Resilience is not one of the R’s at North High

Courtesy of Facebook/North High Polars

If words count, then the Star Tribune headline, “At North High lessons include reading, writing and resilience,” and its accompanying article sent more than a few messages in one.

The feature story, which if taken out of the context of our times, seems harmless, but it does damage to the Minneapolis North High image by centering violence only in that school and its community.

Why did the headline leave out arithmetic? After all, schooling usually consists of mastering the Three R’s with one of them being ‘rithmetic, not resilience. Maybe the Star Tribune left it out subconsciously. After all, Black folks supposedly aren’t good at math and science. And, substituting the learning of resilience for the learning of arithmetic implies that (from their perspective as a mouthpiece for the power structure) it is more important for Black kids in the inner city.

Interestingly, they chose resilience which the American Psychological Association defines as the ability to adapt to one’s circumstances — more specifically “adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.” It hearkens to the Indian, “Lone Watie” (Chief Dan George), in the movie The Outlaw Josey Walesfac, who repeatedly tells Wales (played by Clint Eastwood), that the government told him and his people to “endeavor to persevere.”

Rather than learning to be resilient (which does not have to be taught — they are actually adapting to their circumstance on their own) — students would be better off studying why their community is treated differently. They could gain more from understanding why the local “big business” press would send a Black reporter to talk about violence, rather than the progress made by a school that was facing closure only a few years ago.

It would be more beneficial for the students to examine why their outstanding journalism program, which produces its own community newspaper, North News, wasn’t discussed, or why their in-house radio station that gives students an opportunity to learn the craft was not focused on.

It would also be more beneficial to ask why their academic programs or academic accomplishments were not a focus of the article. Students would be better-served understanding why the school only receives attention when something negative happens — that did not occur within the school itself nor is part of the school’s experience. If the Star Tribune wanted to talk about violence on the Northside of Minneapolis, it didn’t need North High School to highlight that issue.

Moreover, rather than resilience, students should learn how apparently good intentions by the broader community can wind up having them painted with a negative brush. They should learn why, though we live in a violent society in which Whites, not Blacks, are much more often serial killers or commit mass murder, violence is seen as the purview of Black people only.

And centering violence in Black communities is inaccurate since the U.S. government exports violence on a regular basis. The U.S. has been at war in Afghanistan and Iraq for nearly 20 years and, as a result, U.S. forces have left several hundred thousand dead civilians, or non-combatants, in their wake. Incidentally, these countries did not attack the U.S.

If an R should be added, then students should be taught about “Racism,” including the subconscious kind that motivated the Star Tribune to write about their experience with violence without providing “balance.” A balanced article would have mentioned the source, the roots of violence in Black communities. Unless, of course, the point is to make it appear that Black folks are just naturally violent, that is, born with a genetic predisposition toward violence.

Fairness insists that one cannot talk about violence in the Black inner city community without talking about the lack of jobs, the lack of real opportunity, redlining, the sub-prime rip off, the policing that sends the message that inner-city residents are second class, the constant undermining of Black success that tells kids what’s the use, hiring and promotion discrimination, the implication that they have to be twice as good, and the psychological warfare waged against Black children who when they visit Minnetonka or Edina High realize that they have been lied to — some kids count more than them.

If R’s are to be added, there should be an R for “Resist.” The students should be taught that the advancement of Black people did not come out of slavery or Jim Crow segregation by adapting to their circumstances, but by resisting them.

It seems that rather than teaching students to adapt, they would be better served by finding ways to change their circumstances and work to change a society that insists on having ghettos or ghettoized communities.

They would be better served to change a system that requires or allows for substandard education in one neighborhood while allowing for quality public education in another.

Incidentally, there have been no stories on Jordan High School or Becker High School focusing on why some students at those schools decided it was proper to bring Trump banners to basketball games in which the opponent’s team was predominantly Black and the kind of violence that implies!

There is nothing wrong with writing about resilience and the struggles kids are experiencing at North High, but the whole story, the complete story, the balanced story has to be told.

But the Star Tribune is right about one thing: Black students should be taught a few other R’s, like the history and reality of racism in the U.S. and how it has been resisted and why it is necessary to stand up for themselves and be vigilant for their rights if they are going to succeed in the U.S.