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To move forward, black youth must be seen as part of ‘we,’ not as ‘you’

REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

This is my city. This is my state. This is my country.

Katherine Jumbe
Katherine Jumbe

I start with the obvious because the obvious seems to be missing from the uproar surrounding Ferguson. I start with the obvious because so many people appear to be living under the impression that black people in America need to prove their worth – as parents, as taxpayers, as community members – before they can demand safety for their children or accountability from their police force.

I start with the obvious because too many of our leaders feel comfortable framing this as a conversation about whether black children deserve to live, rather than a conversation about what kind of privileged, democratic nation allows so many of its young people to die violent deaths in schools and on our streets.

Always the ungovernable ‘you’

“The white police officers wouldn’t be there if you weren’t killing each other 70-75 percent of the time,” former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani declared Sunday on “Meet the Press.” Which more-or-less summarizes why the Republican Party attracts just 5 percent of black voters. It is not blind allegiance to the Democratic Party that deters the other 95 percent; it is the shrewd understanding that black people are never a “we” to the Grand Old Party; we are always the ungovernable “you.” In essence they say, “If only you had values, we’d consider telling our officers not to shoot you.”

Do you know who is responsible for the crime and poverty and despair in our black communities today? Here’s a hint: It isn’t Canada. It’s not Afghanistan. And it’s not Iraq. When any community in the United States is struggling – from shrinking farm towns to crumbling urban projects – that’s America’s problem. When just 63 percent of low-income students in Minnesota graduate on time, that’s Minnesota’s problem. And when a young man is shot six times and killed for stealing a pack of cigars or even, were it the case, for physically confronting an officer of the law, that’s everyone’s problem.

Giuliani may glory in saving “more black lives” than any other mayor in all of history, but Michael Brown’s mother didn’t lose a black child. She lost a child. Just as the mothers in Newtown didn’t lose white children or Asian children or black children. They lost children.

Every mother and every family deserve a country that has the honor to grieve for all its young people and the courage to build a better country for those who remain.

Katherine Jumbe works as a fundraiser for a youth development organization in St. Paul.

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Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/25/2014 - 10:22 am.

    “Saving more black lives”

    Indeed.

    And yet, the Democratic party and it’s allies rule a public school system which each and every year steals the education from tens of thousands of black kids for financial and political advantage, then sends them out to face the struggle and misery of practical illiteracy.

    That same Democratic party and allies fight like banshees to ensure black families are not afforded the opportunity to choose their own schools, lest their monopolies crumble like urban projects.

    And they don’t give the surety of the black vote a second thought.

  2. Submitted by John Cricky on 11/25/2014 - 10:59 am.

    I agree. I’m all for the Republican party’s long-standing platform of helping non-white students in Minnesota like when they … did that thing … that one time ….

    Uh huh.

    Republican’s might not all be racists. But they’re who racists vote for.

  3. Submitted by Sara Handy on 11/25/2014 - 07:38 pm.

    We The People

    You are so right, Ms. Jumbe.

    I hear you and I stand beside you. I cannot know exactly how you feel, but I vow never to be “colorblind” because seeing the different colors of skin of our fellow Americans, Minnesotans, co-workers, neighbors, and friends is part of EMBRACING them, knowing them, cherishing them.

  4. Submitted by John Rush on 11/26/2014 - 12:02 am.

    The Governor’s response

    STATE OF MINNESOTA
    OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR
    SAINT PAUL 55155

    May 24, 2011

    The Honorable Kurt Zellers
    Speaker of the House of Representatives
    The State of Minnesota

    Dear Speaker Zellers:

    With this letter, I am vetoing and returning H. F. No. 934, Chapter No. 42, the Education Finance Bill. I do so with the hope that we can come together to find a compromise: a balanced solution without the damaging cuts and harmful policy items contained in this legislation.
    Journal of the House – 2011 Supplement – Top of Page 5321

    Legislators from both parties have worked well with Education Commissioner Cassellius and with me, to find areas of common within this bill. I thank them for their thoughtful and persistent work. Ensuring an excellent education for all Minnesota students should be among our highest budget priorities. Having worked together on the alternative pathways to licensure bill, I know we can find compromise. I am encouraged by the potential to find common ground in this bill in early reading proficiency and recognition of high-achieving schools. I am hopeful that we can build on those areas of agreement.

    Unfortunately, this Education Finance Bill would have very harmful effects on students, on teachers, and on schools. I will not sign an education funding bill that pits student-against-student or district-against-district. I have consistently stated my intention to increase education funding, which is why my original budget included $36 million in new funding for schools. Subsequently, in agreement with the Legislature’s desire to put additional money on the per pupil formula, I proposed to increase the formula allowance by $50 per pupil in each fiscal year of the biennium, for a total of $164 million in new education investments. By contrast, this bill cuts school funding by nearly $44 million below current base-funding level. Within those reductions, it unfairly and disproportionately shifts funding among school districts.

    The cuts to special education would create significant funding gaps that would force school districts to shift funds from general education programs, increase class sizes, or raise property taxes, just to maintain their current levels of special education services. Additionally, the elimination of integration revenue and freezing of compensatory revenue wrongfully harms poor children and children of color, which I will not accept.

    None of Commissioner Cassellius and my education proposals are contained in this bill; most notably, funding for optional all-day Kindergarten and initiatives in early childhood education. The bill also contains numerous policies, including school grading, collective bargaining limitations, teacher evaluation, and Common Core prohibitions, which are controversial, are punitive to teachers, and have little research to support their efficacy in improving student learning and closing achievement gaps. I am disappointed that the bill creates a private school voucher program, an experiment that has not worked in other states. Until our public schools are funded at adequate and sustainable levels, a diversion of public dollars to private schools is unwise.

    The funding cuts to the Department of Education were reduced in this bill, which I certainly appreciate. However, when combined with the 15% staff reductions in the State Government bill, the agency would be faced with the loss of at least 30 fulltime employees. Cuts of this nature, on top of eight years of cumulative budget reductions, would further hinder the Department’s already limited capacity to provide technical assistance, support, and oversight to schools throughout Minnesota.

    Budgets are about priorities, and priorities are about choices. We can choose to work together, compromise, and create a budget that fairly spreads the burden we must all shoulder if we are to weather these tough times and position Minnesota for future success. I know that working together we can create a reform-minded blueprint for our state’s K-12 education, of which we can all be proud.

    Each of us started our budget proposals by making a choice. I chose a balanced approach to our budget; one that included both significant cuts, but asked the top two percent of Minnesotans to pay more to ensure our quality of life and the services millions of Minnesotans depend on. My approach chooses not to balance the budget on the backs of the other ninety-eight percent of Minnesotans.

    In the spirit of compromise, more than one week ago, I cut my proposal in half, in the hopes that an offer to meet in the middle would spur action towards the balanced solution the people of Minnesota have asked for.

    Instead, you chose to present me with an all-cuts approach, one that has serious consequences for Minnesotans, and that I do not believe is in line with our shared commitment to build a better Minnesota.

  5. Submitted by rolf westgard on 11/26/2014 - 06:05 pm.

    Who needs reform

    Many TV commenters talk about reforming the police department in Ferguson. Actually, it is the parents who need reforming, as well as an education system which needs to start children at an early age.
    It is not the police who are looting and burning all those stores.

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