I got into a heated discussion in an Evanston business regarding the Dec.14 District 65 Board meeting in which attendees addressed the District 65 achievement gap. 

At first I regretted getting so emotional and loud during the discussion, but later, I appreciated knowing what set me off.  During the discussion, an educated businesswoman started talking about the rude behavior of an African American high school youth in a program in which she was a volunteer. 

She presented this student’s bad behavior as though it exemplified the behavior of all African American youth and the reason for the achievement gap.  Her remarks angered me because: (1) Our discussion was about District 65 elementary school students, not high school students; and (2) her low expectations of all African American youth was based on the bad behavior of one African American youth.  Is this not how biases/prejudices are formed? 

There were several statements during the District 65 meeting that praised the large number of African Americans for attending the meeting, but large numbers of African Americans (minorities) should not have to show up at every District 65 meeting in order for District 65 to seriously address the gap.  African American and Caucasian speakers alleged that District 65 did not treat African American (minority) students or their parents the same way Caucasians were treated. 

An especially charismatic speaker described the gap problem as a community problem that needed to be addressed by the whole community and placed some of the blame for the gap on the shoulders of minority parents.  Since I learned later that this charismatic speaker had removed an offspring from a District 65 elementary school and placed the child in a private school, I wondered if this was an example of “Charismatic Hypocrisy”: Do as I say, not as I do. 

While it is true that there are parents who do not provide the best learning environment for their children, it remains the responsibility of the school district(s) to provide a teaching/learning environment that does not shortchange students’ education because of their race/ethnicity. 

“Discrimination is a hellhound that gnaws at Negroes in every waking moment of their lives to remind them that the lie of their inferiority is accepted as truth in the society dominating them.” – Dr. Martin Luther King (“Where do we go from here?” speech, August 16, 1967)

I grew up in a town/community in which many African Americans were illiterate or under-educated and too intimidated by their lack of education to engage in dialogue with or challenge teachers.  I was fortunate enough to have teachers as well as a community that took pride in my receiving a good education.  Fair treatment of everyone makes for a better world for everyone.  As others have said and I repeat, “We’re all in this together.” It’s too bad that’s not understood.

*Charisma: “A spiritual power or personal quality that gives an individual influence or authority over large numbers of people.” Hypocrisy: “A pretense of having some desirable or publicly approved attitude.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)