Reclaiming Our Way promoting the well-being of African American children & families


Child Watch® Column: “The Racial Divide: Will It Widen or Close?”

In her August 31, 2012 Child Watch Column, published by the Children's Defense Fund, Marian Wright Edelman discusses the critical importance of history in understanding present-day trends related to racial disparities and the harsh challenges confronting African American and Latino children. In this column, Edelman reflects on a recent message shared by Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad (scholar, historian and the director of the New York Public Library's renowned Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture) with 1800 young leaders in June.

A few paragraph excerpts follow.  Click here to read Marian Wright Edelman's full column.




 When Dr. Khalil Muhammad speaks people listen. He is a scholar, historian, and the director of the New York Public Library’s renowned Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Dr. Muhammad knows a lot about the importance of being mindful of learning from history. When he spoke about equality of opportunity to 1800 young leaders at a Children’s Defense Fund’s Haley Farm leadership training session in June, he explained that our nation is testing the old saying “those who can’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”


He said: “Because of individual Black achievement, some today believe that we have finally reached the promised land of a colorblind equal opportunity America, and yet—and here’s the history lesson—this is the not the first time we’ve been to the mountaintop. Five generations ago many Americans believed that the heavy lifting of building racial democracy had been completed. What better proof, they claimed, than the election of more than a dozen African Americans to the United States Congress? From the 1870s through the turn of the 20th century 14 Black men served in the U.S. House of Representatives and two Black men served in the U.S. Senate. Undeniably these were historic times, watershed events and moments for great optimism.”


So many of the formidable threats millions of poor children of all races, but especially Black children, face today are actually dangerous steps backwards. The Cradle to Prison Pipeline™ which places one in three Black boys (and one in six Latino boys) born in 2001 at risk of imprisonment. Mass incarceration of people of color – especially Black males. “Stop and frisk” racial profiling in policing. Huge racial disparities in often harsh arbitrary zero tolerance school discipline policies that deny countless children of essential education and push them into the criminal justice system. Massive attacks on voting rights with new identification—“show your papers” or get new papers policies—and cost burden (“poll tax”) requirements which especially impact the poor, minority groups, the elderly, the disabled, and the young. Resegregating and substandard schools denying millions of poor Black and Latino children skills they will need to work in our increasingly competitive globalized economy. Each and all of these are siren calls for attentive action.


Again, you can click here to read Marian Wright Edelman's entire column.

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