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Where Are All the Black Kids?

March 31, 2011

Okay, those who really, really know me, know that –despite running a site called African-American Conservatives — I’m not big into labels and racial descriptors. Having grown up with a Caucasian mother and no father in the home representing all the other ethnicities housed within me, I was raised to look beyond color — to the extent anyone is really able to — and focus on that precious trait Dr. King calls us to focus on, that being character.

However, despite our current politically charged environment where the “race card” is thrown around indiscriminately, there are times I consider racial issues. Some know that due to my upbringing in subsidized housing in a less than affluent neighborhood, I have real issues with “any gun for any one,” and depart from the stance most conservatives hold regarding access.

As with much of what I post here, it’s “thinking out loud” as I let you in on my thought process as I churn about various issues, and tonight was no different.

Regular listeners of the show know that I homeschool my children. About three or four years ago, I established a support group for homeschoolers of color, mainly because it seemed that we were such a rarity that whenever we came across each other in a class or on a trip, we’d gravitate toward each other. But tonight, this “rarity” really hit home:

My oldest has been involved with Robotics since he was six and in first grade. He’s been involved with, and competed in, JFLL, and now FLL. Most think it’s a male dominated field, but due to the push for girls to get into the sciences, we see a lot of girls in the classes and competitions. However, I can probably count the number of Black kids (or Hispanics) that I have seen in our six years in the field.

Tonight, my oldest began a Java programming class. He was the only Black kid in the class.

I finally decided to approach my husband (a computer programmer!) about this observation. This was a night time class, after the traditionally schooled kids in the class had been at school all day. So, it wasn’t a “you are a bourgeois Black family that can afford to have a stay at home parent” issue.

Back to my upbringing as a poor kid in San Francisco in the 60’s and 70’s: my mom put me in ballet classes, tap dance, and all sorts of extra-curricular activities. Classes through Park & Rec during the summer, and private classes during the school year.

So, if she could afford it somehow, as a single, poor mother, not on any type of government assistance, other than the private subsidy we got for our apartment owned by a faith-based organization, again, I wondered: “Where are all the Black kids?”

We live within easy distance of one of the most prestigious universities in the country. Next month they will host a full weekend of classes and activities for 7th – 12th graders (homeschooled, public and private schooled…it matters not…it’s open to all). The fee is a very affordable $40 bucks for the whole she-bang. I am anticipating, despite the aggressive recruitment efforts by these institutes of higher learning, that once again, we will be one of a very few, if not the only, family of color. Why?

My brainiac kid will probably have a job as a programmer for his first job in 3-1/2 years from now, rather than the obligatory fast-food job. Is it because, as with my upbringing and that of my husband, it is expected that he will succeed? That it is expected that he will go to college?

I’ve talked about this with both Walt Williams and Ken Blackwell. But still I am stymied when I encounter this. With all the hoopla about The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, could there really be something to it? Are we failing our kids by not setting out the expectation?

At work today, my husband was talking to one of the other programmers there about our son’s class tonight. His co-worker is from India, and he said that classes such as these are in the curriculum for children the age that our son is now, with the full expectation that they will find high tech jobs here in the States. Again, “expectation” is at the heart of the issue.

I don’t believe in the extreme “Tiger-momism” wherein it feels — to me — that kids are robbed of a normal childhood.  I went to school with kids in the same gifted programs I attended who felt they couldn’t go home with an A- or B on a report card. But, that said, one thing that keeps coming up as I discuss this with leaders in the Black community like Tim Scott and Charles Lollar, was that our mothers sacrificed for us and never discussed “will you” but rather “when you” with respect to college.

Yes, I support school choice. And yes, I am outraged by the way that programs like the successful DC voucher program have been treated. And, I believe Jonathan Kozol got it right in Savage Inequalities. But even so, is it something closer to home that holds our children back?

I don’t have the answers to any of this. And again, I am thinking out loud in front of the millions of people on the internet. But, if I don’t ask these questions, then we don’t get to dialog and brainstorm any solutions.

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. Lola LB permalink
    April 1, 2011 2:56 am

    I suspect it’s something within the culture. But what? I don’t know. My parents had very high expectations for us, that there was no question that we would not go to college. They grew up during the Depression/WWII, and you know how it was in the black community back then – full of expectation. Something changed in the generation after theirs.

    • April 1, 2011 8:04 am

      I wish I could put my finger on it, too. But I think you may be on to it: that generation *was* full of hope and expectation. After the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we felt like we could do so much. Now have we become complacent? So happy with all the “free” stuff from the government that we don’t question what we get? Our inner-city schools are in deplorable shape physically and performance-wise. The unemployment rate is double and treble that of our White counterparts. Maybe we’ve lost that outrage over inequality because now the law says we’re equal…and many inequalities still exist.

  2. Rhonda White permalink
    April 1, 2011 7:51 am

    As the divorced homeschool mom of two bi-racial kids, I can identifty with your article. I rarely see non-white kids in homeschool programs or programs designed for kids to excel. I EXPECT my kids to prepare for and attend college and I have communicated this to them in no uncertain terms!

    • April 1, 2011 8:08 am

      You are a prime example of what I am talking about, Rhonda! Thanks for chiming in. Though a single mom, you are still homeschooling. You are making it work. You are investing in your kids. We need that passion back. I’m afraid our community won’t figure it out for a long time yet…. *sigh*

  3. April 1, 2011 5:09 pm

    I’m also a black homeschooling SAHM (also a single mom) & I think that you’re absolutely right. It boils down to parental expectation. Children tend to rise to our expectations of them, even those with ‘Tiger Mothers’ probably managed to rarely bring home an A-, although that’s way above average. If we expect, and truly believe, that our kids will do something then they usually will.

    • April 1, 2011 6:37 pm

      Thank you for posting, Ani! I appreciate your perspective *so* much! I absolutely agree, and I hope this changes in our community…soon!

  4. April 1, 2011 8:16 pm

    I wonder if we are over simplifying a very complex and personal problem. AA make up only 12.6% of the population. So, when we choose to do an activity that is a smaller % partakes in, isn’t it only normal that AA will than be a smaller, if not smallest slice of that pie. You can talk to any group of white women who wouldn’t dare home educate their children. So all those black kids are in a brick and motar school with the other white kids.

    Your post is barely 24 hour old and yet you have had responses for at least 2 other mother of color who are doing very similar thing with their children. I too am a homeschooling momma of 8. I began over 9 years ago as a single mom, working out side of the home full-time. I am now married and I continue to work outside of the home. So are did we just allow some media or single minded report bring up this emotion that already in your response prove, here we are, and oh by the way we are doing the same thing.

    I don’t believe there is an education gap. My black boy can learn, has learned, and will continue to learn at the same rate as his white counter parts. There are some subjects my children excel in I don’t allow the amount of money (I don’t make lol) or my marital status or where I live define who they will become. I believe when we take responsibility for ourselves and our family we begin to fully understand that every aspect of these children’s live depends on what we do than maybe we will move. I don’t educate to a test. You can believe in an education gap I know what my children are capable and I never allow some outsider to limit it.

    There is a huge issues of class that your are speaking to. There are still children who may be 1st generation high school graduates. For those parents all they may see is that huge accomplishment. While for you and others it may be a given, a non speaking point, you are looking further.

    Oprah said something once. Being raised by her southern grandma, she said many times that her grandmother’s biggest wish for her was to find some “good” white people to work for. Oprah laughed and said I wonder how her grandmother would feel if she knew I have a few good white people working FOR me.

    So many parents in poorer neighborhood, living a very different life, just what their children to graduate without babies, keeping their boys off the street and out of jail. I dare not say that these to may be indeed accomplishment for these families. But as I have told my daughter, that is not MY defining moment for her. I don’t plan on lowering my standards for my family. However I understand that this is the plan for my family. I have silly ideas of travel, high education, missionary service, no sex before marriage, no dating until ready for marriage….some of these may not be your goals and that is okay.

    I wonder if we are over simplifying a very complex and personal problem. AA make up only 12.6% of the population. So, when we choose to do an activity that is a smaller % partakes in, isn’t it only normal that AA will than be a smaller, if not smallest slice of that pie. You can talk to any group of white women who wouldn’t dare home educate their children. So all those black kids are in a brick and motar school with the other white kids.

    Your post is barely 24 hour old and yet you have had responses for at least 2 other mother of color who are doing very similar thing with their children. I too am a homeschooling momma of 8. I began over 9 years ago as a single mom, working out side of the home full-time. I am now married and I continue to work outside of the home. So are did we just allow some media or single minded report bring up this emotion that already in your response prove, here we are, and oh by the way we are doing the same thing.

    I don’t believe there is an education gap. My black boy can learn, has learned, and will continue to learn at the same rate as his white counter parts. There are some subjects my children excel in I don’t allow the amount of money (I don’t make lol) or my marital status or where I live define who they will become. I believe when we take responsibility for ourselves and our family we begin to fully understand that every aspect of these children’s live depends on what we do than maybe we will move. I don’t educate to a test. You can believe in an education gap I know what my children are capable and I never allow some outsider to limit it.

    There is a huge issues of class that your are speaking to. There are still children who may be 1st generation high school graduates. For those parents all they may see is that huge accomplishment. While for you and others it may be a given, a non speaking point, you are looking further.

    Oprah said something once. Being raised by her southern grandma, she said many times that her grandmother’s biggest wish for her was to find some “good” white people to work for. Oprah laughed and said I wonder how her grandmother would feel if she knew I have a few good white people working FOR me.

    What is wrong if someone does not go to college? People can live on very little, with no debt, and be amazing happy.

    • April 1, 2011 10:16 pm

      My question was never: “Are Black children capable?” Obviously, they are! The question is “why we are not taking a more pro-active stance?”

      As I stated in my post, the class that sparked the observation was a nighttime class, made up of primarily traditionally schooled (i.e. non-homeschooled) children. So, these parents put in the extra time (and yes, extra money). But as I further state, there are things that are absolutely free to attend, and the result is still the same.

      I’m not just talking about homeschooled children. As a homeschooling mother tired of the “your kids have to be socialized” argument without knowing me or my routine (trust me, we are constantly out and about with other kids, both homeschooled and traditionally schooled!), I ensure that we have a mix of all school types that we interact with. So many of our extra-curriculars occur after traditionally schooled children get out. For example, in our annual dance production, there is a cast of 150 children. My 3 and ONE other little girl are the only Blacks in the cast. Two families…out of 150 kids.

      It took me a long time to write about this, but it is not just based on last night. It’s based on seven *years* of homeschooling, hundreds of outings, thousands of kids of various income levels and educational choices.

      So, yeah, I think my “anecdotal” evidence matches up with what my experts quoted in the article are seeing in the Black community.

      As to the “class” issue: Again, my mom did not attend college. Many of the experts I spoke to came from similar backgrounds wherein they were the first to attend or graduate from college. I don’t think you need a college degree to “want” better.

      As to staying out of jail and not having a baby out of wedlock, I think I can safely say most parents want that, thus, yes, breaking a cycle of dependence that may be generations old is a good thing, but my premise is that you do not need money or education to want better for your children. EVERY single generation past has wanted that, and many have done far more than our community….that’s what I am saying. Look at the folks during the great depression. Not much money…..not much education….But the *expectation* you were held to was much higher than just “stay out of jail and don’t have a baby until you are married.”

      And, no, it’s not “wrong” not to go to college. But, I do think we can do a better job of encouraging it. We are our children’s first teachers, and I think other cultures do a far better job of this than we are. Why? That’s the question we need to answer. These are parents that come from humble means, in some cases, but they have something we don’t. I want to know what that is, and try to replicate it in our community as a way of elevating ourselves out of many of the social issues prevalent in our community. Stressing education can help address the “gang” culture and “drug” culture so glamorized in our community so that our children aspire to more.

      I have to tip my hat to you as a working mother of 8, and homeschooling to boot! It sounds like you & I both have some standards we hold our children to, and with mommas like us, and the innate abilities our children have, I expect we will both enjoy seeing what comes next for them! Thank you for writing!

  5. April 2, 2011 9:36 am

    Thanks so much for the response and stopping, it is great to “meet” you and I hope to enjoy reading more from you.

    • April 2, 2011 9:44 am

      It was my pleasure! I enjoy meeting other “crunchy mamas” :)

  6. April 2, 2011 3:41 pm

    Wow, I just had this same conversation with a friend yesterday. I am an AA homeschooling mother of two girls, eight and four. After a great deal of research my husband and I decided that the public school system was failing on a number of levels. My daughter was not being challenged. Quite frankly, she was bored (she wants to be a scientist like her aunt).

    When we began attending homeschool interest and information meetings last year I immediately noticed that there were not any AA people in attendance. I thought surely I just hadn’t tapped into that circle yet…I still haven’t. Moreover, when we attended our first homeschool convention a couple of weeks ago it was obvious that people were surprised that we were there, even other AA’s. When we noticed other AA families we couldn’t help but feel a sense of relief. We would meet and greet and have our own little family reunion in the exhibit hall. Meanwhile, our counterparts observed and their children said, “Look Mom, another unicorn!”

    I think the AA community has become far too institutionalized in our thinking. I have had people tell me that they don’t need to teach their kids because it’s the teacher’s job. They pay taxes for their children to go to public school and that should cover everything that they need right? Others are just happy that their kids are on track to graduate or they are banking on a sports scholarship.

    We are still lightyears behind when it comes to building wealth, which equates to opportunities. Opportunities open doors and open doors give birth to ideas. But, when all the doors are closed, the air can’t circulate and over time ambition, determination and creativity are aborted! We have been conditioned to think that children are a burden rather than a blessing.

    Our community has had such great moral decline that every aspect of our lives has been affected. I agree with Marie that college is not a necessity, but it should at least be an option. Far too many AA parents are simply not in a position, financially speaking, to set their children up for success. In some areas free or low cost opportunities for these families are few and far between. On the other hand, you have the families that are more concern with what they are driving and wearing that they will not sacrifice. I’m saddened when we got to the public library and see so few AA people there. It’s free!!!

    I believe this is where mentors, volunteers and entrepreneurs come in. People with visions and experience that are willing to sacrifice their time and money to “give back”. AA children can learn if they are given the opportunity and the means to do so.

    • April 2, 2011 6:37 pm

      Amen & amen! Thank you so much for posting, Sister Transformed! You are right on the money about mentors and advocates. Organizations like 100 Black Men & alumni from our HBCUs would be tremendous resources, and I know that they are already attempting much. But, you are right…it begins with us, as parents. We have to move past antipathy & question with passion & boldness why schools are failing our children, rather than counting on teachers passing our kids so thet can get a sports scholarship! My mom went to PTA meetings…as a single mom after a long day at a physically demanding job. We’ve got to find our way back to that place of involvement…

      Thanks again for posting!

  7. Tara permalink
    April 2, 2011 6:09 pm

    Thank you Marie! I’m currently a single SAHM and though my son is soon-to-be 4 years old I’m also homeschooling, a decision I made during my pregnancy. I love it, however I feel isolated because of the lack of children of color and that most homeschoolers seem to be married. I’m still pushing through however.
    I’m also a bi-racial woman, raised in a economically disadvantaged SF neighborhood by a single mom in the 70’s and 80’s. My decision to homeschool stemmed from how poorly the schools I attended were run, mostly my high school. Being a product of one of SF’s worst high school, which has significantly changed in the last several years, I have such a passion for my son’s education. I feel it’s my responsibility to prepare him as best as I can. Thank you for sharing your passion.

    Peace and Blessings
    Tara

    • April 2, 2011 6:24 pm

      Hi Tara! I wonder if I know you!?? :)

      Yes, most definitely my school experiences shaped my worldview. In addition to being in the gifted program, which allowed me to attend fairly affluent schools up until high school, I struggled with — and still struggle with ADD. So, much of my experience with my traditional school upbringing, combined with a zeal for life-long learning and my background in Early Childhood Education, have all led me to this place wherein homeschooling was the answer for us.

      Thanks for posting a reply!!

  8. April 12, 2011 1:51 pm

    My 8 year-old son is in his first year at a very good public school. Before then, he attended a private school. Even though he has attended traditional schools, I am still his primary teacher. My child is homeschooled daily. I encourage him to go beyond what is offered in the classroom. I challenge him to grow into that “renaissance man” who attained high levels of knowledge on a variety of subjects. I expect him to excel at everything he pursues. I don’t just put him in front of a computer, I’ve already shown him how to take it apart and put it back together. I take the time to surround myself with other like-minded individuals who have the same goals and expectations for their children. I don’t believe in relying solely upon an educational system that turns out more dropouts than it does graduates.

    • mariestroughter permalink*
      April 12, 2011 2:26 pm

      That’s wonderful, Ayishah! A great example of what I’m talking about & the mental attitude toward learning that we must have in order to do this for our kids!! Thanks for posting!

  9. Shelly permalink
    August 21, 2011 1:41 pm

    “There is a huge issues of class that your are speaking to. There are still children who may be 1st generation high school graduates. For those parents all they may see is that huge accomplishment.”

    My comment is way late, but:

    But why those parents see they see that as a huge accomplishment is the question. The hordes of immigrants that came from Europe in the 19th and early 20th century and many immigrants today seem to, in large numbers, expect more for their children beyond graduating high school. It really does come right back to parents’ expectations for their children.

    I believe that the government programs and the rise of militants that encouraged anger, revolution, and focus on pay-back with a “you owe us” mentality spurred the development of all sorts of pathologies in black American people. The anger led to self segregation in schools and an attitude that anything that was standard was white. Well the things that are considered white tend to be the things that help lead to wealth and success. The things considered “black” are disfunctional. Just my thoughts, although very abbreviated.

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