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Is Racism the Main Reason for Underperformance? August 4, 2006

Posted by C.A.R.D in African-American, Black, Card, Citizens Against Racism and Discrimination, Discrimination, Hispanic, Latino, Main, Mexican, minority, racial privilege, Racism, Reason, succeed, Underperformance, White.

Forty-five percent of America’s 5-year- olds are Black or Hispanic. By most economic, educational and social indicators, these two communities are not performing to standards that will keep America prosperous and at peace with itself.

American students generally face educational challenges, but there is every reason to specifically examine minority underperformance. Blacks and Hispanics are not succeeding in numbers great enough to keep America competitive. I am increasingly convinced the key to prosperity for black and Hispanic America lies mostly in their own hands and by their own efforts. The search for racial justice must be broadened to look inward.

Yes, racism and discrimination still exist. But are they the only reasons for minority underperformance? We are overdue for an honest dialogue on race and ethnicity, and white America must participate. We are all in the same geographic boat sharing the same great country.

How do we lovingly, yet honestly, diagnose the large economic, education and success gap between black/Hispanic America and white/Asian America? The problems of crime, educational failure, drugs, gangs, teenage pregnancy and unemployment that burden certain groups threaten our collective future.

We need to think about these problems with a new sophistication. Increasingly, scholars are saying “culture matters.” I’m impressed, for instance, that the highest family incomes in America are earned by minorities that have suffered discrimination. Japanese-Americans, Jews, Chinese-Americans and Korean-Americans all out-earn white Americans by substantial margins.

I suggest that those groups whose culture and values stress education, hard work and success are those groups that succeed in America – regardless of discrimination. I further suggest that, even if discrimination was removed, other groups would still have massive problems until they developed the traits that lead to success. Asian and Jewish children do twice as much homework as black and Hispanic students, and get grades twice as good. These are not racial differences; they are differences in attitude, values and work habits that are within our individual control.

In his book “The Americano Dream: How Latinos Can Achieve Success In Business And In Life,” Lionel Sosa – a leading Hispanic businessman – identified the main obstacles to Mexican-American upward mobility as cultural: specifically, “resignation of the poor to poverty, low priority of education, and mistrust of those outside the family.” He points out there is too often a cultural resignation to poverty for “to be poor is to deserve Heaven, to be rich is to deserve Hell … it is good to suffer in this life because in the next life you will find eternal reward.” This leads to a fatalism where “individual initiative,

achievement, self-reliance, ambition, aggressiveness – all these are useless in face of an attitude that says we must not challenge the will of God.”A similar dialogue is going on south of our border. For years, the dependency theory blamed all Latin America’s problems on the “Yankees.” But that is slowly changing. In “Guide to the Perfect Latin American Idiot,” three scholars point out that it is Latin American culture, not North America, which is holding back Latin America. They state, “In reality – except for cultural factors – nothing prevented Mexico from doing what Japan did when it almost totally displaced the United States’ production of television sets.”

A problem well-defined is a problem half-solved. We must recognize that all the civil rights and affirmative action laws in the world are not by themselves going to solve the problem of minority underachievement. We need an honest dialogue, by caring people, about minority underperformance, diversity and immigration.

From 1950 to 1990, we needed a great crusade to overcome the legacy of slavery and a culture corrupted by racism. It is still a fight not completely won. But the “victim” model puts all the burden and emphasis on the majority community. It often eclipses the need for minorities themselves to develop disciplines to take advantage of the new, less discriminatory climate. Today the total emphasis on “minorities as victims” is self-defeating. We need new models and new thinking which do not blame all problems on racism.

Bernard Lewis, a Middle East expert from Princeton University, makes a powerful point when he observes: “When people realize that things are going wrong in their lives, there are two big questions they can ask. One is, ‘What did we do wrong?’ and the other is ‘Who did this to us?’ The second question, although appropriate in the past, now leads to conspiracy theories and paranoia. The first question leads to another line of thinking: ‘How do we put it right?”‘ What wise words!

Source: Denver Post

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