Detroit and America’s Racial “Exceptionalism”

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen ford

A great Black metropolis is about to be disassembled, thoroughly financialized for sale – yet there is no national outcry – “which can only mean that there exists an effective white consensus that African Americans are not fully deserving of those rights.”


Detroit and America’s Racial “Exceptionalism”

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen ford

The picture is of Diego Rivera's mural Detroit Industry, 1932-33, Detroit Institute of Arts.

Corporate solutions can justifiably be substituted for democracy, when it comes to Blacks.”

The great American dissolution of electoral democracy is playing out in Detroit, where last Monday the state-appointed Emergency Financial Manager explained to a crowd at Wayne State University how he would compassionately go about the business of breaking their city into buyable and sellable parts. The people and their elected representatives would have no say in the ultimate result.

The corporate media, and white folks in general, view the process as an inevitability – a kind of crude justice – not because they have rejected the principle of self-government, but because Detroit is overwhelmingly Black, and Blacks have always been the exception to the American rule. In fact, all of the Black population centers of Michigan have been divested of the right to govern themselves.

There has been no national outpouring of solidarity with Michigan’s Blacks over the loss of their citizenship rights, which can only mean that there exists an effective white consensus that African Americans are not fully deserving of those rights. Uncontrolled concentrations of Blacks are seen as pathological, by definition.

The same race-based exception was made to public education, for Blacks. In New Jersey and localities across the country, public schools in largely Black areas have for decades been under state control, denying Black parents any effective voice in their children’s education. By and large, white suburbanites supported the state in making Blacks an exception to the general American rule on local control over education. It is a right Blacks are not thought to be qualified to exercise.

Blacks were an exception to the Constitution.”

The same racial exception to the rule led to massive privatization of inner city education, through wholesale imposition of charter schools and private school vouchers. When education secretary Arne Duncan declared that Hurricane Katrina was the best thing that ever happened to public schools in New Orleans because it allowed most of the city’s schools to be converted to charters, there was no national condemnation of his remarks – since it is accepted that Blacks cannot run their own school systems. They are the great exceptions to the American rule. Corporate solutions can justifiably be substituted for democracy, when it comes to Blacks.

The problems of drugs and crime were framed as Black phenomena, requiring a more flexible interpretation of civil liberties and the creation of a vast police state. Just as the Founding Fathers actually intended, Blacks were an exception to the Constitution.

Blacks, and their alleged “pathologies,” were considered the nexus of poverty and social disintegration in America. Therefore, the social safety net was kept at the absolute minimum.

And now, all these exceptions that have been made for Blacks, are to become models for America as a whole, in the age of austerity, corporatized education, undemocratic governance, and the National Security State. In places like Detroit and New Orleans, America has been busily creating the pilot programs for the rule of the rich, by systematically undermining social democracy for Blacks.

The great exception, is becoming the rule.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].



School choice is the best way

School choice is the best way to give Black parents an effective voice in the education of their children.  What white folks have that black folks don't have in too many cases is school choice.  I had private, charter, school district directed charter and public schools available as a choice.  I had a choice, when I sent my children to the local public school.  What is even more important is that the local public school (50+% low income, inner city schools) knew I had a choice and developed a student/customer focus. As long as adult jobs and local politics are more important than the education of children, school improvement will not occur. 

It seems stange to review the results in Detroit without a mention of all those years of one party rule and civic group think tied to the auto industry. 

EQUAL schools are the best.

NOT CHOICE SCHOOLS.  As long as whitey is in charge that ain't gonna happen.  Apparently you were in an unusual situation for you to make that statement because most blacks do not get to make a choice.  Sounds like you won some sort of lottery.  Think about it for a minute.  If everybody had a choice and transportation/money wasn't an issue, there would be thousands and thousands of empty schools and everyone would be on the North side of town with the elites, which would force them to run like hell. 

Every child has a choice in San Diego

Every student in San Diego Unified School District has a choice of public schools.  Every neighborhood has buses to deliver students to the public school of their choice.  Every neighborhood, rich and poor, has magnet schools and programs (math, science, dance, music, international business, or etc.) that draws student enrolment based upon academic interest not wealth or neighborhood.  We have no empty schools. About 50% of the student in our neighborhood schools are bused students.  About 55% of the students are Hispanic and all school districts are run with strong state control, not by white local folks.

In California, every school receives the same state tax money based on enrollment, not the property taxes of the community. (Next year some school will recieve more money per non-English pubil.) Low income students also receive Title I federal money, so low income students and low income schools ( % of student receiving meal aid) recieve more funding for school than affluent students. About 25% of the student in our district are English learners and about 55% of the students are low income, as determined by lunch aid.

As for winning the lotto, the number one charter school in our school district and one of the top ten schools in the country, the Pruess School, only accepts low income students.

I am firmly against equally bad schools for all.  I am firmly against failure from the status quo. I am firmly for equal opportunities in public schools and choice...... 

My local public school routinely sends the top students of color to the top colleges in the country (Havard, Yale, Stanford, etc.), so the opportunity is there.  Unfortunately, there is still a drop out rate of greater than 20% primarily among Hispanics. 

I am willing to listen to progressive ideas for change but I am unwilling to fall for the failure that has come from local control only, no choice for students and the rejection of merit based results for public schools.

Now I get it.

A search of schools in San Deigo County reveals >110 high schools in San Deigo County within 18 separate school districts.  Your district has a mis-leading title.  "Unified" - like there is only one district.  Bet the other 17 districts ain't so great.  Seems your lottery is being located in the right district.

1 CITY District, 17 COUNTY districts

San Diego Unified covers most or all of the city and very little of the county and suburbs.  It is the second largest school district in the state of California.  The city is Unified, not the county. There are several smaller cities in the county that have their own smaller school districts. At least four of these other districts are considered better.

"San Diego Unified serves more than 132,000 students in pre-school through grade 12 and is the second largest district in California. The student population is extremely diverse, representing more than 15 ethnic groups and more than 60 languages and dialects."

You can see from the map that the district is square, no neighborhood exclusions or dumping, and covers most of the city. Chula Vista, Poway, la mesa, etc. at the boarders of the district are separate cities.

Enjoy your school results in Detroit

I have responded to your questions with well reasoned and documented replies.  If no-choice works for you, the students, and Detroit, great.

The results of school choice for this inner city, urban district speaks for themselves and have been presented. Apparently, these results will not change the opinions of those who refuse to think outside the box.

Apparently, you think I, as a parent, have been fooled by this inner city district.  I have been fooled about the quality of the advanced placement (AP) classes the students can take.  I have been fooled by the college level Calculus presented to the public school students.  And apparently you think both Berkeley, where my son goes to school now, and I have been fooled by this district's academic results.  In particular, Cal must have been fooled, when my son enter their school with one year of college credit based upon his high school work in this district.

Good luck to the student of Detroit.....they will need all the luck we can send them.

Yes there is a place, and No I am NOT satisfied

I don't BS, but there is still a lot of work to do (on the drop out rate and bottom third of student results).

One of the top four urban districts 2013:

"The San Diego Unified School District was named a finalist for the 2013 Broad Prize for Urban Education, The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation announced March 27. As one of four districts in the country to be recognized for student achievement gains, San Diego Unified stands to win at least $150,000 and as much as $550,000 in college scholarships for its high school seniors if the district wins the top prize."!/on-air/as-seen-on/SDUSD-Finalist-for...

"The San Diego Unified School District was again hailed by the Brookings Institution as having one of the best school-choice systems in the nation."


keith you're right

It's not really worth arguing because "school choice" advocates tend to be zealots.   If them and theirs get a few crumbs while the rest of it is closed, sold off or voucherized, oh well them's the breaks.  But hey, the Brookings Instituion gave them another pat on the head so it must be all good. 

ks - tks

The foolhardiness of someone who gets something better than others and thinks it is their choice is pretty much the norm in America, and, always has been.  We are mostly nothing but deceived hustlers and delusionists.  Criminal, especially for people of color.  

Do not know why I respond to stupidity - it just rankles me so because the person sounded like they cud be someome who happened to win a lottery, and cud possibly learn something.

(Brookings is just another rubber stamp tank that dishes out big salaries, health care coverage, and perks to their fradulent messengers.  Their opinions and studies are worthless these days.)

Try Reading

You need to read the links before you post a reply.  Every black student, every brown student, every white student, EVERY student is given a Choice and transportation.  If you read the link, you would understand the choice is between all the PUBLIC schools within the PUBLIC school District.  No public schools are being closed due to choice and no money is being given to private school or schools not a part of the district.  The funding for EVERY school in California is based upon the number of students, not the property taxes of the neighborhood, city, or county. 

Note: The school choice program is an outcome and extension of Federal mandated busing.  Rather than forced busing, San Diego used the program to give every child choice (for the last 30 years).  The schools run as charters are still public schools (often run by neighborhood parents, teachers and community organizations). 

It is just too funny that people think California public schools, run by the teachers unions and a Democratic Government are trying to screw students of color.


Propaganda is as propaganda does

Your links are the usual twaddle.  "forced busing", "charters"  I get it George Jefferson.  You got yours.  Meet the new boss.....


What's happening in Detroit, Chicago, Newark, soon to be New York, Atlanta and so on will come to your sainted San Diego system soon.   That's the end game.  It's a easy public money and real estate play that needs useful tools like you to help hustle the locals.  You remind me of the the guy here in Harlem who was all the rage for a hot minute jabbering about "school choice" and acting like he was revinventing public education.  He even had his own AMEX commercial and everything.  Turns out his publicly funded charter school was mediocre at best but hey he sure looked good on TV and his suits were very nice.    

Come to think of it

You must be a part of one of the sicko think tanks.  Brookings, maybe?  You sound faulty savy which is a prerequisite for a position.  That is, you spout what you are told by your superiors that are driven by ideological thinking.  Just like the NEOCONS were. You have joined the wrong devil team but I bet the pay is good.  

We Must Know Difference Between Real Black Alternative Schools

vs Phony Alternative so-called 'choice' schools -&- Real Education Reform vs {Mis}Education ['of the Negro'] DeForm -&- a Real Grass-roots movement from Astro-turf!

First- Its a given that the US' school system has been failing Black & Brown [& even some white] kids for decades [when has the US' school system ever been designed to make our people both knowledgeable, wise, skillful, & successfully independent]. But the idea that there can be top schools & grade A students [as a norm], from long neglected & devastated neighborhoods is LUDICRIOUS. 

In Chicago in the 1970s & 80s there were real alternative schools for Black kids- run by Blacks rooted in the Black community- IE: IPE Black community activist & author Bro Haki Mahabuti's IPE School(s), the NOI's Islam Academy School(s), Marva Collins [an actual Black educator who formed her own] Alternative School [note: Ronnie Ray-gun actually tried to 'recruit' Sis Collins as his Sec of ED- but she turned him down when she saw his real agenda was dismantling the Dept of ED]. I guarantee that these corporate {mis}Education [of the Negro] Deformers ain't about to empower & fund these types of alternative schools for our people. 

The first bright Red-Line that this much hyped NCLB / RTTT / privatized-charterized model of so-called education is PHONY- Is that it's spear-headed mainly by filthy-rich white corp billionaires who have NO formal credentials & experience in education, who NEVER even attended public schools nor send their kids to any public schools [not even top rated 'magnet' schools]- rather than being spear-headed by teachers, students & their parents, & activists from their communities.  

The 2nd tell-tale sign that the NCLB  / RTTT so-called choice alternative is phony- Is that [white] Billionaires IE: Mike Bloomberg, Bill Gates, the Waltons [of WalMart], the Koch Bros, Penny Pritzker, etc & their ilk can easily afford to set up their own truly private [without $public$] alternative school system [ala Catholic Schools]- based on the NCLB / RTTT / Teach for America [TFA] / Standardized Testing model. So why are they leveraging a take-over of the public school system? 

The 3nd tell-tale sign that the NCLB  / RTTT so-called choice model is phony- A study has shown over-all that for NCLB / RTTT / privatized-charterized schools 47% of them do about the same as regular public schools, 16% do somewhat better that most public schools -BUT- 37% actually DO WORSE- by their own metrics [this is like taking 1 step forward & then 2 steps backward & calling it 'progress'].

The 4rd tell-tale sign that the NCLB  / RTTT so-called choice model is phony- Is several hi-profile test cheating scandals in places like NYC [on Wall St Billionaire Mayor & {Mis}Education Deformer's Mike Bloomberg's watch], Atlanta & DC [on much hyped MS-Education {of the Negro} Deformer guru Michelle Rhee's watch]. 

The 5th tell-tale sign that the NCLB  / RTTT so-called choice model is phony- Is that it promotes so-called 'turn-around' 'shake-ups' [= educational instability]. How wholesale & arbitrary mass school Closings & firing of teachers- & then restaffing them w a bunch of TFA college-kids who generally have little long-term commitment to being teachers [the aver TFA Kid's tenure is 2yrs before moving on to their 'real career'- using their TFA stint as a 'resume' booster']- be good for Black & Brown students???

With this info it's obvious that the much hyped NCLB  / RTTT so-called 'choice' model is NO over-all improvement over traditional public schools, so what's this really all about, & why are Black & Brown kids' schools the primary targets? 

This yr there will be mass school closings in Chicago [54], NYC [26] & Philly [23].  Nearly all of these schools are in Black & Brown neighborhoods, so lets take a closer look at some key stats. Chicago's white [non Hispanic] population is 32% but CPS school kids are only 8.8 white. Also note-whorthy is that 49% of CPS Teachers & 31% of its principals are white- vs Hispanics at 44% of CPS students- vs only 18% of CPS teachers - 17% of CPS principals <-&-> Blacks at 42% of CPS students - vs only 25% of CPS teachers - 48% of CPS principals [FYI: aver CPS teacher pay: $75,000/yr - aver CPS principal / asst-prin pay: $121,000/yr - explains why these phony 'reformers' want to break teachers' unions & staff them w TFA neophytes for $12 - $15/hr]. - Rahmbo claims that he's closing these 54 schools for better education for their students [yet he's not sending them to schools w markedly better academic records], because their under-utilized [so he's going over-crowd other over-stressed schools], & because of a budget crisis [yet Chicago schools are supposed to get funding from the IL Lotto while Rambo has commited $100s of MillionS to building a private sports complex for DePaul's 'Blue Demons']. 

NY-City's [non-Hispanic] white population = 33% yet only 14% of NYC public schools are white. And Philly's {non-Latino} white population is 37% but only 14% of Philly's public school students are white.

The Obvious conclusion is - that in most big cities most whites [in Chicago 72% - in NYC 58% - in Philly 62%] are sending their kids to [exclusive?] private [IE: Catholic, Jewish, etc] schools- thus the vast majority of big city public school kids are Black & Brown. Therefore the destruction &/or so-called 'privatization' / 'charterization' [= $profitization$ at public expense] of urban public schools is proceeding at full speed ahead- under the meme of {mis}Education ['of the Negro'] DeForm. 

Plus these Wall St 'Corp Raiders' [IE: convicted Wall St Bankster Mike Milken] calling themselves {ms}Education Deformers, know a good BIZ investment when they've got insider info. There's a potential $500 Billion+ / yr to be made by them successfully 'leveraging' an [insider] take over of US' public schools at tax-payer expense. Standardized tests were designed to be biased against Black students, non-native English speakers, & poor folks in general- from the git-go! However there's BIG $$$ in administering them- especially when they're mandated across-the-board [which why they're also designed to be scored by clerks w no knowledge of the subject matter &/or by machine]

Further-more the destruction of public schools in Black & Brown niegborhoods is closely linked w the gentrification [= ethnic-cleansing] of these very same communities. Some [mid-class] whites have found that living in the suburb has its disadvantages & thus want back into cities. BUT first they want Black & poor folks out of the way! This is/has been accomplished by- shipping most living-wage jobs over-seas, infesting Black & Brown communities w drugs then locking them up [mass-incarceration], mass fore-closures on their homes [due to Wall St Bankster fraud]- followed by mass closings of schools on Black & Brown communities.  




Fighting for Failure?

Damn the Federal Government and programs to change the status quo. Damn those Billionaires who intend to distributed their money to the schools.  Damn those religious extremist who have been sending their children to Catholic schools in Chicago for 100 years. And Damn all parents that insist upon a quality education for their children.

Finally, damn this charter school who is burdening 95% their students of color with four years of college.

"Recognized by Newsweek as the top transformative high school in the nation for three years in a row, The Preuss School UCSD is a unique charter middle and high school for low income, highly motivated students who strive to become the first in their families to graduate from college. With nearly 100 percent of our graduates going on to higher education, Preuss shapes more than minds, we shape futures"

A quick look at wikipedia gives us this.

Students are selected by a blind (so-called) lottery.  (So, seminole did win a lottery - thought so).

There have been many controversies like:  grade fixing etc.

Most of the funding is private.

Rotary Clubs paint the school buildings.

It is on the campus of the U of Calif., thus no cost of acquistion of land and buildings.

I have written the CFO to try to get some sense of funding comparisons with the surrounding low class schools but surely she will fain privacy.

The school is located in La Jolla, probably the richest and nicest area in all of Calif.

Come on:  this ain't competition - this is monopoly at its finest - disaster capitalism.





End of story.  Our cheerleader has been busted.  You and Nix killed him.  Wonder how much he gets paid. 

From Wikipedia: Preuss 'Model' School UCSD:

} A group of faculty members at the Univ of Cal San Diego [USCD] first conceived the idea of establishing a college-preparatory school for minority students after California Proposition 209, that banned the use of affirmative action in Cali's college admissions, passed in 1996. Their belief, expressed by Cecil Lytle, provost of Thurgood Marshall College, was that public universities were not active enough in creating educational opportunities for the state's most disadvantaged youth [which of course they are NOT]... This project was to be mostly privately  [NOT PUBLICLY] funded and was to have an oversight agency known as the Center for Research on Educational Equity, Access, and Teaching Excellence (CREATE)... - Doris Alvarez, 1997 National Principal of the Year, was selected to head the project. Alvarez in turn selected Janis Gabay, 1990 National Teacher of the Year, to head the faculty. After funding was obtained in 1998, the school began accepting applications. By May 1999, the school had received more than 500 applications for the initial classes. About 300 of these were deemed acceptable by the admissions board, and 150 of them were then chosen by lottery [HUMM]. The group included about 50 students in each in grades—6th, 7th & 8th—and the school continued to add a new 6th-grade class each fall until the intended total enrollment of 800 was reached.

Preuss has been the subject of two controversies. The first arose in March 2005 when a study, released by UCSD through CREATE, concluded that students who applied to the charter school but lost out in the subsequent lottery did as well in standardized testing as students who won in the lottery and were accepted. This led to speculation that Preuss was a boutique charter school that attracted highly motivated students while leaving less-motivated students to the mainstream public schools. It also led to the criticism that the school's practices were no more progressive than other public schools.

The second, more publicized controversy, arising in the fall of 2007, involved accusations of grade tampering. The accusations, whose source was past faculty and included a former teacher who filed a legal claim against the school, alleged that the school sometimes changed Fs to passing grades. Some past teachers also said that they felt overwhelming pressure to give good grades while teaching at the school. UCSD's office of audit and management advisory services was assigned to investigate the accusations, and the school's principal, Dr. Doris Alvarez, and academic adviser Phil Ensberg were placed on leave. The report, released in December, found that 76% of the 190 transcripts reviewed contained grading inaccuracies and that most of these changes had a positive effect on the student's transcript. After the audit and what she said was pressure from the university, Alvarez resigned as principal of Preuss- denying any role in changing grades. But She remained at UCSD as an advisor until retirement in June 2008. {


Thus the very reason why they had to come up w Preuss is because Cali's Prop 209 blocked affirmative action progs RE:  admitting Black & Brown students to Cali's universities- which of-course has now dropped dramatically since Prop 209 [curiously many of the same folk who scream about affirmative action also hype NCLB / RTTT & publicly-funded but privately-controlled charters].

Private funding- I've got NO issue w this- except most charters are now PUBLICLY funded- via NCLB & RTTT. 

Preuss uses both admission's tests & lotteries [= cherry-picking top students]- which most public schools can NOT use & do . 

GRADE-FIXING: One of the main ways to know if this NCLB / RTTT / Charterization hype is a scam is that more than twice as many charters [37%] in fact do worse than the aver public school- than actually do better [16%]. AND- also because there's so many HI-Profile test cheating & grade-fixing scandals going on- meaning too many of these charters can NOT even succeed by its own standardized testing metric- without cheating!!!

Is this a Logical Response or Emotional Reaction???

RTTT & NCLB have indeed changed the status-quo- primarily for the WORSE [at-least when it comes to Black & Brown school kids].

The fact is these Billionaire / Millionaire {mis}Education ['of the Negro'] Reformers aren't spending their money to improve education for Black & Brown kids or even to set-up their own truly privately independent alternative [ala Catholic] schools- They're using their poly-trickal clout & influence [via poly-tricksters they've bought & paid for] to leverage a take-over of public schools at tax-payer expense- And there's a BIG fundamental difference between those 2 positions!

I did NOT say NOR do I have an fundamental issue [in principle] w folks who send their kids to Catholic [or other religious] schools. But you should ask the question why ain't Bill Gates & his billionaire ilk- using their influence to leverage a take-over of Catholic, 7 Day Adventist, Mormon &/or Jewish schools??? Why are they only targeting Public schools in mainly Black & Brown communities???

That emotional reactionary statement about 'Damning parents who want a good education for their kids' - I will NOT even bother to respond to.

About Preuss School: I've never heard of it but I'll take your word that it's a good school. That however does NOT disprove my point about NCLB & RTTT being a 'Trojan Horse' maquerading as so-called 'School Reform'. Preuss School is likely an exception to the rule. BUT- I can recall several [not just 1] good Public hi-schools in Chicago [which at-least 1 has since been closed in the past 10 - 15 yrs]. IMO: the existence of Lindblom [now closed] & Lane Techs, Walter Peyton Magnet, CVS & Simeon Vocational, Morgan Park...- Hi-Schools don't prove that Chicago Public Schools [CPS] have for the most part been successful at giving most of Chicago's Black & Brown kids a good education- BUT- What they have indeed shown is that it's possible.

Immature Thoughts.

I am 21. and this site has been an awesome( in the true definition of the word; "To inspire awe") spark to my political and social consciousness. I have read many different things over the last few months since I perused this site, oddly enough from watching Glenn Ford on Democracy NOW! debate Michael Eric Dyson. Watching Glenn Ford take down M.E.D on every topic during the debate, I realized something; Modern mainstream narratives especially the Black Mainstream narrative, is empty, vapid and useless to the people . Not only that but the philosophy behind it is vapid and empty as well.  This site and a few other I like to check out, have been vital to my mind. And would be vital to more people. You do the greatest good to people by telling the truth. More than what some preacher(or I always felt like an infomercial-in-the-flesh, selling you something you don't need) can do on a Sunday.

But on topic of the article,  I had a feeling that the only logical conclusion of striping away rights of Black citizens( in regards to the word 'citizens', I always asked myself; "As a black human being am I a citizen of the United States, or even the world since Africans see us as American"?) is death. All other races in this country take shots at the black person, Even that America Ferrar flic "Our Family Wedding" shows that other color folk don't even think highly of us. 

Is extermination extreme? Honestly no, wherever the future is headed does't look good for Blacks.