JWR Roger SimonMona CharenLinda Chavez
Larry ElderJonathan S. Tobin
Thomas SowellWilliam PfaffRobert Scheer
Don FederCal Thomas
Left, Right & Center
Jewish World Review / April 10, 1998 / 14 Nissan, 5758

Larry Elder


DWB. DRIVING WHILE BLACK. That's an expression some blacks use to argue that police unfairly single them out. Let's try a new one: TWA -- Teaching While Asian.

Imagine you're fifth-grade teacher Marylin Fong, an Asian, who last week got dinged with a million-dollar civil rights lawsuit. Fong teaches fifth grade at James Monroe School in the San Leandro School District in the Bay Area. Of the school's 574 students, 11 percent are black. The school has no black teachers.

Fong's crime? Frustrated because an 11-year-old black child refused to dot his "i's" and "t's" while writing, Fong took a marker and drew circles and dots on the child's eyelids as a reminder. Wrong move. Asian teacher, black kid. You know what's next -- racism!

On my radio program, I interviewed Taylor Culver, the attorney representing the parents of the fifth-grader. According to him, the child suffers psychological damage as a result of the teacher's mistreatment and now undergoes counseling. I can understand, I said, why the marking upset the child's parents. After all, the teacher held the child up for ridicule, and there are better ways to make the point. But, I said, let's call the teacher insensitive. Let's call her dumb. (Although, were I to come home similarly marked for failing to dot my "i's" and cross my "t's," my mother would have said, "So next time, dot the 'i's' and cross the 't's.'") But, Mr. Culver, how does this become a racial issue?

Well, the lawyer said, given the history of abuse toward blacks by the majority, one can reasonably assume that race "may have" played a role. Does the teacher have a history of racial insensitivity? The lawyer said he didn't know. Any prior allegations of racism? Don't know, said the lawyer. "That's what we intend to find out."

Note the procedure. Make the accusation first; find facts to support it later.

Well, said the lawyer, given the history of blacks' treatment at the hands of "the majority," it is not unreasonable to suspect racism may have played a role.

But, as an Asian, the teacher is not a member of "the majority." Well, the lawyer responded, one can be a member of a minority group and yet not "think like a minority." Huh?

So there you have it. Guilty until proven innocent. If a white, shoplifting-fearing department store manager makes the same assumption toward blacks, and sics a detective on every black patron, the fit hits the shan. Call the NAACP! If the police routinely bust black or Hispanic teens on suspicion of gang activity, simply because of their ethnicity, get me the ACLU! But how justified is the charge guilty-until-proven-innocent?

A recent Time/CNN poll shows that nearly 90 percent of black teens find little or no racism in their own lives. Surely they encounter lots of non-black "racist" teachers. In fact, polling data finds white teens more concerned about racism than black teens.

While 30 or 40 years ago the average white would not vote for any black for president, now over 90 percent say they would. Thirty or 40 years ago, the majority of whites said that they would move to avoid black neighbors. Now, they would stay put. And former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell might well have nabbed the GOP candidacy for president.

Remember the Supreme Court case that struck down race-based voting districts? "Ethnic cleansing," cried some black leaders. Yet every single one of the black congresspeople who now had to run in majority white Southern districts, won his or her race.

Look at Texaco. Exhibit A for white corporate racism? No, just the opposite. Texaco, in three days, lost a billion dollars in fair market value. Why? Because right-thinking people abhor racism and refuse to patronize companies that openly practice it.

But never mind. Fong stands presumptively guilty of racism toward blacks. Forget that according to the school district, Fong apologized to both student and family. Forget that a district investigation failed to find a racial motivation and that the school district wants to mediate any outstanding concerns.

Perhaps there's another, simpler explanation for Fong's harsh treatment of the child. Maybe the teacher simply sees her black students the intellectual equal of the non-blacks and thus demands the same level of excellence. Just a thought.

When the Rev. Jesse Jackson used the terms "Hymie" and "Hymietown," he apologized. America forgave him. Guess the standards get a little tougher when you teach fifth grade.


©1998, Laurence Elder