Opinion

Is President Obama against black kids getting a decent education?

Hughey Newsome Advisory Council, Project 21

After the Obama Administration filed suit against the state of Louisiana over a school voucher program allowing low-income kids in low-performing schools to attend other institutions, it appears the Wall Street Journal’s Jason L. Riley can make that assertion.

The Obama Department of Justice claimed letting poor kids take money for their educations elsewhere if their assigned schools get a D or F grade from state raters “frustrates and impedes the desegregation process.” While the injunction against Louisiana was dropped, Riley still suggests: “Forcing poor blacks to attend the state’s worst schools strikes me as something out of the Jim Crow South.”

Ninety percent of the kids getting vouchers in Louisiana are black, and potential school choices often a lot whiter than what they leave. With that in mind, it’s hard to believe vouchers promote segregation.

To some, however, the comment made by Riley, who happens to be black, as well as fellow black conservative Deneen Borelli’s claim that Obama “has a war against black Americans,” are salacious grabs at attention. Considering the entirety of the Obama challenge to the Louisiana voucher program, it doesn’t seem like Riley and Borelli are far off the mark.

Obama’s anti-voucher crusade goes beyond a disagreement over the proper policy to educate the state’s poor. Why, for instance, is the Department of Justice — a law enforcement body — interfering with what seems to be a legally sound program? Why not the civil rights office of the Department of Education?

In October 2012, Obama’s solicitor general argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of the University of Texas at Austin’s race-based admissions policy. Why would this administration go out of its way to support increased minority attendance at the university level while trying to shut down increased potential minority enrollment in predominately white K-12 schools? Is desegregation not good in all schools?

As Obama’s children attend the exclusive Sidwell Friends School, why did the Obama Administration early and repeatedly seek to destroy the popular Opportunity Scholarship Program for D.C. schoolchildren?

Answers to these questions could undermine whatever rationale we blacks have for our disproportionate support of President Obama. It’s likely that Obama and his staff are doing this to appease another political ally — teachers’ unions. Political power and influence sometimes outweighs helping constituencies in need.

The fact that these questions rarely make their way into our nation’s political discussion is even more troubling.

Society as a whole, and black folk in particular, would benefit from a long discussion about educational disparities and their causes. The mainstream media should also participate, but in a way that focuses on solutions to end them.

Instead, George Zimmerman, a rodeo clown, a Miami Dolphin lineman and a purse salesperson in Switzerland become the focus when our society is asked to have a tough discussion on race. They are supposedly indicative of an immoral force holding blacks back. Meanwhile, those in power, who have the support of blacks and a mandate to make lives better, continue to fail to deliver.

The conversation around what those people in power are doing, versus what they should be doing, does not happen frequently enough. It’s much easier to focus on those without power. This vicious cycle — too much focus on pettiness and not enough on substance — can be incredibly frustrating.

So, perhaps Riley’s headline was accurate after all. And I really hope the black kids win!