Saturday, February 24, 2007

"You have people?! I want people!"

There's an H&R Block commercial... As the mail carrier delivers the mail, a homeowner asks him if he has to mail in his taxes since he's a mail carrier. The man responds, "I have people." To which the homeowner replies, "You have people?! I want people!"

Don't we all? We know if we "have people"...people with money...people with power...people with influence... people with more education... things get done. It's all about who you know.

But isn't our real desire to not just *have* people, but to *be* people??

In low-income communities you often have to have "people" for basic services to get done. Apartment repairs are slow, principals/teachers are too busy, streets have no drainage, police respond hours after the 9-1-1 call....until someone [with money, power, education, and possibly a well-known name] steps in.

Why can't people be enough just because of who they are...a parent...a concerned citizen...a frustrated citizen lacking basic city services?

It frustrates me.

I have noticed over the years that people with less education, less money, less power, speak up less. Not because they have anything less to say....not because they are any less intelligent...but often because they don't get listened to.

Who do you listen to?

Do you take time to listen to the opinions of people who look different than you...make less than for you...have a job that society deems as not as important? you brush people aside...maybe unintentionally...unless they strike you as "important?"

Isn't it nice to know that when you speak, people listen? When other people speak, do you listen?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Children see. Children do.

Isn't is so true that kids mimick everything we do? Just this past Sunday Cori (I think he's about 5 years old) was sitting by me in church. In an attempt to entertain him and keep him quiet, I was doing things like writing names on the paper that he could copy, making ships and hats out of paper, etc.

Out of habit, I wrote my name and underlined it. I had also written Cori's name as well (without the underline). I handed him the paper to write for a while. Tiffany (a college student) was sitting on the other side of me. She nudged me to point out that as soon as Cori had added his last name to the page, he went back and underlined his name just like I had. His actions were real subtle, but it was obvious that he was trying to be just like me. He then took a paper and, once again, very subtly, began trying to fold the paper in the same way I had. He never asked me any questions. It was just obvious that he was really thinking hard about how I had folded my paper and made it into a boat.

Kids and teens watch what we do...whether we want to believe it or not. They see us when we least expect it. Are we expecting as much out of ourselves as we do of them? What are we teaching them...through our actions and our words?

Are we walking our talk??

Friday, February 09, 2007

Sticks and stones may break my bones....

What do the symbols of our past represent?

Do they mean anything to today's generation?

Should they?

I watched a news report tonight about two White girls in Burleson, TX who took confederate flag purses to school and chose to leave school rather than surrender their purses to the principal. The reasoning? They say it's their southern heritage and their right of free speech to carry the purses. On the flip side, I have some Black friends who use the "n" word in their regular conversation and feel just as strongly about their right to use that in their speech.

Should both acts be acceptable? Should both be unacceptable? Is it a matter of free speech? Does it matter anymore what those symbols represented in the past? Or is the meaning so far removed that it is insignificant for today's time?

Quite honestly, as a young child growing up in western Kansas and rural Missouri I never realized what the confederate flag represented. I watched the Dukes of Hazard and never thought twice about the flag on the "General Lee" car that they drove.

It wasn't until college that I became interested in the Civil Rights movement. Learning that part of our history, combined with some newly-formed friendships, helped me to understand the hate that the confederate flag symbolizes for African Americans and the fear that goes along with it. Now that I'm aware of that, it makes me shudder every time I drive through northern Arkansas and see the little store on the corner proudly displaying it's confederate flags for sale.

Do we need to forget what those symbols represented in the past so we can move forward? Is it too complicated to try to create awareness about what these symbols used to represent and how that hurt and fear still lingers today? Is free speech a right no matter what it means to others? Or, should we work toward educating ourselves, understanding each other, and being sensitive to how those words, actions, and symbols affect others...whether we are Black or White?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Teen Pregnancy

It makes me sad, but I don't know what to do about it. I know a girl who is 18 and pregnant, 14 and pregnant, and then I was just informed that another friend's son (also 14) is now going to be a daddy. Forgive me for being judgmental, but from what I know about each of their situations, none of them is prepared for this. Or, to be less judgmental, I guess I could accurately say that none of them prepared for this moment...for the life of a child...for how they were going to ensure a good future for their child.

Where are we failing our children?

Is it what they see on television and the graphic nature of the songs on the radio? (they surely can't be helping matters!)

Is it the parents? Are they not involved enough with their kids to either know what's going on or to stand up to their kids to say, "No!" to some of their behaviors?

Is it society in general? Do the kids recognize that we don't value them by the way we place the least amount of resources in the schools and put the least experienced teachers in the schools that need the most experienced teachers?

Is it the fact that we are unwilling to talk about and educate about sexual behaviors and be realistic about the consequences of those behaviors? Do we hope that by not talking about it kids won't participate in risky behaviors?

What do we need to do? In answer to some of the above questions, I know parents, mentors, and friends ARE addressing some of those issues head on and it's still happening.

How do we provide hope to the kids so that they can see further down the line?

How do we provide them with enough courage (and information) to either stay abstinent or protect themselves correctly?

It's heartbreaking to me. It's frustrating. I know the teenagers who have kids must go through a lot more stress than they let on when they are giggling, making jokes, and bragging to their friends about the fact that they are having a child. I know that they learn a lot of lessons in the process.

Some do a great job buckling down and making sure their child(ren) get every opportunity they need to be successful despite the odds against them. Others love their babies dearly, but don't offer the discipline or structure that a child needs...maybe because they don't know how and maybe because they're too busy trying to stay in their own childhood.

I'm not sure what goes on in all of their heads before, during, or after the child arrives. I do know we've got a lot of work to do. The teens who have made good choices and are now in college or working stable jobs insist that we're the adults, we're the mentors, we just need to keep talking because they really do listen to us.

But what about the teens who are making choices to be in risky situations? What do they need? I wish they could tell us what would work for them.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Being Black affects your education

Researchers from Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania have discovered that first or second generation immigrants comprise a disproportionately high percentage of the Black student population at U.S. universities--especially private universities.

"In the Ivy League, more than 40 percent of the Black population is of immigrant origin, despite comprising just 13 percent of the Black population overall."

The percentage of immigrant Black students is also shown to be higher at the more selective schools.

In their study, there were few differences between Black immigrants and Black natives in regard to social and economic origins. However, "Black immigrant fathers were far more likely to have graduated from college than native fathers, reflecting the fact that Africans and Afro-Caribbeans are the most educated immigrant group, with many originally coming to the Unites States to pursue a degree." ...which leads one to assume that the immigrant children may have had more access to a higher quality of education and environment to begin with.

Knowing this, and thinking about it in terms of affirmative action, is affirmative action really benefitting the people it was originally designed for?

More importantly, though, once Black immigrants were enrolled at the college or university, they performed no better than their native counterparts, "implying that the factors influencing the performance of Black students in higher education affect immigrants and natives alike."

Although it is somewhat disconcerting that affirmative action may not be benefitting the people it was set out for, more troublesome is the fact that if you are Black, whether you are native or of immigrant origin, something is happening that depresses Black academic performance below that of Whites with similar characteristics.