Filed Under:  OpEd, Opinion

Channeling Malcolm

19th May 2014   ·   0 Comments

By Edmund W. Lewis

Did you know that in this city and state, you can get away with miseducating and under-educating Black children, shooting Black boys in the head, poisoning children, disenfranchising Black voters and economically exploiting Black and Brown workers as long as you have the right family connections, pretend to care and say all the right things when the television cameras are rolling?

You can also get away with violating Black people’s constitutional rights and taxation without representation, as long as you hire the right spin doctors and surround yourself with hungry, ambitious staffers who are willing to do and say just about anything to hold onto their lavish lifestyles and six-figure incomes.

Last week, the city’s D.A. announced that he won’t prosecute City of New Orleans employee Merritt Landry for shooting a 14-year-old kid in the head for trespassing on his property, which may very well signal the end of the current district attorney’s time in office. If the same forces that said ‘enough is enough’ and fired two councilmembers earlier this spring are still strong come re-lection time, the city will have to find a new top prosecutor.

Equally disturbing is the state education superintendent’s flippant dismissal of a federal civil rights complaint filed by a national coalition of education activists and parents, which is supported by the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, Advancement Project and Journey for Justice. Among other things, the lawsuit accuses school boards in New Orleans, Newark, NJ and Chicago, Ill., of violating the constitutional rights of Black children by holding underperforming Black schools to a higher standard than underperforming white schools and systematically blocking Black students from attending those cities’ best public schools. The Recovery School District has been criticized for seeking to close Benjamin Banneker and A.P. Tureaud elementary schools, as well as George Washington Carver, Booker T. Washington and Walter L. Cohen senior high schools next month.

The RSD and its Black superintendent are trying to move ahead with full steam to rebuild a school for the combined BTW and Cohen students on the site of a former toxic landfill that once housed BTW. The RSD is already staring down the barrel of a lawsuit from the Walter L. Cohen Alumni Association but has continued to attack Black schools and turn over land that once housed some of those schools to either white educational institutions, as they did in the case of Lusher, or in the case of John F. Kennedy Sr.. High School, to the highest bidder. The RSD won’t even consider building a new school for the merged BTW/Cohen students on the Cohen site, which tells those who are paying attention that somebody already has designs on that prime uptown New Orleans real estate.

Clearly, educational apartheid is alive and well in New Orleans, as is systemic racism.

• Are local elected officials, state legislators and congressmen from this area completely clueless about the Recovery School District’s plans to rebuild a school on the toxic landfill that once housed Booker T. Washington Senior High School, are they afraid to speak out because the powers that be support the plan or is it that they simply don’t care?

• How many Recovery School District, BESE officials and charter school administrators would send their kids to schools built on toxic landfills?

• How can we address the city’s high murder and violence rates or the low academic achievement of some New Orleans youth without first addressing the role lead poisoning plays in creating health and cognitive problems for children and the presence of lead and eight other toxic metals in the former site of the Silver City Dump, which is located in the community containing and surrounding BTW?

• How many Christian legislators who believe in family values and the commandment to “honor thy mother and father” voted to block a proposal that would have allowed Louisiana residents themselves to cast a ballot this fall about whether to expand Medicaid in Louisiana?

• Who is gullible enough to think that Merritt Landry no longer deserves to stand trial for second-degree attempted murder for sipping Marshall Coulter in the head last summer?

• Why can’t the mayor respect the State Ethics Board’s decision that prohibits Deputy Mayor Cedric Grant chairmanship of the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board?

• Why do Louisiana and New Orleans voters still tolerate elected officials who clearly don’t know the difference between public service and control?

• Why won’t Louisiana Gov. Piyush Jindal come to Essence Fest or one of the local HBCUs and deliver the message he smugly delivered recently at Liberty University?

• How many residents have been enjoying a false sense of security and safety thanks in large part to the NOPD’s misclassification of 40 percent of the city’s reported rapes as less serious crimes or incidents?

• Why hasn’t the mayor said anything about the NOPD’s blatant refusal to classify such a high percent of rapes in New Orleans as actual sexual assaults?

• What do you think of State Education Supt. John White who last week called a lawsuit challenging the way education officials treat Black students “a joke”?

• Why do you think local elected officials want to do away with public-access television?

• Who are we going to get to replace Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzarro after me made it clear last week that it’s to shoot unarmed Black boys in the head even if they pose no immediate threat, as long as they face criminal charges?

• What are you going to do to mark the May 19 birthday of Malcolm X?

This article originally published in the May 19, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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