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Expanding Our Discussions

The September 24 Post-Standard featured an article by Anna Clark headlined “Affordable clean water is a racial issue.” The headline stated “separate but equal” policies are still with us. The article went on to say that in Flint Michigan, where a switch in the water source caused alarming rises of lead in the water, the current population is 57% African American, which suggests, the 43% non-African American population is drinking the same water. Ms. Clark lumps together old lead pipe water systems, systems installed prior to northward migration of African Americans, real estate redlining, now illegal, and “white flight” to the suburbs as evidence of current racist policy. The article fails to mention that Flint’s loss of tax revenue, and difficulty updating infrastructure might be the result of the closing of GM’s Flint auto manufacturing plants and the initial loss of 30,000 jobs – jobs held by people of all skin tones.

I highly recommend Michael Moore’s 1989 “Roger and Me,” a film I viewed as part of my coursework for an MA in “Labor and Public Policy Studies.” I am an MA degree program dropout. In the mid-1980’s, X-country skiing and self-help groups displaced my anxious need to be graded for reading books and thinking about what I’d read. Of course, without that MA Degree, I couldn’t be recognized for knowing about the subject or maybe getting a job in that field. Higher education is said to be the ticket to a secure life. College confers some status. And, it is generally college educated, wealthier, ostensibly “liberal” folk who write about and talk about “white privilege.” Why am I writing about this? Not all “whites” are privileged. Not all “whites” are white. Not all “blacks” are 100% African American. Take President Obama. In our part of the universe, perhaps we all need to become better versed in the specifics, beside race, of the issues we all face.

We need to read more analysis. Amid my five free articles per month from The Boston Globe, was a September 18 open letter to Felicity Huffman written by Samuel Acevedo, the Director of the Boston Higher Education Resource Center, a private educational advocacy organization. Mr. Acevedo states Felicity Huffman needs to make amends, such as, Acevedo writes, “her asking, ‘Who did I wrong?’ and ‘How can I make this right for them?’ ” Acevedo writes, “The true victims of this crime …” —Huffman’s paying $15000 to a proctor to correct Huffman’s daughter’s SAT— “…are the thousands of students of color already facing nearly insurmountable hurdles in order to achieve, even without a national admissions scandal adding more obstacles and stealing already rare opportunities.”

Felicity Huffman was one of 33 parents who, from 2011-2019, paid a total $25 million to an “admissions consultant” who arranged services, such as extra SAT test time and test corrections, to improve their children’s chances for admission to elite schools including Ivy League schools. Samuel Acevedo’s website, and many studies, suggest that some students seeking college educations need extra help because they are not prepared.

This past May, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reported that overall college enrollment had declined for the eighth consecutive year. So, for current applicants who are prepared for college and have access to money, it seems there should be fewer obstacles and more opportunities. Of course, the quality of one’s primary and secondary education, one’s parental wealth, and, one’s chosen field of study affect applicant access to higher education at desirable schools, including some state schools. It is also true that some sought out institutions have used and may still use ethnic quotas, some of which are said to exclude qualified Asian students just as, in the past, quotas once limited the number of admissions for qualified Jewish applicants. And, even now, family based legacy programs improve access to elite schools by nearly five times the normal admissions rate. And, it wasn’t until the 1960’s that Ivy League schools admitted females. There are lots of us in the US who haven’t been quite as privileged in the big scheme of things as those living closer to the 1%er status.

People rally around single issue discourse because it is easier than learning about, addressing or challenging the multiple causes behind any or all socioeconomic outcomes in our multicultural, multifactorial worlds. Charging “racism” is a quick way to shut down discourse and silence ideological opponents. Racism existed. Racism exists. And, racism might not exist in some people who, today, live in an inherited world shaped by culture, social hierarchy, gender, ethnicity, old technology, no technology, new technology, race, and any and all combinations thereof. I’ve probably missed a few distributive categories.

So, what about I81?

Jamie Wallace