I got this my email today:
I was a career day speaker at a Chicago Public School last year. This year I was disinvited.
We would like to thank you for dedicating your time to this year’s career day. Unfortunately due to the nature of the content that you presented to our young warriors last year, we are going to decline your request to present at this year’s career day.
We hope you understand.
I signed up for Marc’s email because he and I sort of tag-teamed at a Career day once a few years ago. Okay, it was more like they had more volunteers show up than anticipated, so I got sent to the same room as Marc. Our “assignment” as I understood it was to tell the students about our chosen career, and then share some general pearls of wisdom about staying in school and succeeding in life.
Marc went first and put up a video he had made and for the next 20 minutes told the high school students: Do not get pregnant. If you get pregnant while you are still in high school, it will ruin your life. His second message was don’t make the same mistakes I did, with images in the video as evidence of the results of his bad choices.
As opposed to most of the speakers who came because they had some sort of sense of self-importance that they could share with the youth of tomorrow, Marc said, basically, I’m an idiot, and you shouldn’t make bad decisions like I did.
Now I distinctly remember at the time thinking, “ooh, is he allowed to say that?” followed up by me thinking “ooh—I’m the only white person in this room and what do I really know from my position of privilege about what these students really need, as I prepare to tell them about careers in marketing, knowing full well that you need a college degree to be successful and suspecting the statistics for CPS students and 4 year college degrees is not good.”
Then, Marc finished, and sat in one of the desks along with the rest of the students for my presentation, and when it came time for questions, Marc was the first one with his hand up—he proceeded to tell the others to really listen to what I was saying. He asked really good questions to frame what I had to offer to really hit home the important parts of what I had to say, and engage the students in the content.
The bottom line, he really cared about the students and wanted to help. Just, as he said, his message wasn’t conventional.
Here’s Marc’s response to the letter he received, which also encapsulates his thoughts on his message:
I agree the content of my presentation is a bit much for your students, and for most African Americans in general. I know I’m like a Black Power-Race Man from the 1970’s. Also understand it is sometimes not what you say but how, when, and where you say it.
However, someone has to be the “bad cop”, and tell young African Americans about the challenges they will face as adults. The talented tenth, the Black Bourgeoisie, and the pseudo bourgeoisie cannot, will not, or are afraid to tell young African Africans the truth!
Here the truth; integration, assimilation, consumerism, deindustrialization, ignorance, selfishness, and self-hatred has rendered the African American community to Humpty Dumpty status.
You also know the truth! Only 8% of CPS students will obtain a four year college degree by their mid twenties. 70% of African American children are born out of wed lock. 70% of African American women are single. The list of challenges for African American men, women and children goes on and on in this “post racial” society.
As a people, African Americans will be around, but as a people we will be irrelevant. So the challenge for young African Americans is to figure out how irrelevant can they be as an individual. Young African Americans will, like all African Americans have, consciously or unconsciously make the choice to how much they will integrate and assimilate into the American main stream society. The choice is to become homogenized or to be marginalized.
I made the choice to tell truth and became marginalized.
But we haven’t solved student success in the CPS schools. Who’s to say that Marc’s approach is wrong?