Tag Archives: Education

Identification: Who Said You are _______? Do You Believe Them?

 

The year is 2017 and we as people of color have more opportunities than ever. We have proven that we can compete in the classroom, newsroom, and the boardroom. We have a proven track-record of excellence across many disciplines. Many of these achievements are in fields of endeavor that our ancestors thought would never become open to us. In fact, they could only imagine living in a world full of opportunities like we have today. Ours is truly an amazing story, and an even more amazing journey.

Along the way there have always been obstacles put in our way for us to overcome. There have always been challenges for us to recognize and face. There have always been questions we needed to answer just to become qualified. I think we have overcome numerous obstacles, faced several challenges, and answered all of the questions correctly. Now we must take the next step by defining our true identity.

During our journey, we have been identified in many ways. We have been called many names. We have been given many titles. Our character and worth as a people has been defined for us, and often not in glorious terms. We have been told we are inferior, unworthy, incapable, unlovable, unredeemable, ungodly, unlawful, uneducated, unteachable, unreachable, lazy, and ugly.

Now I ask a simple question: Who said you are _______? Do you believe them?

If you believe them, then they have won. They have defined your character for you. I am here to refute everything they have said. I am here to break every stereotype they can find. I am here to correct every false opinion about us.

Question Mark

Now I ask a simple question: I say you are __________ . Do you believe me?

If you believe me, wake up and seize your victory. Use self-identification to define your true character. Live up to everything I am about to say. Break every stereotype about who you are. Correct every false opinion they have about you.

 

Who said you are inferior?                                         I say you are superior!

Who said you are unworthy?                                     I say you are worthy!

Who said you are incapable?                                      I say you are capable!

Who said you are unlovable?                                     I say you are lovable!

Who said you are unredeemable?                             I say you are redeemed!

Who said you are ungodly?                                         I say you are God-fearing!

 

Who said you are unlawful?                                       I say you are law-abiding!

Who said you are uneducated?                                  I say you are educated!

Who said you are unteachable?                                 I say you can be taught!

Who said you are unreachable?                                I say you are reachable!

Who said you are lazy?                                                I say you are energized!

Who said you are ugly?                                                I say you are beautiful!

 

Now that you have been correctly identified, rise up and find success! The year is 2017 and we as people of color have more opportunities than ever. We have proven that we can compete in the classroom, newsroom, and the boardroom. We have a proven track-record of excellence across many disciplines. Many of these achievements are in fields of endeavor that our ancestors thought would never become open to us. In fact, they could only imagine living in a world full of opportunities like we have today. Ours is truly an amazing story, and an even more amazing journey.

 

 

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Mass Incarceration: Maybe the Last of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers

jail-bars-and-cuffs

Mass incarceration has affected millions of people across all races, and the result is many of these people become a part of a permanent underclass who will struggle to live a normal life. Of course, many of the people who are incarcerated committed heinous crimes that need to be punished. These are not the people this is meant to address. Instead, we must take a closer look at people who were sentenced for minor crimes and misdemeanors, either justly or unjustly. In these cases, incarceration causes an enduring legacy that disqualifies millions of American citizens from returning to a normal life. Far too often, these people are poor, uneducated, and minorities. This is why along with  credit, education, and voting rights, mass incarceration might be the last of the remaining great disqualifiers.

Mass incarceration is a great disqualifier because a criminal record will follow and ex-offender even though they may have paid their debt to society. Although prison is supposed to rehabilitate its offenders, we know it does not do a good job of rehabilitation. Upon release, “reformed” criminals who try to straighten up their lives have a hard time erasing the stain of their criminal record. It follows them as they seek employment, housing, and voting rights. This is due to the requirement to disclose prior convictions on applications to “determine” eligibility. We know the deal here: this disclosure is more likely to disqualify people from a proper evaluation and consideration. Who gets caught in this trap: primarily minorities, immigrants, and poor people who get incarcerated.

Recently I had to look for a job, and I was surprised at the new levels of questions that ex-offenders have to answer. Basically, these questions ask if a person has been convicted of a crime. Depending on the organization or company, a “yes” answer leads to a series of additional questions. The most important of these questions is probably whether the crime was a felony or misdemeanor. I do not have statistics, but I am willing to bet that people who disclose their felony conviction are far less likely to be considered for employment than those who commit misdemeanors. Factor in those who have not committed crimes, and you can see how far behind ex-offenders are when looking for employment post-incarceration. When seeking employment, ex-offenders can easily be disqualified. Mass incarceration is one of the last remaining disqualifiers for them even though they have paid their debt to society.

Ex-offenders are also left way behind when seeking housing opportunities. Once again, an application will probably ask if a person has been convicted of a crime. This time, a potential landlord has the power to determine whether or not the answer to this question will disqualify a person from obtaining housing. I do not have statistics, but I am willing to bet that people who disclose their felony conviction are far less likely to be considered for housing than those who commit misdemeanors. Factor in those who have not committed crimes, and you can see how far behind ex-offenders are when looking for housing post-incarceration. When seeking employment and housing, ex-offenders can easily be disqualified. Mass incarceration is one of the last remaining disqualifiers for them even though they have paid their debt to society.

We have seen wave after wave of challenges to voting rights in America. Perhaps nowhere is this challenge stronger than establishing, or reestablishing the right to vote for ex-convicts. Some states allow ex-felons to return to voting rolls once they are released from prison. Other states do not allow them to vote. The recent trend is to either prevent ex-offenders from voting, or to strike them from voting lists. Once again, ex-offenders are required to disclose their convictions upon reapplying for the right to vote. I do not have statistics, but I am willing to bet that people who disclose their felony conviction are far less likely to be considered for voting than those who commit misdemeanors. Factor in those who have not committed crimes, and you can see how far behind ex-offenders are when looking to reestablish their voting rights post-incarceration. When seeking employment, housing and voting rights, ex-offenders can easily be disqualified. Mass incarceration is one of the last remaining disqualifiers for them even though they have paid their debt to society.

I have provided just a few examples of how mass incarceration is one of the remaining great disqualifiers for minorities, immigrants, and poor people. Simply put, being incarcerated can disqualify a person for life because their rights post-incarceration are never fully restored. These people will find it difficult to get employment. They will find it difficult to find decent housing. They will find it difficult to vote. It is not a pretty picture, especially for those people who get entangled in the criminal justice system for “minor” offenses. For these people and millions of others, mass incarceration will remain one of the last remaining great disqualifiers. We need to ask some questions…

Is there something sinister at work that is designed to ensnare certain group of people into the web of the criminal justice system?

Is there a secret “system” in place to create a permanent underclass based on mass incarceration?

Is mass incarceration another disqualifier on the same level as credit mismanagement, a lack of education, and denial of voting rights?

 

We need to find answers. What do you think is the cause of mass incarceration: the last remaining great disqualifier?

 

This is a follow-up to my original posts:

Credit: One of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers

Education: Another One of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers

Voting Rights: Yet Another One of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers

 

Voting Rights: Yet Another One of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers

Voting: Yet Another One of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers

Vote

There are still a few barriers that tend to disqualify certain groups of people from participating in our democracy. Restrictions to voting and voting rights are one of these remaining great disqualifiers that negatively affect far too many people. The interesting part of this issue is the fact that voting rights are established for all citizens as a birthright. The only restriction that should prevent American citizens from voting is age, and once that barrier is passed the right to vote should no longer be an issue. However, even though it is 2016,  the fundamental right to vote is still not guaranteed for all American citizens. It is one of the remaining great disqualifiers.

To effectively make the point that voting has always been a disqualifier, we must look back through the course of our history. When our nation was founded, voting was an exercise that only white male wealthy landowners could do. Over time, voting rights were gradually extended to other segments of the population thanks to adding amendment after amendment to the US Constitution. Take a look at the timeline that nearly ended voting as a remaining great disqualifier. Then think about the continuation of the discrimination that remained despite of the amendments created to prevent it…

  • Fifteenth Amendment (15th) 1870: non-white males, regardless of property ownership received right to vote
  • Nineteenth Amendment (19th) 1920: women received right to vote
  • Twenty-fourth Amendment (24th) 1964: ended poll tax as a disqualifier from voting
  • Twenty-sixth Amendment (26th) 1971: reduced voting age to 18

Despite the ratification of these amendments, major pockets of resistance to voting rights remained. These included denying the rights of freed male black former slaves from voting, even though the 15th Amendment allowed it. Females of all races could not until after the 19th Amendment allowed women to vote. Poll taxes, which were a pay-to-vote scheme, prevented many people from voting until the 24th Amendment made the practice illegal. Finally, the age barrier was reduced by the 26th Amendment, thanks in large part to opposition to the Vietnam War.

One must ask why these pockets of resistance to voting, otherwise known as remaining great disqualifiers, existed even after laws were put in place to abolish them. Something more sinister was taking place, and history has a way of documenting injustices for the record. At various parts of our history, the following groups of people were not allowed to vote: women, poor white men, slaves and free blacks, Native Americans, and in some cities, Jews and even Catholics. It would take two sweeping pieces of legislation to “end” voting inequalities: the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Both of these laws included various parts which, in theory, should have ended all forms of voting discrimination.

After the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed, we must ask ourselves why court cases and laws created by individual states still to this day challenge the voting rights of so many groups of people. The door that closed on voting inequalities in the 1960s was opened by the Supreme Court in 2013 when it struck down a part of the Voting Rights Act. The Court determined that many of the safeguards put in place to protect voting rights for African Americans in the South were outdated and unnecessary. You would think that would be the case in 2013. However, soon after this ruling several states in the South and others controlled by Republican legislatures enacted laws that make it more difficult for some people to vote in 2016!

In 2016, many people face barriers such as reduced early voting times, new ID laws, and stricter registration dates and rules. Voting is still one of the remaining great disqualifiers. The recent headlines from the past week prove this is true. The good news is courts around the country are knocking down laws that put unreasonable restrictions on voting. For example, on July 29, 2016 a federal court struck down a North Carolina Law that included strict identification guidelines for voting. Other states, such as Texas, Ohio, and Wisconsin have similar laws that are currently being litigated.

As we complete this brief examination of voting in America, we must ask again why so many restrictions have been placed on the voting rights of so many people. The truth is that some people simply do not want others in our society to vote. This crosses over issues of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, economic status, and political affiliation. Therefore, the only way to finally end challenges to voting is to adopt common-sense measures that can be applied equally and fairly for all American citizens. The following list is a good start:

  • Create a national voter ID, offered free of charge, that could also be used in state and local elections for identification.
  • Distribute free voter IDs at driver’s license centers as an option for those who cannot obtain a driver’s license for various reasons
  • Switch the national voting day to a Saturday so less people would have to make arrangements to get off work to vote, or keep Election day on Tuesday, and allow all workers to have two hours of paid time to vote.
  • Allow national early voting days to be uniform in all states.
  • Give voter registration cards to all high school graduates  so they can start the registration process immediately.
  • Develop a better system similar to airline screening that eliminates voting fraud.

These are only some ideas that may be developed in the future. For now, we have to rely on the court systems, as well as our elected officials, and everyday citizens to help ensure the voting rights of all Americans. Hopefully someday soon, this will be  this will no longer be an issue for any American citizen over the age of 18.Voting has been one of the remaining great disqualifiers for far too long.

This is a follow-up to my original posts:

Credit: One of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers

Education: Another One of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers.

Be on the lookout for my next post… Mass Incarceration: Maybe the Last of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers

Education: Another One of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers

Knowledge is Power

Education: Another One of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers

In the Unites States, we have an antiquated education system. It is another great disqualifier for far too many students. Our current system is still based on the outdated calendar cycle of when crops were planted and harvested. This is because in the past children were needed to harvest crops alongside their parents. The school calendar was created with this in mind. Children would be available to plant crops in the late summer months, and then be available again at the beginning of the next summer to harvest them. As a result, generally speaking the school calendar starts in September and ends in June. Today, although there are plenty of farmers who may still benefit from this setup, the overwhelming majority of American parents do not require their kids to harvest crops. It takes away from the time some students need just to avoid being disqualified because of their lack of a quality education.

In theory, American children could go to school for an extra month during the summer, or the school calendar could be adjusted throughout the year to allow for an extra month for education. Adding an extra month to the school calendar seems like a radical idea because we have all been conditioned to accept the current setup. However, when we look at the steady decline of our educational system as a whole, most people agree that something must be done. Studies show American students are slowly falling behind their counterparts in other countries around the world. This can be traced to the amount of time spent in the classroom. Some countries like Japan require their students to attend school longer than we do in our country. The result is the students in these countries outpace American students in various educational disciplines.

When we look closer at the demographic studies about the American education system, we see that rural and suburban schools generally have better results than urban and inner-city schools. This is called the education (or achievement) gap. Think about it, students who are in urban and inner-city schools are more likely to be behind their counterparts in rural and suburban schools. Because the world is now a global marketplace, this means urban and inner-city schools produce students who are even farther behind their counterparts in many foreign countries. This disparity becomes another great disqualifier, both at home, and in competition against students around the world.

For the sake of analysis, we want to focus on the education gap that exists in America and how it becomes a great disqualifier. If you go to an overcrowded school with limited resources and funding, you are at an educational disadvantage. If you go to a lower-rated school with underachieving students and teachers, you are at an educational disadvantage. If you go to an underperforming school with discipline and behavioral issues, you are at an educational disadvantage. The amazing thing about all of these situations is that many students overcome these challenges. However, far too many students do not. They are disqualified because of their lack of a quality education.

Now let’s look at higher education. Competition for slots at colleges and universities across the nation is fierce. The difference between getting accepted and getting passed over still boils down to academic performance. If a student from an urban or inner-city school does not perform as well as their suburban counterparts, the probability increases that they will be left behind when it is time to apply for college. The inferior education disadvantaged students receive can disqualify them for college, or at least hinder their chances to go to an elite school. Their education also hampers their ability to keep pace should they get accepted into a college or university. Once, again, education can serve as a disqualifier for these students.

We, not government leaders, educators, or school officials must ask why we allow our educational system to disqualify so many students. It is up to the people, not the school bureaucracy or elected officials to ask these questions and start to find solutions. While I am on a roll, I believe we must ask the following questions about the education most of our children receive…

Why was home economics taken out of the curriculum?

Why isn’t a mandatory personal finance and credit course taught in every high school?

Why are schools taking the arts and music out of their course electives?

Why do we make kids take higher level mathematics when few of us ever use those concepts in real life?

Why don’t we add civics back into the curriculum for all students so they can understand how government SHOULD work?

As a final thought, at no point in this post did I mention race. For those who see race in everything, you can rest assured that this is more about education as a disqualifier based on class, not race. Poor people who are educationally disadvantaged come in all colors and ethnicities. Therefore, they are all in the same boat. When they realize this, I think they can come together and influence change. Maybe this change will be at the ballot box. Perhaps it will occur at the PTA meeting. Either way, top-down solutions from our government and educational leaders have not helped enough.I believe that the change our educational system needs will have to come from the bottom-up; parents and students must lead the charge.

Education should not be another one of the remaining great disqualifiers…

 

 

This is a follow-up to my original post: Credit: One of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers

 

Be on the lookout for my next post… Voting Rights: Yet Another One of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers