When we hear about the importance of multicultural toys, it's often in the context of giving black girls dolls that look like them to support their healthy self-image. While this is no doubt important, I wonder why we don't do more to encourage white girls to play with diverse dolls, too.
Let me explain.
As a little girl, I was the ultimate Barbie fanatic. I had at least 20 dolls; a big pink, plastic home for them; several cars; multiple Kens; and all the family members and special editions. But my favorite playtime adventures involved Barbie and her friend Christie, who, like me, was black.
When I grew up I had an Uncle by the name of Bay Banks. He could sing and dance very well and talk as slick as ice in the shade of your driveway. Only problem was that he tended to do all of these things at the most inappropriate times.
He'd sing blues songs while my mom tried to talk to him about the Lord. He'd dance in the middle of traffic and talk slick to police officers or the neighborhood dope boys who wanted their money immediately or him in a hospital.
We loved Uncle Bay and he was great entertainment to us. As kids, it was hilarious to see a 40-year-old man dancing in the middle of the street in his underwear without any music, but it was awfully embarrassing to my mother. She simply wanted to hide this Jheri-curl wearing, hot-pistol toting, Soul Train-looking, 5-foot-9, 140-pound drunk distraction somewhere in the very back of our home.
As we approach May 17, the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education landmark decision outlawing "separate but equal" schools, several studies show that our schools are more segregated now than they were three decades ago. And there are no indications that things are likely to change for the better in the foreseeable future.
A report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) titled, "Brown v. Board at 60," concluded, "Today, things are getting worse. The typical black student now attends a school where only 29 percent of his or her fellow students are white, down from 36 percent in 1980."
Actually there were two Brown decisions. The first, in 1954, outlawed racially segregated public schools, which had been defended as "separate but equal." Faced with foot-dragging by intransigent school officials in the Deep South, the Supreme Court issued a second ruling in 1955, sometimes called Brown II, declaring that the schools had to be desegregated "with all deliberate speed."
In what should be considered standing logic on its end, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week that while public colleges have an interest in having a racially diverse student body, nonetheless, the racial majority of a state can vote to remove racial diversity as a goal. This is a radical and activist reinterpretation of the Constitution, since by strict construction, the 14th Amendment had been added to explicitly limit white majority action to deny full legal protection to the newly freed slaves and their descendants. The purpose was to limit majority rule from becoming mob rule, continuing a legacy of inequality.
Most disturbing, this ruling comes as our nation's need for success in having a diverse skilled workforce is increasing. The majority of babies born this year are children of color. A part of the reason our nation's middle class is seeing other countries incomes catch up to them is because the education advantage of Americans is shrinking. To keep pace, America must find ways to educate all its children.
Earlier this month, high school seniors received letters accepting or rejecting them from their dream schools. The selective institutions now receive thousands of applications for each available slot. The University of Michigan (the school at the heart of the Supreme Court case) received nearly 40,000 applicants and accepted about 16,000. Last year, the difference between the average SAT section score of the 2014 freshman class and those who were rejected was 672 compared to 642.
Clearly, many of those rejected differed little from those accepted; there are more qualified applicants than slots. So, the challenge for schools like Michigan is in putting together a class among virtually equal applicants.
Evidently it's the "list" time of year, and so far black girls are winning. On Tuesday, People magazine debuted its 50 Most Beautiful issue, starring none other than media (and fan) darling Lupita Nyong'o on the cover. Not to be outdone, Thursday morning, Time released its annual 100 Most Influential People issue, featuring singer Beyoncé on its cover. Nyong'o's issue went over pretty well (at least in my circles). Beyoncé's, though? Um ... not so much.
In her Time bio, 'Yoncé is lauded by "Lean In" author and Facebook honcho Sheryl Sandberg, who effusively praises the singer-actress-performer turned wife-mother-feminist. Sandberg makes a brief but solid argument that plays off Sandberg's lean-in catchphrase: "Beyoncé doesn't just sit at the table. She builds a better one."
Sandberg describes how Bey's last album – the self-titled audiovisual gem she dropped with zero notice or promotion last December – "shattered music industry rules and sales records." (That's not just fan hype. Beyoncé holds the record for fastest-selling album in iTunes history and has sold more than 3 million copies.) Sandberg goes on to mention Bey's sold-out world tour and notes the singer's (somewhat shaky) track record of raising "her voice both on- and offstage to urge women to be independent and lead." (Admittedly, she's getting better.)
Once again, the mother of a black teenage boy is crying that there won't be justice for her dead son. This time, it's because prosecutors have dropped charges against the white Little Rock, Ark., police officer who was set to go on trial next month on charges he shot and killed 15-year-old Bobby Moore III two years ago.
The state first brought charges after a police investigation showed that the officer's story didn't match the evidence at the scene of the shooting and that the use of deadly force was not justified.
Now prosecutors say that even though they still believe the officer is guilty of a homicide, it's apparent that a jury would never convict the officer. How can they be so sure? Because they've tried the case twice already. Both trials ended in hung juries. In the first, an all-white jury voted 10-2 for a conviction. In the second, a jury that included two African Americans voted 11-1 to acquit the officer.
The historic shift in marijuana policy happening around the United States and the world begs a couple of questions concerning African-Americans.
First, will this change in policy benefit or somehow hurt our community? Second, is no longer having the underground marijuana economy that has, like it or not, been a supplemental source for income for our young adults and the unemployed or underemployed good in the long run?
The drug war is more effective at continuing the disenfranchisement of the poor and people of color than it is at preventing drug use, and we argue about whether this was the intended goal in the first place: to reinforce racism. The results have been undeniably tragic for the African-American community no matter the intent.