11 October 2020 A thesis presented to the Faculty of Saybrook University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts (M.A.) in Transformative Social Change by Michael P. Perazzetti Abstract: The purpose of this thesis is to initiate a diagnosis and critique of the democratic process with an emphasis upon its relationship to the Black American community, especially Black American teens. The diagnosis and critique will include an exploration of key concepts that include environmental conditions that effect Black American students, presumptions of Black Americans inferiority in and out of the classroom, the presumption of social economic inequalities of Black American students impacts their academic performance, stereotypes of Black American criminality and the school-to-prison pipeline, low expectations and low involvement in the democratic process, and how Black American music creates liberating opportunities that addresses systemic racism. The democratic process is analyzed from the multi-dimensional perspective of Black Americans access to the democratic process as an on-the-ground sociological and psychological reality. Dedicated to my Granny, Joephine Pitti Kelsay, my mentor, my role model, my hero, for everything. You may have traveled on, but you’re never far. Acknowledgements: To Scholars Vah Stinson and Antonio “Brother Bow Tie” Cope for being patient and noble teachers; Thomas Daugherty for helping me in a moment of truth; Elizabeth Melton for saving me when I needed it the most; my niece Dani Perazzetti De La Torriente for love, hope, listening, and logic; my niece Sarah Vicente for her optimism; my sister, Marcie Perazzetti for her resilience; my Dad, Giuseppe Perazzetti for becoming Zen about almost everything,; my best friend Marnie Padgett Rogers for the music; and my comrade Max Spitzer for his guidance , patience, and for believing in me. CHAPTER 1: PROLOGUEAutobiographical Background This is a story of music and identity. Music feeds my soul, my heart, my imagination, everything I do. My identity is tied to it in many ways. The melody, of course, is important but the lyrics are everything. They spoke to me as a youth and they still tell me stories. More than anything, music saved me, it made me feel ok about myself, if only for the length of the side of a seven-inch 45, it empowered me, and it schooled me about the injustices in this country and the world, and it did it all with melody, hooks, and powerful lyrics. My environment, the neighborhood, the schools, and reminders of my Italian father’s ethnicity consistently caused me to view myself as nothing but the Other, someone that is viewed as apart from the political White majority. That view is never far from my consciousness. I blame my views as the Other on the programming and conditioning embedded within me from the moment of my first awareness. My programming and conditioning remain, while some changes have occurred and in other ways little has changed except the passage of time and a changing political environment that homogenized my beloved ancestral roots. The Italian identity underwent the typical melting pot transformation. We became yet another part of “White.” When my dad arrived in the United States from Italy, after marrying my mother in 1961, sixteen short years after the United States began to accept Italians as White, he went to work in grocery stores, eventually becoming a skilled and artistic butcher. But at the beginning, he worked in a delicatessen of a local California grocery chain. At the time, my parents were living with my mother’s parents and my father had learned enough English to understand disrespect. He returned home from work one day with his first paycheck and exclaimed to my Granny, “Ma, they think I am stupid.” As much as anything can hurt, it always hurt to hear that story. I noticed growing up that my father always had to do better just to prove himself when no one else around us amongst the White political majority in our community ever seemed to have to. The White political majority acknowledged him for his skills and he even became a department manager for a brief time a few years later, but he was always resented for those gifts because I heard about it around the dinner table every night. He was skilled and gifted, with an accent, and the White political majority thought he was stupid because he was not like them. Just before entering public school for the first time in 1969, I began a summer school program in Hughson, California, whose population at the time was predominantly Hispanic and Mexican migrant farm worker families. This was one of my earliest memories of not feeling like the Other. I was embraced and accepted. A few years later, in middle elementary school and after, I began to be singled out in one way or another. The children taunted me for the difference in my name which grew worse each year, and the teachers, in spite of the anglicized adaptation of the pronunciation of my name, pronounced it with difficulty, and it became more and more embarrassing for me as I grew older. I have never forgotten this, and it is still a visceral memory. This is the very reason that I make a point of pronouncing “non-standard” names correctly as a form of deep respect. As a future public-school teacher, I want children and teens to feel respected as human beings and focusing on the proper pronunciation of their name is only one small way to do. That. My dad possibly anticipated this when he arrived and had his first name changed to its transliteration, from Giuseppe to Joseph. After dealing with all of the mispronunciation, of my name I can only imagine what my dad had to endure. While there were other Italians that lived in town, I never saw them except during holidays at Italian cultural association events that my family and I attended as members. In that cultural environment, I did not feel as the Other. I felt like a part of this group of Italians. Granny took me to a few Mexican weddings that she attended when I was a young child and my experience was the same. I felt like I was a part of this group of people, accepted. I was six in the late 1960s, about the same age that my Granny was when she was still living in Carlinville, Illinois in the early 1920s. She confided in me once that as a little girl she was afraid to walk around alone. This was a time that Italians were treated as non-White and “dago” and “guinea” were meant to be insulting, racist terms that referred to Italians as Black from Africa and during the time that Sacco and Vanzetti were executed on trumped up charges of murder and robbery with little evidence during a time when racism against Italians was at its height (Tejada, 2012). Several decades later during my farm internship, another student recollected that she encountered an older White woman who collected early 20th century post cards depicting Black Americans routinely hanged next to Italians. When I was in elementary school, I also discovered books and reading which also saved me in very real ways, where I could dive into books and leave the sterile environment I found myself. A vivid imagination helped me feel like I was part of something more and bigger, like I belonged somewhere. First it was a string of short historical biographies for children, and slowly I began to read novels that took me to places I’d never been, like medieval France, but I also discovered poetry wandering through the library. My first and favorite was the favorite of many Black Americans at the turn of the 20th century through the Harlem Renaissance until he fell out of fashion and then recently rediscovered: Paul Laurence Dunbar, the first recognized Black American poet. Several years later, a friend put music to his poem, If. Sympathy is still his most famous poem and the most visceral: I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—When he beats his bars and he would be free; (Dunbar, 1913, p. 102) Several years later, Maya Angelou used this line as the title for the first installment of her autobiography. Books and music were the backbone of what I reached for in order to find a way to ease the fact that I felt apart from almost everyone in my environment. While books were the vehicle of my liberation, music was a savior that increased gradually over the course of my life and grew by chapters. In high school it was the Beatles, but in college another door opened, and I was introduced to Country, Bluegrass, and Blues. History and social studies and law and politics courses introduced me to some aspects of inequality and institutionalized racism. However, conversations with friends and strangers, and most especially, music unearthed prejudice and racism for me in the most direct way that books could never have. My appreciation for music is due, somewhat, to my penetrating curiosity, but I owe friends and acquaintances direct debts for what they introduced me to. Most significantly, it was the Blues and early Spoken Word: Robert Johnson and Gil Scott-Heron. They were not the first, but they made a significant impact. Many essays and a handful books have speculated on the nature of Robert Johnson’s lyrics and the content of his life. Most of his lyrics tell of travelling, the loss of love, sexual conquests, and loss. None seem to sing of the inequalities of being Black American in the Depression-era Jim Crow South. Rather, after all, he was attempting to sell records (Pearson & McCulloch 2003). However, his music comes from a bleak, depressing place that can take me to a momentarily dark melancholy locale. As a result, it is difficult for me to listen to Johnson very often. Gil Scott-Heron is not dark and depressing but he is visceral and “Whitey on the Moon” is in-your-face brilliant commentary exploring the extremes in economic circumstances between the political majority and economically disadvantaged Black Americans: The man just upped my rent last nightCause whitey’s on the moonNo hot water, no toilets, no lightsBut whitey’s on the moonI wonder why he’s upping me?Cause whitey’s on the moon? (Scott-Heron, 1970) I cannot add anything else to this that adds to the power that these lines still have. They explain institutionalized racism intuitively better than any race and class course. Later, one extremely significant Rap and Hip Hop album changed the way I looked at music, Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet (1990). A good friend of mine had recently discovered the album and insisted I sit down and hear it from the comfort of his living room on a record player in 1990. Prior to listening to the entire album, other than one or two rap songs on the radio or a music video here and there, I listened to Hip-Hop and Rap very little. I also refused to form a positive or negative opinion based on the media propaganda that has surrounded the genre from the beginning. I needed to hear it for myself. Quietly listening to both sides for over 30 minutes, I contemplated and processed what I was hearing in the lyrics. I had one of the many epiphanies that music gifts me with on occasion. Having discovered Blues a few years before, my immediate reaction to my friend was that this was Street Blues, manifesting itself as it was in the late 20th century. “Brothers Gonna Work It Out,” is one such song among many that Public Enemy has produced since the late 1980s, and more powerful to me than anything is the fact that made the political majority uncomfortable with lyrics that contained no profanity but were overtly challenging the politics of the political majority with critical thought. Throughout this same album, lyrics and the evidence-based recordings of talk show radio hosts indicate White discomfort of the album’s overt challenging truth to power: Our goal indestructible soulAnswers to this quizzin’To the Brothers in the Street Schools and the prisonsHistory shouldn’t be a mysteryOur stories real historyNot his storyWe gonna work it one dayTill we all get paidThe right way in full, no bull. (Ridenhour, Sadler & Shocklee, 1990) The music that has influenced me is infinite, but Public Enemy stands out as a primary awakening influence. That influence harks back to a not-too-distant past where Rap and Hip Hop weave their roots from the Blues, Rhythm and Blues (R & B), early Rock and Roll, and Jazz and create something new and at once ancient and familiar. And always, always, always, listening to the lyrics has been important. Otherwise, “Framed,” a song written by Leiber and Stoller for the Coasters would have escaped me. The beat is dated, but the lyrics of racial profiling are still unfortunately contemporary: I denied charge of robbing the liquor storeDenied the charge of carrying a forty-fourDenied the charge of vagrancy, tooBut when the judge came down, poured whiskey on my headTurned around to the jury and said “Convict this man, he a drunk,” what could I do. (Leiber & Stoller, 1957) Addressing inequalities and racism in music is not new. It is not new to Blues, to Hip Hop, or even to Rock and Roll, but the discovery of that connection between early Blues, early Rock and Roll, and late 20th century Rap and Hip Hop made music infinitely more powerful to me and forced me to look a little deeper into the musical commentary that has always had a big influence upon me. When I began creating my Internet radio show in 2001, these connections grew more potent and I became more aware of their individual elements as well as the sum of their parts. Music feeds my soul, but it is not all music that nourishes me, either. There are serial layers of observations, conversations, and infinite collective processing that began as a little boy and has only increased since. These have led me to ask many questions, some of them uncomfortable to some individuals I have queried in a variety of music scenes. Some other questions about the connections between the White political majority, the music industry, and Black American musical artists have remained unspoken, to be processed spiritually and intellectually over time. While I saw myself as the Other at school and my immediate community environment, when I visited Italy at the age of three (1966), seven (1970) and thirteen (1977), I was really an outsider born and raised in a foreign country. That realization resulted in a small awakening in Northern Italy when I was thirteen and in Italy for the last time together with my family. It was also the first time I was allowed to wander around on my own, alone. We were in San Remo along the Italian Riviera. I was standing on a street corner observing the sights and sounds and on the opposite corner was an Italian family, a man and a woman and one or two small children younger than I was. They were all speaking Italian better than I had ever hoped to ever be able to at the time. They were Black Italians. I grew up in a small town, and while the population of Black Americans in Modesto, California was not as high as some larger cities, my limited experience had dictated that Black folks spoke the same English that I did. I stood there unobserved, with my mouth slightly agape, and I just watched. My world grew by leaps and bounds in an instant. This worldview expanded even further when I moved to New York City in 1997 and slowly began to realize that the African Diaspora is everywhere. Later on, during that same trip to Italy, my uncle’s wife went to visit her full sister in Pescara near the small town where my dad was raised and where my grandparents lived. On such excursions with my dad and others, I was usually quiet. On this occasion, I was introduced and remained quiet. My aunt, her sister, and I were all in the kitchen, and there they were, talking. My aunt was whiter than I was and the other, her sister, was a much darker brown with short straight, not relaxed, brown hair. Again, my world grew by infinite bounds as I learned more about my Italian ancestry than I could ever learn in a book or a classroom. Something else extremely significant occurred that solidified my views on news media propaganda and individual reporter’s and journalist’s declarations of neutrality that, to this day, too few seem to understand is impossible. It was yet another school shooting in Savannah that happened about a year before I moved to New York City. I was a new photographer, shooting the news, primarily one disastrous chemical fire, the 1996 Olympics, fires, knife attacks or cuttings as they are known in the news media industry, and shootings like this one. The art and music montages that I shot fed my soul, kept me going, and brought me the peace I needed to function in an environment that attempted to stifle creativity in any way possible. On this occasion, I was assigned to the reporter who was charged with visiting the deceased victim’s mother who was Black American as was her deceased son and the teen who murdered him. It was more important for the station that employed us to reach the victim’s mother first to obtain what I called “first tears,” in much the same way that the news media has the reputation of staunch adherence to the motto, “If it bleeds, it leads.” I saw how insidious this was then as much as I see it now. The incident triggered the shedding of my last few threads of any pretense to objectivity. We interviewed members of the Black community who were protesting for more after- school activities to actively engage the lives and creativity of the community’s teens, and I remember asking questions as often as I was able. I was left with more questions and a realization that the city and the mainstream news media did not really care about asking any hard questions to challenge the status quo, under the watch of a Black American mayor notwithstanding. Music returns. Music always returns. When I moved to New York City in 1997 at the age of 34 and began creating and producing an Internet radio show, I realized, contrary to the protestations I made to a few friends about knowing nothing about music, that music was always there. That music was there when I was in the first grade and grooved as much as a little six to seven-year-old could to the Jackson 5 on Saturday morning cartoons. It was there when I created montages of images and edited them to added music almost as instinctively as it was riding a bicycle on my seventh birthday without training wheels. Thus, it was only natural for me to weave sacred and secular and wed rockabilly to rap in an early radio show when I segued Carl Perkins into Public Enemy without a loss of beat or melody or a revelation that the source of music come from the same place. Listeners were introduced to creative music mixing. My interest in Rromani rights and culture comes from a similar place, from music, and from my understanding of their experience as the Other, as slaves, as the persecuted, as the outsider among the political majority who express themselves through music and other creative arts as a people legally and violently rejected for hundreds of years through the present. A few years ago, I discovered the music of Django Reinhardt, someone I subjectively acknowledge as the-greatest-guitarist-who-ever-lived. His music, an intricate form of guitar jazz seeped into my musical appreciation slowly and steadily. After a reading of his biography that explored his personal life, his devotion to music, and his relationship with his Rromani people, I became avidly interested in learning more about the Rromani, their history, their music and their plight. (Dregni, 2004) The racism that Django suffered as a Rromani in Europe was particularly acute, and he was not immune to seeing others subjected to it. On his only trip to the United States in 1946-1947, he went to a bar in Pittsburgh with a member of Duke Ellington’s band, Sonny Greer, a Black American, and the bartender at first refused to serve both Greer and Django. Django demanded the service that he expected in the bar, “And the guy [bartender] says, ‘I can serve you Mister,’ but he wouldn’t serve me,” according to Greer (Dregni, 2004, p. 217). Django’s music did not introduce me to the plight of the Rromani people and the racism they are subjected to in the ways that Black American music does, but his life heightened my interest in the Rromani people enough that I felt compelled to read and further explore their origins as well as their activism for human rights. It is now 2018, and I still do not really feel as though I fit in, but I navigate society the best I can and in obviously different ways than Black Americans do, but yet, I still feel apart in the majority of White society, and I still identify as Italian. I have body piercings and plan on tattoos, in part, for similar reasons. Society is changing and evolving, slowing because society is resisting. Body modification is my own personal statement to confront stereotypes directly and to embrace the tattoos and piercings that have always fascinated me. Both my Otherness and my piercings are entwined in my interest in teaching. The music that is always present holds my experiences together, allows them to live and breathe, and it encourages my growing understanding of Black American experiences to seek out mentors and teachers to fill the gaps in my understanding. Reflection and Analysis of Autobiographical Background I have never forgotten the butchery done to my name by teachers and my classmates, and I have no intention of repeating those embarrassing and apathetic situations that made me ashamed of my name for a long time. In a way of correcting the mistakes and apathy of my elders and the taunting of those classmates, I will do what I have always done in my role as a teacher: learn to pronounce the diverse array of names in my classroom, even if it takes me days to do it so my students know that they are welcomed and respected. Saying and pronouncing students’ names properly is one step towards honoring and respecting them. This thesis is a journey, an analysis, and the projected hopes from one small but significant future classroom. Growing up, I never felt privileged, honestly. As an adult, I still do not feel as privileged as others, but I understand viscerally that I have privileges that others do not, as a man and as someone who is identified as White. My motivation as an educator is to foster a learning environment that embraces critical thinking to encourage and create an open learning environment for students to grow, thrive, and evolve. That will happen if students understand where I come from, that I am sincere, and I approach them with an honest heart and a respect for their culture. A measure of openness and mutual understanding will follow if they understand how I arrived at this point in my life. And just as viscerally, I do not want the same thing that happened to me and the worse, insidious things that have happened to Black American children and teens for decades to be perpetuated under my watch. Under my watch, everyone teaches and everyone learns. Additionally, I desire to teach because I understand intimately that school is where a great deal of socialization and collaboration occurs, where vocational, creative, and career journeys begin, and where life-long friendships can be forged. If the educational community is not one that is honest and nurturing in the midst of the communities where Black American students live with their friends, neighbors, and families, then it is not safe for students to be themselves, it does not nurture, and it will not accomplish the goal of forging strong community anchors, support networks, and their future selves. At the core, I understand what Black American children and teens face daily, as they travel through schools and communities, because I have never forgotten, and I will never forget what it felt like to be the Other. Music and books have a way of always bringing me back to the core of everything. It is where I felt and feel safe. When I view the state of the world and the extremely flawed democratic access for Black American teens, this is the mirror that is held up for me to see into the past and into the current future. My lived experiences for this paper are not as valid as the lived experiences of Maya Angelou, Public Enemy, Gil Scott-Heron, or Paul Laurence Dunbar, but they give me visceral validation for this analysis stemming from my very own lived experiences which have helped me understand some of what Black Americans have had to endure for centuries. We in the United States are a country of immigrants, the indigenous, and Black Americans who were enslaved and brought here against their will. Since the end of slavery and the official end of Jim Crow notwithstanding, there is a need for understanding that systematic racism is embedded in the laws, institutions, and practices in the United States or getting arrested while walking down the street and driving while Black would not be just as prevalent now as it has always been. It is 2018 and Black American women and men are still assassinated and imprisoned in higher numbers, and their treatment is markedly different than the privileges that White women and men receive for the same infractions of local and federal laws (Hattery & Smith 2017; Padula, 2018). Systematic racism never went away, and it is not going to go away until we as a people engage in little acts of defiance that are individually seen as people being people until such time that larger groups of people act together to treat people as human beings in the classroom and in the larger society. Everyone will have to have the same access to democratic institutions while being treated fairly, humanely, and equally under those laws. It should begin in the classroom. The classroom is where crucial socialization occurs in the United States. There, children mimic and learn from their peers. They also learn and mimic from their parents and their role models in the community. School teachers and leaders are amongst those leaders in the community that children look up to for guidance, acceptance, and support. This systematic change challenging subtle to overt racism should begin in the classroom to have a necessary lasting effect. As an academic, as a member of professed progressive organizations, and as a human being, to write of the systematic and institutionalized racism in the United States and any macro- or microscopic aspect of it, to force it under a microscope to analyze it in depth from almost every angle, to do so without offering solutions that may benefit others, and to not follow up on those solutions in the future through any form of implementation on any scale, large or small, is tantamount to being an accomplice. It is to act the very same towards the historical, institutionalized, and systematic racism as the many White liberals who see, occasionally discuss, and ignore the racism before their very eyes much of the time. It is to listen to Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddamn” and laugh uncomfortably at the introduction like the audience only to realize later that she means it and she is not kidding. It is to listen to the novelty of the Coasters’ Framed and realize later that they were not kidding, that it was an experience outside of yours because those who identify as White cannot acknowledge anything outside of their immediate experience. It is to take these musical melodies and lyrics and others from beginning to end, compile these ideas, see these ideas, become emboldened with understanding them, and do nothing. My job, my goal, my role in the Universe is to challenge the status quo of apathy, inaction, and unbalanced domination. It is to challenge people to think about the immediate and extended environment around them and how they and others affect and are affected by socially accepted rules, laws, and social constructs that they generally cannot see at best or ignore at worst. My job, my goal, my role in this thesis is to help people consider the racist practices of the past, and the overt and the covert practices that became the traditions of the past. It is to contemplate the practices of the future of education, its past and current problems, and its possibilities for the future of learning in the United States. Personal Reflection and Future Hopes That Inform This Study I am identified as White, but I do not identify as White. I grew up identifying myself and being identified as Italian. Italians were identified as Black from their first mass immigration from the 1880s until the 1920s. They have not been viewed as Black since World War II, though the original terms, “d*go” and “gu**ea,” that once identified Italians as Black are still used to insult and demean (Vellon, 2010; Lagumina, 2010). In my community in the 1970’s it was common to be asked, “what’s your nationality?” Today it is, “what’s your ethnicity?” I have not stopped being Italian or identifying as an Italian, the external color of my skin notwithstanding. Nothing has changed, but I still view myself as the Other, the privileges that I am given, notwithstanding. I do not know what it feels like to be a Black American in the United States, but I remember everything that I was subjected to as a cultural Other very clearly and in graphic detail, and to see others suffer, I feel it viscerally to the core of my being. Writing this thesis and teaching in the near future is my way of paying it forward and giving back to those who are still suffering and to those that have helped me to understand infinitely more along the way. Understanding, realizations, and education through music throughout my life occurred in waves. Music, books, and my lived experiences growing up and identifying as Italian and as the Other in my community in California always helped me to understand others experiences outside of myself as I continued to process the past and look towards the future. Living as an adult in communities that accept me but view me as different also helps me to understand and appreciate the diversity that I choose to surround myself with. Music and books have been always there to help me understand almost everything. But there have always been conversations with individuals and groups I have encountered, like the weddings I attended with Granny at a very young age to the exchanges I have with travelers on buses and trains and groups that invite me to contribute to their ongoing conversations that routinely weave into and out of agreement, disagreement, and understanding. Every lyric, every melody, every book, every smile, every dialogue helps me to understand the importance of honest access to the diverse aspects of democratic processes. The succeeding diagnosis and critique is fueled by this intimate relationship with music and its nuances I have encountered along the way. Purpose The primary purpose of this thesis is to explore the direct relationship between racism, public education and access to the democratic process in the United States. A second purpose was to explore the deeper issues involved within the connections between systematic racism within public education and the disenfranchisement of Black American students. Thirdly, this diagnosis and critique explored the relationships involved between creative expression and a public platform to express frustrations regarding the lack of access to the democratic process for Black Americans. Research Question The research question pondered within this thesis is: How do public schools’ biased expectations of Black Americans’ academic performance limit their participation within a democratic society? CHAPTER 2: METHODOLOGY The methodology chosen for this thesis is theoretical. I chose this methodology in an attempt to answer the research question, how do public schools’ biased expectations of Black Americans’ academic performance limit their participation within a democratic society? I approached this question through six primary approaches in order to attempt to analyze this question from six perspectives. First, I analyzed the environmental conditions that affect Black American students. The data indicated that the low expectations and resultive actions towards Black American students within their learning environment conditions Black American students to reduce their contributions in the belief that their efforts will be dismissed or ignored. Second, I analyzed the presumptions of Black Americans inferiority in and out of the classroom. The data indicated that the presumption that Black American students are inferior and less intelligent than White students devalues and conditions Black American students to believe that they are not worthy of contributing inside or outside of the classroom. The fourth point I analyzed was the stereotypes of Black American criminality and the school-to-prison pipeline. The data indicated that the presumption that Black American students possess criminal tendencies conditions teachers and public schools to dismiss and ignore their contributions in the classroom, and thus contributes directly to the school-to-prison-pipeline. The fifth point I analyzed was the low expectations and low involvement in the democratic process. The data indicated that the low expectations and resultive actions towards Black American students contributes to the conditioning of Black Americans’ later low involvement in the democratic process as adults and their belief that they do not have the same access as the political majority. Last, I analyzed how Black American music creates liberating opportunities that addresses systemic racism. The data indicated that limited access to the democratic process compels a reaction from Black American teens and adults that results in an immersion into music and other forms of creative expression to compensate for their limited voice within the democratic process and precipitate a possible increase in economic power CHAPTER 3: DIAGNOSIS AND CRITIQUE Introduction The following thesis analyzes and critiques public schools’ biased expectations of Black Americans’ students’ academic performance in ways that limits students’ participation within a democratic society and also offers a discussion of opportunities. However, the ultimate goal behind this paper is a realistic one: To judge Black American teens and their future adult selves by the content of their character, their potential intelligence and their future potential selves rather than the colors of their skin. Emphasis will be placed upon a principle introduced in Plato’s Republic through a conversation between Socrates and Glaucon (Bloom, 1991), which emphasizes that groups structured under the aegis of a city, state, or federal collective must be organized in such a manner that maximizes opportunities and benefits for every individual within that collective, not just a select few, especially those elites amongst the oligarchy of the United States, the political elites and the White Political Majority. To ignore this gross inequality is insufficient, unjustified and criminally undemocratic. As Socrates discusses with Glaucon: ‘A man would care most for that which he happened to love.’‘Necessarily.’‘And wouldn’t he surely love something most when he believed that the same things are advantageous to it and to himself, and when he supposed that if it did well, he too himself would do well along with it, and if it didn’t, neither would he?’That’s so,’ he said.‘Then we must select from the other guardians the sort of men who, upon our consideration, from everything in their lives, look as if they were entirely eager to do what they believe to be advantageous to the city and would in no way be willing to do what is not.’ (Bloom, 1991, pp 91-92) Public schools should be a microcosm of that ideal society that Socrates speaks of so eloquently. Public schools should maximize those same opportunities for children and teens prior to entering the public sphere of adulthood. However, in public schools, Black American students’ opportunities are suppressed as exemplified by the psychological- and intelligence-based tests which are biased to favor the normalcy and neurotypicality of the political majority. Seldom are Black American students asked their needs or aspirations. There is nothing in place to determine their intellectual capacities through testing that reflects their community and cultural knowledge, experience, and intelligence. Instead, testing is based on the same standards of multiple-choice intelligence testing that favors the political majority (Ferguson, 1998; Howard, 2013; Oates, 2009). And thus Black American teens attend four years of high school immersed in often frustrating attempts to understand the navigation codes that continuously change in order to control them, demean them, dismiss them, and incarcerate them body, mind, and soul in a prison classroom pipeline towards prison proper (Mallett, 2015; Nocella II, Ducre, & Lupinacci, 2016; Soyer, 2016,). While these standards and norms are only part of the code of children raised within the political majority culture, they are accepted as the standards against which everyone is graded, judged, and evaluated to determine how well they will succeed in the classroom and in life. As a result, Black Americans are often spoon-fed information and conditioned to accept programming that advances beliefs that they are inferior, insignificant, valueless, and worthy of being ignored and criminalized. Through conditioning promoted in most classrooms, many Black American students are socialized to fulfill the expectations of the political majority without realizing they have been influenced by the very programming that saturates everywhere they look and everywhere they go. Some understand that they are being influenced, they will confront it, struggle with it, and search for ways to minimize its effects. However, there are others that do not realize the effects of the conditioning of the political majority and what they are doing to attempt to control their lives and destiny. If Black American students must navigate the system of intelligence testing established by the political majority, they have to train themselves to infiltrate the system standard and play “the game” according to the rules of the political majority in order to succeed throughout the biased grading to navigate those high school standards and beyond. Most who enter the realms of higher education and learn yet another biased standard to play a continuous game that allows them to function in a society dominated by a political majority. And yet, if they do, they are often still judged unfairly by the color of their skin rather than by the content of their character or their intelligence. They must wear a mask (Fanon, 2008; Kirkland, 2010) in order to succeed materially, though that is not emotionally or psychologically very healthy. These navigation skills are something they must learn on their own rather than lessons that they can learn in mainstream, traditional, or most classrooms, but they are rarely told these are the arbitrary rules they have to play by, though these same rules and additional ones are thrown at them at every opportunity (Gilborn, 2008; Howard, 2013; Montagu, 1999; Oates, 2009). Black American students must be given the tools to navigate the societal system of the political majority in the United States as adults. These tools must include an understanding of how this society functions so that they can achieve full democratic participation. These tools must include an understanding of the ways that the United States is supposed to work according to law, the traditions of the political majority, and the ways that they do not work, specifically for them. Within a dominating learning environment between the controlling White political majority and Black American students, frustration will be borne, and inspiration will emerge from the results of those lessons. These challenges and lessons embody the following diagnosis and critique exploring the limitation of Black Americans participation within the democratic society of the United States. The following points will be discussed: environmental conditions that effect Black American students, presumptions of Black Americans inferiority in and out of the classroom, the presumption of social economic inequalities of Black American students impacts their academic performance, stereotypes of Black American criminality and the school-to-prison pipeline, low expectations and low involvement in the democratic process, how Black American music creates liberating opportunities that addresses systemic racism. Environmental Conditions That Effect Black American Students It has been more than sixty years since the Brown vs. Board of Education decision forced desegregation of schools in the United States and the separate but equal of Plessy vs Fergusson was overruled. Many have argued that desegregation was necessary, good, and allowed Black Americans better access to equal education (Martin, 2010), and others argued that desegregation diluted Black Americans access to superior education (Garland, 2013; Woodson, 2006). The low expectations and resultive actions towards Black American students within their learning environment since Brown vs. Board of Education conditions Black American students to reduce their contributions in the belief that their efforts will be dismissed or ignored. Consider the point that, Black Americans were forced to suffer and managed to thrive during the Jim Crow era. What they were not provided with they created or built. Before the segregation of the Jim Crow South and the de facto segregation of the non-Jim Crow North and elsewhere in the United States, Black Americans took responsibility for their own education including, public, private, and university settings. Few outside their community helped them to adapt to an evolving future or grow as individual members of their communities. Excepting their lack of funding for books and materials, their motivations as individuals and collective communities were successful in providing a place where Black American children and adults could thrive (Murray, 2018; Snyder, 2018). They thrived when former slaves built community schools, and they thrived when those newly freed slaves built what become known as historical Black colleges and universities. During the Jim Crow era, it was really all about thriving when few outside their community would offer any assistance, even when the dominance of the White political majority manifested itself in riots and the biggest mass murders of Black Americans within thriving and successful communities, according to several sources (Rucker & Upton, 2006; Snyder, 2018; Murray, 2018). After desegregation, Black American communities were dismantled, and the White political majority persuaded Black Americans and their communities to rely upon the federal government for educational assistance, rather than relying upon themselves and their communities (Feagin, 2010; Marable, 2007; Rickford, 2016). When Black Americans began to oversee and manage the education of their youth just after the Civil War, most were not prepared to learn what most White children had already been learning at school or home. Most Black American adults were unable to read, while some could, and many learned themselves and learned to teach with the help of the community who were desirous of the successes new to most of them, the freedom to think and the freedom to learn (Murray, 2018; Snyder, 2018). Something else also separated Black Americans from the Whites who took this learning for granted. Black Americans were hungry, as hungry as the illiterate Malcolm Little stuck in prison undergoing a transformation of his own into Malcolm X (Malcolm, 2015). They did for themselves what no one else would, and without homes and buildings to teach, they improvised in the moment and built what they needed: Communities, neighborhoods, schools, churches, and colleges and universities (Du Bois, 2017; Tischauser, 2012). Not everyone was able to participate, and many fell back on the farming that they knew, albeit a version exploited by former plantation owners, though they understood the importance and value of education and thus, they insisted on something better for their children. How do people teach themselves and their community, a people who had been, at the point of the end of the Civil War, enslaved for approximately 300 years? Black Americans teach themselves to educate others to thrive financially so that their communities can survive and thrive collectively and allow Black American families to survive and thrive. Only no one outside their community taught Black Americans to do any of these things. They taught themselves. Black Americans did for themselves, and they did it well, because after hundreds of years of the White European political majority’s attempts to destroy them into extinction that continues to this day, they had no other options. Black Americans learned to survive by sheer will and adapt. They learned to adapt to every changing circumstance, including the threats of death and destruction, every attempt to redline them out of entry into any sort of democratic access, and even to survive repeated assaults, attempted assaults, and riots precipitated by White jealousy of their successes and the very difference of their skin color (Lipsitz, 2006; Rothstein, 2017). Within and around this environment, students are encouraged to think critically and create solutions for their people (Woodson, 2006; Snyder, 2018; Murray; 2018). For citizens, including members of the state and federal government, to feign ignorance of the attempts to destroy or exterminate the Black American population is unacceptable, disingenuous, and patronizing. It is also far from naïve. And yet, Black Americans survived and survive in spite of the herculean efforts of members of the White political majority to destroy them. When desegregation began, most Black Americans assumed and believed that they and their children would receive equal and equitable treatment in the classroom as equal members of society due to their so-called equal protection under the laws (Marable, 2007, Tatum, 2007). However, well-meaning members of society could not account for other members of society in business, government, and in education who judged people by their appearance, and, decades later, by the name on their resumé. Unfortunately, equal protection under the laws has not been the case, except from a very superficial and narrow interpretation of those laws (Feagin, 2014; Lipsitz, 2018). Since desegregation, Black Americans have been gradually, perhaps systematically, conditioned to be non-participants in their education and their classrooms because they were looked upon as less intelligent, as criminally minded, as lazy, and as stupid solely and exclusively because of the color of their skin (Oates, 2009; Montagu, 1999; Howard, 2013). Such environmental conditions that follow Black American students from school to community affect the ways they look upon themselves and the ways they look upon their ability to affect change in their community. Presumptions of Black Americans’ Inferiority in and Out of the Classroom Black Americans survive and thrive despite the best attempts of Whites to destroy and exterminate them in somewhat calculated and organized but disparate attempts at a eugenics-like holocaust of their people that is not necessarily sanctioned by the state. Attempts to destroy or exterminate Black Americans are not discouraged, prohibited, outlawed, or even seen for what it actually is, either. However, it is abundantly clear in the medical experiments that were performed on Black Americans for decades (Black, 2012; Hattery & Smith, 2017; Ordover, 2003; Padula, 2018; Rothstein, 2018). Within the classroom, many teachers favor lighter skinned and White students before encouraging Black American students to participate in classroom discussions (Oates, 2009; Montagu, 1999; Howard, 2013). As a result, Black Americans seem to be ignored when they question something in a text that is incorrect according to their ancestry and their experience in favor of the information that is biased and written to favor the political majority. This is the legacy of eugenics as a racist practice that continues to impact Black students to the present day. Eugenics in the United States began in the 1880s within the psychological science community in an organized attempt to convince the White political majority that they were superior to all others in the United States. After decades of the White political majority conditioning and reinforcing the beliefs of Whites that anyone not White is genetically inferior, it is difficult to recondition Whites to accept formerly segregated Black Americans (Lynn, 2001; Black, 2012; Ordover, 2003). Society in the United States necessarily had to evolve past segregation in order to survive and thrive, but the question remains whether or not Black Americans had to destroy what Black Americans had built over the course of decades, grew for about a hundred years, and just as suddenly had to begin relying upon the White political majority for most of their needs. Indeed, it is a question if Black Americans should have trusted the White political majority after Brown vs. Board of Education at all when for a majority of those almost hundred years prior to Brown vs. Board of Education, they did for themselves what no one else would. The history of eugenics, “the study of all agencies under social control which can improve or impair the racial quality of future generations,” begins in Europe before 1883, but it became a faith of the wealthy and the White political majority in the United States (Black, 2012, p. 37). At various times since, the United States government decided that it needed to purify “their branch” of the human race and exterminate or sterilize the Indigenous, Hispanics, Asians, and Black Americans (Lynn, 2001; Black, 2012; Ordover, 2003). Eugenics was and is a way for the White political majority to feel better about themselves and feel politically privileged enough to be born White in a society that valued theirs over every other ethnicity. Even in the earliest days of eugenics in the 1880s, Anglo-Americans and other Americans of Northern-European descent were almost the only ethnicities considered White. Jews, Italians, other Eastern and Southern Europeans, Irish, Chinese, other Asian-Americans, Hispanics, and additional ethnicities were all considered non-White and eugenics was used as a “scientific method” to demean them “scientifically” or sterilize them so they would not reproduce (Black, 2012). Prior to World War II, Americans in the United States kept very detailed records of their ideas and experiments within eugenics and published extensively (Black, 2012). The Nazis in Germany were their most eager students of its apostles within the U.S. government, and the largest corporations such as IBM and enthusiastically applied those earlier results and broadened the “experiments” (Black, 2012). In the classroom, whether a teacher is White or Black American, the conditioned tendency is to favor White students over Black American students (Howard, 2013; McGrady & Reynolds, 2013; Rong, 1996). This is, in part, the result of eugenics-like propaganda present in the United States since before the American Revolution that conditioned the population that became the White political majority to distrust and devalue anyone that was not White (Allen, 1994). The assumed superiority of the White political majority also has had an effect on the Black American population since desegregation when they had to enter White schools for the first time. The principles of eugenics not only condition students to value one group over others, the principles are taught in text books, in classroom lessons, and discussions that reinforce the dominant political superiority of White students and throughout the history of the United States (Bailey, Williams & Favors 2013; Bonilla-Silva, 2006). And so, teachers consciously or subconsciously often feel justified in ignoring and passing over Black American students in their classroom who do not conform to their conditioned “ideal” and do not perform as the students that they will be invariably compared to. Black Americans have lived in this country longer than the United States has existed, but history is not written by political minorities, and Black Americans are force fed the history promoted in textbooks by the dominant White political majority, and they are seldom exposed to their own histories unless they seek it out (Lee, 2006; Rickford, 2016). Black American history is generally ignored or dismissed by textbooks and most teachers alike. More importantly, as an example, if you are part of a population that has been invaded and dominated by another, how eager and enthusiastic would you be to learn the intricate details of a history that ignores your people’s contributions to the history of the overall culture? Where does that leave a Black American student in the classroom? As teachers and other students dismiss their contributions to the learning and educational process, they are likely to look for fulfillment and enlightenment elsewhere. Many have few choices here: Spend less time and effort in the classroom and on schoolwork, attempt to spite teachers, administrators, and others by forging ahead to learn and succeed without participating collectively in a process where Black American students were already ignored, or drop out in frustration and turn to a variety of varying legal or quasi-legal forms of employment or financial benefit. Each alternative contains mild to extreme benefits and disadvantages. The current resultive system of education for Black American youth, with its prejudice borne of more than two centuries of institutionalized and systemic slavery and racism, is untenable without evolution or incremental change. The problem remains that the White political majority has been socialized to believe that Black Americans have no intrinsic value in their society. This encompasses several problems where laws and practices should be analyzed for either racism and impartiality to determine how they are applied, how they affect each and every citizen, and how they are arbitrarily administered by men and women affected by the propaganda of cultural conditioning (King, 2015; Entman & Rojecki, 2001). In a learning environment, how does learning take place where toxic antagonistic relationships often exist between Black American students and White teachers? For example, when White teachers expect their Black American students to remain compliant and docile without participating actively, the White teacher can threaten the student with retributive “justice” and a low grade for questioning the content of lessons written to favor a White political majority. As much as the political majority would wish for no one to challenge classroom lessons and history, when White students challenge that same history, retributive “justice” rains down on them much less (Howard, 2013; McGrady & Reynolds, 2013; Rong, 1996). The resulting reality is illustrated within the sociological commentary of a brilliant but not so popular song by Randy Newman: Yes he’s free to be put in a cageIn Harlem in New York CityAnd he’s free to be put in a cage on the South-Side of ChicagoAnd the West-SideAnd he’s free to be put in a cage in Hough in ClevelandAnd he’s free to be put in a cage in East St. LouisAnd he’s free to be put in a cage in Fillmore in San FranciscoAnd he’s free to be put in a cage in Roxbury in Boston. (Rednecks, from the album, Good Ol’ Boys, 1974) The presumptions of Black American inferiority that result from the history of racism and eugenics in the United States remain, and the belief that Black Americans are eugenically inferior to the White political majority endures within laws, practices, and the treatment of Black American individuals within the classroom as well as the wider community. Without an acceptance of this reality, the attitudes and the practice that support it will not be addressed or analyzed for their detrimental effects that continue to remain in place in the 21st century. How are Black American students supposed to function or, rather, thrive in school environments when they are expected and perhaps set up to fail to confirm the biases of their teachers and school administrators? How can most Black American students succeed in an environment that attempts to condition them to fail, to leave without a diploma, to travel the well-heeled road of the school to prison pipeline. How are Black American students expected to succeed in post public school life without enough mentoring, without encouragement, without hope? While there are mentors in parents and some community members and relatives, that mentoring is limited due to the similar challenges that face young and older black men who are dominated by the White political majority in the United States (Hattery & Smith, 2017; Padula, 2018). Additionally, it is difficult to sustain their efforts to evolve and succeed without consistent encouragement, without adequate mentoring, especially when many in the external community, including schools and law enforcement, seem to be setting them up to fail and jail. While previously there were explicit legal constraints on Black Americans, currently governments and cities erect barriers when Black Americans are making attempts in personal and public life to do for themselves. For example, many teachers and school administrations, influenced by negative conditioning from politicians, news media, and city leaders, reinforce their confirmation biases, undermine the evolutionary efforts of individual students, and do not understand why they should help a group of people that they have been socialized to believe has no societal value (Hattery & Smith, 2017; Padula, 2018). Some teachers and administrations are actively aware and create spaces where Black American students can evolve and thrive within a learning environment, but with just a handful of school districts in key cities thus engaging Black American students through teacher apprenticeship programs, such as the New Orleans City Teacher Residency and the Baltimore City Teacher Residency, that really is not enough. The situation is bad and becoming worse due to the cultural conditioning that has plagued a majority of the white political majority for centuries (Brown-Marshall, 2013; O’Flaherty, 2015; Flynn et al., 2017; Rothstein, 2017). As long as the presumption of social economic inequalities remain within the institutions controlled by White political majorities, the biased low expectations of Black American students and adults will not disappear. Their contributions to society will continue to be viewed through the lens of inferiority due to the perpetuation of the conditioned beliefs of the White political majority. For those beliefs to change, it can begin with one change with one individual treating another individual with humanity and common courtesy and respect. That small step can begin in the classroom, the school yard, and beyond. Stereotypes of Black American Criminality and the School-to-Prison Pipeline The presumption that Black American students possess criminal tendencies conditions teachers and public schools to dismiss and ignore their contributions in the classroom, and thus contribute directly to the school-to-prison pipeline. The cultural conditioning from the effects of institutional racism and the control that the White political majority has attempted to employ over Black Americans since Slavery, Jim Crow, and desegregation has been manifested through laws that are overt, linguistically, discriminatorily, and superficially neutral. This predisposes many teachers and school administrations to the influence of sociological propaganda* that conditions them to believe that they are justified in judging Black American students based on their own cultural conditioning. Such beliefs have maintained racism through the government supported science of eugenics for decades via the cultural conditioning of sociological propaganda since the end of the Civil War (Lynn, 2001; Black, 2012; Ordover, 2003). *Basically it [sociological propaganda] is the penetration of an ideology by means of its sociological context. The existing economic, political, and sociological factors progressively allow an ideology to penetrate individuals or masses. Through the medium of economic and political structures a certain ideology is established which leads to the active participation of the masses and the adaptation of individuals. (Ellul, 1973, pp. 63-64). Black Americans fight a never-ending battle with a White political majority that judges them on what that White political majority has been conditioned to believe for several centuries, that Black Americans must be controlled as a subservient group having no value. The White political majority seldom judges Black Americans on their merits, intelligence, or potential as they are expected to treat and judge others that look like them within the political majority. The sociological propaganda and psychological conditioning is deep and ingrained that when confronted with statistics and cold hard facts, the White political majority hesitates, stutters and cites examples from their personal experience or the experiences of their White friends. Mainstream news and social media interactions are rife with this phenomenon of assuming the criminal tendencies of Black Americans. (Cisneros & Nakayama, 2015; Jakubowicz, 2017). For example, watch a mainstream news broadcast any given night of the week. One might see an angry gathering of White people referred to as a protest, while one involving Black Americans called a riot. Most White men who commit a crime are referred to as “unfortunate”, “misguided”, “mentally unstable”, and other sympathetic adjectives. The Police will not shoot him; they will talk him down. A Black American man who commits a crime is described by mainstream news media as a hardened criminal or a thug or worse, with racist connotations peppered throughout the broadcast segment. The age pf the black man or teen does not seem to matter. How does one change the embedded negative mindset of one group who dominates another group and precipitates that other group’s frustrated and justifiably angry actions and behavior that is embedded within the cultural conditioning of the dominant group’s psyche for over two hundred years? The State’s and community’s apathy, expectation, and encouragement of failure from the White political majority is often referred to as “the school to prison pipeline” (Oates, 2009; Montagu, 1999; Howard, 2013). Viewed from the perspective of Black Americans, it is hard to be convinced that the political majority actually cares about the Black American children it purports to teach and care about in and out of the classroom when they have been conditioned to view them and future Black American adults as criminals with no value and no intelligence worth nurturing or encouraging (Gilborn, 2008; Noguera, 2009). Black Americans are embedded with, surrounded by, and inundated with negative sociological propaganda that devalues them, reaching into their daily life such as walking down the street, driving, or walking through a store to shop for clothes and groceries. Outside the classroom, students learn to ask permission to reach for their license and registration and they have to beg for humanity from the police that promote themselves as protectors and servants of the public. Older students live in fear of being pulled over for a simple traffic stop to be either killed or imprisoned, and they are being neither served nor protected. It is difficult to understand how the political majority and its members could see this in close proximity from the perspective of Black American children and teens living in a community or attending a school and not view it as anything less than a warzone. It is unfathomable for anyone to expect any student to learn under those circumstances and to even earn a passing grade that allows them to graduate, enter the workforce, a vocational program, or even successfully enter a university. There are several questions that need to be asked. These need to be answered by the political majority that controls the machines of state that dominate the United States. These questions need to be asked to determine why many in the United States have tolerated the racism of unintentional practitioners within public school administrations and classrooms as well as the deliberate laws at the local, state, and federal levels to disenfranchise Black Americans with seemingly neutral and innocuous terminology. It is puzzling that the White political majority would enact laws to enforce desegregation to allow Black American students to integrate former all White schools and former all White neighborhoods and communities when the results are not even remotely a version of separate but equal. In practice, what has resulted is demoralizing and demeaning, and it has the appearance of a practice that has become a de facto means to control Black American children and teens and force so many of them out of school and into prison (Hattery & Smith, 2017; Padula, 2018). The White political majority demands that Black American children attend school where Black American students often face an unpleasant experience to learn in an uncomfortable, inflexible place where tests have to be taken and facts and figures memorized, that are most often not relevant to their real world. Thus, one could understand when Black American children and teens resent that they have to attend school and are forced to tolerate many teachers and administration that cannot tolerate them. It is hard not to see that school for many Black Americans is nothing more than a jail where they do not feel safe contributing to a system they are required to attend, without speaking, with their heads kept down, their mouths kept shut, asking no questions, and ultimately just doing what they are told, without learning because they have been punished in the past for questioning the status quo in their instruction and punished for not conforming to what the White political majority expects of them (Gilborn, 2008; Carter, 2005). Perhaps this was one goal of desegregation, the school-to-prison-pipeline (Hattery & Smith, 2017; Padula, 2018). If school is to be a place where learning occurs, is it to be a place where Black American students contribute to the community of learning based on their experiences, ancestry, and history or is it to continue to be a place where Black Americans are forced to continue to learn, memorize, and recite the rote history of the political majority and their ancestors, the history of their conquerors? The federal and state governments and public-school administrations profess their sincerity and concern in emphasizing safe learning spaces for Black American children and teens, yet, they are not on the ground in every school to see that it happens in the ways that they have professed. The result is far from their goal or their pledge of equality. As a result, in many places, for Black American children and teens, school is neither a neutral nor a safe space (Delpit, 2006; Gilborn, 2008; Howard, 2013; Tatum, 2007). For too many, it is a warzone that is designed to demoralize, demean, and prepare too many of them for a transition from a school to prison life. That is not all that dissimilar to schools that imprison Black Americans almost daily nine months out of the year and offer them little opportunity to contribute any original thought or question the status quo (Gilborn, 2008; Desmond & Emirbayer, 2010; Howard, 2013). For many Black Americans the education system in many communities is seen as a pipeline that leads directly to jail and prison, rather than a place Black Americans can view as a safe space where they can learn and thrive. In order for the opinions of Black Americans to change, the laws, practices, and rules of the White political majority must change to genuinely gain the trust of the Black American community who have had so many reasons to distrust the rule of the White political majority for so long. Low Expectations and Low Involvement in the Democratic Process The low expectations and resultive actions towards Black American students are one of the contributions to the socialization of Black Americans’ later low involvement in the democratic process as adults and their belief that they do not have the same access as the political majority. Democracy is promoted as a concept existing in the United States that seeks to provide equality for all citizens, but it appears that some citizens are more equal than others, on paper, in the courtroom, and in the street. For many that favoritism is viewed as White, economically superior, and reserved for men. For the writers and readers of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution that meant White men only, only 3/5ths Black Americans because of slavery, no political ethnic minorities, no women, and no poor and non-property owners in most of the original thirteen states (U.S. Const.; Declaration of Independence; Parenti, 2011, p. 5; Schubert et al., 2015). These are the “citizens” who were overlooked and ignored by the Constitution until a mass of citizens pressuring the various states forced at least a superficial and cosmetic change with desegregation through Brown vs. Board of Education (Martin, 2010). The 13th Amendment abolished slavery and gave Black Americans full rights and responsibilities to citizenship, and the 13th Amendment reestablished slavery as punishment for a crime (U.S. Constitution). Protests preceded and followed Brown that led to the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965. Almost 300 years of slavery and the stroke of a pen with the passing of the 13th Amendment left in place the right of the political majority to legally enslave Black Americans, deny their rights to full citizenship, and virtually silence their voices. This instilled the fear of losing even the appearance of freedom in a society that wholeheartedly believes it is democratic to suppress groups of citizens as a part of its daily performance of power over citizens that do not fit the profile of the political majority. The school-to-prison pipeline is not just a way of ruining Black American lives, it is a way of making them live in fear of anything that can happen arbitrarily at any given moment. That is not access to the democratic process. That is a dictatorship where one group, a political majority, controls the lives and actions of other groups that the first group considers minorities. In this case, it is in the sense that a majority of the population lives in fear of the minority and is controlled by that minority almost from birth via control within limited housing opportunities, limited medical assistance, and controlled educational environments (Gillborn, 2008; Gibran, 2010; Lipsitz, 2006; O’Flaherty, 2015). Within the educational sphere, the opportunities are hindered by punishments, micro and macro, to suppress independent thought that conditions limited options that lead to repeated disciplinary action and ultimately, too often, housing in a small cage. The results seem very undemocratic. If Black Americans are to feel a part of the democratic process in the United States, that process must begin at the educational level. De Tocqueville (2010) observed, presaging Randy Newman’s Good Ol’ Boys (Newman, 1974) by more than a hundred years: Thus the Negro is free, but he is not able to share either the rights or the pleasures or the labors or the pains or even the tomb of the one whose equal he has been declared to be; he cannot meet him anywhere, either in life or in death. (Tocqueville, p. 555) De Tocqueville saw clearly and presciently throughout his American odyssey in the 19th century what the United States individually and collectively remains confronted with in the 21st century and cannot seem to resolve with logic, politics, or even community: So after abolishing slavery, modern peoples still have to destroy three prejudices much more elusive and more tenacious than slavery: the prejudice of the master, the prejudice of race, and finally the prejudice of the white. (Tocqueville, p. 552) Black American students cannot just be taught the democratic process of the White political majority, they must be given the space to see the democratic process in action, how it should work for them and everyone, instead of how democracy works only for the dominant group, Whites. Black Americans can continue to awaken to how democracy is supposed to work by definition through equitable application of the laws instead of the visible application of those laws and the light sentencing of Whites and the excessive sentencing and state violence towards Black Americans that they see in their neighborhoods, schools, and via the daily news. They must continue to awaken to how democracy is supposed to work, fairly, and it must begin in the classroom with teachers and with school administrations. The pipeline to prison begins in the classroom. Black American students should be given the opportunity to learn how democracy should operate ideally rather than the way that it has been operationally used against them for centuries, which is the way they have seen it used against them for decades. Perpetuating the White political majority’s centuries-old hypocrisy will do nothing to improve their lives or advance the cause of democratic ideals. This selective access to the democracy of the White political majority was not the intentional result of Brown vs. the Board of Education (Martin, 2010; Desmond & Emirbayer, 2010). This selective access certainly was not the end goals of segregated Black American schools or Black American communities (Snyder, 2018; Murray, 2018). And while this selective access is at least not a conscious, intentional, deliberate conveyor belt from school to prison, it is there in living color for all to see if one studies the prison and juvenile court jail statistics as well as enter into an honest conversation with most Black American communities. Future residency in a prison should not be the conditions under which so many Black American teens are socialized to expect within the education system of the White political majority. With schools, teachers, and administrators subjected to the conditioning of decades long apathy and politically correct racism, changes need to be made in the ways the United States conditions the citizen-members of the White political majority. Viewing Black Americans as dangerous, criminal threats should not be the first thought that pops into anyone’s head. Perpetuating the idea that everyone but the White political majority is politically and eugenically inferior should not be the social-psychological propaganda that motivates decisions in the classroom or the policies of school administrations. Rather, how can students make the most of their time while they are in the classroom? How can they be mentored effectively to think critically and contribute to the future evolution of their community, to study the history of past mistakes in the history of the United States, to not improve upon those past historical mistakes but evolve from them? Instead, we have a White political majority that perpetuates the mistakes, the inequalities, the iniquities of the past rather than studying history for its primary purpose: to analyze and learn from the past to refrain from repeating historical mistakes and allow society to evolve. If teachers and administrations are not up to the task of performing the job function of mentoring future citizens, then perhaps, they need to step down so the future can step up and establish necessary programs to prepare students for the future of productive citizenship instead of the modern equivalent of imprisoned slavery or wage slavery. The economic, psychological, and political slavery is very real for Black Americans. Realistically, many Black Americans are too beaten down to speak up and say something, or perhaps they have no time but for survival in a world that views them as disposable and incarcerable labor (David & Derthick, 2017; Flynn, 2017; Muhammad, 2011; O’Flaherty, 2015)? While Black Americans are very aware of the apathy and cruelty of the White political majority, few others made an effort to analyze or speak out against it. John Dewey, the early 20th century philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer, did notice the phenomenon and further observed: The isolation and exclusiveness of a gang or clique brings its antisocial spirit into relief. But this same spirit is found wherever one group has interests “of its own” which shut it out from full interaction with other groups, so that its prevailing purpose is the protection of what it has got, instead of reorganization and progress through wider relationships. It marks nations in their isolation from one another; families which seclude their domestic concerns as if they had no connection with a larger life; schools when separated from the interest of home and community; the divisions of rich and poor; learned and unlearned. (Dewey, p. 99) Dewey wrote these words in 1916, over a century ago during Jim Crow, when the segregation of Black Americans was officially sanctioned and legislated by the political majority in the southern United States. The design of Jim Crow was to separate, demonize, shun, deprive, and often destroy (Desmond & Emirbayer, 2010). Yet, in spite of all of the attempts to sustain Jim Crow and eviscerate of Black Americans, Black Americans created thriving communities that aided those in need and collaborated with each other to live, survive, and evolve, as humans do when they are allowed to flourish. The intentional design of desegregation was to provide equality and opportunity for Black Americans that the liberal political majority believed was not present within the segregated United States. However, the de facto design of desegregation has been to subconsciously control, exclude, and deprive them of rights and privileges as citizens of the United States under its constitution through endless forms of conscious and subconscious redlining (Desmond & Emirbayer, 2010; Roscigno & Ainsworth-Darnell, 1999.) These laws, rules, regulations, and customs, past and present include ways to increase the incarceration rate of Black Americans via multiple denials and subconscious racism (Hattery & Smith, 2017; King, 2015; Padula, 2018). Surrounding Black Americans with members of the White political majority who are accustomed to maintaining their status quo does not contribute to the evolution of the United States on the world stage. That world stage has been erected by a White political majority that calls attention to the crime iniquity and inequity of the other international players on the world stage, while the self-same White Political majority does nothing to address their iniquities and inequities towards Black Americans at home in the United States. The participation of the United States in human rights protest causes a mirror to be held up occasionally that reveals a political majority that professes concern for peoples in the so-called Third World while displaying little interest for its own citizens. The incongruity of South Africa’s apartheid-era injustices viewed through the lens of the United States political majority during the same era is one such mirror. Such insincere concern by the White political majority creates a solidarity amongst authoritarian regimes that look the other way and pretend it is business as usual, where equality is only given to some citizens but not all. Under these circumstances and under the historical precedence that has continued for decades, how can Black Americans be expected to hold the political majority accountable in their community, educational, or professional environments? The manner in which Black American students are treated and thought of must change to facilitate any real equality in the United States. Any change that occurs to facilitate real equality for Black Americans must happen at the face-to-face and person-to-person level, on the street and in the classroom. Without that, the status quo control of the White political majority will continue, even with the efforts of a handful of Black Americans to gain economic power through creative expression. How Black American Music Creates Liberating Opportunities that Addresses Systemic Racism Limited access to the democratic process forces Black American teens and adults to rise up out of frustration and immerse themselves into music, and other forms of creative expression to precipitate an increase in economic power and compensate for their limited voice within the democratic process. Music feeds the body, mind, and soul, and on a very personal level, its power resides there. It also can be a form of escape, spiritual and psychological, and in some cases, financial. After slavery during Jim Crow, Black Americans were shunned and forced out of financial endeavors except the de facto slavery of imprisonment, back-breaking physical labor on lands owned by former slave owners. But there were also creative endeavors that the political majority took advantage of for their own entertainment on and off of the plantation, via work songs in the fields, in the minstrel shows, blues, jazz, rock and roll and in the music industry as it has evolved (Banfield, 2009, p. 55; Chernoff, 1979; Filene, 1991). Black musicians from the late 1800’s to the early 1900s were compensated minimally and not always enough to survive. While they were personally being exploited and abused in a variety of ways, their music was often stolen in quasi-legal fashion (Banfield, 2009; Greene, 1998). In one rare episode within Black American musical history, Scott Joplin received what was considered a more than fair rate of twenty-five cents for the sale of each copy of sheet music for his most popular composition, Maple Leaf Rag (Banfield, 2009; Berlin, 1994). Whether it is the ragtime of Scott Joplin, the jazz of Cab Calloway and John Coltrane, the jump blues of Louis Jordan, the blues of Robert Johnson and Howlin’ Wolf, the rock and roll of Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Chuck Berry, the funk of James Brown and Sly and the Family Stone, or the hip hop and rap of Killer Mike and J. Cole, the creative force and desire to communicate and make an impact on the present and the future is significant to Black American culture (Banfield, 2009; Chernoff, 1979; Filene, 1991). The desire to create, the need for financial survival and stability, the hope for recognition can impact the world at large and compel audiences sitting in an auditorium, in front of a television, on a mobile device, or even leisurely listening on a stereo to stop and listen to more than just the rhythm and the melody and begin reflecting on the events of the day embedded in a song’s lyrical message of hope, frustration, and evolution. Public acceptance of an artist can aid that artist in gaining access to people in power for personal and for collective reasons. Kanye West directly criticizing President Bush’ response to Hurricane Katrina on national television and visiting and supporting President Trump years later are two prominent examples of this evolution of acceptance, celebrity, and public voice. The trajectory of events from street corner, mixtape, or open mic to major label and stadium require some parts luck, ambition, talent, organization, and accident mixed with some unfortunate exploitation and opportunistic people within the music industry, which have always existed, the evolution of technologies, notwithstanding (Filene, 1991; Banfield, 2009, p. 83; Greene, 1998). The increase in economic power equals increased access to democratic power if only for a few Black Americans who achieve celebrity status that gives them credibility enough to approach a wider audience and current political “celebrities.” That economic stability and prestige can provide them with a larger public voice to express their concerns whether those are personal trials of institutionalized racism in varied forms, the diversity of love and loss, or even the news of the day (Lieberman, 1995). At the beginning of the 20th century, record labels segregated their music distribution in record stores and radio stations, through what the music industry called “race” records (Roy, 2002; Filene, 2000), though decades later Alan Freed and other radio disc jockeys realized the importance of the music and the absurdity of censoring audience listening patterns (Vaillancourt, 2011; Weiss, 2012). Once the music industry, at least radio and concert stages, became desegregated between audiences and performers and the White political majority, Black American artists were given a larger voice to access their wider public audience. A few decades earlier in the 1930s and 1940s, rare artists like Paul Robeson’s varied creative talents were enjoyed by an appreciative public. He was extremely outspoken regarding injustices and inequalities and suffered from being blacklisted for several years (Fernekes, 2012). He was able to make a living throughout most of it, but the wider public did not appreciate such celebrity activism for several years. The degree of courage in the performance, the songs, and the audacity to challenge the status quo grew over time. Sam Cooke wrote and performed one song out of frustration in “A Change is Gonna Come.” “It’s been too hard living, but I’m afraid to die/ ‘Cause I do not know what’s up there beyond the sky / It’s been a long, a long time coming / But I know a change gon’ come, oh yes it will.” (Cooke, 1964). Though the song was not as popular in the White community as it was elsewhere, it did chart and it is still a transformatively significant song, and it paved the way for even further celebrity performance activism. In the late 1960s, Sly and the Family Stone (1968) weaved political protest funk, and dance throughout their music to speak to the protests and the desire to be accepted through “Everyday People.” There is a yellow one that won’t accept the black oneThat won’t accept the red one, that won’t accept the white oneDifferent strokes for different folks. (Stone, 1968) James Brown (1969) went even further and exposed inequalities, demanded fair treatment for Black Americans, and did it with funk and a strong backbeat: Some people say we’ve got a lot of maliceSome say it’s a lot of nerveBut I say we won’t quit moving until we get what we deserveWe have been ‘buked and we have been scornedWe’ve been treated bad, talked about as sure as you’re bornBut just as sure as it takes two eyes to make a pair, haBrother we can’t quit until we get our share. (Ellis & Brown, 1969) While Black Americans were already acutely aware of and experienced the mistreatment that Brown spoke of, the music validated their experiences, empowering them as well as enlightening members of the White political majority who were willing to listen and echo the demand for unprejudiced equality. In every decade, artists emerge frustrated and inspired to create art and cause people to pause and think, to just tap into a local music scene, an unsigned artists’ web music portal, or even college or mainstream radio to hear the pulse of the people and what Black Americans are thinking. Everyone has a desire to create, but that desire, due to centuries of institutionalized racism and oppression, may manifest itself in ways within the Black American community that create a desire to be stable financially, to be heard, to be listened to, to help others understand their oppression in an unequal environment, that they are not alone, in however an extraordinary or mundane, personal, everyday way that happens through creative expression, be it literature, music, or even sports. As local, regional or mainstream public figures, their access to democratic representatives may not be instant or even a phone call away to every political representative outside of the ballot box, but as public figures, their access to influence the public’s voice to effect political change should not be discounted. This occurs to Black American artists as outsiders to the political majority and as an outlet for themselves, giving them limited to unlimited access to an external democratic process that allows them to vent their frustrations through celebrity status within physical sport, the music industry, and through other forms of creative expression. Kenye West and Colin Kaepernick are two notable examples of Black American celebrities who have used their platform as celebrities to express their concerns. This gives Black Americans power to influence their circle and the public where once Black American economic power was absent from the landscape and wider social discourse. This does not solve the issue of greater democratic access to a greater number of Black Americans, but it does provide some black Americans a means to speak truth to power. It provides an opportunity for some Black Americans to speak out on the injustices suffered by a greater number of Black Americans where there was little opportunity to speak out before. It also provides some motivation to the greater number of Black Americans to view those affluent Black Americans as something to aspire to in business and the arts, which in turn influence the members of their local communities to do the same. CHAPTER 4: CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS Access to the democratic process has been promoted, advertised and propagated in the United States and the world as universally given to all citizens as their rights and privileges as American of the United States since its creation in 1776, beginning with the Declaration of Independence and further solidified with the U.S. Constitution and its respective amendments. And yet, a diagnosis and critique of the shortcomings, flaws, and iniquitous lack of democratic access is necessary. This is only the beginning. The previous diagnosis and critique is necessary, but so are possible solutions. Solutions are necessary for the. public school system as well as the world of adults who must deal with the realities of unequal access to the democratic structures that have been erected over centuries to surreptitiously exclude Black Americans in creative, but iniquitous fashion, that have been only legally based on the manner in which the laws and rules have been written. Solutions necessarily should include an honest and open view of those laws, practices, and structures that have been in place for centuries as I have reviewed in this thesis. A future that allows Black American students to thrive and to minimize the environmental conditions that effect Black American students is very probable if the White political majority understands the negative effects that such low expectations and their accompanying negative actions have on Black American students and adults. As in the past, Black Americans will need to work together to empower themselves within their community. That will also require the ally-ship of the White community to minimize the negative actions and low expectations as discussed in this thesis. Most especially, it will especially require holding all Black American students to a higher standard of success as it should be expected, rather than hoped for. Instead of presumptions of Black Americans inferiority in and out of the classroom, the White political majority must be socialized to believe that Black Americans are their equals, in every way, and not only when laws are enforced to create an equality that isn’t embedded in the personal beliefs of the political majority. This socialization begins in the community and in the classroom following teacher education that encourages that each student be treated equally and to the same high standards that every student is held to. Once such equality is normalized in the community and in the classroom, the idea of treating any student in and out of the classroom as inferior becomes an anomaly. Such socializing will take time, but it can begin with teacher education and training on the job in the classroom. Each of these points discussed in this thesis are obviously interconnected in various ways, including the presumption that the social economic inequalities of Black American students impact their performance. What needs to happen here is less speculation based on appearances and more focus on the task at hand in the classroom: Teaching Black American students to a high standard so that Black Americans will have the skills that they need to thrive in the world following their public-school education. Doing anything less amounts to gossip and prejudice and there is room for neither activity when the goal is to teach and to mentor in the classroom. The stereotypes of Black American criminality have continued uninterrupted for centuries and as a result of that belief the White political majority continues to perpetuate that assumption and criminalize many Black American students within the classroom. That alone feeds a large part of the school-to-prison pipeline. This also discourages many Black American students from participating in classroom. Many Black American students act out in frustration as well. Again, enduring this kind of persecution cannot be a healthy learning environment for any student. Again, widespread socialization within teacher education and the community is necessary to allow for the evolution of attitudes. Low expectations and the resulting actions towards Black Americans result in their low involvement in the democratic process. The negative socialization begins in the classroom with teachers and schools socializing Black Americans into social apathy and the belief that they are not part of the same society and they do not have the same rights and privileges. Encouraging increased participation in the democratic process, especially at the local and regional level where Black Americans are affected the most begins in the classroom with socialization that their contributions to the classroom and the school mean something to their teachers and the public school. Achieving that, requires a necessary evolutionary change in many teachers’ mindsets, and even socialization at the education and training level before becoming a teacher. Creative expression does not erase or reduce racism, but the act of expression creates liberating opportunities for Black American artists to address systemic racism in a variety of ways. Immersion in creative forms of expression does not always precipitate financial wealth for its own sake, but when it does, an artist can achieve much greater access to express a variety of frustrations, create opportunities in and for the Black American community, as well as creating art for art’s sake in order to express oneself. The creative expression in the Black American community has always reached an audience of Black Americans who understand the trials and tribulations that Black Americans face daily, but it also reaches a large White audience who learn much more about the inequalities that Black Americans suffer just by appreciating the art form. Evolution begins with understanding and change cannot begin or continue without the validation of that understanding. There is much more that must be done. 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