If you need proof that some elected officials give zero effs when it comes to the black community, look no further than Senator Marty Knollenberg. The republican official out of Michigan is currently under fire for his lackadaisical attitude toward racial disparities in education which was caught on tape late last week.
On Thursday, Sen. Knollenberg was confronted with data showing that most students in the state of Michigan who were struggling academically were students of color. To that, the senator responded:
“You mention why these schools districts fail, and you mention economically disadvantaged and non-white population are contributors to that. And we can’t fix that. We can’t make an African-American white. That’s just, it is what it is.”
So basically, if these kids were white they’d be performing better but since they’re not, who cares?
Knollenberg is partially right in that he can’t make black kids white and, therefore, make people actually give a damn. Unfortunately, his attitude that “it is what it is” suggests he thinks African American kids are somewhat academically inferior when the reality is if teachers didn’t dismiss black kids as hyperactive or less intelligent from the time they stepped foot in a classroom and actually gave them a chance to succeed the senator would be having a much different conversation right now. Black kids aren’t behind because they lack the ability to excel, they’re behind because teachers, administrators, and even members of Congress don’t care to see them succeed.
Of course Knollenberg is now trying to backtrack on his comments, telling WXYZ Detroit his remarks were taken out of context: “My passion is for improving education and making sure every single child gets a good education,” he said. “We should not have failing schools anywhere.”
But what we shouldn’t have and what we do have rarely add up in academia and race relations so while Knollenberg’s office gave this half-assed retraction the good old college try, the fact remains that we do have failing schools and failing students of color everywhere, and a great deal of that dilemma can be chalked up to plenty of administrators’ attitude that it is what it is