In 2008 shortly after President Obama’s election to office, “The Leadership Conference,” a coalition of civil rights organizations, prepared a comprehensive review of their observations of the systemic issues surrounding the academic achievement gap between minority students and white students.
Given the notoriety associated with five of our schools being designated as “Failing Factories” and the fact that the City of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County has designated south St. Petersburg as a community redevelopment area, I viewed the observation below as noteworthy for our community.
“Despite this progress, what has remained unchanged is the pervasive racial injustice in the United States’ public educational systems. This injustice manifests in a number of ways: continued racial isolation in American schools; the massive inequity in resources between majority-minority schools and majority White schools; and the unequal treatment of racial minority students within schools, regardless of degree of desegregation. Taken together, these factors function to undermine the economic, social, and political potential and opportunities of racial minorities in the United States, perpetuating—if in a different way—the second-class citizenship that has defined their experience in America for centuries.”
Since my return to St. Petersburg, one would be blind not to admit there has been progress within the African-American community. Some would hail the new housing units within Jordan Park as progress. Some would hail the fact that we have a post office on 16th Street as progress. Some would even hail the emergence of several new school and choice programs in south St. Petersburg as progress.
However, when one removes the lipstick off of the pig to look closer at the goals aligned with Hope VI, or the goals associated with the infusion of economic equity the post office was to spur as part of a larger community redevelopment strategy, or the achievement gap that was supposed to get smaller as a result of building new schools in south St. Petersburg, the only thing that one sees is still a pig!
Jordan Park resulted in new buildings, but nothing substantive changed in the lives of the Jordan Park residents. The post office became a matter of convenience, but not one new job was created. The post office simply moved staff from the 31st Street location. Lastly, some new schools were built; however, in the last month we can see the only thing south St. Petersburg got out of that deal was five of its elementary schools to earn the distinction as five of the 13 worst elementary schools in the State of Florida.
The reality as pointed out by the Leadership Conference is that opportunities for minorities were undermined by the wasteful expenditure of public dollars. The demographics of south St. Petersburg will be utilized to bring millions of city, county, state and federal resources to south St. Petersburg.
• There will always be a plan, but the plan will not be specific or targeted to improving the socio-economic conditions for which the money was targeted
• Most times the mainstream media either will report stories when we are in jail or on our way to jail unless it is in their best interest to not report on our illegal activities
• African Americans will be hired, but we can guarantee, they will not serve as advocates for the African-American community not because they don’t have the desire, most often it will be because they don’t possess the depth of experience needed to be an effective voice. By chance if they should have the depth and breadth of experiences they won’t be given the support to do what is necessary. Their role will simply be to serve as a “black face” that will not pose a threat to the status quo
• There will be a couple of African Americans that will get broken off as long as they remain quiet and loyal to the status quo, meaning they won’t produce anything substantive
• In those rare instances where an African American is placed into a position to manage an initiative regarding the African-American community with the requisite skills and passion for the work in their community, they will be fired or adversely affected in the workplace
• Most often there will be an appointed body of hand-picked individuals who have very little interest or time to be concerned about the socio-economic improvements of the African-American community. They typically will be very busy people who will utilize these appointments as resume builders. At some point of the process they will get a plaque or certificate for their service
• There will be a host of projects and activities that will be hailed as successes and used to serve as photo opportunities and pats on the backs for the elected officials or governing body
• Lastly, when the money is all gone, the community won’t see any substantive changes and in many ways we will be in a worst condition.
While hard to digest, many of these practices and policies are reminiscent of the slave master’s role to keep African Americans in academic, economic and social bondage. However, just as our ancestors, we must utilize our collective wisdom, resources and experiences to ensure that no one can ever perceive us as second class citizens again!
Join the NAACP!
NAACP Political Forum Mon., Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. at the Enoch Davis Center, 1111 18th Ave. S, St. Petersburg
~ Maria L. Scruggs, CPM