having the temptation to enrich herself by playing on the fears of her group; but I don't understand people taking advantage of her underhanded offers instead of exposing her.
By 2010, other villagers did indeed make legal attempts to expose here, but it was several years before she was finally voted off the school board; and she is apparently still trying to manipulate results behind the scenes.
I won't name this person here because I am so upset. Also, I have more fact-finding to do. Perhaps someone will see this blog and add enlightening comments.
|Posted on March 3, 2018 at 8:46 AM||comments (3)|
Humans were made to create. When the creating is stymied, we start to die inside. Along with the sense of being killed comes anger.
Kids are creative from day one. Too often, their creativity gets interpreted as infantile foolishness that, some fine day, will yield to adult sensibility. Thus, when a toddler between ages one and two makes up syllables and uses them like words, the "babbling" gets interpreted as an errant attempt at human speech. But that interpretation is inaccurate. In reality, the child is doing what humans do: using consistent sounds to convey meaning.
If the child's sounds are treated with respect and their meaning is responded to, the child experiences encouragement at a baseline, necessary level. When the child's effort to make meaning is treated as foolish, then the child's very self is downgraded in the child's own eyes. This downgrading is profoundly unjust. The injustice provokes anger. Unfortunately, the child hasn’t the words to express the anger, which manifests as irrational bad behavior that gets punished without its underlying cause ever being addressed.
Additionally, there is the mistaken focus on good behavior. Parents want their children to behave well, that is, to be considerate of others and responsible about upkeep -- preserving rather than breaking things, cleaning up.
Good behavior is vital. I'm not denying its importance. But “good” behavior becomes a skewed focus. Many, many children are treated as objects of anger the instant they overstep some invisible line. They express outrage and are smacked down. By the time they reach age 11, they have been trained to see an interpersonal relationship as a conflict to be won, so they can’t develop satisfying friendships. Their early efforts to have fun, which were efforts to develop their capacities, have been squelched in favor of punishing them for bad behavior. They are frustrated. The parents are frustrated, too, having increased harsh punishments and denied their child’s creative outlets in hope of forcing the child to comply – without the desired good-child result.
The child arrives at age 11 with no sense of personal meaning, but instead, a habit of anger. Excitement, not creative production, becomes a goal, because excitement distracts from the constantly bad internal feeling.
And then a gang recruiter gives the child a path to both excitement and meaning. Gang members memorize a constitution and a host of secret signals. They have specific roles as gang members. They get to skip school.
Gang life is creative. It's fun. It also makes the child feel normal because it is full of underlying, ridiculous conflict. It befits the child's inarticulate, long-standing anger. Gang life gives the child outlet for that anger, substance abuse to assuage the child's pain, and a sense of freedom, since the child has found a new support system and feels free to disobey established authorities.
The project is done! A gang member has been created: someone riddled with deep pain because he or she has grown up with prolonged, unjust punishment, or else with unjust neglect, seeing peers succeed in school where he or she has failed, or seeing peers with developed skills where his or her innate skills have rarely been supported. Now the child can replace that sense of inferiority with the newfound right to smash and grab, to feel in control, to feel superior to the drones that go to school every day, and never have to confront why he or she feels unhappy and restless upon wakening every morning.
The gang member has no personal dreams anymore -- those were snuffed before he or she could talk. Life becomes a moment-to-moment journey toward an early physical death, which itself reflects the inward death that has been imposed on the child for so long.
|Posted on February 19, 2018 at 9:17 AM||comments (1)|
Hempstead High School was renowned on Long Island during the first half of the twentieth century. Students from nearby villages attended Hempstead High because they didn't have their own high schools yet. Hempstead had transport: the Long Island Railroad and a trolley system running west, east, and south. It built roads that cars could traverse and it had been a business establishment since its inception; Sammis Hotel sustained itself with Sammis descendants as propietors from 1660 to 1929. Carman Lush Pharmacy served at least three generations. Cooper and Powell was a gathering place as well as a supply place from the second half of the nineteenth century through the first quarter of the twentieth, and its founders helped establish Hempstead Bank, which lasted nearly a hundred years.
Hempstead was thought of as both a white village and a village where black people could live. Hempstead High School had a significant black population from the 1940s on, and black athletes contributed to its reputation as one of the best high schools on Long Island, and indeed, one of the best in New York State -- a reputation that didn't waver until the late 1960s.
Here is the core of my blog today: Although Hempstead High Schoo's reputation began to deteriorate in the late 1960s, and even though its population changed noticeably from majority white to majority black, the problem is not that the student body became largely African American. It is now the lowest-performing high school in New York State and its population has not been majority black for about 15 years. It is majority Latino -- 63% Latino and 36% black.
So -- what happened? Why does a school that is majority nonwhite have to be low-performing, a phenomenon that is repeated throughout the United States?
Again, it wasn't that it became majority black for a while. It's because it became majority poor. This problem is not racial. Not, it is socioeconomic. Its racial element stems not from the innate intelligence of this "race" or that, but from the prejudices of still-too-many white people who associate nonwhite with poor and uneducated. But as Carol Anderson so brilliantly reveals in her 2013 book White Rage (updated 2017), nonwhites have a large percentage of poor and educated because whites have gone to so much trouble to keep them poor and uneducated.
For many years while Hempstead High became more and more populated by black children, its reputation as an excellent high school renown for its sports did not waver. Hempstead High did not sink under the weight of nonwhite-ness. It sank under the weight of regional manipulation by the government. When the malls sucked business from the villages and Mitchel Field Air Base closed in 1961, Hempstead's long-standing business base was decimated. To get federal funding for renovation, the village accepted a large population of low-income housing. Once the village became the place where poor folks got placed (especially, in Hempstead's case), poor black folks), the schools had to cope with a heavy percentage of needy whose scholastic abilities were low coming into kindergarten, and remained low because their families had little idea how to foster scholastic development.
Middle-class and upper-class families of all races fled the scene. The high school became the place where bad kids could go and not get kicked out. Its reputation during the 1970s degraded from bad to terrible, and it has been notable for its low graduation rates for forty years.
But the problem was not the black kids coming in. They did not ruin the neighborhood. They were part of the Hempstead Public School system's excellent reputation for sixty years before the troubles began.
The problem is regional manipulation of the indigent. There has to be a way to solve that problem.
|Posted on January 14, 2018 at 10:55 PM||comments (3)|
For the past week (Jan. 8-14), Long Island's premier paper Newsday, has printed headlines about the utter breakdown in the function of the Hempstead School Board. The focus on the school board's blatant failures to work in unity is, on one hand, long overdue, and on the other hand, off target.
Hempstead has for so long been overloaded with section 8 residents and Central American immigrants that today's untenable situation is predictable. I don't mean to fault people who may need section 8 housing, and I certainly don't fault Central American immigrants who are leaving bloody gang warfare and natural disasters.
Whom, then do I fault? The regional governments. There should be rules about absorbing needy people, and the Montclair Doctrine of the early 1970s was meant to set the standard: each community should bear a proportionate share of caring for our poor.
But the Montclair rules were rapidly loopholed and undermined. Entire communities of black people got shifted from long-time locations that were poor and even blighted, yet functional, into tenements meant to contain and separate them, not to improve their lives.
Hempstead got the same treatment as the Chicago projects and New York City projects that became infamous. (the Chicago projects have since been demolished.) Disproportionate burdens of poor families and single people -- especially nonwhite -- get housed in Hempstead. Its school district has swelled from 6,400 students in 2004 to more than 8,000 now, while surrounding districts have remained about the same size during the same time period. Yet Hempstead's schools have been overcrowded and needing repairs at least since the late 1980s . . . 30 years! Three decades of continuing to pile more and more students into aging, badly repaired buildings and leaky trailers?
Yes, the school board must behave better. But the regional abuse of Hempstead has to stop!
|Posted on December 30, 2017 at 4:45 PM||comments (0)|
I find that I can cope with student inattention, misunderstanding, or laziness effectively. What I find most difficult is student unkindness.
Some students come to college with an immature view of professors. These students are unkind, rude, undermining, and distracting. Their snide jokes tend to draw others into their disruptions. Whatever the professor is trying to accomplish in class, these students will take every opportunity to treat the professor as an inept outsider.
Because I extend myself to set up an atmosphere of courtesy and friendliness in the classroom, my response to rudeness has not been to call it out immediately, but to squelch its effects by passing it over as unimportant. If I call the rudeness out directly, students like the ones I describe will take it as an opportunity for argument. Threatening to drop their grade is not effective because they are not motivated by grades. Instead, they are motivated by obtaining the attention of their peers, and also by their professor's discomfort. It has been more effective for me to diminish student rudeness by ignoring it; normally it disappears -- I think because, if the student does something well, I immediately reward the good behavior with a compliment and the good behavior becomes more manifest because it is reinforced while the bad behavior is ignored.
|Posted on November 4, 2017 at 8:20 AM||comments (6)|
In my work as village historian, I have been surveying the repositories of information about, specifically, Hempstead Village.Hidden on a top shelf in a vault, I discovered scrapbooks: four covering Hempstead events 1927-1943, and one with articles from 1961 to about 1965.
A headline among the 1961 articles impressed me: APARTMENTS COMING TO LONG ISLAND. It was a Newsday article. It impressed me because Long Island communities at this very time, 2017, are organizing to resist a a mushrooming trend of new apartments. The 1961 article could have been written today: people protesting the loss of individual residential areas to multi-unit dwellings, the increase of population density, the burden on infrastructure to handle thousands of new toilets flushing and cars on the roads, the drain on the school tax system -- especially because apartment dwellers don't pay property taxes as directly as residential homeowners, but their children demand as many resources.
The Incorporated Village of Hempstead has been successfully resisting more apartments for ten years, mostly because it is already overwhelmed with apartment dwellings imposed between the 1940s and the 1980s. Not only that, but it has seen apartment buildings fall empty when the wave of construction passed. Such buildings become the prey of squatters and of renters who want no more than to find shelter, without wanting to pay much or care much for it.
Where will this trend of increasing population take us? Are se seeing the result of the population expansion across the world? If there literally are more peope in the world, can we avoid the increase of buildings in already-populated business zones like the Eastern Coast of the United States?
|Posted on August 28, 2017 at 9:03 AM||comments (0)|
Not only did Trump pardon a criminal of a sheriff, Joe Arpaio, whose inhumane treatment of prisoners in Arizona did nothing to deter crime and everything to enforce racism. Now Trump has announced that he is lifting the ban on militarization of police weaponry that former President Barack Obama wisely imposed after the clashes in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. This move on Trump's part means that police could once more transition away from viewing themselves as part of communities whose citizens they help by fostering conflict resolution and by taking criminals off the streets.
When militarization enters in, the situation is cast too sharply as a war, with an "us" (the police) and a "them" (anyone who might be perceived as resisting the police). Tanks and military-grade weaponry cause a community to feel intimidated. The warlike atmosphere generated by the military-style policing will set up warlike fear in the civilians instead of helping them trust that the police will protect them. Crime will be shielded and hidden from the Police Enemy instead of revealed and worked through, the way it can be by citizens whose police are a part of the community fabric.
Where will Trump's dreadful leadership take us? It isn't so much that we might go back to a bad time in the past. No return to the past is ever possible. The dread is for the bleak future toward which Trump is leading us.