Friday, December 02, 2005

The Myth of Education Gap-Closing in NYC Scools (and the Nation)


Malcolm X said (I'm paraphrasing): When a man with a 12 inch knife in your back
pulls it out 3 inches, you don't call that "Progress."

The Bloomberg/Klein spinmasters at the NY Times have produced another "gem"
of mythical propaganda with Dec 2's news article rosily headlined: "City's
Schools Cut Racial Gap in Test Scores". (the full article is below my critique)
also visit for the data.

DAVID M. HERSZENHORN's raggedy mishmash article is a classic attempt to abuse statistics
for the sake of shoring up and covering up a major corporate-sponsored education
implosion. Herszenhorn and The Times can get away with it because 99% of US citizens
don't have a clue about analyzing statistical data. Let's be real here: there is
a real educational meltdown going on in NYC's public schools (as well as the rest
of the US's public education system).

So let's take a look at the Times's attempt at bamboozling and obscuring and fabricating....

"The results are divided into four categories: below basic, basic, proficient
and advanced."

What The Times DOES NOT tell you is that "below basic" and "basic"
are actually about being super-illiterate/innumerate and functionally illiterate/innumerate.
A "proficient" score means that your child is AT grade level. The National
Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) lumps the "basic" level with
the "proficient" and "advanced" levels, thus distorting the
reality of literacy and numeracy in the US. It prettifies a national horror of tens
of millions of academically ill-prepared young citizens (but that's what present-day
capitalism needs!). So when you go to:
and look at the stats, regroup the stats to have basic and below basic together
to get a better picture of the depth and breadth of US miseducation.

For example: if we look at the nationwide Black 8th graders Math scores this way,
we'll see that 92 out of 100 Black 8th graders are incapable of doing -at best-
7th and 8th grade math! And 89 out of 100 NYC's Black students are in the same devastating
state. see:

"Mirroring a nationwide pattern on state by state results released last month,
reading scores in the urban districts were up in the fourth grade but flat or lower
in the eighth grade."

So how's this education progress when by the 8th grade, most children -at best-
know only as much as they did in the 4th grade?

"New York City's strongest results over all were in fourth-grade math, with
the number of students scoring at the basic level up 6 percentage points, to 73
percent, from 2003."

You get these results by:

(1) making the test even easier than all the previous ones...

(2) ...then spend 80-90% of classroom time teaching-to-the-test (meaning that no
real math education is going on... resulting in disastrous test scores and grades
by the 8th grade AND nurturing the pre-high school dropout rate)

(3) Give the test earlier in the year, thus testing more 3rd grade material than
4th grade material.

(4) systematically weed out low performing students test time.

"In fourth-grade reading, New York City's gap between the average score of
black and white students shrank by 10 points. Among Hispanic students the gap shrank
7 points."

10% and 7% shrinkage from what gap? It's never revealed. So these numbers sound
good but have no context. How wide was the gap? That's key to see how much progress
is being made and how long it will take to achieve parity.

"In all, 36 percent of white fourth graders achieved reading proficiency on
this year's test, compared with 16 percent of black students and 15 percent of Hispanic

64 out of 100 white 4th grade students being illiterate is an alarmingly horrific
figure! But the Times hides this horror thru its glazing data-ese. 84 out of 100
Black 4th grade students can't read and 85 out of 100 Latino students can't read.
This is beyond horrific. This is educational genocide. But all this is counched
in the shroud of "progress" and "gap closing." I am convinced
that if white, Black, Latino parents are given test data in this manner, there would
be more outrage and action against Bloomberg/Klein (mis)education policies. But
the Times's job is not to give a true picture of the education crisis. There job
is to say: "You're doing a good job Bloomie!"

"...New York had the most striking gains in fourth-grade reading scores, with
57 percent of students testing at the basic level this year, up from 47 percent
in 2002...."

(1) How do you get 57% from the data state above: 36% white proficiency, 16% Black
profiency and 15% Latino profiency? Even if the Asian and "other" 4th
graders scored 100% proficiency (which they did not), they only constitute an even
smaller-than-white-students percentage of 4th graders.

(2) Don't forget: not ALL 4th graders took the tests: thousands were "absent"
from the exams thru various underhanded bureaucratic maneuverings.

"But while New York City could boast of encouraging gains in several areas,
the overall picture of student achievement remains sobering. The results showed
that in the city 43 percent of students remained at the below basic level in reading
in the fourth grade. And eighth-grade reading scores fell slightly on the federal
test, to 20 percent at the proficient level from 22 percent in 2003. The eighth-grade
reading scores were the one area where the gap between white and black students

(1) Education regression is progress according to The Times: "sobering progress."
I hate to see "drunken progress."

(2) Now we see reality: "...eighth-grade reading scores fell slightly on the
federal test, to 20 percent at the proficient level from 22 percent in 2003."
Translation: By the time your 4th grader gets to an 8th grade class in NYC public
school system he/she will most likely be among the 80 out of 100 who CANNOT READ
at either the 7th or 8th grade level (because the test content is really wieghted
on 7th grade material).

(3) "The eighth-grade reading scores were the one area where the gap between
white and black students widened." Why is the widening happening?

(a) Teacher expectation is higher for white teens than for Black or Latino teens.
(b) More tutorial support (via parents and schools) for white students
(c) White teens are surrounded by white achievement and power
(d) Black/Latino teens are surrounded by oppression, negative/criminal imagery,
eurocentric curriculum
(e) Black/Latino accept a form of racial inferiority complex about low test-score
(f) White Teens go to qualitatively better middle schools than Black/latinos

"Mr. Klein played down the fact that gains were made in moving students to
the basic levels, but not to the level of proficiency required by President Bush's
signature No Child Left Behind law."

Bloomberg/Klein Progress = getting students to basic level NOT proficiency level.
Emphasize this to parents and media rather than he reality that the city's children
are, for the most part, functionally illiterate.

"New York City's gains among black and Hispanic students were also accompanied
by drops in scores among white students that both national experts and local school
officials were at a loss to explain.

Some said the drop might be a result of the fact that the National Assessment of
Educational Progress tests a sample of students rather than the entire district.
Both gains or declines in scores must exceed the margin of error to be statistically

The Real Deal: When you gear all your teaching to making sure students pass exams,
this has a ripple effect thruout the system. One result is "white student alienation."
That is, there are culturally given expectations for white student's intellectual
development. Their family, their friends, their neighborhood expects that. But being
immersed in a test-driven schooling system collides with these expectations by the
time of the 8th grade test. Remember, most of these white students and their family
are already looking at high school and college. But many of them have experienced
only teaching-to-the-test and very little critical thinking that's essential for
being college bound. Hence, many white students join the ranks of the academically
aliented... and just tune out of his miseducation scene.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress's sampling is done in the standard
scientific manner: maximizing the possibility of getting a true representation of
NYC's white student population. So... don't blame NAEP for the white student score
decline: it's a result of years of teaching-to-the-test having a negative impact
on thousands of white teens.

"Mr. Easton, one of several officials making the presentation, cited research
in Chicago showing that ninth-grade outcomes are highly predictive of high school
success or failure, and he noted that black eighth graders in about half of the
urban districts had very low math scores."

This telling fact is buried near the end of the article. One thing we never see
in these news articles is projection. That is, given these data how long will it
take for Black/Latino 4th and 8th graders to reach parity with white/Asian students?
They don't want us to look at this because it would reveal that it would take DECADES
to reach parity. Remember, the education gap existed from the end of slavery and
was exacerbated by segregation's separate and unequal policies both NORTH and SOUTH.

Only total systemchange based on the premise that education is a Human Right can
reverse this education pogrom/implosion. No Bloomberg/Klein mandates of corporate
intervention can do it. No moral and intellectual suasion with Bloomberg/Klein can
do it. It's parents, students, teachers, communities emnvisioning another educational
system grounded in critical thinking and truly embracing New York's vast cosmopolitan
culture and fighting to make it real.

December 2, 2005
City's Schools Cut Racial Gap in Test Scores

BOSTON, Dec. 1 - New York City has narrowed the gap in achievement between black
and Hispanic students and their white counterparts, largely outpacing 10 other large
urban school districts in addressing such disparities, according to federal reading
and math scores in fourth and eighth grades that were released here on Thursday.

The scores, part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress ,
often called the nation's report card, measured math and reading skills in 11 of
the country's largest urban school systems. The scores are a subset of results from
nationwide testing that is widely regarded as the country's best measure of school

Over all, the results showed the urban districts making substantial progress in
math and very limited gains in reading compared to 2002 and 2003, when the big-city
schools were previously tested. In fourth-grade math, for example, eight of the
10 districts tested in 2003 posted significant gains in 2005. In eighth-grade math,
four of the 10 made gains. (Austin, Tex., which joined the urban study this year,
was not included in the 2003 results.)

Mirroring a nationwide pattern on state by state results released last month, reading
scores in the urban districts were up in the fourth grade but flat or lower in the
eighth grade.

Except for Austin and Charlotte, N.C., the urban districts remained solidly below
the national average in both reading and math. And some experts said Thursday's
results were a reminder of how far the urban districts still have to go.

New York City's strongest results over all were in fourth-grade math, with the number
of students scoring at the basic level up 6 percentage points, to 73 percent, from

New York was also the top urban district in reading in both the fourth and eighth
grades among students eligible for free and reduced lunch, an indicator of socioeconomic

The results are divided into four categories: below basic, basic, proficient and
advanced. And New York, like the other urban districts, made better progress in
moving students from below basic to basic than in moving students from basic to
proficient. For example, in Charlotte, the most consistently high-performing district
in the study, only 24 percent of fourth graders were proficient in reading, which
is defined as solid academic performance.

Perhaps the most dramatic of New York's results was the substantial narrowing of
the racial achievement gap.

In fourth-grade reading, New York City's gap between the average score of black
and white students shrank by 10 points. Among Hispanic students the gap shrank 7

In all, 36 percent of white fourth graders achieved reading proficiency on this
year's test, compared with 16 percent of black students and 15 percent of Hispanic

In Washington, Margaret Spellings, the education secretary, singled out the gains
by minority students in New York as evidence of progress in big cities nationwide.
"We have proof now that high standards and accountability are paying off,"
she said. "Over all, this data shows that urban districts are helping urban
students achieve."

Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein of New York said he viewed the federal test results
as a reaffirmation of big gains on the state and city reading and math tests last
school year.

"Our fourth-grade story is compelling," Mr. Klein said. "I think
it confirms a trend that we've heard a lot about, which is in the lower grades we're
getting really good results."

Of the 11 urban districts, New York had the most striking gains in fourth-grade
reading scores, with 57 percent of students testing at the basic level this year,
up from 47 percent in 2002. And Mr. Klein said the results reaffirmed his choice
of literacy curriculum.

"Some questions were raised about our curriculum and whether it would work
in high-needs minority communities," the chancellor said. "What this data
is telling you is, indeed, it does."

But while New York City could boast of encouraging gains in several areas, the overall
picture of student achievement remains sobering. The results showed that in the
city 43 percent of students remained at the below basic level in reading in the
fourth grade. And eighth-grade reading scores fell slightly on the federal test,
to 20 percent at the proficient level from 22 percent in 2003. The eighth-grade
reading scores were the one area where the gap between white and black students

Mr. Klein played down the fact that gains were made in moving students to the basic
levels, but not to the level of proficiency required by President Bush's signature
No Child Left Behind law.

"Look at the nation and you will see across the nation that there was no dramatic
changes in proficiency," Mr. Klein said. "That's why these data have to
be read comparatively."

New York City's gains among black and Hispanic students were also accompanied by
drops in scores among white students that both national experts and local school
officials were at a loss to explain.

Some said the drop might be a result of the fact that the National Assessment of
Educational Progress tests a sample of students rather than the entire district.
Both gains or declines in scores must exceed the margin of error to be statistically

Some officials hailed Thursday's results as evidence of marked improvement in school
systems long regarded as troubled and, in some cases, as educational wastelands.

"The real news here is not that we score below national averages, we know that;
most of the nation knows that," said Michael Casserly, executive director of
the Council of the Great City Schools, a lobbying group for urban districts. "The
real news is we are gaining ground on the rest of the country. The real question
is not whether urban districts can improve, but how fast can we do it?"

Ms. Spellings, who spoke at a conference on English language learners, said the
new data "belies some of the myths that urban America, that urban schools,
inner-city schools cannot effectively serve kids - and that is just wrong."

John Q. Easton, a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees
the federal testing, said at a news conference announcing the results that although
the scores were encouraging, much more needed to be done.

"The achievement gaps between whites and minorities are unacceptably high,"
said Mr. Easton, who is also executive director of the Consortium on Chicago School
Research at the University of Chicago. "On average, the lowest-scoring white
students often do better than the highest-scoring black students."

He added: "These data highlight a tremendous challenge. I hope they will help
keep us focused."

Local school officials, in districts stretching from Boston to San Diego, said they
viewed the federal results as cause for optimism.

Thomas W. Payzant, the superintendent of the Boston public schools, said: "The
most important thing about this for me is it creates a sense of hope. This is evidence
that urban school districts can improve and make significant progress."

The National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the federal testing, unveiled
the urban district scores at a news conference at the Boston Public Library.

Mr. Easton, one of several officials making the presentation, cited research in
Chicago showing that ninth-grade outcomes are highly predictive of high school success
or failure, and he noted that black eighth graders in about half of the urban districts
had very low math scores.

"These students will have enormous difficulty in making the transition to high
school and passing, not mention doing well, in their freshman courses," he
said. "Urban districts must continue to seek new ways to prepare these students."

In some urban districts, the results were mixed. In Houston, for example, once led
by Mr. Bush's first education secretary, Rod Paige, the average reading scores in
fourth and eighth grade were not significantly higher than in 2003 or 2002. There
was also no significant change in the percentage of students scoring proficiently
in either the fourth or eighth grade.

But Houston's math scores were up significantly in both grades and the number of
fourth graders scoring proficiently in math rose to 26 percent, from 18 percent
in 2003. Among eighth graders, the number scoring proficiently rose to 16 percent
from 12 percent in 2003.

Mr. Casserly, of the Council of the Great City Schools, said the focus by many districts
on reading might actually be paying early dividends in math scores because students
can better read and understand problem-solving questions.

Elissa Gootman, in New York, and John Files, in Washington, contributed reporting
for this article.

* Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Saturday, November 26, 2005


Sistas & Brothas,

This is an excellent critique/expose of the Willie Lynch "talk." I have made it clear to folks anytime they raise this letter/talk that it's a fabrication. Brotha Prof. Manu Ampim has joined several other Black scholars and activists who have exposed the myths of the Wilie Lyncht 1712 talk by advancing a thoroly detailed refutation of its authenticity.

I first saw this "document" in a poor xerox form from a "Liberation Library" copy dated (I think)
1970. I might still have the paper buried in a thousand other old papers I have. When I first saw it, it also struck me as a contemporary piece and inaccurate historically.

We must struggle to exorcise this "urban legend" approach to our history and I'm glad to see this important contribution by our Brotha Prof. Manu Ampim being circulated.

In Struggle,

Sam Anderson author: The Black Holocaust for Beginners (writers & readers)



Since 1995 there has been much attention given to a speech claimed to be delivered by a "William Lynch" in 1712. This speech has been promoted widely throughout African American and Black British circles. It is re-printed on numerous websites, discussed in chat rooms, forwarded as a "did you know" email to friends and family members, assigned as required readings in college and high school courses, promoted at conferences, and there are several books published with the title of "Willie Lynch."[1] In addition, new terminology called the "Willie Lynch Syndrome" has been devised to explain the psychological problems and the disunity among Black people.

Further, it is naively assumed by a large number of Willie Lynch believers that this single and isolated speech, allegedly given almost 300 years ago, completely explains the internal problems and divisions within the African American community. They assume that the "Willie Lynch Syndrome" explains Black disunity and the psychological trauma of slavery. While some have questioned and even dismissed this speech from the outset, it is fair to say that most African Americans who are aware of the speech have not questioned its authenticity, and assume it to be a legitimate and very crucial historical document which explains what has happened to African Americans.

However, when we examine the details of the "Willie Lynch Speech" and its assumed influence, then it becomes clear that the belief in its authenticity and widespread adoption during the slavery era is nothing more than a modern myth. In this brief examination, I will show that the only known "William Lynch" was born three decades after the alleged speech, that the only known "William Lynch" did not own a plantation in the West Indies, that the "speech" was not mentioned by anyone in the 18th or 19th centuries, and that the "speech" itself clearly indicates that it was composed in the late 20th century.


The "Willie Lynch Speech" is not mentioned by any 18th or 19th century slavemasters or anti-slavery activists. There is a large body of written materials from the slavery era, yet there is not one reference to a William Lynch speech given in
1712. This is very curious because both free and enslaved African Americans wrote and spoke about the tactics and practices of white slavemasters. Frederick Douglass, Nat Turner, Olaudah Equino, David Walker, Maria Stewart, Martin Delaney, Henry Highland Garnet, Richard Allen, Absolom Jones, Frances Harper, William Wells Brown, and Robert Purvis were African Americans who initiated various efforts to rise up against the slave system, yet none cited the alleged Lynch speech. Also, there is also not a single reference to the Lynch speech by any white abolitionists, including John Brown, William Lloyd Garrison, and Wendell Phillips. Similarly, there has been no evidence found of slavemasters or pro-slavery advocates referring to (not to mention utilizing) the specific divide and rule information given in the Lynch speech.

Likewise, none of the most credible historians on the enslavement of African Americans have ever mentioned the Lynch speech in any of their writings. A reference to the Lynch speech and its alleged divide and rule tactics are completely missing in the works of Benjamin Quarles, John Hope Franklin, John Henrik Clarke, William E.B. Du Bois, Herbert Aptheker, Kenneth Stampp, John Blassingame, Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, Darlene Clark-Hine, and Lerone Bennett. These authors have studied the details and dynamics of Black social life and relations during slavery, as well as the "machinery of control" by the slavemasters, yet none made a single reference to a Lynch speech.

Since the Willie Lynch speech was not mentioned by any slavemasters, pro-slavery advocates, abolitionists, or historians studying the slavery era, the question of course is when did it appear?


The first reference to the Willie Lynch speech was in a late 1993 on-line listing of sources, posted by Anne Taylor, who was then the reference librarian at the University of Missouri at St. Louis (UMSL).[2] She posted ten sources to the UMSL library database and the Lynch speech was the last item in the listing. Taylor in her 1995 email exchanges with the late Dr. William Piersen (Professor of History, Fisk University) and others interested in the origin of the Lynch speech indicated that she keep the source from where she received the speech anonymous upon request, because he was unable to establish the authenticity of the document. On October 31, 2005, Taylor wrote:

"Enough butt-covering, now it's time to talk about where I got it. The publisher who gave me this [speech] wanted to remain anonymous…because he couldn't trace it, either, and until now I've honored his wishes. It was printed in a local, widely-distributed, free publication called The St. Louis Black Pages, 9th anniversary edition, 1994*, page 8."

[*Taylor notes: "At risk of talking down to you, it's not unusual for printed materials to be 'post-dated' – the 1994 edition came out in 1993].[3]

The Lynch speech was distributed in the Black community in 1993 and 1994, and in fact I came across it during this time period, but as an historian trained in Africana Studies and primary research I never took it serious. I simply read it and put it in a file somewhere.

However, the Lynch speech was popularized at the Million Man March (held in Washington, DC) on October 16, 1995, when it was referred to by Min. Louis Farrakhan. He stated:

We, as a people who have been fractured, divided and destroyed because of our division, now must move toward a perfect union. Let's look at a speech, delivered by a white slave holder on the banks of the James River in 1712... Listen to what he said. He said, 'In my bag, I have a foolproof method of controlling Black slaves. I guarantee everyone of you, if installed correctly, it will control the slaves for at least 300 years'…So spoke Willie Lynch 283 years ago."

The 1995 Million Man March was broadcast live on C-Span television and thus millions of people throughout the U.S. and the world heard about the alleged Willie Lynch speech for the first time. Now, ten years later, the speech has become extremely popular, although many historians and critical thinkers questioned this strange and unique document from the outset.

-------------------------- Full Text of the alleged Willie Lynch Speech, 1712:

"Gentlemen, I greet you here on the bank of the James River in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and twelve. First, I shall thank you, the gentlemen of the Colony of Virginia, for bringing me here. I am here to help you solve some of your problems with slaves. Your invitation reached me on my modest plantation in the West Indies where I have experimented with some of the newest and still the oldest methods of control of slaves.

Ancient Rome would envy us if my program were implemented. As our boat sailed south on the James River, named for our illustrious King, whose version of the Bible we cherish. I saw enough to know that your problem is not unique. While Rome used cords of woods as crosses for standing human bodies along its highways in great numbers you are here using the tree and the rope on occasion.

I caught the whiff of a dead slave hanging from a tree a couple of miles back. You are not only losing a valuable stock by hangings, you are having uprisings, slaves are running away, your crops are sometimes left in the fields too long for maximum profit, you suffer occasional fires, your animals are killed.

Gentlemen, you know what your problems are: I do not need to elaborate. I am not here to enumerate your problems, I am here to introduce you to a method of solving them. In my bag here, I have a fool proof method for controlling your Black slaves. I guarantee everyone of you that if installed correctly it will control the slaves for at least 300 hundred years [sic]. My method is simple. Any member of your family or your overseer can use it.

I have outlined a number of differences among the slaves: and I take these differences and make them bigger. I use fear, distrust, and envy for control purposes. These methods have worked on my modest plantation in the West Indies and it will work throughout the South. Take this simple little list of differences, and think about them.

On top of my list is 'Age', but it is there only because it starts with an 'A': the second is 'Color' or shade, there is intelligence, size, sex, size of plantations, status on plantation, attitude of owners, whether the slave live in the valley, on hill, East, West, North, South, have fine hair, coarse hair, or is tall or short. Now that you have a list of differences. I shall give you an outline of action-but before that I shall assure you that distrust is stronger than trust and envy is stronger than adulation, respect, or admiration.

The Black slave after receiving this indoctrination shall carry on and will become self re-fueling and self generating for hundreds of years, maybe thousands. Don't forget you must pitch the old Black male vs. the young Black male, and the young Black male against the old Black male. You must use the dark skin slaves vs. the light skin slaves and the light skin slaves vs. the dark skin slaves. You must use the female vs. the male, and the male vs. the female. You must also have your white servants and overseers distrust all Blacks, but it is necessary that your slaves trust and depend on us. They must love, respect and trust only us.

Gentlemen, these kits are your keys to control. Use them. Have your wives and children use them, never miss an opportunity. If used intensely for one year, the slaves themselves will remain perpetually distrustful. Thank you, gentlemen."


The only known "William Lynch" who could have authorized a 1712 speech in Virginia was born 30 years after the alleged speech was given. The only known "William Lynch" lived from 1742-1820 and was from Pittsylvania, Virginia. It is obvious that "William Lynch" could not have authored a document 30 years before he was born! This "William Lynch" never owned a plantation in the West Indies, and he did not own a slave plantation in Virginia.


The Lynch speech lists a number of divide and rule tactics that were not important concerns to slaveholders in the early 1700s, and they certainly were not adopted. The anonymous writer of the Lynch speech states, "I have outlined a number of differences among the slaves: and I take these differences and make them bigger." Here is the list provided in the Lynch speech: age, color, intelligence, fine hair vs. coarse hair, tall vs. short, male vs. female.

However, none of these "tactics" were concerns to slaveholders in the early 1700s in the West Indies or colonial America. No credible historian has indicated that any of the items on the Lynch list were a part of a divide and rule strategy in any early 18th century. These are current 20th century divisions and concerns. Here are the Lynch speech tactics versus the real divide and rule tactics that were actually used in the early 18th century:

Age Ethnic origin & language

Color (light vs. dark skin) African born vs. American born

Intelligence Occupation (house vs. field slave)

Fine hair vs. coarse hair Reward system for "good" behavior

Tall vs. short Class status

Male vs. female Outlawed social gatherings
It is certain that "Willie Lynch" did not use his divide and rule tactics on his "modest plantation in the West Indies."


There are a number of terms in the alleged 1712 Lynch speech that are undoubtedly anachronisms (i.e. words that are out of their proper historical time period). Here are a few of the words in the speech that were not used until the 20th century:

Lynch speech: "In my bag here, I have a fool proof method for controlling your Black slaves."

Anachronisms: "Fool proof" and "Black" with an upper-case "B" to refer to people of African descent are of 20th century origin. Capitalizing "Black" did not become a standard from of writing until the late 1960s.

Lynch speech: "The Black slave after receiving this indoctrination shall carry on and will become self re-fueling and self generating for hundreds of years."

Anachronism: "Re-fueling" is a 20th century term which refers to transportation.


* William Lynch is invited from the "West Indies" (with no specific country indicated) to give only a short eight-paragraph speech. The cost of such a trip would have been considerable, and for the invited speaker to give only general remarks would have been highly unlikely.

* Lynch never thanked the specific host of his speech, he only thanked "the gentlemen of the Colony of Virginia, for bringing me here." Here, he is rude and shows a lack of etiquette. Also, no specific location for the speech was stated, only that he was speaking "on the bank [sic] of the James River."

* Lynch claims that on his journey to give the speech he saw "a dead slave hanging from a tree." This is highly unlikely because lynching African Americans from trees did not become common until the late 19th century.

* Lynch claims that his method of control will work for "at least 300 hundred years [sic]." First, it has gone unnoticed that the modern writer of the "speech" wrote three hundred twice ("300 hundred years"), which makes no grammatical sense. It should be "300 years" or "three hundred years." Second, the arbitrary choice of 300 years is interesting because it happens to conveniently bring us to the present time.

* Lynch claims that his method of control "will work throughout the South." This statement clearly shows the modern writer's historical ignorance. In 1712, there was no region in the current-day U.S. identified as the "South." The geographical region of the "South" did not become distinct until a century after the alleged speech. Before the American Revolutionary War vs. Britain (1775-1783) the 13 original U.S. colonies were all slaveholding regions, and most of these colonies were in what later became the North, not the "South." In fact, the region with the second largest slave population during the time of the alleged William Lynch speech was the northern city of New York, where there were a significant number of slave revolts.

* Lynch fails to give "an outline of action" for control as he promised in his speech. He only gives a "simple little list of differences" among "Black slaves."

* Lynch lists his differences by alphabetical order, he states: "On top of my list is 'Age', but it is there only because it starts with an 'A'. " Yet, after the first two differences ("age" and "color"), Lynch's list is anything but alphabetical.

* Lynch spells "color" in the American form instead of the British form ("colour"). We are led to believe that Lynch was a British slaveowner in the "West Indies," yet he does not write in British style.

* Lastly, the name Willie Lynch is interesting, as it may be a simple play on words: "Will Lynch," or "Will he Lynch." This may be a modern psychological game being played on unsuspecting believers?


It is clear that the "Willie Lynch Speech" is a late 20th century invention because of the numerous reasons outlined in this essay. I would advance that the likely candidate for such a superficial speech is an African American male in the 20s-30s age range, who probably minored in Black Studies in college. He had a limited knowledge of 18th century America, but unfortunately he fooled many uncritical Black people.

Some people argue that it doesn't matter if the speech is fact or fiction, because white people did use tactics to divide us. Of course tactics were used but what advocates of this argument don't understand is that African people will not solve our problems and address the real issues confronting us by adopting half-baked urban myths. If there are people who know that the Lynch speech is fictional, yet continue to promote it in order to "wake us up," then we should be very suspicious of these people, who lack integrity and will openly violate trust and willingly lie to our community.

Even if the Willie Lynch mythology were true, the speech is focused on what white slaveholders were doing, and there is no plan, program, or any agenda items for Black people to implement. It is ludicrous to give god-like powers to one white man who allegedly gave a single speech almost 300 years ago, and claim that this is the main reason why Black people have problems among ourselves today! Unfortunately, too often Black people would rather believe a simple and convenient myth, rather than spend the time studying and understanding a situation. Too many of our people want a one-page, simplified Ripley's Believe or Not explanation of "what happened."


While we are distracted by the Willie Lynch urban mythology, the real issues go ignored. There are a number of authentic first-hand written accounts by enslaved Africans, who wrote specifically about the slave conditions and the slavemasters' system of control. For example, writers such as Olaudah Equiano, Mahommah Baquaqua, and Frederick Douglass wrote penetrating accounts about the tactics of slave control.

Frederick Douglass, for instance, wrote in his autobiography, Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, that one of the most diabolical tactics of the American slaveholders was to force the slave workers during their six days off for the Christmas holiday to drink themselves into a drunken stupor and forget about the pain of slavery. Douglass wrote, "It was deemed a disgrace not to get drunk at Christmas; and he was regarded as lazy indeed, who had not provided himself with the necessary means, during the year, to get whiskey enough to last him through Christmas. From what I know of the effects of these holidays upon the slave, I believe them to be the most effective means in the hands of the slaveholder in keeping down the spirit of insurrection. Where the slaveholders at once to abandon this practice, I have not the slightest doubt it would lead to an immediate insurrection among the slaves…. The holidays are part and parcel of the gross fraud, wrong, and inhumanity of slavery."[4]

Also, many nineteenth century Black writers discussed the specific tactics of the white slaveowners and how they used Christianity to teach the enslaved Africans how to be docile and accept their slave status. The problem with African American and Black British revelry during the Christmas holidays and the blind acceptance of the master's version of Christianity are no doubt major issues among Black people today. It is certain that both of these problems were initiated and perpetuated during slavery, and they require our immediate attention.

Many people who embrace the Willie Lynch myth have not studied the period of slavery, and have not read the major works or first-hand documents on this issue of African American slavery. As indicated above, this fictional speech is amazingly used as required reading by some college instructors. Kenneth Stampp in his important work on slavery in the American South, The Peculiar Institution (1956), uses the historical records to outline the 5 rules for making a slave:

1. Maintain strict discipline.
2. Instill belief of personal inferiority.
3. Develop awe of master's power ( instill fear).
4. Accept master's standards of "good conduct."
5. Develop a habit of perfect dependence.[5]

Primary (first-hand) research is the most effective weapon against the distortion of African history and culture. Primary research training is the best defense against urban legends and modern myths. It is now time for critical thinkers to bury the decade-old mythology of "William Lynch."



1. For example, see: Lawanda Staten, How to Kill Your Willie Lynch (1997); Kashif Malik Hassan-el, The Willie Lynch Letter and the Making of a Slave (1999); Marc Sims, Willie Lynch: Why African-Americans Have So Many Issues! (2002); Alvin Morrow, Breaking the Curse of Willie Lynch (2003); and Slave Chronicles, The Willie Lynch Letter and the Destruction of Black Unity (2004).

2. See:

3. For this quote and the general Anne Taylor email exchanges regarding the authenticity of the Willie Lynch speech, see:

4. Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845), p. 84.

5. Kenneth Stampp, The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South (1956), pp. 144-48.


*Prof. Manu Ampim is an Historian and Primary (first-hand) Researcher specializing in African & African American history and culture. He is also a professor of Africana Studies. He can be reached at:

PO Box 18623, Oakland, CA (USA). Tel. 510-482-5791. Email:

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

On "Ethnomathematics": Math Is Not a Neutral Train Runnin'

On "Ethnomathematics": Math Is Not a Neutral Train Runnin'

Back in the late 60's I began to rethink the way I taught math and the content of the math I was teaching. I was a young man still in my 20's and I was moved to do this because:

(1) In the 60's I was teaching youngfolk who graduated from NYC hi schools crippled with math miseducation and were not getting the math I was literally dropping on them (as was done to me- but by chance and specific kinds of socialization at Lincoln U. in PA -I "got it"). Our students believed that Whitefolks did math (the Asian math whiz myth was not developed yet) because they were genetically "capable" and we were not. This was the racial inferiority complex and racist assumptions that defined a Black person's education life. For example, at Queens College where I taught math in the SEEK Program from 1968-69, there was a white math prof in the math dept. who gave an interview to the campus newspaper saying that Blacks don't have the mental capacity to do math... and if they do, it's because they have some "white blood" in them.

(2) Because of my deeply involved revolutionary political activism (Panther Party/Black Arts Movement/Black Studies Movement) and from the teachings of folk like John Henrik Clake and Dr. Ben, the growing knowledge of the world of math before and beyond Europe... I began to rethink just what is mathematics and who does it and why?

(3) Because of the above two realities, I began to think about the connection of math knowledge and its central importance to not only understanding the enemy, but what place in future society would we Blackfolk be in if we were "distanced" from math, science & technology (we now know he answer!). By the time the Black Scholar published my little essay in 1970: "Mathematics & the Black Liberation Struggle" I understood that mathematics is an integral part of all societies... and is presented or "done" differently in each of those societies. I also understood that the historical roots of math was out of Africa- not just the great civilization of Kemet (Egypt), but other African civilizations in different eras contributed to the vast math knowledge base that flowed to Asia, the Americas and later Europe.

(4) In this great period (60's & 70's) of strong Black education research & struggles (Black Studies, Community Control and the struggle for control over African/Diaspora research), it became clearer to me that we had to redesign our math pedagogy (ways of teaching) if we are going to bring our people into the positions of POWER. Capitalism was using science and technology in an exponential manner for its profit maximization demands and for its increasing control and surveillance of people and nations. By the end of the 60s, we had already entered a world that was becoming dominated by those who not only controlled the means of production, but also INFORMATION. One of the ways it was being done was to suck the knowledge out of humans and place/store it in a machine called a "computer." Unfortunately, there were only a tiny handful of politically active Blackfolk in the early to mid 70s who were scoping this out. By about 1974, I wrote another piece for the Black Scholar on Technology and the Black Liberation Movement where I tried to hilite this trend in capitalism and warn about how we will become more oppressed and alienated as a people if we don't produce a new generation of conscious Black science/tech activist-scholars and workers.

The pioneering work of the then incarcerated Brother Frank Chapman, Claudia Zaslavsky ("Africa Counts") on the history of math and science out of Africa gave me ammunition and inspiration to push my pedagogical ideas outside the elitist/gender-biased/racist box. Further my SUNY-Old Westbury brother colleague Dr. Everard Barrett (Dr. B) showed me ways of further enhancing my teaching methods. In 1973 or 74, he went into the then decrepit (still is) Black school system of Roosevelt, LI... took a random group of 3rd graders and within a school year had them passing 9th year algebra exams!! His pedagogy flowed to his teaching of adults at Old Westbury also.

(5) There were numerous alternative math/ethnomath/criticalmath conferences, essays, organizations, programs and books developed during the past 35 years. But, because the field of mathematics is one of the most conservative intellectual fields of study and because much of the leadership in this new field of math studies and pedagogy was lead by people of color from all over the world, it got constantly kicked to the curb or relegated as wild radical politically correct rantings of kooky 60s holdovers.

However, by the mid80's Brother Bob Moses's Algebra Project gets to be known to public school and college educators all over the US. He was able to synthesize a number of things many of us had been struggling to get "mainstreamed." The Algebra Project is one of the most successful middle school math programs in the US. If a Diane Ravitch type conservative would look at it, she/he would see "ethnomath" being used along with critical thinking pedagogical methods that push the students to go far beyond what is actually expected of them in middle school. Hence, Algebra Project students arrive at a much higher level of understanding some of the most sophisticated algebraic concepts... and are able to articulate this to others. even tho these sessions are not test-driven, Algebra Projects students do very well on hi-stakes testing because they have the confidence AND a DEEP understanding of math ideas.

By 1993-4, we (a number of education activists and parents- many of whom are still fighting today) created an Algebra Project-NYC as got it started sucessfully in 5 school in District 13 and later a couple of schools in district 17. Hundres of parents and students and teachers met all over the city eager to be part of something that was truly successfully getting midlle school Black & Latino students excited and knowledgable about math. Unfortunately, thru DOE bureacratic mess and internal Algebra project board's over cautiousness, the Project faded from the scene in NYC by 2000. But the Project is going strong in Mississippi and other places. We can bring it back to NY. We SHOULD bring it back to NY.

During this period (1975-1990) the works of Mozambiquan math educator- Paulos Gerdes -became well-known within the ethnomathematics world. I had the privelege to not only meet him and his colleagues but saw his successful work -first hand- in action in Mozambique and South Africa. Gerdes's work is rooted in "ethnomath." It's rooted in bringing African youth to very sophisticated math levels thru an African-centered math based on the various ways African did and do math. It is a successful math education program that has been up and running since the late 70's... in spite of US supported civil wars & IMF/World Bank machinations.

(6) So... I know this math education reform struggles firsthand. I also know that Western math is one of the most multicultural-based math on the planet! It is a creole mix of math from Africa, Europe, India, China and the Americas that evolved into what we see today first thru Europeans studying from Africans in Egypt and North Africa, then thru Arabs and Moors dominating the culture of Southern Europe for seven centuries, then thru the travels of Marco Polo (and other Europeans of his time) to the East, then thru the conquering encounters of Europeans thruout the Americas. One needs only to read George Joseph's "Crest of the Peacock- The NonEuropean Roots of Mathematics" to see what I'm talking about.

(7) This Ethnomath/criticalmath/African-centered Math Movement is an international movement that has been growing over the decades -in spite of the conservative onslaught to rollback math education to the 1930's. The Rethinking Mathematics book is a step in the right direction. what is also needed are people who teach teachers how and why to change their negative education ways- especially in the middle and hi school levels.

(8) Math is not a neutral thing. Yes, Math is universal (and the Western version of it has become standard because of whom the victors are- just like the basis of all computer language is English and binary numbers). All over the world People do Math- People live and work in a society -society is governed by political, economic machinations and spiritual beliefs -so math ideas are rooted in social, spiritual, economic and political realities of a people's society. Math is not hovering in the heavens outside of people... waiting to be discovered by a "genius". Math is inside of us- all of us -waiting to be discovered and used. It is a way of thinking influenced by Nature and the social world around us....

I Can say more, but I hope this helps put a context on the racist conservative attack on the attempts to transform math ed so that EVERYBODY can learn deeply the power and beauty of mathematics for the sake of liberation and the survival of Humanity and the Earth.

In Struggle,

Sam Anderson

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Blacks and Jews: From Afro-Zionism (??) to Anti-Zionism

Once again, we see that issues surrounding Black-Jewish relationships get filtered thru Zionist eyes and minds. UCLA English prof, ERIC J. SUNDQUIST, writes an ahistorical hodgepodge of an essay (excerpted below from his new Harvard University Press book: "Strangers in the Land: Blacks, Jews, Post-Holocaust America"). There are many things that are fundamentally wrong or deliberately distorted within this essay that I would like to address in full. But that's for another time and place rooted in the physical world of struggle and debate, rather than this cyberworld of virtual struggle and debate "Matrixlike." I look forward to those others who will join in on this discussion to hammer home points that I have missed or glossed over in this brief note.

But let me just say that (not necessary in order of importance):

(1) SUNDQUIST is ahistorical when it comes to Black-Jewish relations.

First and foremost, the first Jews were Africans of Khemit (Eygyptian/Sudanese/Ethipoian/Somalian descent in today's modern Northwest African people-sense). Judaism was embraced by Europeans, Asians and Africans since its creation as an organized religion. It has been nurtured over 2 thousand years NOT just in Europe, but in Northwest Africa, Asia, the Middle East and within the Western Hemisphere. Hence, at its roots, Judaism is a multicultural/multinational form of organized religion. However, its European variation became dominant BECAUSE Europe on a whole become dominant as capitalism evolved there as the most powerful military, economic and social force in the world post 1492.

Secondly, Eurpoean Jewry had a significant role to play within the very foundations of capitalist development: slavery and the slave trade. Hence, the root of the tension between Blacks and Jews. I refer SUNDQUIST and others to four books that will help shed lite on this indisputable reality:

(a) Lopez of Newport- Stanley F. Chyet, Wayne State University Press. 1970 (b) Jews, Slaves and the Slave Trade- Eli Faber, NYU Press. 1998 (c) Jews and the American Slave Trade- Saul S. Friedman, Transaction Publishers. 1998 (d) Jews and Blacks in the Early Modern World- Jonathan Schorsch. 2005

Of course, there are many other books that one can refer to. And, of course, there are Black writers on this subject that have spanned the centuries. But to minimize the attempt to dismiss out of hand the harsh realities of European Judaism's white supremacist and capitalist notions and policies, I suggest we look at what these four white scholars of Jewish descent have to say about the history of Black-Jewish relationships and Jewish involvement in the enslavement of African peoples. The last book, "Jews and Blacks in the Early Modern World" is-to date- the most definitive work in English of Jews views and behavior towards African people thruout the history of modern Slavery and the Slave Trade that gave rise to Capitalism. It is a must-read for those of us who seek the evidence that European Jewry -for the most part- assimilated into the evolution of "white supremacy" even tho they were being persecuted as a group by these very same European nations. The African for the Jew -as with all others in Europe regardless of class- became that lowly negative nonhuman base you could never become because of your "whiteness." Because of your "whiteness" (implicity before the 20th Century and explicitly during the 20th Century to the present) you were -at least better off than any Black person on the planet... even if they were wealthier and more educated than you were!)

(2) SUNDQUIST has this tendency, like so many of his liberal colleagues, to equate the plight, oppression and superexploitation of African peoples with that of the plight and persecution of European Jews. That somehow our oppressions are both interchangable and equal in time spent "on the cross." One thing- among many -that distinguishes us Blackfolk from European Jews is the fact that our mothers' wombs -by law- automatically produced capital (even if the child was the master's, it was first and foremost capital destined to appreciate in value and destined to produce capital). That alone distinguishes our horrendous exploitation and oppression from any other people on Earth. But, laws upon laws were heaped upon us to try to reinforce the myth of our subhumanness... and we could not hide from these realities by changing our name or practicing our religion on the down low.

(3) SUNDQUIST talks about "...the decay of bipartisan liberalism into black radicalism...." Black Radicalism is not a degenrate form of struggle! It is the highest moral and political form that our struggle for freedom can take. We know that from the Stono Rebellion, Gabriel Prosser, Dessalines & Toussaint L'Ouveture, Denmark Vesey, David Walker, Mariah Stewart, Harriet Tubman, Henry Highland Garnet, Antonio Maceo, Martin Delany, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Edward Wilmot Blyden and thousands of other Africans of the 15th to 19th centuries who were proud of their radicalism... their relentless fight for freedom and power thruout the Americas. Because I am a 21st Century Black Radical, I am not a "decayed" being. I am a continuator of a powerful nation-changing tradition of high moral and political certainty.

There was always this tension between Jewish liberalism and Black radicalism or Black self-determinationism... especially in the US beginning in the 20th Century when Jewish petty-borugeois intellectuals began to try to influence and direct Blacks' struggle for justice and democracy in the US. In other words, the Jewish liberal joined a multigenerational Black Freedom Movement that had defined its Black leadership in battle. But there was little respect for this leadership... or for the multicentury history of mass actions by ordinary Blackfolk. No. the 20th century Jewish liberal came to these Black struggles as LEADERS and bearers of the KNOWLEDGE with how to becaome part of the American dream (that wasn't the nightmare).

(4) SUNDQUIST uses our great elder novelist John A. Williams ("Sons of Darkness, Sons of Light") as sort of a counterpoint to the amorphous antisemitic/antizionist Black Radical Ranter (a mixed bag of mixed eras, mixed ideologies and out-of-context quotes whose veracity rely on our historical ignorance).

Let me tell you a little thing about what happened to John A. Williams when he tried to get his last novel- "Clifford Blues"(Coffee House Press) published. His own contracted publisher refused to publish it along with some 50 other publishers. Why? Becuase he dared to write a novel about the plight of a Black man caught in the Nazi web of concentration camps during WWII. He dared to write about the thousands of Black people who were also caught up in this web of horror, degradation, humiliation and mass murder. He dared to write about what happens to peoples' morals and humanity when they are pushed into this cauldron of degradation. Not just the degraded, but also the degrader. He dared to write about homosexuality and its twisted fate within the Nazi Concentration Camp Experience. He dared to expose the myth that just Jews suffered in those Nazi Camps of Death and Humiliation.

Brother John A. Williams finally got his novel publish by a small midWedstern "arthouse" called Coffee Table Press. And because of the strife he experienced and the blocking and denial by the major publishers he added a bibliography that backs up his basic premise: Nazi concentration camps also interred people of African descent.

(5) SUNDQUIST does not and will not acknowledge the fact that Israel is a surragate cop for US/western Imperialism. He does not and will not talk about the development of Israeli apartheid that has led to Nazi-like systematic killings of Palestinian leaders and anyone else around them; the bulldozing of homes and neighborhoods; the walling in of Palestinians; the labelling of every resisting Palestinian as terrorist and ally of Bin Laden; the conscious economic destabilization of the Palestinian economy; the deliberate creation of a myriad of ecological disasters thruout Palestinian communities and cities. SUNDQUIST does not and will not talk about the overt military and economic collaboration between apartheid South Africa and Israel. A collaboration that not only helped sustain a faltering Apartheid regime, but also aided -via its intelligence network and technology- in Apartheid's attempt to kill the South African Liberation Movement. These are some of the things that have directly factored into more and more Blackfolk in the US becoming strongly antiZionist.

But SUNDQUIST tries to cover all this up by equating some antijewish statements made here and there by a few pseudo Black militants with genuine Black radical anti-Zionist assertions. And in this country of lite thought, he is relying on the fact that many "intellectuals" even cannot distinguish between an antiZionist statement and an anti-Jewish one. In addition, SUNDQUIST is also relying on the myth that Black Radicals are mere ranters and ravers and have not one analytical bone in their body.

(6) American Liberalism died with the election of Bill Clinton and was buried with the election of Bush. Blackfolk are far from being necrophiliacs. We seek the rejuvenation of Progressivism and Radicalism as two parts of a multipart Battle against this new Fascism on the rise. "Liberal" Zionism is still racism even tho it may be sugar coated with "good intentions," and a selfcentered mythological view of Black-Jewish relations in the US.

Our "common ground" is the revolutionary ground.

S. E. Anderson

Here's the essay...

From the issue dated October 21, 2005 Blacks and Jews: From Afro-Zionism to Anti-Zionism


In a culture steeped in ethnic friction and contested identities, the idea that the relationship between African-Americans and Jews was once thought special — indeed, critical to the cause of civil rights — seems strange. By the 1990s the belief of earlier Jewish and black leaders that they were each other's strongest allies had long since bred charges of exploitation and betrayal. Animosity between the two groups had become so normal that it was hardly a surprise when the Nation of Islam charged that Jews bore special responsibility for slavery.

Yet the importance of black people for Jews and Jews for black people when both were "strangers" in the Promised Land of America is a matter of voluminous, if perplexing, record. Occupying the shifting margins of national life, Jews and black people shared perspectives on the rewards and dangers of assimilation, the vicissitudes of intermarriage and "passing," and the meaning of citizenship in the face of discrimination and racist violence. Immigrant and native Jews alike found in black people a reminder of their centuries-long persecution, while Africans in America, beginning with their immersion in the Christianity of slaveholders and continuing through the modern civil-rights movement, were shaped by a profound identification with the Jews' biblical narrative. As Ralph Ellison once remarked, "All of us old-fashioned Negroes are Jews."

The alliance between the two groups reached its peak in the aftermath of World War II, but almost immediately began to dissolve, as Jews, with the downfall of educational quotas and other anti-Semitic restrictions, embarked on a rapid ascent of the social and economic ladder, while African-Americans, however much their lives were improved by the end of segregation, began an ascent destined to be far slower and more erratic.

When demoralizing setbacks made African-Americans skeptical of integrationist strategies and aroused them to the color consciousness championed by black power, many moved toward a greater sense of identity, as well as legal entitlement, predicated on race. When Jews moved in the opposite direction, black people perceived them to be abandoning historic commitments to social justice while reaping the rewards of their assimilation to "whiteness." Black people wondered how Jews could feel insecure in America, while Jews wondered how black people could be oblivious to anti-Semitism, let alone indulge in it themselves. In the eyes of black people, the Jewish columnist Nat Hentoff remarked in 1969, Jews were included among the goyim in America; the only question was who "among us are the Germans."

This relatively familiar story of the decay of bipartisan liberalism into black radicalism, on the one hand, and Jewish conservatism, on the other, is not incorrect. But it tells just part of the story. A critical, but less well-understood, cause of the breakup may be found in conjoined events — the Holocaust and the creation of Israel — that might have been expected to strengthen the alliance. Ultimately, they did just the reverse.

Hentoff's alarming formulation — that black Americans might perceive American Jews as Nazis — recognized that the calamity of the Holocaust contained the seeds of resentment: African-Americans feared that their suffering would be diminished by comparison to that of the Jews. Yet it also provided a new way for African-Americans to understand their own history. With the invention of the term "genocide," and its inscription into the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948, the depredations of slavery and lynching, as well as America's own Nuremberg Laws of segregation, began to be seen in a different light, so that Holocaust eventually displaced Exodus as a principal organizing metaphor of black thought.

But 1948 also witnessed the founding of Israel. Just as the new Jewish state altered the identity of American Jews, so it changed black-Jewish relations — providing a concrete referent for the many strands of Afro-Zionism that saw Africa as the homeland of all black peoples, whether the Ethiopianism of Edward W. Blyden, the black Zionism of Marcus Garvey, or claims by the Rastafarians and others to be true descendants of the ancient Israelites. Upon visiting Israel in the early 1950s, the renowned singer Marian Anderson found herself witness to "an act of liberation" that she said also illuminated the "deepest necessities" of black freedom, while the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People proclaimed in 1948 that Israeli independence "serves as an inspiration to all persecuted people throughout the world."

In an opinion no doubt shocking to later anti-Zionists, that same year W.E.B. Du Bois embraced Israel as an example of progressivist liberation from colonial rule, pointing to what Jewish immigrants to Palestine had already accomplished in "bringing a new civilization into an old land" and raising it out of the "ignorance, disease, and poverty into which it had fallen." As late as 1969, the black writer and actor Ossie Davis, speaking in tribute to the prominent Zionist Avraham Schenker, asked his audience to remember that "we, too, seek our Jerusalem."

Yet even if black Americans had the same intensity of identification with a lost homeland as did Jews with Israel, their isolation from Africa, let alone from a single nation brought into existence by United Nations mandate, left them in a far more nebulous position than Jews either before or after 1948. By the end of the 1960s, moreover, Davis's voice was drowned out by those expressing a far more antagonistic view of Israel — and of Jews — as the long tradition of black support for Zionism gave way to expressions of anti-Zionism, presaging more vocal and widespread responses today.

Following the Six-Day War in 1967, and the onset of what proved to be Israel's protracted occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, its example as a national homeland and its role as a model of anticolonial liberation, which had made it a prominent partner to black African nations throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, were turned upside down. For many African-Americans, galvanized by anticolonial struggles in Africa, Asia, and Latin America and sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, the image of the Jewish state underwent a transformation: As Pierre Vidal-Naquet, the French historian who has eloquently responded to Holocaust deniers, would observe in 1987, the "victims" became the "executioners."

"We have got to be for the Arabs," exclaimed the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee leader Stokely Carmichael in 1968, for "we are Africans wherever we are." Israel, he said, "is moving to take over Egypt. Egypt is our motherland — it's in Africa. ... Egypt belongs to us since 4,000 years ago."

The Israelis, by that line of argument, were enemies of the third world, puppets of American power; the Arabs, as the black writer Richard Gibson claimed in 1967, were among the standard-bearers for "a world of color that fights for its liberation from Mozambique to Mississippi." Brotherhood with the Palestinians and identification with Egypt — in a political variation on the Afrocentric metonymy wherein the land of the pharaohs is taken for the whole of Africa — provided a psychological bridge to African wars of liberation and a symbolic recovery of a homeland otherwise unachievable.

Although evidence of black rejection of Israel dated to creation of the state — for example, in the journalist George Schuyler's scalding opinion that the Israeli War of Independence proved that the Bible is the "Jewish Mein Kampf" — the disintegration of black support for Zionism in the wake of the Six-Day War led, in extremity, not just to identification with the jihad of Arab nations but to an exterminationist mentality. The writer Amiri Baraka thus gave Malcolm X's vision of sovereignty for black urban enclaves a grotesque twist: "In order for the Black Man to survive," said Baraka in 1965, he must take steps to ensure that he has "what the Germans call Lebensraum."

A politically effective coalition between African-Americans and Jews might have continued so long as Jews believed that such rancorous views were part of the rhetorical war for third-world liberation. As Baraka's calculated figure of speech suggests, however, the rise of black anti-Zionism grew from black power's allegiance both to anti-Western revolutionary movements and to a domestic agenda in which the "black" homelands of Egypt and Palestine were deemed to be one with the "occupied" ghettos of the United States. Enemies abroad thus merged with enemies at home.

Jews, said Malcolm X in an interview, updating the anti-Semitic stereotype of the gouging Jewish merchant, "sap the very lifeblood of the so-called Negroes to maintain the state of Israel." Despite suffering genocide in Europe, contended the Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver, standing alongside Yasir Arafat at a 1968 Al Fatah rally in Algeria, the Israelis are "trying to solve their problems at the expense of another people. The same thing happened ... to the Black people in America."

Along with conflict over racial preferences and black appropriations of the Holocaust, such a blurring of the distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism estranged not just Jewish conservatives and moderates but also those among the Jewish New Left who otherwise welcomed the radicalism and ethnocentrism of Black Power. The call for an end to the Jewish state, reasoned the young activist M.J. Rosenberg, admitted of no negotiation: "There is no such thing as 'progressive' anti-Semitism," he said.

At the same time, many of those African-Americans who now read the modern Exodus of Jews as a story of colonial conquest continued to find in Zionism a compelling example of national liberation. As a "nation within a nation," whose integrity is guaranteed by the survival of Israel, American Jews know that "they have to fight 365 days a year wherever they are in the world, to remain Jews and to keep Israel as a Jewish homeland," the poet Haki R. Madhubuti argued in 1973. Seeking a model for the Black Panthers' combination of armed struggle and community service, Cleaver himself cast back to the time of Theodor Herzl and the beginnings of modern Zionism, when Jews "had no homeland and were dispersed around the world." The Panthers, he argued, could likewise foment a revolution that will "sweep the people forward into nationhood."

Such paradoxical entanglements of black Zionism with black anti-Zionism are nowhere more vivid than in John A. Williams's 1969 novel, Sons of Darkness, Sons of Light, which hypothesizes a coming race war in the United States. Williams was dismissive of his novel, and not entirely without reason. The plot is contrived and the action sensational, but his anatomy of pro- and anti-Zionist ideologies is nuanced, astute, and more than a little prophetic.

The book's subtitle is A Novel of Some Probability, and the story is set prospectively in 1973. The action revolves around two characters: Eugene Browning, a middle-class black intellectual radicalized by the failure of the civil-rights mainstream, and Itzhak Hod, an Israeli who had served with the paramilitary Irgun during the War of Independence, before becoming a Nazi hunter and mercenary. Driven to despair following the killing of a black youth by a white policeman, Browning hires the Mafia to kill the policeman. The Mafia in turn contracts with Hod, who carries out the assassination, setting in motion a race war between the black community and the police.

Taking up the cause of black rights at just the moment the novel's American Jews appear to be retreating from it, Hod then sets out on his own to kill Herman Mahler, a celebrated Southern white supremacist responsible for the murder of three black college students. Hod's action proves pivotal in the novel's exposition of contending views of Zionism.

Williams took his title from a Dead Sea apocalyptic text known as The Scroll of the War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness, which depicts a war waged by the tribes of Israel against their enemies. In quoting from the War Scroll in an epigraph to his novel, Williams ignores its prediction that God will intervene on the side of the Sons of Light. He thus secularizes his first frame of reference, the 1948 War of Independence, as though to confirm that the Jews' restoration to their lost homeland was a political, not a messianic, event.

Given the novel's publication in 1969, and its action set in 1973, however, its second frame of reference is the Six-Day War, one of whose official names proposed by the Israelis was the "War of the Sons of Light." In writing about a black nationalist uprising in such a context, Williams might well have been expected to adopt an anti-Zionist perspective. But his treatment proves to be far from predictable.

In Hod's career with the Irgun, our attention is directed first to the analogy between black power and the Zionists' anticolonial war of liberation against British rule in pre-1948 Palestine. It is not the Arab Palestinians, but the Jewish Palestinians, who are equivalent to African-Americans, each oppressed by a colonizer.

At the same time, Williams introduces a contrary analogy. Lying in wait to assassinate Mahler, Hod is surprised by the brother of one of the murdered black students, who is bent on a mission of vengeance. Recognizing the black man's prior right, Hod allows him to kill Mahler. But he also sees something in himself that complicates the equivalence of black nationalism and Zionism: "Hod looked at the Negro's eyes and understood. Once he himself had stood like the Negro — at Deir Yassin, it was — so intent on slaughtering that nothing else mattered." As a veteran of the April 1948 battle of Deir Yassin, Hod stands for a legendary moment of reckoning in the Israeli national conscience and in the creation of revolutionary consciousness among Palestinian Arabs.

During the civil war preceding independence, Jewish forces had to open a corridor between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, which would otherwise have become isolated within territory allotted to Arab Palestinians in the United Nations' partition of Palestine. Creating that corridor was deemed indispensable in defining the state and protecting the Jews of Jerusalem from Arab armies once independence was declared. Among the villages along the corridor, lying near the northwest entrance to the city, was Deir Yassin.

There were varying views of the degree of force needed to accomplish the mission, just as there are now varying accounts of the tactics that were used and why they went awry. What ensued, in any event, was a difficult house-to-house battle that evolved into what most analyses speak of as a massacre of civilians, though how many, under what conditions, with what justification, and with what, if any, ulterior aim remain matters of intense dispute. Whether or not the action was part of a strategy to bring about the "transfer" of Palestinian Arabs, the battle at Deir Yassin came to be seen by many Arabs, as well as some Israelis, as a principal cause of the momentous outflow of Palestinian Arabs that followed, most of them expecting to return after Arab nations had driven out the Jews or, in later years, once their right to return had been negotiated.

The approximately 700,000 refugees became, as Cairo Radio put it in 1957, "the cornerstone in the Arab struggle against Israel." They also became the Palestinian people, whose ultimate fate would plague the region and the world on into the next century and whose rallying cry would forever be "Deir Yassin." At the height of the post-1967 campaign of terror carried out by the Palestine Liberation Organization, for example, an assault on Ben Gurion Airport took the code name "Operation Deir Yassin." In the words of the Birzeit University scholar Sharif Kanaana, Deir Yassin became "a symbol of everything that happened to Palestinians."

Sons of Darkness, Sons of Light evokes that history in complicated and sometimes paradoxical ways. As Hod's role makes clear, American black nationalists who resort to guerrilla warfare are comparable to the Irgun. But in post-1967 terms, they are also comparable to the Palestinians, despite the fact that the isolation of African-Americans from potential allies in Africa and from the people of the black diaspora puts them at a greater disadvantage in undertaking an armed uprising. In reversing the names of the combatants in his title, and thus foregrounding the tactics of the PLO, Williams also illuminates his epigraph drawn from the War Scroll, part of which reads: "They shall all together sing the hymn of return."

Well before the Six-Day War, a mystique of "the Return" had permeated Palestinian culture, especially in refugee camps. A lost sovereign state of Palestine was pictured as a bride awaiting her betrothed or a mother waiting for her sons to return — but in a violent vanquishing. Calling upon Palestinians to avenge Deir Yassin, Al Fatah's monthly publication, Our Palestine, addressed its readers beginning in the early 1960s as "Children of the Catastrophe," and, more specifically, as "Sons of the Catastrophe," the true sons of light who would liberate the homeland of Palestine from the Zionist infidel and occupier. As Egypt's foreign minister, Muhammad Salah al-Din, put it in 1949: "It is well known and understood that the Arabs, in demanding the return of the refugees to Palestine, mean their return as masters of the Homeland, and not as slaves. With greater clarity, they mean the liquidation of Israel."

Having emerged from the second catastrophe of the Six-Day War as not just the Palestinians' only hope but also, for the moment, the Arab nations' only weapon of war, Al Fatah and the PLO, which had effectively become one by 1969 — the year Arafat was elected chairman of the PLO and the year Williams's novel appeared — became the embodiment of nascent Palestinian nationalism and, with it, the radical anti-Zionism that persists today.

As Williams sees it, the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness, the Israelis and the Arabs — or is it the other way around? — stood in a potentially irresolvable mirroring relationship from the moment of partition, if not from time immemorial. Is the "hymn of return" meant to allude to the return of victorious Jews to Eretz Yisrael after 2,000 years of exile? Or is it the triumphant return of displaced Palestinians in some history still to be written?

In Deir Yassin lay the paradox of statehood, as well as the paradox of the anti-Zionism espoused by black power — approbation of the Jews' right to a homeland, their right to exist, alongside disapprobation of the Jews' right to defend their homeland against enemies who refuse to recognize their right to exist.

In returning to Israel at the end of the novel, Hod seeks a way out of that quandary. "To consider Israel fairly," he ruminates, "you had to consider the Arabs and if you considered them fairly, would you then have an Israel? They stood in such great, great numbers, overwhelming numbers, at the gates of the nation." Hod is referring not just to the military threat posed by hostile Arab nations, but also to the demographic threat embodied in the Palestinian argument for the right of return, inscribed in the PLO's Covenant as a way to eliminate Israel by rolling back its borders and absorbing it in a Greater Palestine.

The War Scroll prophesies the victory of the Sons of Light, but victory in the Six-Day War, however much it strengthened Israel, not only failed to eliminate external threats but, in some respects, created a more dangerous one. In Hod's valor and clarity of purpose in 1948, upon which rested nothing less than the security and survival of Israel, Williams appears to say, one finds also the beginnings of a dilemma not solved in 1967 — indeed, made all the more intractable.

In leaving the outcome of his novel's race war inconclusive, Williams also leaves an ideological and epistemological puzzle. American black nationalists are neither the Irgun nor the PLO; they are not about to achieve their own state, let alone drive white America into the sea. Likewise the assertion that the Palestinians are victims of colonial rule, nearly a truism on the left today, was far more ambiguous in Williams's time. If the reading of history that found in Zionism a model for anticolonial liberation proved to be simplistic, it was no less so than Black Power's counterreading of Zionism as colonialism.

Pinpointing events that would define the tragic course of Israeli-Palestinian relations for decades to come, Williams also crystalized a key factor in the collapse of the once vital, if always precarious, coalition of African-Americans and American Jews. That the recovered homeland of Jews was and remains a strong ally of the United States, while African-Americans can point to no such "black Zion" of their own, has only made the collapse more poignant.

By the late 20th century, amid acrimonious charges and countercharges about black anti-Semitism and Jewish racism, a few Jewish and African-American compatriots still maintained strong convictions of brotherhood, but the time seemed to have come and gone when the two groups had obvious reasons to join hands. Mindful of "our respective exiles," said the Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel in a 1987 birthday tribute to the black civil-rights activist Bayard Rustin, African-Americans and Jews must each cultivate their own traditions and "create their own community, their own fraternity."

Whatever its future, the black-Jewish question is no less central today than it was throughout the 20th century. At times a true alliance, at times a marriage of convenience, and more recently a bitter quarrel, the relationship between the two groups reset the course of American liberalism — its promise of belonging to the nation, as well as the seeming demise of the idea of one nation to which all could belong. The history of their association still holds important lessons for Americans ever in search of common ground. --------------------

Eric J. Sundquist is a professor of English at the University of California at Los Angeles. This essay is adapted from Strangers in the Land: Blacks, Jews, Post-Holocaust America, to be published next month by Harvard University Press. Copyright © by the president and fellows of Harvard College. ------------------
Section: The Chronicle Review Volume 52, Issue 9, Page B6
Copyright © 2005 by The Chronicle of Higher Education

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

New Orleans Levee: A 40-Yr Explosion

Sista Gwen,

Whether or not the levee was blown up during the hurricane by the US government, it was actually blown up from 1965 to 2005.

By this I mean that after the big flood of '65, the local, state and national governments knew that the levees had to have a major overhaul/reconstruction given the constant shifting of the Mississippi and the fact that humans were eroding the surounding bayous for the sake of "development." The government officials did nothing in the past 40 years to upgrade the levees.

Engineers in and out of the government and military stated the urgency of creating Category 4 sustainable walls. Journalists (see Times-Picayune) and Scientists (see Scientific American Dec2004) wrote about the possibilities of great flooding with tremendous loss of lives.... Billions of dollars were squandered elsewhere and the few millions that did come to Louisiana got lost in the normalcy of corruption.

Hence, it was 90-95% certain that even a hurricane hitting New Orleans with 90-100mph winds would burst a levee or two.

You can rest assure that if the area was mainly made up white petty bourgeois residents and businesses, the levees would have been reinforced some time ago. All we have to do is look at the flood deterrant & draining system already in place in New Orleans: the richer whitefolk got a better support infrastructure.

...Yes, the levee was blown up! Blown up thru conscience racist/classist unprincipled corruption. This levee explosion was in deliberate slo mo: 40 years in the making... to make way for a Disneyfication of New Orleans filled with fake hypercommericialized Black Culture: Nigstalgia thru white eyes... to make way for gated communities well guarded from the floods of the Mississippi, the Poncetrain, the Black & Brown hordes that will soon be America's Majority....

In Struggle,

Sam Anderson

Monday, January 17, 2005

Sam Anderson’s Presentation before the NY City Council Commission on the Implementation of CFE

Sam Anderson’s Presentation before the NY City Council Commission on the Implementation of CFE-
January 13, 2005

Distinguished members of the NY City Council Commission on the Implementation of CFE, City Councilpeople, and citizens of New York City, I simply want to address the overwhelming scientific findings supporting the concept that class size does help create a more academically developed young person- particularly young African American and Latino persons. I also want to stress that smaller class size is a necessary but not sufficient condition for true educational excellence to flourish in New York City public education. Our system needs fundamental changes from top to bottom that establishes “Education as a Human Right” as its raison d’etre… not just more money and smaller classes.

It is documented that in the primary grades, when students are in classes of around 15 students per teacher, they are going to gain two to three months in academic achievement over their peers in larger classes.

The Tennessee STAR (Tennessee's Student Teacher Achievement Ratio) study -concluded back in 2000- was one of the largest educational experiments in the United States. "Experiment" in a scientific sense, in that the STAR study featured random assignment of students and teachers and carefully controlled experimental conditions.

The study began in 1985 with a group of kindergarten students who were in small classes through third grade. Between 8,000 and 10,000 students participated in STAR.

Those students have now graduated from college or are on the verge of graduating. Researchers have followed the students through the grades and have been able to document that their achievement gains in the primary grades continued throughout high school. Furthermore, they took the SAT and ACT tests at significantly higher rates than students who were in the larger classes.

One of the most encouraging results of the Wisconsin 1995 to 2000 study called: SAGE (Student Achievement Guarantee in Education) is the positive effect on the achievement gap between Black & white students. In the SAGE evaluation, evidence revealed that African-American students narrowed the gap in terms of their achievement with whites.

African-American students in both the SAGE schools and the comparison schools started off with their achievement at a significantly lower rate than white students. In the SAGE schools, Black students tended to narrow the academic achievement gap with white students. In the comparison schools, the African-American students fell further behind.

This corresponds to the Tennessee findings and the results of follow-up studies of students who attended small classes in the STAR experiment. Consider, for example, the ACT and SAT test-taking statistics on these students. Both Black and white students who took part in the smaller classes in the primary grades had significantly higher rates of taking the SAT and ACT. But the rate of increase for African Americans was substantially higher than that for whites. There was, in fact, a closing of the test-taking gap in that respect.

Today in the US, schools are perceived as cultural communities where the complex interplay of race, class, nationality, gender, and spiritual beliefs affect the lives of all who learn and teach in those institutions. The class size research agenda has been transformed to include such variables as instructional method, teacher morale and stress, teacher work load, student behavior and attitudes, content areas, student characteristics, and grade level.

In contemporary times, progressive education researchers have come to a broad agreement on the following general conclusions:
• Smaller classes result in increased student-teacher contact.
• Reductions in class size to less than 20 students without changes in instructional methods cannot guarantee improved academic achievement.
• No single class size is optimal for all grade levels and subjects.
• Smaller classes appear to result in greater achievement gains for students with lower academic ability and for those who are economically or socially oppressed.
• Classroom management improves in smaller classes (fewer discipline problems).
• Smaller classes result in higher teacher morale and reduced stress.
• Individualization is more likely to occur in smaller classes.
• Class size reductions alone do not necessarily lead to adoption of dramatically different instructional methods.
• Class size appears to have more influence on student attitudes, attention, interest, and motivation than on academic achievement.
• Smaller classes are beneficial for children at the primary level, particularly in math and reading.
• Very small classes of five or fewer students produce considerably higher achievement (Bennett, p. 3).

Major findings presented in the research on class size include:

• There is probably no optimum class size for all types of students, in all subject areas, and at all grade levels. • Smaller classes produce the necessary, though not sufficient, conditions for successful teaching and learning.
• Reduced class sizes in grades K-3, in the range of 13-17 students per class, significantly enhance student achievement.
• Reductions in class sizes to less than 20 students without changes in instructional methods cannot guarantee enhanced student achievement.
• Small class size, in the range of 13-17 students, benefits all students in all contexts at the K-3 level.
• Regular-size classes with a teacher aide are less effective than small classes in enhancing student achievement at the K-3 level.
• There are identifiable teaching behaviors which will enhance the benefits of a small class design; these include individual instruction, coaching, mentoring, and tutoring.
• The evidence favoring small class size at the upper grade levels is weak because teaching behaviors appear to be more rigid and research methodologies have been inadequate.
• Teacher inservice opportunities must accompany reduced class sizes so that appropriate teaching can be developed and reinforced.
• Class size definitions vary, depending on whether mean or median numbers are used.
• Class size averages may obscure the fact that some students require extra attention and care.
• Both class size and teacher workload (the number of students evaluated during the year) are important indicators of school quality.

This review of existing research, with all of its built-in limitations, suggests that increasing student learning by reducing class size is a positive but complex matter. It also suggests that class size reductions should be targeted to specific student groups for specific purposes which teachers must receive the training needed to make the most of the new learning opportunities available in smaller classes, and that race, class and gender must play an upfront role in determining the quality and quantity of classes.

A Human Rights-centered education mandates/demands not only smaller class size and an antiracist curriculum for educational excellence to flourish but also fundamental system-change to include students, parents and teachers in the daily local and citywide decision-making processes within all aspects of public education. Short of this, all we will be doing is continuing the present tracking system for poor children of color straight into prisons, poverty or graves.
Sam Anderson <>- Education Director, Center for Law & Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, The City University of New York -- Member of Black New Yorkers for Educational Excellence and the Independent Commission On Public Education (ICOPE)