Success should replace equality as a goal

September 28, 1997|By GREGORY KANE

PRESIDENT Bill Clinton returned to Little Rock, Ark.'s, Central High School Thursday and said all those feel-good things we have grown accustomed to hearing from liberals over the years.

"Forty years ago, [the Little Rock Nine] climbed these steps, passed through this door, and moved our nation. And for that we must thank them. It was Little Rock that made racial equality a driving obsession in my life. I want all these children here to look at these people. They persevered. They endured. And they prevailed. But it was at great cost to themselves."

Had Clinton left his comments at that, it might have been a good day. But then he went on to complain that students at Central High, 40 years later, segregate themselves in the cafeteria and at sporting events.

So what do we do about that, Mr. President? Initiate simultaneous "Take a Negro to Lunch" and "Take a Caucasian to Lunch" weeks? Don't answer that. I fear the response, knowing full well there exists a liberal dictum that says people freely associating with those they please is a truly evil and dangerous thing.

The president didn't get to the reason that students segregate themselves at Central. But the editors of the magazine U.S. News and World Report did. USNWR editors also commemorated the 40th anniversary of the integration of Central High, but did so by sending reporter Julian Barnes to the school to investigate why blacks and whites are still segregated at social events and in the classroom.

Barnes came away with more than just the platitudes that Mr. Racial Dialogue spouted. Segregation still exists within Central High, Barnes reported, and it's mostly in the classroom. White students predominate in the honors and advanced placement classes. Blacks dominate in the regular classes.

What do some blacks see as the reason for this? Do I really have to say it? Don't you know it already? Didn't you know it the minute you read the previous paragraph?

The R word: racism. What are black folks going to do when we don't have white people to kick around anymore? That's a rhetorical question. I don't really want to know the answer.

"Some black leaders," Barnes wrote, "believe that white parents consciously use honors classes to keep their children separated from blacks. John Walker, an attorney representing black schoolchildren in Little Rock since 1965, says the honors program system not only separates children but labels the white elite 'gifted' while implicitly suggesting the majority of blacks are stupid.

"If you tell children they are smart, and give them support,' argues Walker, 'that becomes prophecy. But this discourages blacks who are put predominately in dummy classes.'

"In some cases, however, it is black parents themselves who steer their children away from honors classes," Barnes continued, "or don't fight to keep them enrolled. Some consider the classes racist."

How about the world view of that Walker guy? Wouldn't it have been, well, different to hear the president mention, "Oh, by the way, John Walker is a damned fool." That didn't happen, because Walker was espousing classic liberal doctrine: Everybody's equal. There's no such entity as a superior anything. There are certainly no superior students who can and RTC should be challenged by honors and advanced placement courses. All students are equal. Parents enrolling their students in honors or advanced placement classes are elitist at best and racist at worst.

Using this logic, the Chicago Bulls shouldn't start Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman this basketball season. Everybody's equal. Let the scrubs start and play as many minutes as the three clearly superior superstars. We wouldn't want to imply that those guys riding the bench are less skilled. Heaven forfend.

Everybody's equal. Arkansas should allow as lawyers those who didn't pass the bar exam as well as those who did. That would certainly make Walker's job as an attorney more difficult, since he'd have more competition. But he needn't worry, since he believes there are no differences in abilities.

The president moaned about black and white students not joining hands and skipping gleefully around the cafeteria tables. John Walker moans that the dominance of whites in honors and advanced placement classes at Central implies black students are dummies, rather than admit that such is simply his own inference.

What both should have done is to state emphatically that black students should take honors and advanced placement courses since they have the ability to excel in them. They'll never know they can succeed until they take the classes.

Pub Date: 9/28/97

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