Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Today in class someone used the word "discombobulated" in a sentence. It's officially my new favorite word, and I'm about to use it in a sentence too...

Right now I am sitting in my stupid Political Science class. One of my favorite things in the world is to sit in a two and half hour lecture class and be forced to listen to a self-absorbed professor ramble about their political opinions and whatever else comes to mind...

That was sarcasm. Duh. This particular professor is racist. Not KKK racist, but clearly an old, White dude who is just clueless, and will never understand how racist his white-bred brain is. Oh, and he is sexist, although I'm sure he would disagree. A few minutes ago he was talking about post-civil war blah blah blah... and he said "If you were a Black...blah blah blah." The rest isn't important. It bothers me when people refer to a Black person as "a Black," as if they aren't human or a person, but something else. I mean, I have never been referred to as "a White." No one has ever said to me, "You are a White." No, rather I am a "White person." I am a person who happens to be White. But a Black person is "a Black."

Little people used to be called midgets, and no one thought it was a problem, except for little people. They felt like the term "midget" made them sound like a non-human, a freak. The new and politically correct term is "little person," because they are people just like everyone else, just smaller. Some people might think this change in terminology is stupid and making a big deal out of nothing. I think it's awesome.

I wouldn't refer to an Asian person as "an Asian. period." Use that in a sentence and see if it feels normal. Not so much. So why is it still okay to refer to a Black person as "a Black?" It's not, at least not to me.

Maybe someone would think this issue was incredibly trivial, but I don't think it is. Not when it stops me dead in my tracks when I read it or hear it. The whole thing is crazy to me, so unchecked and unquestioned. I am so... discombobulated :/

Republican presidential candidates in 2008. Notice anything similar about them?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Your Life Is A Story...

...Once you realize that, you will realize that you can change it.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


I have always considered myself a Christian, but that title does not come close to describing my faith, nor does it reveal the truth about my lack of faith. I am very honest about the fact that the biggest reason I am a Christian is because I was raised that way. And I absolutely believe that we all have souls, and I cannot fathom the idea that this was all a coincidence and that there is nothing left of us after we die. I feel very strongly that there is something greater than ourselves and that there simply has to be an afterlife. Basically, I could write a hundred blogs about religion, and I just might, but right now there is something particular about my "religion" that is bothering me, so I'll just get to the point...

God is a man, right? He, with a capital H, is a man. Well, I have a problem with that. I mean, how is that supposed to make me feel? I'm a woman, but God is a man, and I'm still supposed to feel like I'm equal to a man? And men are supposed to view us as equals when they believe that our creator, the alpha and the omega, yata yata yata is a man, just like them, and not a woman, like me. And it's not just God. Jesus was a man, and so was Muhammad and Buddha, et cetera, et cetera. The Bible is full of leading men, to which women are simply supporting characters. Adam was created first, and THEN Eve. But, of course, Eve was the first to sin. Playing devil's advocate, doesn't the idea of God as a man sound like the best idea the patriarchy's ever had? In a world where virtually every creator and center of faith and worship is male, the inevitable byproduct is sexism and rule by the patriarchy. And that's exactly what happened. We are still so far from equality between the sexes that it's ridiculous. 
The earliest modern humans worshipped women, and their main reason for doing this was the fact that from women came new life. They were ignorant to the fact that men also played a part. So, for this precious moment in time, women were on top. And, I mean, if you think about it, it's pretty amazing, and it's no wonder that men were so fascinated by women. But it didn't take them long to figure out how that baby got in there, and everything changed. 
So, I am refusing to believe that God is a man. My best guess is that God isn't really human-like at all, but something we simply cannot fathom. Of course humans claimed that they were created in the image of God, humans would be that arrogant. And it's understandable to want to feel like God is something normal, familiar, with a kind, human face. And I acknowledge with disdain that the Bible is pretty sexist. Does this mean I can't be a Christian? Nope. It's just one more thing to add to the list of things within the Christian faith that I don't go along with, and it's one of the things I will continue to struggle with.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Separate And Unequal: Institutional Racism in the Public Education System

  1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others.
  2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
  3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.

  1. an organization, establishment, foundation, society, or government devoted to the promotion of a particular cause or program.
  2. a well-established and structured pattern of behavior or of relationships that is accepted as a fundamental part of a culture, such as marriage.
  3. any familiar, long-established person, thing, or practice; fixture.

institutional racism
  1. Describes societal patterns that have the net effect of imposing oppressive or otherwise negative conditions against identifiable groups on the basis of race or ethnicity. Historical examples of institutional racism include slavery, the genocide and removal of Native Americans, Jim Crow Laws, and segregation. Contemporary examples include racial profiling, disparate incarceration rates, and the public education system.

the beating of Rodney King

In 1991, a man named Jonathan Kozol wrote a book called Savage Inequalities. After traveling to schools across the country for two years, Kozol became frustrated with the inequalities and disparities he saw in public schools in the United States. While many schools flourished with abundance, others, often only across town, struggled with overcrowding, decrepit buildings, poor sanitation, and a shortage of teachers and textbooks. In his travels, Kozol found time and again that the schools that were struggling were in poor, urban communities and the well-off schools were found in mostly White, middle to upper class communities. He argued that through these blatant disparities racial segregation was still alive and well. 

Racial segregation is a form of institutional racism, one that many believe is a mistake of the past, long done away with. But racism through institutional establishments is very much alive, and can be easily found in the savage inequalities of the public education system. 

Jonathan Kozol

The establishment of public education was a great milestone for the United States. The idea was one of American tradition. A public education system meant equal opportunity and the freedom for all American children to be given a fighting chance in the world. The public education system is supposed to be the ultimate equalizer. Instead, it sets a trend for a life of inequalities and sends the strong message to our children that equality is a falsehood. Children in the most desperate need of opportunity are told that while we may all be created equal, we are not treated equal. 

In 2005, Kozol wrote The Shame of the Nation. He had hoped that after nearly fifteen years things would have improved. Instead, he found that things were just as bad, if not worse. 

"One of the most disheartening experiences for those who grew up in the years Martin Luther King and Thurgood Marshall were alive is to visit public schools today that bear their names...and to find how many of these schools are bastions of contemporary segregation." -Kozol, 2005

Also in 2005, the Education Trust published a report concerning the funding of schools in the United States, using calculations based on the U.S. Department of Education's school district revenue data. The report was called "The Funding Gap 2005," and it concluded that there is blatant inequalities in funding per child between communities within the same state. They found that less money was spent on children from areas with high concentrations of poor and minority families and that more money was spent on children from White, affluent communities.

inner-city Chicago


"In other words, we take children who have less to begin with and give them less in school too. In the nation as a whole, we spend approximately $900 less per year on each student in the school districts with the most poor students than we do in the school districts with the fewest poor students, a gap effectively unchanged over the six years that the Education Trust has examined state and local funding for education." - The Funding Gap 2005

In some states the disparities are frightening. In 2003, Illinois spent $2,065 more per child from the lowest poverty districts than children in the highest poverty districts, and spent $1,154 more per child from low minority districts than children from high minority districts.

And while a $900 national funding gap per child may seem small, that number adds up when talking in terms of classrooms and entire schools. The state of New York spends $2,419 more per child in predominantly White districts than in minority-high districts, and $2,930 more per child in the highest-income district than the lowest-income district. In a classroom of 25, that's a difference of $57,000. That means that a classroom in the poorest school district of New York is given $57,000 less per year than a school in the district with the wealthiest families. Between two elementary schools with only 400 students that's a funding gap of $912,000. Between two typical high schools of 1,500 students that's a difference of $3,420,000.

"The U.S. public school system is still rigged in favor of students from richer, Whiter districts...the United States remains the only major developed country in the world that exhibits this shameful pattern of educational inequity." -Michael Rebell, executive director of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity

The cause of the funding problem is where the money is coming from. Local governments provide an average of 48% of the budget, with the state contributing about 45%, leaving the federal government with the remaining 7%. Funding for education comes from property taxes. People pay a percentage of property tax based on their property's worth, and of course those who do not own property don't pay property tax. So naturally districts with more valuable property and wealthy property owners have more money to spend. The richer the kids' parents, the richer their schools, and the poorer the kids' parents, the poorer their schools. It is a system designed so that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Other countries, like Canada and Japan, had the foresight to stop this problem and fund schools entirely from federal funds. Federal funding is the only way to guarantee that each child is the given the same amount of money for their education, and thus the same chance at success through education. The quality of a child's education should not depend on where that child lives or how much money that child's parents make.

According to the 2000 Program for International Students Assessment, the United States ranks 15th in Reading Literacy worldwide, 14th in Science worldwide, and 19th in Math, trailing behind Korea, the Czech Republic, and Liechtenstein (yes, that's a country).

From this we can each draw our own conclusions. 

On September 3, 2008 over 1,000 Chicago public school students skipped the first day of school to protest unequal funding in the public education system. Said one student,"It's on us kids. If we don't, we'll be on the bottom."

My Story

I graduated from Central High School in Harrison, Tennessee in 2005. My mother taught there and coached cheerleading when I was a child. I remembered the school being a typical high school, with the vast majority of the students being White. Soon after my mother moved to a new school, the city opened a large landfill in the area where I lived and went to school. My family and I moved soon after, and the property values of Harrison and the Highway 58 area of Chattanooga plummeted. 

After my parents divorce, my mother moved back to Harrison, and my sister and I ended up going to Central High. But it wasn't the school I remembered. The year before I started the county decided to integrate a predominantly Black school, Tyner Academy, with Central, a predominantly White school. Racial tension and self-segregation were more than apparent, but what was also apparent was the deteriorating state of the building and the falling reputation the school once prided itself on. There were those who blamed the arrival of the Black students, and then there were those who knew better. 

I grew up in Harrison, and I have traveled up and down the highway that runs through it thousands of times. When I was a child the area was mostly White and middle class. Since then property values have fallen drastically and the area is now home to a large number of minorities, mostly Black. Not surprisingly, I heard plenty of White people complain about the changes happening and conveniently blamed everything on our new Black neighbors. The truth was their complaints would have better served their children had they gone to the source of the problem, our School Board, who no longer cared about Central High School.

Central High's biggest rival was Ooltewah High, a school not far away. Luckily for them, big, suburban developments began springing up everywhere around the school, and with them came White people with some money. Despite annual county-wide  budget cuts, Ooltewah managed to renovate their school and build new, state of the art buildings, including a new gym that looked like a fancy movie theatre. Their school band was lucky enough to travel and even had their own tour buses.

Meanwhile, at Central, the smells of sewage from failing pipes filled our school on a daily basis. Windows and brick walls outside would be crushed by trespassers and wouldn't be fixed for a year. The gym had poor ventilation and no air conditioning. The heat and air almost never worked inside. Trailers lined the back of the school, a cheap and quick fix for overcrowding. On rainy days, we suffered from leaks so bad we had to abandon some classrooms. It was commonplace to be hit on the head by a piece of ceiling falling from above. Never would you find a government building, like a courthouse, capitol building, or city hall in the state our school building was in. Every year we send our children to schools in deplorable and hazardous conditions, in structures that look more like abandoned buildings than schools.

The worst part was that we knew that they didn't really care about us. I might be White, but the school I went to was not. I saw first-hand how students from a school with large numbers of kids from low-income, minority families were treated by the very people who were supposed to be protecting them and giving them the opportunities they were promised. We weren't ignorant. We knew that we were the unwanted stepchild of the School Board. Right before our eyes they shortchanged us and gave what we needed and deserved to a school that already had so much. 

I was frustrated and angry, like many of my peers. Even after years had passed since I graduated, I still resented the injustices I witnessed. It should be said that, despite all of this, we were blessed with teachers who made certain that we received the best education they could give us, and we did. 

In my junior year of college I was blessed again with the opportunity to produce my own activist documentary. Inspired to expose the injustices of the local public education system, I made a twelve minute documentary called "Disturbing Inequalities," the title being a reference to Savage Inequalities. I made a piece of work that I was proud of and that allowed me to take the injustices that I and so many others had suffered and make them known. I hope to continue to raise awareness about this issue, and, more than anything, I hope to see these savage and disturbing inequalities put to an end.