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I was bothered by several claims made in the editorial by Harold Lott, "Gates incident shows why racial debate is hard (Monday)."
Mr. Lott offers that it is critical for blacks to know that whites take responsibility for their moral debt, and for whites to feel assured that black anger is not intent on punishing them but to heal this racial divide.
He suggests that simple acknowledgment of a debt will heal the racial divide that causes him angst. He fails to realize that a debt is an obligation by one party to pay or do something to another party. Therefore, something must be rendered to eliminate the debt he is placing upon all members of a race.
I feel confident that Mr. Lott does not desire me to appear at his home and inform him that he has a debt to me and I am seeking resolution, no more than I wish for him to explain to me that I have a moral debt to a specific segment of society.
To establish that a debt exists, Mr. Lott points to the achievement gaps in testing between a defined group of intellectually equal whites and blacks as the result of "stereotype threat." That is the fear that one's behavior will confirm an existing stereotype of a group with which one identifies. In the study, Professor Claude Steele suggests that this fear can sometimes affect performance. Mr. Lott infers that since a difference exists in the testing a debt is created.
Mr. Lott fails to address the findings of Paul R. Sackett, Chaitra M. Hardison and Michael J. Cullen which disclose that when Steele removed the stereotype threat that the testing groups' achievement gap remained constant. He also does not disclose that in the later article found in the January 2004 American Psychologist "On the Value of Correcting Characterizations of Stereotype Threat Research" explained, they (Steele and Aronson) agree that it is a misinterpretation of the Steele and Aronson (1995) results to conclude that eliminating stereotype threat eliminates the African American-white test score gap.
Mr. Lott seems to want to capitalize on a phenomenon known as white guilt as discussed by Steele's own brother, Shelby Steele, in his 2006 book "White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era."
The essence of white guilt is that whites (and American institutions) must acknowledge historical racism to show themselves redeemed by it. But once they acknowledge it, they lose moral authority over everything having to do with race, equality, social justice, poverty and so on.
Nothing can be accomplished if either party comes to the table believing they are superior or inferior to the other. In fact, that belief is the true definition of racism (the prejudice that members of one race are intrinsically superior or inferior to members of other races).
I suggest that asking whites to take responsibility for a perceived moral debt is not an answer. Instead, Mr. Lott should consider encouraging all American citizens to remember the most known statement given to us by our Founding Fathers: All men are created equal.
Help teachers by supporting schools and their sponsors
All branches of government services are having to cut back in these tough economic times and our school systems have been hit especially hard. With teachers having to take pay cuts and days off without pay, they still have some of the most important jobs in our community because they are the people who help shape our future. These teachers are constantly being asked to do more with less.
I am proud of the Hall County School System and the teachers who continue to do the best that they can do with what they have to work with. I am asking that the members of this community who graduated from the school system, who have children that graduated from our school system and the ones who are currently being served to please chip in and help the schools in what ever way you can.
Even if you can donate magazines or books to the school library, every little bit helps. If you do business with a company who is a "Partner in Education" with one of our schools, please tell the business owner, "Thank you. We all learn through education."
John E. Webb