Now, the Policy Bridge organization, an African American advocacy Think Tank in Ohio which concentrates on issues surrounding Education and Public Policy, has just released a stunning new report about the Black youth achievement gap. Many of the criticisms offered by Cosby are rearing their ugly but truthful heads once again. But before we get to the Policy Bridge report, here is an interesting story to lead off with, from Mr. Bill Maxwell, a professor of Journalism at Stillman College, an HBCU in Alabama. His commentary is entitled "A Dream Lay Dying" and it hits right at the heart of what Cosby was trying to say and of some of the findings mentioned in the Policy Bridge report.
The 16 page Policy Bridge report, entitled "The Rap On Culture", looks at how Popular culture, particularly Rap culture, and the lack of guidance at home impacts low achieving African American students. The report goes beyond the old arguments about poverty being the primary factor for this problem and instead focuses on the role of Cultural conditions. The lack of family support and family structure also seems to play a role.
The Rap On Culture cites an Ohio Board of Education report that stated:
"Contrary to some beliefs, achievement gaps between Black or Hispanic students and White or Asian students cannot be completely explained by economic disadvantage".
I have never fully bought into the argument that being poor was a major excuse for the problem of underachievement for African American youth. I always believed that there were other factors, mainly cultural factors that were involved.
The anti-intellectual message of Rap culture...particularly the notion that being smart means not being "cool", "hood", or "thug" enough, has been a very serious problem for Black youth. Carrying books home from school when I was a youngster often meant that there was something wrong with your manhood. You were basically considered soft...a sissy. Today, the problem has gotten worse, because this message has been fully adopted by Rap culture and is also being accepted in the mainstream.
When I was a youngster, there was at least a sense of African American pride that was still alive in the Rap culture and beyond. That (for the most part) no longer appears to be the case, so todays Black youth are catching even more Hell. The peer pressure to behave like the Rap Minstrels on TV, in the music videos and in the songs themselves, is tremendous. The rap culture is like Poison to Black America, especially the youth.
The negative images from Rap culture are being internalized to a certain degree by urban youth, and folks like Bill Cosby were highlighting the product of that internalization.
The Rap On Culture leads off with the following:
The furor over radio talk-show host Don Imus’ slurs aimed at the Rutgers women’s basketball team sparked a national discussion of the racist and sexist language and imagery that pervade hip-hop and rap music and the urban culture. What seems to have been largely ignored in this debate are the anti-education messages that have led so many African-American youth away from the academic achievements exemplified by the talented Rutgers women. It’s interesting that this uproar over urban culture has erupted at a time when Congress prepares to debate whether to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act, which was enacted in 2002 to improve educational opportunity and accountability. In pushing his plan for education reform in 2001, President Bush spoke of the need to end the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” What if those “low expectations” not only refer to schools and teachers who fail to hold minority students to high standards of academic achievement, but also describe a devalued view of education in the black community itself? What if something about the culture enveloping black students, particularly those in low-income, urban environments, impedes academic progress?
Read the full text of "The Rap On Culture".
The Rap On Culture
Don Imus Under Fire
Don Imus Is Out at NBC and CBS: Now What About Us?
The Imus Distraction
The Return of the Minstrels
The Return of the Minstrels Part 2
An Interview With Juan Williams
Is Cosby Wrong?
The Black Minstrel Show Continues
Black Family Channel Folds