Saturday, April 5, 2008

Conni (Butler) Blanks (4/5/41 - 10/1/05)

Today would have been my mother's 67th birthday.

It has been over two years since she died, and I have come to terms with her death as best as I can imagine I will ever be able to.

Coming from a much older family than most, I have seen a lot of death in my extended family since I was very young. So, death of a loved one was nothing new to me. But nothing really prepares you for the loss of a parent -- even when it is somewhat "expected," as it was with my mother.

That said, in an odd way, I am a much happier person now than I was when she was alive.

By no means am I happy that my mother died. It would be disingenuous, however, to say that her death has not led to me being a happier person.

It has nothing to do with my mother herself or my relationship with her. (Since I developed into an adult, our relationship was good -- although far from ideal.) Rather, going through the emotional pain of her death granted me perspective not unlike an epiphany.

For the purposes of sharing this with the world, I wish I could provide concrete examples of how my life is better now as a result, but I really can't. It basically boils down to taking more in stride, not letting petty things affect me, and getting my priorities straight in my personal life.

Some friends have called this personal change "maturity"; others have called it "wisdom." I suppose they are both right, to some degree, but I don't think either term really encompasses such a change in my outlook.

From an personal perspective, I am less serious than I was before she died -- somewhat undercutting the "mature" comments. Furthermore, some of my decisions that I have made -- particularly recently -- have not been "wise" in the sense I would advise others to imitate them. If anything, I have been more likely to shirk conventional wisdom in my own life -- and somehow I'm happy about it.

Of course, I dearly miss my mother. I wish she wasn't alone when she died and that I could have been she would have let me be there for her. I don't physically reach for the phone when I want to ask her a question, but the thought still crosses my mind. I wish she would have been able to see me finally graduate from college and make it out to D.C. to work at a place I love. I wish she could have seen me published in non-school newspapers and magazines. I wish she could have seen me happy...which I don't think she ever got to see.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Kravitz on Crean


Airing Our Dirty Laundry

Those of us who speak openly about the problems acutely affecting blacks in the U.S. often find ourselves in a Catch-22: If we speak to a diverse audience, or at least one that can be reported by the media to a white audience, we catch hell because whites will get the idea that the stereotypes are true and thus their prejudice is justified. If we say things privately, albeit secluded in an otherwise public setting, apologies have to be made too:

[Marvin] Arrington, who is African-American, is a judge in Fulton County, Georgia, which includes the city of Atlanta.

He said he got fed up seeing a parade of young black defendants shuffle into his courtroom and decided to address them one day last week -- out of the earshot of white lawyers.

"I came out and saw the defendants, and it was about 99.9 percent Afro-Americans," Arrington told CNN affiliate WSB-TV of Atlanta, "and at some point in time, I excused some lawyers -- most of them white -- and said to the young people in here, 'What in the world are you doing with your lives?'"

The judge thought his message would make a greater impact if he delivered it to a black-only audience, he said.
Comedian Chris Rock, known for his pull-no-punches attitude on the state of the black underclass, has been notably toning it down to his diverse audiences. People question whether Dave Chappelle's show on Comedy Central was brilliant or explicitly racist -- including Chappelle himself. And, as I alluded to above, there was the whole Bill Cosby fiasco.

On the other side, you have famous black people who rarely or never speak on black issues at all -- or at least not in categorical racial terms: Tiger Woods, Condi Rice, Derek Jeter, and Oprah Winfrey, to name a few.

Damned if we do, damned if we don't.

I don't know what to make of what Judge Arrington did. While I am certainly sympathetic to what he tried to do, it isn't really in the prerogative of a jurist to use official time for a wake-up call for black people.

But then again, who else was going to say it?

Monday, March 31, 2008

Whut's Deeversahtee?

So, the results are in: my high school is still poor and undereducated.

Percent of students on free lunch: 53.
Diversity: 60 white; 472 black; 5 Asian; 12 Hispanic.
SAT scores: 394 math; 401 verbal; 398 writing.

Let's look around the rest of my old district, shall we?

New Haven:
Percent of students on free lunch: 19.
Diversity: 822 white; 57 black; 14 Asian; 62 Hispanic.
SAT scores: 498 math; 498 verbal; 476 writing.

Percent of students on free lunch: 15.
Diversity: 763 white; 65 black; 0 Asian; 20 Hispanic.
SAT scores: 518 math; 491 verbal; 474 writing.

Percent of students on free lunch: 13.
Diversity: 680 white; 8 black; 1 Asian; 7 Hispanic.
SAT scores: 498 math; 484 verbal; 472 writing.

Percent of students on free lunch: 4.
Diversity: 1154 white; 4 black; 7 Asian; 5 Hispanic.
SAT scores: 530 math; 538 verbal; 505 writing.

I've hung around too many economists to start making too many assertions about this and that based on these general numbers.

But c'mon now. While my high school may not be able to, just do the math.

The good news is, we won State in football and made it to State Finals in basketball! (Because that's what's really important.)

I think I'm going to be sick.