What do E.D. Hirsch’s books on Cultural Literacy, the commercials about nine-month-olds who can read, Harry Reid’s comments about President Obama and Pat Robertson’s admonishing of Haitians and Haiti have in common? They’re all about us, ignorant Americans, arrogant and all-assuming in our cultural norms. They all contain seeds of Whiteness, maybe even Whiteness as an assumed sense of right and wrong, of good and evil, of better intelligence, benevolence and wisdom. There may even be a touch of eugenics involved in all four, as if the White American way (which unfortunately is still one and the same) is the only right to speak and think in this world.
It’s amazing that we’re still dealing with the idea that there is only one path to intellectual development and growth in our society. This despite all of Howard Gardner’s work on multiple intelligences, and the work of so many others like Gardner. We still think that we should buy Mozart, Beethoven and Bach mp3’s, put them on our iPods, and put the headphones on the bellies of pregnant American citizens so that their children can be proficient third-grade readers before the age of five. We still believe that behaviors that promote individuality and unthinking critiques of everything are the best behaviors for our often lonely and uncritical thinking children to grow up with.
Hirsch was the main guru of a new movement of American intellectual development with his books on Cultural Literacy back in the ’80s. Now we have a series of commercials exploiting the worries of suburban and White parents with YourBabyCanRead.com. Nine-month-olds, two- year-olds and five-year-olds of the world unite in the unyielding quest to become voracious and critical readers, writers and thinkers. An all-consuming task in front of all other goals, like potty training, learning how to use a fork and a spoon, and learning how to listen to parents without whining or throwing a tantrum.
These commercials hearken back to the thinking of the first half of the twentieth century, to the wonderful world of the eugenics movement, in which scientists and pseudo-scientists sought to improve the intellectual and athletic skills of the human race — at least the “pure” and White part of it — by experimenting with those most pure. Or, more often, by experimenting (and ultimately, exterminating) those who were deemed much less pure or even dangerous to keep in the human gene pool. Blacks, Jews, gays, developmental disabled and mentally retarded all found themselves in the latter category. Most of the derogatory terms we use today as youth and adults — retard, moron, dull-minded, imbecile, even nerd — were spawned by leaders of eugenics and its off-shoots between roughly 1900 and the ’50s.
Now, I’m not arguing that a kid under the age of five can’t become a proficient reader. My older brother Darren — who learned to read without any assistance by the time he was three — is a case in point. But he didn’t do it through coaching, flash cards or Mozart. Heck, my mother — when she played music back then — would play Al Green, Diana Ross and the Supremes and The Temptations. So why the emphasis on classical music, coaching, flash cards and the pseudo-science of the baby brain here? Because it has been ingrained in the minds of most Americans — especially White Americans — that intelligence is a White thing. And in a world of increasing educational competition, that intelligence no longer has time to develop. What will Jill or Johnny do if they won’t be ready for a gifted and accelerated learning program in school by the time they’re seven years old? How will they ever get into Harvard, Yale or Princeton? How will they ever be ready to be a neuro-surgeon or a corporate lawyer?
Of course, the commercial shows one example of a kid whose interests included basketball and other sports, and not just literacy and mid-elementary level books, a nod to the need for physical stimulation (and indirectly, a nod to eugenics as well). But isn’t it interesting that not a single person in the YourBabyCanRead.com commercial was of color? Not one, not even a token one? As the late Art Rust, Jr. would say, that’s a bunch of poppycock and balderdash.
So too are the witticisms of Sen. Reid (D-NV) and televangelist Pat Robertson. Between “light-skinned Black,” “Negro dialect,” and two-century-long deals “with the devil,” we could just write the comments off as the bleating of stupid White guys. That’s far too easy. Because they were and are communicating and connecting mostly with other people like them — folks in powerful positions to influence our culture. Even though Sen. Reid didn’t mean his statement to be one for public consumption, it was meant for a private group of powerful people. And Robertson knew full well that his argument about a wrathful Old Testament God seeking vengeance on darker-skinned people who didn’t obey their masters (not to mention the Voodoo stereotype) would resonate well with his “White is Right” audience.
How does this make us ignorant? We assume that we’re the richest and most powerful country on Earth for two reasons. One, because we’re smart and hard-working individuals from mostly immigrant (and White) backgrounds, taking advantage of this nation’s resources. Or two, because we’re God-fearing Christians, faithful to the core, and because God blessed us with the bounty of this nation’s resources. That is to say, we’re good enough, we’re smart enough, and doggone it, God loves us. But apparently, not all of us, and certainly not folks who aren’t White and outside of the US. Our quest for a singular culture, for super-intelligence, for a world that only makes sense to a select and powerful few has left tens of millions of Americans as ignorant about the world as Americans would believe those in Port-au-Prince are these days. Except that with the ignorant and powerful people to their north, Haitians never were as ignorant as us.
Race bating, a bit? what’s ignorant is taking something that Senator Reid and Pat Robertson say and grouping “White” (which you capitalize throughout) America with them. Was this post about Haiti or the books you referenced. To me, the problem with “Black America” is African Americans play the race card every chance they get, especially when something doesn’t go in their favor, and are hypocrites when it comes to grouping by race. We all know if a white man wrote this completely opposite of you, he would be labeled a racist. There are definitely ignorant Americans, but they are both black and white.
Who cares what Senator Reid says. Has there not been derogatory comments, towards “Whites” from any African American role models, comedians, idols and/or figures? Oh wait, let me guess, that’s different, right?
Donald Earl Collins said:
Who’s race baiting? Whether you like it or not (I actually don’t care if you do or don’t), the issues I raised here were also ones raised in the public arena, and they happen to deal with issues of race, cultural paranoia, intelligence, and yes, willful ignorance manifested through arrogance. And yes, I capitalized the “W” in White, along with the “B” in Black (you might want to read the statements of organizations like the American Psychological Association and the Associated Press regarding consistency in referring to different ethnic groups).
There’s a difference between saying that there are ignorant Americans — White or Black — and saying that Blacks are intellectually inferior to Whites. So don’t twist the words up because you happen to be in a bad mood.
Let’s cut through the crap and say two things. One, there’s a post I did two weeks after this one, called “On Being An ‘Ignit’ American,” which refers to the deliberate ignorance of African Americans on issues involving race, sexual orientation, culture and education. I’m an equal opportunity asshole in this case. Two, believe it or not, there is a difference in perception when some Blacks say ignorant things, bigoted things, even racist things in the public eye. The public arena remains the purview of the powerful, and most of the powerful in this country are White. So there are so many more opportunities for Whites to be ignorant when it comes to race. To deny that would be to deny the existence of gravity.
But even more to this point, why didn’t you say that we shouldn’t care what Pat Robertson says? After all, he owns his own media entity, reaches millions of folks every day, and is able to be on TV without the filter of broadcast and cable news? It seems to me that to argue Black ignorance displayed in the public arena as the same as Whites on issues of race is stretching the reality of power and access to say such things to its limits.
I’m not arguing that there are some Blacks who knee-jerk about racism every chance they have when the spotlight’s on them. But it’s just as ignorant for some Whites to knee-jerk it’s not about race every time something involving race or racism occurs. This also shows an unbelievable ignorance about two words: race and racism. Just because something involves race doesn’t make it racist. So when I mention race and racism, making distinctions along the way, someone like you shouldn’t automatically be offended.
If the points I made weren’t accurate about race or racist comments, then attack those. Attacking 40 million others would be like me attacking 200 million people merely because of Sen. Reid and Robertson, which of course I didn’t.
Save your sorry sarcasm for someone else you want to talk at, rather than have a real conversation with.
No, it doesn’t matter what Pat Robertson says even though he has his own media outlet. We can chose to not watch and/or listen to him.
“There is a difference in perception when some Blacks say ignorant things, bigoted things, even racist things in the public eye.”
– in who’s eye? In your eyes, maybe. To me, there is no difference. It bothers me to be joked about my skin color as much as it bothers my wife to be joked about hers. In YOUR eyes, which you hold to be the public’s eye (300 million) as well, it may be different. But to those at the brunt of the joke, comment, slander, it’s not “different”.
Look, the only reason why race is an issue is because it’s continuously put under the microscope, and usually done so by “blacks”. When do you hear someone seriously say, “they only did that because I am white!”
If we stop differentiating between black and white, it wouldn’t be an issue. And publicly, blacks differentiate a lot more than whites do. Again, publicly. Sure, all races probably differentiate in the privacy of their own home, but publicly, a white person can’t do that or they are labeled a racist. So the TV we watch, our kids watch, music they listen to, etc., is constantly highlighting difference in race, and it is black people that do it the most (on a public level). My child will never hear the ‘N’ word, dumb black girls, ‘black people’, and things like that on a radio station, yet will hear “cracker, honkey, ‘white people’, stupid white girls, etc., all the time.
Civil rights activist do this all the time. Hell, they put down races other than black, and it’s supposed to be acceptable. I think Civil rights activists are the most racist of all, to be honest. EVERYTHING to them is due to color, everything! They probably wouldn’t listen to a word I have to say ONLY BECAUSE I am white…….
See, with my kids, mixed children by the way, I have never once distinguished between race to them. If they were to ask why their day car provider is different, I would never use race as part of her “difference” from me or them. If it’s highlighted, it’s known, remembered, always in the back of your mind, etc. My kids will never see their provider as a lady of any race, just person like everyone else. It is African Americans who like to point out race the most, especially to the public.. Which is also why it will never go away.
Speaking of going away, it will never go away. Hell, Al Sharpton said it himself. “Obama’s election does not mark the end of the civil rights movement and still doesn’t represent full equality”.. OF COURSE NOT. If civil rights activists declared the movement over, they would not be rich anymore. Al Sharpton is rich from this. This is why he puts down the white race and tries to preach that blacks are still treated unfairly, it keeps him employed! That’s all it’s about. Call the NAACP to ask a question. A woman was on CNN that called. She wanted to see if she was a victim of racism and called for advice. The FIRST thing the NAACP asked her was if she was a member. She said no, and they said they would only be able to help her if she was a member which, surprise surprise, cost money. She refused to be a paying member and they wouldn’t help her! Civil rights movement, while it started out as a movement for equality, has become nothing more then a way to make money. And they do it by BEING RACIST to other races. This highlights differences, and get’s people to truly believe a difference in skin color means a difference in the person on the inside, which is not true. But, you have to keep racism going if you are AL, so you can continue to count the money rolling in.
The race card is lame and racist in itself (not referring to you, just saying – in general). The card is pulled whenever possible, is constantly put under the microscope by the same people using it, and is a way of making money.. not to mention can only be used by ONE race or it’s written off.. It’s getting a bit old, and like I said, you continue it with blogs like this. While it is well written and you seem very educated, (by the way I NEVER said blacks were inferior as a race.. only idiots like Pat Robertson would believe that) it continues the race argument for really no reason…
Donald Earl Collins said:
In your own way, you’ve made my point about ignorance, which is more than just doing or saying idiotic things. It’s also about ignoring reality, about not dealing head-on with issues we need to discuss as openly and honestly as possible. No where do I defend the civil rights establishment of the ’60 (or ’60s style liberalism in general), and I spend a lot more time talking about that than I do about Whites, race and racism.
Nevertheless, the problem I have with your critique is that it’s a selective one. One in which the only points you’re attempting to make are about your slanted grinding ax regarding Blacks in the public eye and their carping about race.
Three short things to say in response. One, you obviously don’t read my blog regularly, and I don’t need you to confirm my educational status (which, by the way, would be insulting no matter my ethnic background). Two, you don’t understand the rules of race and the race card in America in general, as if we’re all on some level playing field. Even if your children are biracial.
Three, you can’t ignore something that still impacts the lives of millions of people every day, that’s reflected in public policy, in education, in housing, in income levels, in popular culture. I could just as easily write a blog about the idiots who claim that I’ve taken a college slot or job away from them, claiming “reverse racism” (what a crock!). And, last I checked, a White guy put together a blog called “Stuff White People Like,” and got a major book deal out of it. Michael Moore wrote a book a few years ago titled Stupid White Men. It was a best-seller before it hit the book shelves. But because these men are White, this isn’t race-baiting or playing the race card, by your ill-informed definition.
Yes, there is money to be had for some around race. But you can’t counteract that by ignoring race and racism, or by teaching colorblindness (a ridiculous idea unless someone really is colorblind). You confront it, on all sides, whenever appropriate. Even if others want to stick fingers in their ears and put on an eye mask.
Well I’m guessing Mr. Collins that you don’t have any children. Every parent wants the best for their children and wants their child to do better and be better than they are. Its not racism or “White” its Darwinism, survival of the fittest. If “Your baby can read” helps my kid read better than your kid, you bet I’m going to buy it. Every parent wants their children to succeed and be better than other kids. Education is the way out of poverty, its not white. Its negative attitudes like yours that keep people down.
hey anonymous “E” you are an idiot too. Another momma that needs to be slapped!
if you don’t explain the difference of race to your kids and teach them from the start, their friends will and will impose their racist parents views on your children.
But yea, you go and hide from it cause that always works. dumb ass.
Ok, Ok, Ok.. I don’t mean for any real arguing back and fourth. Actually, I haven’t looked at it in that way before. Where you mentioned you believe ignoring race is not as good as confronting it. As much as I hate the race card, I see what you are getting at. (color blind comment was funny too, lol). It does need to be confronted, I guess.
And I didn’t mean for comment to be so narrowed. I just started going and couldn’t stop. lol.
Also i wasn’t trying to be insulting when talkng about your education. Actually, I was trying to saythat just by the way you write, I can tell you are well educated. So, no offense there.
And, no, I haven’t read your posts before this one. Stumbled across it and found it interesting. How long have you had this site up? I keep answering to yuo from work so when I get a chance to jump on at home I will “choose an identity” instead of using anonymous. I would also like to speak to you about creating my own site in this format.. but for now, I will check out your other posts as I have the time. be ready for a debate though, lol, if we don’t agree on something.
I hope I wasn’t offensive on the race subject and, as much as I used my wife as an example, she is Asian and I know that’s a little different (when talking about interracial marriages) then a black/white relationship.
Can we agree that most people have some sort of ignorance about.. something? lol.
Donald Earl Collins said:
It would be nice if folks read my posts before making assumptions based on their narcissism and paranoia rather than facts actually in evidence. First off, it’s Dr. Collins (technically), not Mr. Collins. I’m an educator, so I know a bit about how education is supposed to work. I’m the father of a 1st grader, so I know something about how children are suppose to develop. And I’m a historian, so I know a bit about how claims such as Teeter’s and Hirsch’s came into being.
Even Teeter knows that kids nine and eighteen months of age have not developed to the point where they literally can read words! To claim anything else is insane.
On the issue of cultural literacy, only someone with a Western or White bias would claim that all of these efforts are merely about parents trying to give their kids every advantage. No, I take that back. Only someone with a complete lack of understanding of 20th century American and European history could claim with a straight face that the eugenics movement and intelligence testing (which have had strong racial components, even if one only looks at Whites or Europeans) aren’t linked with the pseudo-version industry of child development.
Again, this proves my main point in this post. That most of us refuse to question where we are and why things are so, whether the issue is race, parenting, intelligence, K-12 education, or if it makes more sense for me to play Sade or Mozart for my son before he goes to sleep.
One other thing before I close this discussion for the day. If you want your next posts up for others besides me to read and respond to, how about showing a bit of courage and at least giving us a name to respond to? I think that “Anonymous” is a cowardly way to post, especially when making personal claims and indictments against the author of this blog.