Tales of Separatism

Two stories that appeared in the news recently have a lot in common. The first (from Eric Lindstrom) describes the furor over a white teacher being assigned to teach black history to black students.

NewsChannel5 reported that a scheduling conflict could cause the district to reassign the black teacher who has taught the course for seven years. A group of parents said they will fight a possible decision to allow a white teacher to lead classes in black history at Oberlin High School.

Phyllis Yarber Hogan, a member of the Oberlin Black Alliance for Progress, said a white teacher wouldn’t be well-suited to teaching students about subjects like slavery. “When you talk about slavery, students need to understand it is not our fault,” she said. “Our ancestors did nothing wrong to be enslaved. How do you work through that when the person teaching it is the same type of person who did the enslaving?

This adds to a long line of incidents that highlight theĀ hypersensitivity of many blacks on the issue of race.

In this case, the subtext is clear: On issues of slavery and segregation, the subject is no longer American History, but rather, Our History, and it should therefore be taught only by Us. The white teacher, being one of Them, must be banished from the classroom.

Indeed, beneath those remarks, one can almost feel the shame and blame on both sides echoing back through the generations: for the blacks, who feel the need to assure youngsters that it’s not their fault, and for the whites, who must temper their disagreement because, after all, their kind did the enslaving.

But I think there is, besides that last, damning quote from the article, a valid point to be made. As one commenter put it: With two equally qualified teachers, one black, one white, the black teacher should presumably have an edge because they have a greater understanding of “the nuances of the culture.”

Does it follow, then, that only Jewish teachers should be allowed to teach about the Holocaust? Native Americans to describe Manifest Destiny? Teachers with Arab blood to describe the Crusades? No, but here’s why: Single-ethnicity American schools for those races are rare. So when we examine those circumstances, we picture a white professor teaching about the Holocaust to a diverse class — a class in which case the students are much less likely to feel a collective inferiority. The situation changes when, for example, a white teacher is sent to teach Manifest Destiny to an all-Native-American class. In that case, the same furor would have erupted, and understandably so.

The lesson, I think, is that schools composed of a single ethnicity can amplify insecurities and protectionism, and that integration, wherever possible, should be the route taken to diffuse those concerns.

The second story comes by way of Court Schuett at Miniluv:

First public gay high school to open in NYC

The Harvey Milk High School will enroll about 100 students and open in a newly renovated building in the fall. It is named after San Francisco’s first openly gay city supervisor, who was assassinated in 1978.

“I think everybody feels that it’s a good idea because some of the kids who are gays and lesbians have been constantly harassed and beaten in other schools,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday. “It lets them get an education without having to worry.”

The Hetrick-Martin Institute’s Web site says the school will give its students “an opportunity to obtain a secondary education in a safe and supportive environment. … We believe that success requires the ability to respect and value the diverse human community.”

Maybe someone can explain how allowing gays to separate themselves teaches respect for “the diverse human community.”

It seems that many blacks and gays have given up on the task of integrating with mainstream America. While they continue to work at gaining positions of cultural influence (hip-hop music, gay-oriented sitcoms, etc.), there is a growing disdain for living and interacting with white or straight folk in everyday life. How else to square their statements of “We’re here, diversity is good, accept us,” with their actions of withdrawing into their own gay schools and historically black colleges?

In this case, it is no longer enough to root out (or enlighten) the individual offenders. Rather, groups who feel persecuted must band together and, with government help, secede from the mainstream.

These actions do not foster acceptance on either side. Instead, they foster a victim mentality in children, teaching them that they are, by their very nature, persecuted by society. Whenever slighted, they are told, the only recourse is to withdraw to their own kind and lick their psychological wounds in perpetuity.

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