Today's episode of racial stupidity in public schools has us visiting Sarasota, Florida where 18-year-old Noah Crowley, a high school senior at Riverview High School, is collecting hell fire from the internet gods for a leaked Snapchat photo of his racist "promposal."
As you might expect, the story lit up social media timelines, and all the predictable crisis management tactics were executed.
The school put out a statement saying:
"We want to make everyone aware of a student’s social media post that has caused a very concerning situation. It involves one of our seniors and his 'promposal' to another student. It was racial in nature and administration became aware of it last night.
Many who saw the post are understandably upset with its contents as well as the subsequent commentary to the post. Riverview High School absolutely does not condone or support the message conveyed in this post.
The student’s post is under investigation by administration; the parents of the students involved have been contacted and appropriate action will be taken based on the investigation. We are focused on ensuring that Riverview High School provides a safe and secure environment for all of our students and that all students feel welcome and understand the value that they all bring to our school community. Our guidance counselors and administrators are available for any student who wish to speak to someone regarding the issue.
Riverview High School has a wonderful student population and we know our school will use this incident as an opportunity to have productive conversations about respect for one another. We look forward to the start of a new week and know that together, we will demonstrate our pride in the spirit of our school through caring for each other. Thank you."
Crowley issued the standard apology that horrified white parents buy from publicist when their children become internet famous for racism.
What's interesting about his apology is it makes his actions seem accidental or spontaneous, but the sign is pretty damn neat. The meticulous lettering looks like it took a while (albeit, with a stencil). It looks like he had ample time while creating it to ask himself "is this stupid"?
"I want to sincerely apologize if I have offended anyone with the picture going around. That was not my intention. Anyone who knows me....knows that that's not how we truly feel. It was a complete joke and it went too far...After reading the texts and Snapchat's I truly see how I have offended people and I'm sorry."
And what racial incident would be complete without an obligatory meeting with the local NAACP?
Yes, the Sarasota school district is working with the civil rights organization to show a good faith attempt at investigating and resolving their problem with the color line.
Great. Good stuff. Unfortunately, is solves nothing.
All of the racial theater aside, the problem here isn't Crowley, his message, the hurt feelings of overly precious children, or existence of racism among American youth. God help any individual cognitively impaired enough to be surprised by anti-black racism or endemic white supremacy. Those properties are like air for birds, water for fish, or lies for Trump.
It just is what it is.
But, being the education hawk that I am, there is something important about this story that won't be told.
Here's a picture of it:
Riverview High School is 69% white, and 31% non-white, which by definition is that elusive "integrated" school so many of my colleagues and peers in education commentary fawn over.
Old integration plans from days long gone capped "minority" student populations to 30% because it was the golden ratio of white to minority numbers that made everyone better educated.
By golden ratio I mean 30% was the high rate of non-minority in a school that could exist before good white people would bolt for less integrated schools.
As you can see by the picture above, there are problems with that theory. In fact, Riverview's black students scored so poorly on state tests they might as well be at the blackest, poorest school in the country.
Here's a better picture:
Every student population in this school is outscoring their state at-large, but only 23% of black students are proficient in reading - at the high school level - as compared to black students statewide who are at 33%.
White Riverview students are at a laudable 73%.
We can have long discussions about why those disparities exist. Obviously parents and culture and family income will be summoned as contributors. For some, school funding and class size will explain everything.
But one thing is certain: we will never improve outcomes for black students if we are perpetually distracted by the facile outrage of the day, or by romantic versions of alternative reality where racial integration fixes everything.
Let's be intelligent people capable of rigorous thought.
Change will only come if we focus less on the picture above of Crowley's dumb promposal, and focus more on the two other pictures above that illustrate the glaring disparities in education that are killing black minds everyday.