Orgy of Ignorance

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Voters in the nation’s capital city rebuked the President’s homie, Mayor Adrian Fenty.  Formally, we call what took place yesterday an election.  I call it an orgy of ignorance.  I am a race man to the core but what happened yesterday is unfathomable.

One of my home girls called me last night from D.C., and I asked her who she voted for.  The answer, of course, was Vincent Gray, the aging quadroon who is Chairman of the City Council.  I knew it was over without looking at a single return. I could not help berating her. Lacking conviction in her vote and stung by my attack she asked, “Why you ain’t call me?”  I should have said that I thought she had better sense than to throw out a decent brotha over a vague sense of racial grievance. The crap about gentrification and Fenty’s cabinet appointments are just blackfolks venting about the common misconception that Adrian is a House Negro too beholden to whitefolks.

Fenty’s loss is a triumph of style over substance because Gray certainly had no real programmatic objections that he chose to share. Fenty lost for two reasons:  1) His hard charging and humorless style rubbed too many the wrong way.  2) The unconscious desire of the black community to crucify a scapegoat because of their economic anxiety during this brutal recession.  Blackfolks convinced themselves that their black college educated Black Mayor with the black wife and kids did not care about black people.

I firmly believe that if Adrian Fenty had been caught by the FBI in a roach motel with a chickenhead and a crack pipe–he would have been re-elected in a landslide.  There would have been no question that Adrian was sufficiently black enough to vote for.  Functioning schools, tolerable crime, a responsive city government, and a healthy business climate are apparently anti-black instruments meant to oppress and demean black people.

I suppose having a Black Mayor who does not embarrass us with his extramarital affairs, ungrammatical profundity, and serial incompetence are a naïve expectation. I know it is unreasonable to expect that black folks would vote for a Black Mayor maniacally focused on making the city function properly by appointing people, regardless of race, who know what they are doing.

Fenty’s installation of Michelle Rhee, a Korean American, as Chancellor of the DC Schools, was a bridge too far. She single-handedly turned around one of the most catastrophically inadequate urban school systems in the country by demanding excellence and holding teachers accountable for black student success.  She even had the temerity to fire bad teachers.  We cannot have that. Rather than graduate school prepared for a career, it is better for the community if Black children drop out of school and remain trapped in a cycle of poverty. Politicians get bonus points if a disproportionate number of Black children end up dead or in jail.

Things were definitely better in the District during the halcyon days of the Barry Administration. Those were the days when the city was on autopilot. Nearly every city agency was under federal receivership because of gross mismanagement, and a congressionally appointed control board unaccountable to the people controlled the purse strings.   At least Barry was pro-Black, whatever that is supposed to mean.

26 thoughts on “Orgy of Ignorance

  1. Skep,

    You know I love you brother, but your post is all wrong. As a native of DC, let me tell you about Adrian Fenty, Vince Gray, Michelle Rhee and why the election turned out as it did.

    First and foremost, you are mistaken to suggest that Fenty is a paragon of virtue either in his professional or personal life. It is an open secret that he hits his wife. He gave a series of illegal, no bid contracts to his running buddies. I know these guys. To say that they are unqualified would be a charitable understatement. This was the sort of audacious graft that might even make Barry blush. He also went out of his way to disrespect icons in the community, most notably Maya Angelou the late Dorothy Height. He also engaged in petty political vendettas, such as instructing the city to tear down a fence Vince Gray had installed around his yard (ostensibly because it was a foot higher than the city code allowed) after Gray launched an investigation into Fenty’s illegal contracting with buddies. I could go on and on and on, but I think you get the drift.

    Michelle Rhee…where to begin? I guess I’ll begin with the fact that her supposed reforms are a complete and utter myth. Have test scores risen under her stewardship? For the first two years yes, for the last year no. What would it even mean if test scores rose? Not much. DC—like most places hamstrung by NCLB—administers essentially the same basic skills test year after year. The students are incessantly drilled for the test, at the expense of non-test related subjects such as history, science, languages, art, PE….Small wonder that the test scores go up when the students drill through the actual test they take, day after day. It’s actually hard to understand how those scores could have fallen last year, but I digress. Another of Rhee’s brilliant strategies for raising test scores consisted of (I use the past tense because she is probably packing her bags to leave town as I write this) removing poor and working class black students from out of boundary schools in NW DC and replacing them with the children of in boundary white professionals. Small wonder that test scores went up at the schools. But aside from the myth surrounding Rhee’s actual educational accomplishments, she is dishonest to the core. AFter presenting a fictitious budget to the City Council a couple of years ago that showed deficit that did not actually exist, she summarily fired 266 teachers under the pretense that she had a deficit to shore up. When her fake numbers were made public, she explained that she had to fire the teachers because they were having sex with students. This is too bizarre to make up, but as you’ve probably guessed the claim was ludicrous and false. Again, I could go on and on about Rhee, but I am picking my jaw up off of the ground after reading your endorsement of her. Trust me, in two or three years, she will be the darling of the Cato Institute and Fox News.

    Vince Gray, the man you called a quadroon, is a personal mentor of mine. He gave up a lucrative professional baseball career in order to attend college. Then he turned down lucrative offers in the private sector, to run a series of nonprofits in the poorer sections of the city. He has done this sort of work for 40 years, and took me under his wing when I was running a program in Anacostia. He is the anti-Barry and the anti-Fenty. He is an unusual man and an even more unusual politician. I am shocked beyond all credulity that you have bought into the right wing meme that Fenty represents progress and Gray represents a return the the Barry era.

    Fenty lost because he is a prick and a crook.

  2. rikyrah

    Skeptical,

    if the Black folks were so against ‘ reform’, then why’d they vote in bowtie Williams – TWICE.

    They supported Fenty. He didn’t win in a skate; he won by a landslide last time.

    He forgot who brought him to the dance, Skeptical. You could see it happen slowly….how could you have, in a majority Black city, only ONE out of the 10 most powerful positions in the city, be a Black person?

    I always tells folks; it ain’t Idaho -it’s Washington, D.C. with a Black professional class that not only predates the Civil Rights Movement, but does so by decades. To even utter the words, ‘ I couldn’t find anyone qualified who was Black’, in D.C. – You need your tongue cut out.

    As for Rhee, I’m not a fan. period.

    She wouldn’t even be qualified to TEACH in D.C., but he put her in charge of it?

    SB, I spent 7 years in the trenches of urban education, and I never liked her from day one.

    How come Black folk are supposed to take the poke in their eyes from other Black folk? How come, on the ground there, they felt disrespected and dismissed – why are you doing the same? You think those folks don’t know why they turned against Fenty? You gonna try and tell me that it was ‘ all in their imagination’?

    Come on, now.

    Here’s the mindblower for you, SB:

    Dark Sith Ford, Fenty, Artur Davis…

    which one of these is the one who kept the Black base?

    blows your mind, doesn’t it?

  3. rikyrah

    some more for you to chew on, SB:

    who brags about creating dog parks, while cutting affordable daycare for those mothers that need it most?

    he utterly screwed over the cabbies in D.C., which got that immigrant population against him.

    before you post replies to Trip and me, why don’t you go through the WaPo archives and read Colbert King and Courtland Milloy. I admit, Milloy has never been a fan, and has been waiting to pounce; not so with King. King was a fan and a supporter. I’ve been reading his columns on Fenty and the situation in D.C. for 2 years now. Read them, and you see the process by which Fenty lost the Black vote.

  4. TripLBee

    To Rikyrah’s point, I supported Fenty in 2006 and contributed to his campaign. I was excited about Michelle Rhee’s appointment. Fenty won every ward in DC in 2006 and was very popular in the black community. So you can’t make the claim that black folks rejected him because he’s not dysfunctional. He ran as the squeaky clean technocrat in 2006. But he governed like big city machine boss. It was spectacular to see how quickly and thoroughly he embraced his inner-Daly/Barry/Boss Tweed. This guy is so thoroughly corrupt it is shocking. I think the only reason he hasn’t been indicted is because the Washington Post and the DC business establishment are in love with him.

  5. TripLBee

    PS—I almost always agree with your criticisms of black politicians. Ford is a disgrace. The clown in Detroit, and his mama, are embarrassing. What surprises me is that you don’t place Fenty in that same category.

  6. mark

    Skeptical Brotha,

    The reason I visit this site is to gain some insight into the mind of black America, not that you stand for all, but you do maintain this site that focuses on black American issues. There are things that happen in the black community/politics that I can not get my mind around, one of those being the whole Marion Barry episode. That a mayor of a city with a higher than normal incidence of drug problems is caught smoking crack is disturbing enough. But what many of us simple white folk can’t get is, how does that same man get re-elected to his post several years later?

    Your opinion is very insightful for me, albeit ignorance may be the wrong word in the title.

    Your learned colleagues, TripleBee and Rikyrah are the boots on the ground and take some exception with your thoughts, as they should. They make some good points that you have to either get around or agree with. Just the same, your words are helpful. Thanks for the article.

    On a side note to Trip,
    “DC… administers essentially the same basic skills test year after year. The students are incessantly drilled for the test, at the expense of non-test related subjects such as history, science, languages, art, PE….Small wonder that the test scores go up when the students drill through the actual test they take, day after day.”
    If the students are drilled on the basic skills and their scores in the basic skills improve then Amen, I say to that.

    One last thought on education. Our UC schools here are not disproportionately full of students with asian background because they are any smarter than anyone else, it is because the value of education is emphasized in the home, in the culture. Education, like so many other things begins at home and people who grow up in households where this value is not emphasized is at a distinct disadvantage.

  7. TripLBee

    Mark,

    I don’t think that memorizing a test, and then regurgitating the answers, should be the basis for education. These children should be learning to read, write, add, subtract, multiply, divide, think critically, absorb the great debates of our time, and so on and so forth. Would you really want your child attending a school where the focus was on taking the same test over and over again? Is that really the mark of a quality education?

    Also, I can tell you why Marion Barry was re-elected, though I will note that I didn’t vote for him after he hit the crack pipe.

    Many people, recall the sad state of DC government during the Barry years. It was sad for two primary reasons in my opinion:

    1. Marion Barry used the city govt payroll as a mechanism for building support in DC’s huge working class black community;
    2. The Republican controlled White House froze the city’s budget (yes, DC is a colony) FOR 10 STRAIGHT FUCKING YEARS!!!!!!!!

    How the hell does a city thrive when Reagan and Bush I freeze a budget for a decade? Also, the Dept. of Justice under Bush and Reagan tripped all over themselves trying to do what DC voters never did: remove Barry. THe irony is that Barry’s popularity was always boosted by the perception that a white, bigoted power structure was out to get him because he was too black. And because there was a kernel of truth to this assertion, and because Barry was such a damn clever politician, he rode this perception to several re-elections. Had Jay B. Stevens (remember him) just left DC alone, the good people of that town would have voted Barry out of office. But the Republicans never had enough faith in democracy, especially when controlled by black people, to allow that process to unfold organically.

    Instead, they flew in Rashida Moore from LA, threatening her with prosecution if she didn’t offer up her body to Barry as a means to entice him into smoking crack. I’m not defending Barry’s drug use or womanizing. It was widely known that he was an addict and a womanizer (just as it is widely known now that Fenty is a wife beater). But that famous video of Barry smoking crack was the denouement of a long effort to entrap Barry. Barry went to that hotel to pick up Ms. Moore for dinner. He called her 12 TIMES from the lobby, refusing in each case her invitation to go to her room, before finally submitting on the 13th call. When he was in her room, it was clear that he was there to have sex, not to smoke crack. Her refused her invitation to smoke crack several times before finally doing so. When black people in DC saw this, they rightfully considered the Dept. of Justice to be the real criminals. Sadly, they also saw Barry as a hero. He was victim not a hero; a victim of his own demons and hubris, and a victim of a conservative series of presidential administrations that hated him.

    What many white people don’t seem to understand, is that we are prone to believe wild conspiracy theories and support the bad behavior of our leaders, when the perception or reality, is that they are being harangued by a white power structure. That was what happened in the case of Marion Barry’s re-election, much to the consternation of a frustrated white power structure that couldn’t understand our stupidity. (I guess I shouldn’t say “our” since I didn’t vote for him.)

  8. SB – I am truly stunned by this post of yours. Don’t you think it is just possible that DC Students and parents might know more about this than you?

    as the earlier commenters said, Fenty was corrupt
    http://www.empowerdc.org/ppc

    Fenty cut child care for the poor, closed homeless shelters while he opened dog parks. He richly deserved to be bounced out of office.

    The Washington Post Kaplan Education company got millions of dollars in contracts from DC under Fenty/Rhee, of course they liked Fenty and Rhee, but the children suffered.

    • mark

      The more I find out about Rhee the more I admire her. Clearly somebody that pisses off so many is doing something. In this case, apparently this lady took on a school system that had gone through a rash of chancellors with a terrible record of achievement. She shook on the status quo against incredible political/union pressures. That courage enough should be rewarded with the patience to see how things work out over a couple of years, but no, she delivers results right off – the argument against learning by rote is just wrong, we all need it especially in our earlier years. And for the efforts she is fired. I think I get it now.
      Just like Marion Barry story above, this seeming illogical firing result, for someone who should be cheered is the result of political payback? The schools will quickly fall back to where they were, everybody is happy. Good luck DC.
      I sense there will be more political payback in a couple of weeks

      • What exactly were her accomplishments? What did she achieve that Clifford Janey, her predecessor, didn’t also achieve? How do you justify her incessant lying? She in fact perjured herself before the City Council and repeatedly invented outlandish lies to explain the mass firing of 266 teachers.

        Blowing up a completely failed system like the DC Public Schools is honorable. But lying and waging war on people doing the front line work is insane. Sometimes pissing people off is a result of crossing the line. She crossed the line of integrity, honesty and decency so many times it’s hard to count them. If we’ve come to the point where dishonesty and corruption are the hallmarks of good governance, then I simply give up.

  9. Some additional information about Rhee, one school had 5 principals in one year
    http://www.wjla.com/news/stories/1008/561119.html

    Procrustes teacher evaluation
    http://www.reinstatedrart.com/

    http://media.www.districtchronicles.com/media/storage/paper263/news/2008/08/10/Cover/Parents.Students.Fight.For.Assistant.Principals.Job-3398208.shtml

    teacher shortage at McKinely Tech
    http://rheeform.wordpress.com/2008/09/30/dc-parents-concerned-about-alleged-teacher-shortage/

    Thurgood Marshall Elementary School
    http://www.wjla.com/news/stories/0908/554922.html

    Rhee disobeyed the law when she spent the summer school money and did not have money for the teachers for the regular academic year
    http://www.myfoxdc.com/dpp/news/local/102909-rhee-testifies-before-dc-city-council-teacher-layoffs

    Rhee replaced experienced certified teachers with H1-bs
    http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/columns/Importing-teachers-in-the-District-of-Columbia-8508771.html#ixzz101IMlTV7

    I could find many more links all the ways she failed the children of DC, suffice to say that she would not have lasted 20 seconds in any suburban system.

    People supported Rhee and Fenty in inverse proportion to their contact with the DC school system.

    • mark

      Some of the shittiest journalism I’ve seen lately. Is that your really your case? The abc news stuff was even worse than the union tripe. The fox dc was the only source that had two sides.

  10. Trip,

    I’ve gotten sidetracked by a million things but I haven’t forgotten you or your critique of Michelle Rhee. I am going to answer you because the points you’re raising are very serious and deserve the best answer I can muster.

  11. Fenty got dissed because he had the balls to reform the education system in DC.

    No shock that US Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL) got his ass handed to him by AL Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks (D) in the Democratic gubernatorial primary for Alabama Governor back in June, but Sparks is a heavy underdog against State Rep. Robert Bentley (R-Tuscaloosa), who is now likely moving into the AL Governor’s Mansion come January 17, 2011 when he takes the oath of office as AL’s 53rd chief executive.

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