Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

The Way Things Were. (Speaking of Education)

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

The Way Things Were. (Speaking of Education)

Article excerpt

The man in front of me at the United Airlines ticket counter is tall and blond. With his dark blazer, gray slacks and power-red tie, his entire being screams "alpha male," as does his body language. He fidgets, moving his weight from one foot to the other. He runs his hand through his hair. He turns to the left and to the fight and makes nervous chatter. At some point, he turns to his rear and offers one of those impatient smiles. "This line is a mess, isn't it," he offers. "I can't wait until we get back to normal. Weren't things wonderful the way they were. Now I can hardly remember normal travel."

I am sure that I mumbled some response to the man's friendly overture, but it wasn't much of a response. When he spoke of things "the way they were," a chill ran up my spine. It was almost as if he were accepting Sept. 10, 2001, as our ideal, economically, socially, culturally and politically. It was as if he would do anything to get back to "the way things were" before the awful attack of Sept. 11, the horrid terrorism that cost our nation more than 6,000 lives.

If my traveling colleague were to click his heels three times, what kind of world would he go back to? Would he go back to one where distributional differences were either accepted or rationalized as a "market" outcome? Back to a world where Black unemployment was double the White unemployment rate, with no federal focus on closing the gap? Back in the day, before 9-11, there was a struggle for economic justice, a struggle to close racial economic gaps, but that, perhaps, is a struggle my colleague could not see or understand. Would he like to go back to his previous state of unconsciousness?

Would he go back to a world where education was a political football, to be kicked around a playing field that will be level? Or, would he go back to a world where ignorance was the rule of the day, where Christians prided themselves on knowing so little about Muslims that one of our elected officials could talk about someone "with a diaper on his head." Once we were just who we were, the biggest, baddest, boldest and most invincible. Now, we are sorting through rubble to find the remains of our fellow citizens. I understand the sentiment to go back to being the biggest and baddest. But were we ever the most realistic?

On Sept. 10, 2001, we were an arrogant society plagued with problems. We had no national unity, with about half of the nation openly critical of a president who lost the popular vote and probably won the electoral vote because of his brother's shenanigans in Florida. …

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