(I wrote this post one year ago. Please see About East Saint Louis for more information.)
Today Vivian, one of the educational advocates...one of the white educational advocates, told me about a conversation she had with one of our students:
Jamal is a 4th-grade student that excels in reading and language arts and struggles in math. He keeps mostly to himself and I've frequently made it a game to try to get him to smile. He has several other siblings that go to the after-school center and often gets lots in his family since he talks so little. Jamal was getting especially frustrated with his homework and kept telling Vivian how hard his homework was. Vivian continued to encourage him to keep trying and Jamal quietly asked her, "Are white people just smarter than black people?"
Obviously, Vivian answered with a resounding "of course not!" among other things. I'm saddened that I live in a world where child could even think of a question like that. But from his perspective, how could he not? Jamal lives in a community where the white people have the good jobs and come to "help" the black people. Where race and class are intimately intertwined. Where he can only dream of a post-racial world. Where his future is seemingly sealed by his circumstances.
We have so far to go.