Friday, April 21, 2017

My Appearance on "The O'Reilly Factor"


Now that Bill O'Reilly is off the air, I think it is time I provide an account of my appearance on the "O'Reilly Factor," since the tape of the episode I appeared on is nowhere to be found
Ten years ago, I received a call inviting me to appear on "The O'Reilly Factor." The occasion was a controversy in a town in Ohio where a white teacher was chosen to teach a Black History course when the one Black teacher in the school retired. I assumed that I was called because my recently published book "White Boy: A Memoir" described how I ended up as a Professor in Fordham's Black Studies Department.
I had some experience in doing media appearances about this subject thanks to my wonderful publicity agent Marlah Bonner McDuffie, and had just done an appearance on the Chappelle Show which brought me some "street cred" so I decided to accept, despite Mr O'Reilly's reputation for eviscerating liberal guests.
When I got to the studio, I quickly concluded that this experience was going to be more challenging than my other media appearances, including those on Fox Business where I was interviewed on Judge Napolitano's Show.
Whenever I was interviewed on television, I was accustomed to be escorted into the green room where guests were to wait by a friendly person, and offered snacks. None of this transpired. A grim faced woman led me to a small room without food and water with a big television on the wall. As I sat there waiting, I watched Bill O'Reilly tear apart the head of the Republican National Committee, someone far closer to his point of view than I was. I quickly realized that Mr O'Reilly looked upon me, a liberal or left wing professor, as "fresh meat". I quickly resolved that I was not going to play along.
My strategy was to be extremely polite and respectful, but constantly change the narrative that he was trying to establish with points on my own. But before that, I had to win his respect through time honor methods honed in the masculinist working
class ethos I was brought up in. Mr O.Reilly needed to know from the outset that even though I was a liberal professor, i was not someone he could push around, that if in fact, it actually came to a fight, i could kick his ass.
So it had to start with the handshake As I walked into the studio with a big smile on my face, I assumed my most intimidating posture, looked him straight in the eye, and shook his hand with what he must have thought surprising firmness ( I have tennis balls cut in half on my office desk which i squeeze regularly to strengthen my forearm) Then I sat down.
When the discussion started, it became clear that Mr O'Reilly's agenda was to show that what he called "Black Racism"- which he claimed was at play when Black parents and students protested a white teacher taking over their school's black history course- was a bigger problem than White Racism.
So I had to change the narrative early. First, I had to say that the Ohio parents concerns were reasonable. That given how US history had been written and taught, it was hardly unreasonable to look upon a white person teaching African American history with some skepticism. I also said that context was important. When I was hired to teach courses on Black History at Fordham, there were six black professors full time and part time, that students could choose from. That is a very different situation from a school where there is only one Black History course taught by one teacher. The area in which I agreed with Mr O'Reilly is that should be no hard and fast rule about who can teach a particular subject based on their background; but i vehemently disagreed with his suggestion that the Black parents and students in that Ohio school were "racist." Give that there was only one Black history course in the school, it was reasonable that they try to find a Black person to teach it,
We sparred about the Ohio situation a moment,, but then i decided to seize the podium before Mr O'Reilly did by saying "Look, reasonable people may disagree about the Ohio controversy, but one thing we can't lose sight of is that White Racism remains a HUGE problem in American society something that CANNOT be compared to whatever alleged discrimination whites experience at the hands of Blacks."
Then, before he could catch a breath, I said the following. "Look Bill. I am not some Ivy tower Professor. I spent twenty years coaching CYO basketball and sandlot baseball in Brooklyn. Just last week, my friend Gary Nielsen, a NYC firefighter, took his younger son and one of his friends, who happened to be Black, to his summer home in Breezy Point, an enclave filled with mostly Irish cops and firemen. When his son and his friend went to get a snack at a local take out place, a woman came up to them, and screamed at his Black friend "get out of here, you don't belong here" and kicked him! Unfortunately, this is the kind of thing, and much worse, that Black people face every day. To compare the suspicion a white teacher experienced when trying to teach a Black history course to this kind of experience doesn't reflect the lived realities of Blacks and whites in this country"
Mr. O'Reilly never expected this and he ended up being at a loss for words. And just as I finished my remarks, I was told time was up!
As the show ended, I shook Mr. O'Reilly's hand and said " I really enjoyed this, I hope I will be invited back to continue his conversation"
I never was.
And now that Mr O'Reilly is off the air, I guess I never will

Friday, April 7, 2017

Requiem for St. Anthony's: A Casualty of Gentrification by Jesse Turner

I live down the block from Saint Anthony's. I have nephews who went to there, it was not only a school that produced great basketball teams. It was a good that produce outstanding, caring, compassionate students who went on to live outstanding lives. It is also the Catholic School with the highest percentage of Black and Latino students. Bob Hurley could have gone anywhere, but he stayed at Saint Anthony's the school he loved, and the school that loved him. It was the basketball power house without it's own basketball court at it's school. If you went to Saint Anthony's you had street respect and academic respect. 
 
I grew up at the outside city basketball courts between Saint Anthon.ey's and the police station. What really happened in my local opinion is gentrification killed Saint Anthony's. When I grew up Downtown Jersey City was blue collar and poor. It was not unusual to see abandoned houses and factories. Families who could afford to keep their children out of the public schools did. The truth is those public schools were pretty good places for a kid to grow and learn as well. I went to Ferris High School, and we were always glade that Saint Anthony's was not on our schedule. Gentrification displaced many Latino, Black, and poor White families. The wealthy, the connected, and the powerful moved in, and blue collar working families moved out. Everything changed, and immigrant communities were lost. Downtown Jersey City stopped being my Jersey City decades ago. We lose some of our humanity and sense of who we are when gentrification comes knocking.

St Anthony's of Jersey City Closes Its Doors: A Basketball Fan's Lament

When I was growing up in Brooklyn in the 50's and 60's, the most powerful force uniting Catholics, Jews and Protestants, at least among boys, was the game of basketball. By the time you were 9 or 10, you knew this was a game that the people around you played better than anyone else in the country because the skills were transmitted with religious devotion in schoolyards, community centers, schools, and gyms attached to churches and synagogues.. Whether the players were Black, Jewish Irish, Italian or Puerto Rican, they were coached well, pushed to the highest levels of excellence by fierce early competition, and inspired by great players who were school and neighborhood legends.
As an aspiring player, and someone immersed in the legends of "The City Game" I followed every high school, college and professional star to come out of New York City and the New York Metropolitan area. And I was totally ecumenical in my fandom! Even though I was a Jewish public school kid, I rooted for all the great players coming out of New York City Catholic High Schools. By the time I was in college in the mid sixties, I knew as much about schools like Rice, Tollentine, Bishop Loughlin, All Hallows and Holy Cross as I did about public school powerhouses like Clinton, Columbus, Boys High and Erasmus.
 
Which is why when inner city Catholic High Schools that had been exemplars of the best of NY Metoropolitan area Basketball started closing, I felt I was losing a piece of my youth. First Rice, then Tollentine, then Lasalle, then Bishop Ford and now, across the river, St. Anthony's of Jersey City, where the great Bobby Hurley Sr. coached for more than 25 years.
 
These schools were all places where working class kids Black, White and Latino, found an anchor, a skill, great coaches and mentors and an opportunity to show their skills to the neighborhood the city, and in some cases, the country and the world. And these schools helped kids who were not basketball players do some of the same things through academics 
.
I know nothing stays the same and change is inevitable, but I can't help feel that what these schools provided to young people still is needed, but is increasingly hard to find in our gentrifying cities. I know this, with these school closings, New York metropolitan area basketball has lost much of its dynamism, and quite possibly, some of its soul

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Carl Paladino's Racism: A Test of Political Courage for the NY State Education Department


As long as Carl Paladino remains on the Buffalo School Board, the State Education Commissioner and the Regents will be so tainted by complicity with racism that their positions other issues will be compromised

Imagine what it must be like to be a student attending Buffalo schools and know that a key member of the Buffalo School Board, arguably the most powerful person in Western New York, organized a rally where White Supremacists were welcome and the Confederate Flag was displayed

The majority of the Buffalo School Board, thinking of the well being of those children, has called on Commissioner Elia and the Regents to remove Mr Paladino from the Board. That they have thus far failed to do so shows an astonishing lack of political courage.,

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Relentless Testing: A Strategy to Intimidate the Next Generation of Youth


The idea that third graders in New York State have to take 6 days of tests, and can spend up to 5 hours each day on each test (the tests are now untimed), is so appalling as to defy words. Who is OK with that? To me, that sounds like child abuse. Every politician, Regents member, superintendent, principal, and teacher who participates in this yearly ritual of torture needs to take a good look in the mirror. What kind of world are we creating for our children by subjecting them to this. When I was in school, the reading and math tests were two days, at most, and lasted less than two hours. And we did pretty well for ourselves. Maybe that's what education policy makers are worried about. Politicians don't want young people asking too many questions, they way we did in the Sixties, while they enrich themselves and their wealthy contributors.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Whatever Party They Represent, Charter Supporters Love Tests

As many of us having been warning for many years, support for charter schools crosses party lines. This is not only true in New York State where Governor Andrew Cuomo and State Senator John Flanagan take huge contributions from the charter school industry, it is true nationally, where President Donald Trump and his Secretary of Education Betsy Devos are at least as strong a supporter of charter schools as was Barack Obama and Arne Duncan.
 
Those seeking to protect their children from nationally aligned tests and a curriculum that turns instruction into little more test prep are getting no relief from the new administration. in fact, there is going to be more, not less support for charter schools from this administration. Since the best funded and most powerful charter chains are huge supporters of national testing and the rating of schools and teachers on the basis of student test scores. we are likely to see even more testing.
 
Nowhere is this more apparent in New York State where the largest and best funded charter school chain, Success Academies, just issued an edict saying that no child in their schools is allowed to opt out of state tests. And this makes perfect sense when you realize that Success Academy's campaign to raise the charter cap is all based on the higher test scores its schools get than neighboring public schools.
 
So here is something that every parent in New York State and around the country needs to realize- every time someone asks elected officials to support charter schools, it means that testing will become MORE important and oppressive, not only in the new schools created, but in all the public schools forced to compete with them to keep their funding.
 
Those parents who want instruction for their children free from government mandates informing instruction need to realize that their children's freedom will be constricted, not expanded, if more charters are created. And that testing will become increasingly entrenched in our educational system, at the expense not only of our children's learning, but their freedom to actually enjoy their childhood.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Link Between Broken Windows Policing and Deportation:


Of all the new information presented during last nights forum on Defending Bronx Communities at Fordham University, what I found most disturbing was the revelation of how the DeBlasio Administration's imposition of "Broken Windows" policing- arrests for minor offenses such as jaywalking, drinking in public and jumping over turnstiles- has led to deportation of many undocumented immigrants.

Apparently, all arrests for misdemeanors are automatically recorded in all national law enforcement data bases including those of the FBI and Homeland Security and if the person arrested is undocumented, can trigger deportation proceedings

The head of the Sauti Yetu Center for African Women, Zeinab Eyega, gave a chilling example of how this could work. One of the families her organization worked with consisted of a woman from Chad and her teenage sons living in a shelter after they escaped a domestic violence situation. Although the shelter was in the Bronx, her two sons attended school in Queens One day, one of her sons lost his metro card and had no way to get home. So he decided to jump over the turnstile at the subway station nearest his school There he was arrested and taken to the local police station, where the mother was told she needed $150 dollars to get him released. The mother didn't have the money and the Sauti Yetu Center had to give it to her. But that wasn't the worst outcome. Six month later, Homeland Security began deportation proceedings against her son for committing a crime while having undocumented status and at age 17, he was deported back to Chad, by himself. To this say, Sauti Yetu lawyers have been unable to arrange for his return.

This story is horrible in many respects. First, that Homeland Security would start deportation proceedings against a teenage boy, separating him from his family. But second, that an official policy of the NYPD, overwhelming targeting youth of color, would put large numbers of undocumented immigrants at risk

There are many, many others features of "Broken windows policing" which are questionable, including its contribution to gentrification of neighborhoods, but its role in facilitating deportations suggest that the practice is so morally compromised that it needs to be ended, or at least modified so that none of the arrests lead to more than a traffic ticket.