Sunday, January 17, 2010
ARE WE REALLY AS FAR ALONG AS WE THINK WE ARE?
WARNING: This post may be offensive to some people. It doesn't represent the views of anyone but me.
It's the eve of MLK Day. I know we are supposed to celebrate the accomplishments of this great man, but I think it's also a time we should take stock. I'm not quite sure we are quite as far down the road as we think we are. Here are three quick stories:
Every Sunday, our newspaper, has a feature they call "Student Athletes." The paper recognizes two kids, one boy and one girl, who are outstanding athletes, and also have outstanding grades. I read this feature every week and I think it's great that the paper honors kids in this way. However, 95% or more, of the kids that they honor are Anglo kids. I can't help but believe that there are other kids-- African American, Hispanic, Asian, etc., who also meet the qualifications. I wonder why they aren't honored. Then there's the Constitutional Law team at the boys' very diverse high school. Although well over half of the student body is non-Anglo, the Con Law team is 95% white. And I wonder, are we really as far along as we think we are?
My sons attend a high school that has open campus at lunch. This means that every day, at 11:30, approximately two thousand starving teenagers leave the school grounds and descend on a two block strip of restaurants, convenience stores, etc. On Friday, my son, an athletic, handsome (ok, I'm biased, but he really is cute) African American teen and his best friend, who is Hispanic, were stopped by a man with a video camera, who asked if he could interview the boys. His questions, or at least the ones my sons could remember, were all about teen fathers*. He asked the boys how they would feel if they found out that they were going to be dads. My son said he would be surprised and that he knew he would be in big trouble with his mom.
I gotta tell you that these questions offend and concern me more than a little. First, although my preferred method of birth control is definitely abstinence until marriage, I'm not so naive as to believe that my boys feel the same way. We do talk about safe sex and pregnancy prevention on a regular basis. My boys also know that in the event that they got a girl pregnant, they would be responsible for providing for the child emotionally and financially for the next 21 years. Mostly, I want to know why this man, whoever he was, picked my kid out of all the kids at East. Did he talk to kids of all different races, or did he assume that because my son was black, he was sexually active and also irresponsible? And where is that film going to show up? I'm not excited about having my son's face smeared across You Tube as the face of teen fatherhood. And I wonder, are we really as far along as we think we are?
One more story. This weekend I got some really disturbing news. On Friday, January 8, a family that we know, lost their house and all of their possessions in a fire. We are not super close to this family, but my boys have played football with them, their dad is a terrific coach and athletic trainer (my younger son says, "All Coach E has to do is touch whatever is hurt and it feels better) and we've spent countless hours together at practice fields and games. Their middle son is a nationally titled Junior Olympic boxer. I found out about the fire yesterday, and only then because another coach posted a request for clothes and shoes on his Facebook page. To the best of my knowledge, this fire has not been on any news channel, or in the newspaper. We see human interest stories like this all the time, and I wonder why this family's story has not shown up. Is it because the family is not Anglo? Is it because they live in a lower working class neighborhood? And I wonder, are we really as far along as we think we are?
Maybe tomorrow, a day when we stop to honor an important American, we all need to stop and think about whether we are really as far along as we think we are.