First there was Herman, that anonymous (reportedly he later revealed his identity) Negro, who came to Carl Paladino’s defense a couple months ago. In his own inimical style Herman wrote a letter lauding Carl’s “give ‘em hell” style and in his own words, applauding Paladino for working to “fix” the Buffalo schools. While he was at it, he took the opportunity to “school” Paladino and everyone else about the innate nature of Black people. “Blacks think different, we are comfortable playing the part of being the VICTIM, and always blaming others for things we should be doing for our self…..We always make accusations of racism, when in fact Blacks are more racist than anyone……We (Blacks) don’t understand capitalism, economics or investments. We are selfish, and have intention of taking responibility (sic) for our self…. All we want is to have things given to us…..when it comes to the miniority (sic) school board members (ignorance). You are an intellegent (sic) man, but you will never come across to those idiots. This is why, we are at the bottom of the food chain.”
So, it was only a matter of time before another Paladino “friend” decided that she needed to educate the Black women of the Board about Black children and racism. On June 25th firmly ensconced on a platform built on privilege, smug superiority, insensitivity and gross ignorance, a beaming Paladino cheering her on, Tea Party member Julianne Thompson addressed the Board on the subject: “A Perspective on Race”. She began with an admonishment, supposedly to all Board members observing that “some of the conflict here lies, not in differences of skin color, but the rather radically opposing temperaments.” The latter were attributed to “…very expressive women” who talked too much “and stodgy… just the facts kind of men.” She further suggested that we remember that we were not “at a church bazaar or a ladies game of poker” and should learn and use Roberts Rules of Order. But after this lofty beginning Ms. Thompson descended into the real purpose for her presentation.
First, she disclosed how disturbed she was by the “demand for a black superintendent”, even though no one has talked about recruiting a Black superintendent except Paladino. She proceeded to link that “demand” to what she alleged was the faulty reasoning of the Minority members and others that “No one can understand the needs of our children like a black person can.” “Are Black children different than white children?” she asked. Ignoring a resounding YES from members of the audience, Ms. Thompson continued to espouse her “perspective on race”. She launched into her rejection of such a ridiculous claim. “Are they less capable? Not as intelligent? Does poverty affect their ability to learn?” Without missing a beat, she assured us that from “her experience, with proper structure and support, it doesn’t”. Furthermore, based on “her experience”, she was confident that (black) children “do not have special needs based on the color of their skin….”
With this sweeping pronouncement, Ms. Thompson suggested that we should ignore decades of research linking poverty to academic achievement because in her experience there is no link. Forget, for example, that children living in poverty are more likely to have poor attendance; to drop out of school; to have health issues that impact learning; or to experience reading delays by third grade that have a serious, cumulative impact on reading fluency in subsequent grades. Oh, right that’s not in Ms. Thompson’s experience! The study that identified a 30 million word gap between preschoolers from lower socio-economic backgrounds and their more affluent counterparts is probably not in Ms. Thompson’s sphere of experience either. Is she aware that over three-quarters of Buffalo Public School’s population are identified as living in poverty? That institutional racism impacts every aspect of life, e.g. employment, housing and yes education, of a Black, Latino, Asian, Native American or other person of color is a fact experienced by the young and old alike? Blacks and Latinos are about 31 percent of the US population, but 60 percent of the prison population. The “school to prison pipeline”, the connection between failed educational attainment and the disproportionately high incarceration of Black men is also well documented. Yet, I’m certain that Ms. Thompson only sees this as the criminal justice system putting away lawbreakers and misfits.
Are black children different than white children? The banality of this question and Ms. Thompson’s Tea Party “Perspective on Race” culminated in what she termed was “a rather insightful comment” by Dylann Storm Roof. Roof, the self-confessed white supremacist and murderer of nine African Americans in a Charleston, South Carolina church on June 17th, is quoted by Ms. Thompson as having said that “Black people are racially aware almost from birth, but White people on average don’t think about race in their lives.” Ms. Thompson interpreted that statement as a rationale for Roof’s actions. She said, “He apparently tragically felt that needed to change, presumably in response to the violent race riots of late and the astonishing calls for violence against all Whites.” Really? That Black people’s racial awareness “needed to change”? “Astonishing calls for violence against all Whites?” One might ask, how Roof’s insight helped color Ms. Thompson’s perspective on race?
Are black children different than white children? Why is it that a white woman thinks she can appropriate the right to instruct Black women, all mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters and teachers of Black children, who were once Black children themselves, on the answer to this question? Why does she think she knows more about the care and support of Black children than we do? Why is it she thinks that the comment of a murdering white supremacist is an “insightful” pearl of wisdom about Black people that is worthy of recognition? Why has her speech been published on the TeaNew York Party website, lauded by Paladino and distributed to thousands on his mailing list? For me the answer can be found in the reflection of all the privileged, arrogant and ignorant people who share her views.