In communities of color one of the most important cultural mores is respect. Aretha Franklin’s classic, Respect is an anthem for generations of Afro-Americans.
The female employer calls the cleaning lady, twenty years her senior, by her first name, the boss shouts to an employee and calls him, “eh you,” or “boy.” Do you cringe when you watch the Butterfly McQueen character in “Gone With the Wind”?
If you are a male of color how many times have you been stopped by police officers? In spite of your job title, the number of college degrees, you are treated as a felon.
How many times has a security guard trailed you in an upscale department store? Regardless of your income or the dollars you have spent in previous visits.
Mayor Bloomberg may take credit for the precipitous drop in crime, however, of the half million police “stop and frisks,” over 90% are people of color and only a few percent resulted in arrests.
A school system made up of children of color is led by Joel Klein, and, again, for people of color the lack of minority leadership is obvious. In the Charter School community, with the exception of Geoffrey Canada, the leadership is, once again, dominated by wealthy whites.
Klein has a new “partner,” Al Sharpton, he co-leads the Education Equality Project, Klein’s national movement. Clearly, the half millions in funds that Klein funneled to Sharpton had no impact upon his conversion .
The six years of the Bloomberg/Klein “Children’s First” program have been characterized by a total consolidation of power in the Tweed court house.
School closings, school creation, shared school space, principal selection, the bus route catastrophe, the reduction in gifted classes, and, above all, the total banishment of elected officials from schools.
The absence of respect.
As the reauthorization of mayoral control controversy heated up elected minority leadership appeared to be on the side lines; however, in the last few weeks an increasing number of minority leadership have moved to the fore.
At the March 20th Brooklyn Assembly School Governance Task Force meeting, attended by fourteen Assembly members, it was the Afro-American contingent that grilled the DOE representatives. The issues: the lack of responsiveness, the frustration of parents, the powerlessness of CECs: issues of respect.
At an April 26th Mayoral Control panel former Congressman Major Owens scorned the Al Sharpton/Joel Klein partnership, to applause from the audience, (“No one elected Al Sharpton, he doesn’t speak for our community, let him stick with police brutality.”) Inez Barron, an Assembly member representing East New York, and a retired principal from District 16 called for the legislature to allow mayoral control to sunset, and start over again.
The NY Post savaged Senate Leader Malcolm Smith over his Report on Mayoral Control. Elizabeth Benjamin, on her Daily News blog linked the Report, and, after the Mayor spanked Malcolm, he back pedaled rapidly …
Will the dis-respecting of the minority community result in a mayoral governance law that reflects the views of minority legislators and their constituents?
For the many New Yorkers who still find themselves confronted with the remnants of racism, Bloomberg and Klein stick in their craw and remind them of generations of marginalization.