Portland observer. (Portland, Or.) 1970-current, May 01, 1996, Page 2, Image 2

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Editorial Articles Do Not Necessarily
Reflect Or Represent The Views O f
The JJartlanb © bseruer
/■ ft
ongressman Jesse Jack-
son, Jr., spoke recently
before the Communica­
tions Workers of America about
the rising inequality in our coun­
i |
In his presentation, former JaxFax
editor Jackson quoted from two ex­
cellent sources, H olly Sklar’s recent
book. Chaos or Community?, and a
remarkable speech given by Con­
gressman David Obey o f Wisconsin,
to theCenterfor National Policy. We
found the comments o f Jackson,
Obey, and Sklar very enlightening,
and worth reproducing here. Empha­
undercounts both poverty and unem­
sis added
Cong. Jackson: The American
“ The angry; shrinking middleclass
Dream—always an impossible dream
is misled into thinking that those
for m any-is both dying a slow death
lower on the economic ladder are
and, after [the] vote on the assault
pulling them down, when in reality
weapons, is being shot to death in
those on top are rising at the expense
cold blood by a reactionary Republi­
o f those below. People who should
can-controlled Congress. Our nation
be working together to transform the
isgrowing increasingly dividedalong
economic policies that are hurting
lines o f race, class, and gender. The
everyone are, instead, turning hate­
ruinous social and economic trends
fully on each other....
that we have been warned about in
"Instead o f full employment, the
the past—by Dr. King, the Kerner
United States has full prisons. It im­
Commission, and others-have in­
prisons Black men at a much higher
rate than South Africa did under apart­
As H olly Sklar points out in her
heid. The m ilitary budget continues
outstanding book. Chaos orCommu-
consuming resources at Cold War
nity: "W ealth is not trick ling down. It
levels, while programs to prevent
is flooding up. Real wages for work­
violence and invest in people, infra­
ers have plummeted-despite rising
structure, and the environment are
productivity. Many corporate exec­
sacrificed on the altar o f deficit re­
utives make more in a week than their
workers make in a year. Unemploy­
"T o realize community over cha­
ment is high whether the economy is
os we must revitalize democracy with
in recession or recovery .’ The War
plain talk about who really benefits
on Poverty' has given way to the
and who loses from government pol­
escalating war on the poor. Our ur­
icy. We need vigorous debate over
ban areas are in decline.
how to reshape policy in the public
“ Economic inequality is now so
interest—not the pseudo debate o f
extreme that the richest I % o f Amer­
false campaign promises, negative
ican families have nearly as much
political ads, and talk radio hate-
wealth as the entire bottom 95%.
More than a fifth o f all ch ild re n-
Cong. Jackson then referred to the
[and hall of all African American
speech that Rep. David Obey gave
children]—are living in poverty, in
before the Center for National Policy
this, the w orld's richest nation. That’s
recently. In that speech. Obey points
according to the government, which
out that “ increased profits result in
Economic Inequality:
The Greedy, Not The Needy
even greater increases in stock pric­
es. In the last 10 years, the Dow
Industrial Averagehasjumped200%.
the total value o f U.S. stocks has
jumped by $4.2 trillio n during that
period-$2 trillio n in just the last 3
siderably higher percentage today
“ The holdings o f those 500,000
families wasworth$2.5 trillion in 1983.
By 1989, it had risen to $5 trillion. To
pu, that into perspective, the holdings
of these families grew by almost three
times as much as the national debt
grew during that same period. You
wan, to talk about reducing the deficits
and debt, those 500,000 families could
have paid o ff the entire national debt,
not j us, its growth, and st i 11 have owned
10% more wealth than they did in
1983. And remember, that does not
include the increase in their wealth due
to the doubling o f the stock markets
since then!
"D uring that period, 61% o f the
growth in financial assets, such as
cash, stocks, bonds, and insurance
policies, went to the wealthiest one-
h a lf o f 1%. 28% wen, to the next
riches, 9.5%. The remaining 90% o f
the population got 11% o f that in­
crease-table scraps.
You do not find that pattern in
other countries. Wages for workers
in every other major industrial coun­
try have grown at the same time they
have declined here...
The portion o f wealth held by the
top l% intheU .S .has exploded from
22% in 1979 [right before the start o f
the Reagan/Bush Era] to about 42%
today. We used to think o f Great
Britain, with its castles and peerages,
as being the epitome o f a class-based
society. Today, we far surpass B rit­
ain in the disparity ofincome. That is
economically disastrous and morally
“ To gi ve you some perspective on
how much $4.2 trillio n is, i f you
distributed that amount on a per cap­
ita basis, it would amount to about
$65,000 for each fam i ly o f four in the
U.S. That would more than triple the
financial assets now held by a typical
middle-class American family....
“ Federal Reserve data shows that
in 1983, two-thirds o f all the individ­
ual wealth in this country was held by
the richest 10%. Ify o u exclude non-
financial assets, such as housing and
cars, the richest 10% held four-fifths
o f the financial assets o f the country,
leaving 20% to be shared with the
bottom 90% o f the population.
“ And the wealth o f that top 10%
was incredibly concentrated in the
hands o f the riches, I %. Over h a lf o f
Cong. Jackson then pointed out the
the financial assets o f the richest
resulting political trick: to divert atten­
10% are owned by the richest 1%.
tion away from this massive inequali-
And nearly 80% o f the assets o f the
ty-the greatest disparity in wealth o f
top I % are ow ned by the richest one-
any industrialized nation in the world-
h a lf o f 1%, about 500,000 families.
-they tell you that the problem is the
“ By 1989, the richest one-half o f
poor, people o f color, the immigrants,
1% increased their share o f the na­
and affirmative action. {JaxFax note,
tio n ’ s wealth from 24% in 1983 to
this is also, o f course, the economic
29% in 1989. And that is before the
context in which Dole & Gingrich
doublingofstock market values since
continue to oppose a living minimum
1989, which would take it to a con-
wage—to their shame.]
Civil Rights Journal
Educating Our Children: The Failure Of Integration
lt\ B | R M ( | PoW ELL JACKSON
s I travel around the coun-
7*^ try people often ask how
they can get involved and
do something about racial and
economic injustice. Often my
response is to get involved with
their public schools because
public schools are often the in­
tersection point between these
interconnected and troubling is­
sues which threaten to tear this
nation apart.
For African Americans education
has a historical importance. Slaves
were forbidden to learn to read or
write and even after slavery, educa­
tion was denied to many African
Americans. Some states, such as
Missouri, denied African Americans
the right to public education long
after slavery ended; others chose to
provide only in fe rio r education,
spendingmuch less per pupil, paying
black teachers much lower wages
and providing only used textbooks
and dilapidated buildings.
In spite o f,h is (or because o f this),
my African American ancestors cher­
ished education Indeed, education
and entertainment and sports were
the only way out o f the ghetto for
most African Americans.
Thus, it is not surprising that for
black Americans in the 1950’ s inte­
grating education was a top priority.
It was not that the lawyers, educators
and psychologists who led the battle
in the Brown vs. Board o f Education
decision believed that sitting next to
a white child would make a black
child smarter as Clarence Thomas
has been known to say. Rather, they
believed that i f black children had
access to the same educational set­
tings as whites and were able to at­
tend integrated schools that they
would develop relationships with
white children which might open new
doors for both sets o f children.
But the hopes and dreams o f those
who fought for integrated schools
have not really been realized for the
vast m ajority o f children o f color in
this country. Indeed, a recent article
in Time magazine pointed out that
after two decades o f progress toward
school integration, often by using
bussing, the separation o f black chil­
dren is fast approaching the per-bus-
sing levels o f the 1960’s. According
to that article, one-third ofblack pub­
lic school students in this nation at­
tend schools where the enrollment is
90-100% black, Hispanic, Native
American or Asian American. In the
nation’s Northeast h alf o f all black
students attend such schools.
Clearly, just attending an all-black
school is no, all bad. Some cities
have begun Afrocentric schools de­
signed to instill pride and self-es­
teem for African American children
and many o f these schools are suc­
ceeding. But the question o f how
African American and otherchildren
o f color learn to interact with Euro­
pean American children in our di­
verse nation cannot be easily ad­
dressed in an all-black school.
For many school systems there is
another question as well. In many
cities m idd le c lass wh ite fam i I ies have
moved out o f cities in order to avoid
having their children attend school
with children o f color. Unfortunate­
ly, the same is true o fb la c k middle
class families, some o f which are
moving to the suburbs. The families
left behind in,he cities are poor, most
often fam iliesofcolorm any ofwhom
face a dizzying array o f social prob­
lems from unemployment to health
problems, from lack o f parenting
skills to homelessness. With lower
tax dollars available, city school sys­
tems suffer crumbling buildings, bro­
ken bathrooms, fewer books and
materialsand little assistance in deal­
ing with the overwhelming problems
their students bring to school every
There are no easy solutions to the
problems ofeducation. Perhaps bus­
sing has no, alway s worked. Perhaps
court-ordered desegregation plans
have been unworkable. Perhaps inte­
gration has led to lower expectations
for students ofcolor by insensitive or
even hostile school systems.
But one thing is for sure. A ll chil­
dren in this nation, including m il­
lions ofchildren ofcolor, have a right
to a good education. They have a
right to expect that when they gradu­
ate they w ill be prepared for higher
education or for work. U ntil every
child in American reaches his or her
potential, we all suffer and our na­
tion's future is jeopardized.
Playing Politics With The Death Penalty
n 1
1 9
9 8
8 8
8 , , with
with an
an epldem-
ic of crime and violence
exploding across the
nation, George W alker Bush used
the case of a Black convict, Will­
ie Horton, who com mitted a vio­
lent crime after having been re­
leased on parole, to evoke imag­
es of Black men in particular and
people of color in general as a
menace to society.
It has become com m onplace
in A m erican p o litic s fo r those
se e kin g p u b lic o ffic e to use
scapegoating and dem agoguery
as expedients to w in and retain
p o s itio n s o f pow er. In recent
years, as the crim e wave has per­
sisted, the death penalty long
banned in the U nited States as
cruel and unusual punishment has
been resurrected in v irtu a lly e v­
ery state in the union It is now
p o litic a lly fashionable to play
p o litic s w ith the death penalty.
One m ight reca ll that W illia m
J e ffe rso n C lin to n , d u rin g his
1992 run for the W h ite H m , „
1992 run fo r the W hite House,
made a p o in t o f retu rn in g to A r ­
kansas to sign the death w arrant
o f a m en tally d e fic ie n t A fric a n
A m e rica n p ris o n e r to d em on ­
strate that he was tough on crim e
and fo r the death penalty.
In the 1995 race fo r G overnor
o f New Y o rk , George Pataki de­
feated M a rio C uom o in large
measure because o f his pledge to
restore the death penalty in that
state. In tim id a te d by the g fu w m g
c la m o r to b ring back the death
penalty, C uom o, who had con­
s is te n tly vetoed death p enalty
le g isla tio n d u rin g his tenure, at­
tem pted to m o d ify his p o s itio n to
suggest that the w ill o f the peo­
ple should p re va il. A p p a re n tly,
the sh ift in C uom o's p o sitio n was
no, enough to salvage his sag­
ging fortunes, as he wen, down to
defeat. Once in the E xecutive
M ansion, Pataki p ro m p tly kept
his pledge by singing into law a
B ill re -in s titu tin g the death pen­
„1 ..,
W ith his popularity slipping due
to the impact o f some o f the most
draconian budget cuts in the history
o f the State o f New York, Pataki
recently engaged in one o f the ugliest
displays o f demagoguery in memory
by once again playing politics with
the death penalty. On the heels ofthe
killing ofa police officer in the Bronx,
Pataki demanded that the Bronx Dis­
trict Attorney, Robert Johnson, who
happens to be African American, seek
the death penalty against the man
charged with the murder.
However, the New York State stat­
ute as drawn provides that a District
Attorney has up,o 120 days to decide
whether or not to seek the death
penalty . Therefore, the imposition o f
the death penalty is a, the discretion
of the District Attorney.
When the death penalty statute
was passed. D is tric t A tto rn e y
Johnson expressed his philosophical
opposition to the death penalty on
the grounds that it is discriminatory;
that Black people ofcolor are dispro­
portionately on death row in Am eri­
can society because o f racism in the
criminal justice system. Under pres­
sure from Pataki, however, Johnson
indicated that his opposition to the
death penalty was not absolute and
that he would make a decision on this
case within the time limits allowed
by the statute.
Not satisfied with Johnson’s an­
swer, Pataki, playing to the public,
arrogantly demanded that Johnson
declare that he would seek the death
penalty in this case byone o ’clock on
a given date or face removal from the
case by Executive Order. When the
deadline passed and Johnson refused
to buckle, Pataki removed Robert
Johnson, the democratically elected
District Attorney from the Bronx,
from the case.
No doubt Pataki was elated with
the outcome o f a drama that was
played ou, across the State o f New
York and in the national news media
for days.
p e r s p e c tiv e s
Just W hat Is History, Anyway?
e b s te r's Ninth New
College Edition says
t h a t , am o n g o th e r
things, “history is a chronolog­
ical record of significant events
(as affecting-a nation or insti­
tution) often including an ex­
planation of their causes.”
It is that last
little phrase
about “ causes"
that opens the
d oo r fo r so
much mischief,
and we are nev­
er so forcefully
reminded o f this as when we scan
the media headlines for the month
o f A pril: “ New National Standards
ForTeaching History Win Praise” ;
Educators Get One Right. Revi­
sionist History Standards” ; “ Don't
Know Much History? Then Drop
It From Curriculum.”
And those are just the reports
and opinions ofmedia pundits from
the syndicated columns and edito­
rial pages. The heated discourses
and contentious disputes that have
seared the pages o f the education
press and journals are something
else again. Those brave and stal­
wart warriors who man the barri­
cades guarding the citadels o f west­
ern civilization (ostensibly white)
have been enveloped in waves o f
joyous paroxysms-ever since get­
ting the news that there now is a
new and more 'acceptable’ “ Na­
tional Standard For Teaching
American And W orld History.”
Now, wait a minute before you
get on my case about using valu­
able space to note the most recent
intellectual ferments engaging the
| erudite education clans: The
Princeton-based National Associ­
ation ofScholars, U C L A ’s Nation­
al Center for History in the schools
and the Diane Ravitch-infiuenced
education wing o f New York Uni­
versity, etc.
I know very w ell that you
thought the most compelling edu­
cation issues around the nation
had to do with school funding,
teacher standards and a technolog­
ical curriculum that anticipates the
next century.
Well, that too. But what we ur­
gently need to be aware o f is that
when certain people star, to rub
their hands in glee, when they shout
“ we won one", then that is the time
for all your alarm bells to go off.
Like in the old chant “ the South
shall rise again” , the racists in edu­
cation who so vehemently oppose
“ multiculturism” - o r any other ap­
proach which suggests that A fri­
cans and African
Americans had an
important role in
w o rld h is to r y -
sense an opportu­
nity to return the
story o f civiliza­
tio n ’ to its old
purely anglo Saxon or Nordic for­
The Nazis got o ff to a good start
in that direction and, here in Amer­
ica, many o f that ilk seek to “ rise
again” , hiding behind a“ standards”
curtain. W earealltoofam iliarw ith
the flawed logic and manipulated
statistics o f “ The B ell C urve”
(Herrnstein & Murray) and that
vicious text treasured by the socio­
biologists and the extreme right
wing, “ Alien Nation” . W aiting in
the wings, we find all too many
rabid racists eager to succeed messrs
Jensen and Shockley on the “ Low-
Black-IQ” vaudeville circuit.
Never mind that famed biologist
and anthropologist, Stephen Jay
Gould, slew the ’ Race-and-IQ’
dragon with his important book,
“ The Mismeasure o f Man” ; never
mind that honest historians like
Martin Bernal (Black Athena) and
A li A. M azrui (The A fricans;
Annenberg/CPBproject)have thor­
oughly and competently proven the
Greeks and later historians to have
been quite right about the magni­
tude o f the African contribution to
would culture (later to be ignored).
It is tragic that many well-mean­
ing educationists are a llo w in g
themselves to be led down a
primorose path o f racism by those
who hide behind the “ standards”
curtain in an effort to black and
obfuscate the true nature o f
m ulticultu rism -tha t reveals the
true history o f the darker races
which was deliberately rewritten
and distorted by the ' real revision­
ists' in the latter half o f the 19th
century to justify slavery and colo­
nialism. History as a weapon!
Continued next week.
rölte (3Ltftor
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