Top Black Racists of 2021: The WAZ Awards: Winner #3 Charm City
Roy rapped his rubber chicken on the bench. He was still wearing the Moroccan tunic but he’d changed his Tyrolean hat to a fez.
“Okay, white, light privilege ones. Time once again to scour the highways and byways of this great country seeking outstanding candidates for the esteemed Woodshed Autonomous Zone’s Black Racists of 2021 Awards. Tonight’s presenter is none other than a man who will wrap up twenty-five years in the trenches of public education in May with no obvious signs of brain damage, Jake Paresky.”
Cosmo gave a blast on the conch shell an old girlfriend had sent him from Key West. There was a round of applause, Jake took a bow and handed Al and Ira his first clue.
Al took a quick look and started with an old Dave Van Ronk signature song,
“When I go to Baltimore, ain’t no carpet on my floor…”
“Lemme guess. Baltimore!”
Jake nodded. We were off to a promising start.
“Baltimore’s where they got them black guys they call squeegee boys.” Sonny put in. “The ones whut hang around at intersections and attack people’s cars and trucks if they don’t give ‘em money for a windshield wash they don’t want”
“Wait.” Roy said, “They call black men boys in Baltimore? I thought calling a black man ‘boy’ went out in the ‘60’s. What’s that about?’”
“I dunno. Baltimore, I s’pose. That’s whut they call ‘em, though. Is it squeegee boys, Jake?”
Jake shook his head; handed over the next clue. Ira went to a 1959 Sam Cooke tune.
“Don’t know much history,
don’t know much biology,
don’t know much about a science book,
don’t know much about the French I took, …”
“A school! Is it another professor?”
Jake shook his head again. Handed Al a clue. Al played the immortal riff, and Ira sang,
“Hey! Teacher! Leave those kids alone!”
“Yep,” said Jake. “Baltimore City School District.
“You did public schools last year, Jake. I thought we aren’t doing repeats.”
“That was San Diego Unified School District. West Coast.” Jake pointed out. “Baltimore’s East Coast. And listen up students, Baltimore: as a city, as a school district, as a cautionary tale, is in a special needs class by itself.”
“Okay, Jake. Let ‘er rip.”
“First I have to invoke that much maligned, and too honest for his own good, journalist, Colin Flaherty, who called Baltimore a ‘Chocolate City.’”
“What’s that mean?”
“It means Baltimore’s got a black majority population, with a black majority City Council, black majority School Board, black Mayor who appoints the School Board, black Chief of Police, black District Attorney—who is married to the black Chairman of the black majority City Council—(here Al and Ira played the opening from ‘Dueling Banjos’ which Jake ignored), a black CEO of the school system…ergo, ‘Chocolate City.’”
A $1.4 billion budget wasn’t enough so Baltimore schools just passed a budget of $1.62 billion dollars for about 75,000 students. Don’t bother with the pencil and paper, Gene. I’ll save you the cipher. Baltimore could give every kid in its school system $21,600 a year and do a W.C. Fields: “Go away kid, you bother me.”
We all looked at each other. “One thousand, six hundred twenty, million dollars.”
“That’s not counting the $1.8 billion Barack Obama’s administration gave Baltimore. Or the $85 million in Covid money they got when schools were closed.” Jake went on. “That school system is widely viewed as pork barrel of political patronage between politicians, administrators, paid speakers, consultants and so on. In 2020 Baltimore paid $648.5 million in payroll. Check some of these salaries out: School CEO: $339,028, Chief of Schools $218, 303, Chief of Community Engagement $194,283, Chief of Human Capital $194,283, Chief Operating Officer, $194,283, Chief Achievement & Accountability Officer, $192,827, Deputy Chief Financial Officer $192,827, Executive Director of Office of Equity…”
“Office of Equity?”
Nod from Jake, “ … at $143,800.”
“Which offers a “2-day, Introduction to Racial Equality Seminar” for staff and makes available resources, some of which discuss fighting “white silence.” Resources on it’s website note; “white people have a role in undoing racism because white people created and, for the most part, currently maintain (whether they want to or not) the racist system that benefits white people to the detriment of people of color.”*
“Yah, gotta break up that white silence.” Sven said. “Good deal then. How many white kids they got in Baltimore schools?”
The Norwegian looked impressed, “Well they’re some busy little bastards out there exploiting the other 93 percent.”
“Tenth highest pay went to a police officer who made $81,000 while the schools were closed from Covid.”
“That’s high but maybe not that high. We don’t know what’s involved.” Tommy said.
Jake raised his index finger, “plus $101,000 in overtime.”
“Mayor Brandon Scott says Baltimore schools are underfunded.” Jake went on. “When his city’s the fifth highest funded major school district in America and it’s at the bottom of the barrel in math and English proficiencies. Third worst if I recall correctly. At the same time neighborhoods are coming apart at the seams, and their educational system is circling the drain, a lot of politically connected insiders are doing quite well, thank-you very much.
“What does Baltimore do? Over and over, Baltimore schools, like Baltimore politicians, blame whitey. Read the School District documents. As Colin Flaherty put it, black people are victims of relentless white racism. ‘Everywhere, all the time, and that explains everything.’”
“Well, as far as success in education goes, there’s such a thing as cognitive advantage.” Tim said.
“You saying we got ‘bright privilege’ Tim?” Sonny asked. “Well catch me I’m fallin’ down.”
Ignoring them both, because that’s just Sonny and Tim, Jake continued.
“Baltimore’s been at the top of the most dangerous big cities in America for years. Abandoned buildings, drugs, unemployment, crime, mobs of looters tearing up businesses in broad daylight, beating up innocent people, gangs shooting up the ‘hood, a murder rate that’d scare the pants off Haiti, some of the most dysfunctional, worst performing schools in the Western World… all that and more sitting forty miles from Washington, D.C.”
“Jake, Tommy said. “What happened to all that Obama money?”
Jake shrugged, “Ask the politicians. Ask the School Board. If Barack Obama invites you to his 40 acre mansion on Martha’s Vineyard, you can ask him.”
Al asked about Johns Hopkins’s plan for revitalizing the city. And white people moving back in.
“Maybe good for John’s Hopkins. Time will tell. But a lot of people don’t like it. Really, really don’t like it.”
“A lot of black politicians, and residents, don’t want white people moving in. They call it gentrification.”
“Which it is,” Roy said. “Rents in refurbished neighborhoods always go up. Just like they did in Juneau here back in the ‘80’s when the cruise lines bought downtown. They could just walk in and offer a million dollars for an old dump on South Franklin Street. Bars, restaurants, apartments, cheap hotels,…changed the whole character of the place.”
“And a few hundred humans with no money shoved out where tourists can’t see ‘em.” Cosmo put in. “What’ll shoving tens of thousands of people into other parts of the city do to Baltimore, where gangs are used to fighting each other over who owns the corner. Kids’ll have to change schools. If it’s a worse school, they’re worse off. If it’s a better school, they’re the ones who can’t keep up.”
Jake nodded, “Want to know how bad Baltimore schools are?”
“HOW BAD ARE THEY?” we yelled.
“At one of Baltimore’s biggest high schools (Patterson) 77% of the kids read at elementary school level. Of 624 tested, a third are at K-1-2 level. How bad are Baltimore schools? I watched an interview with the mother of a high school junior with a 0.13 GPA who was in the top 50th percentile of his class.”
“That sounds like the reporters were cooking the books.” Tommy said.
“Could be.” Jake said. “But Baltimore schools were caught cooking the books themselves on grade inflation, changing grades…”
Ira raised his hand, “That kid’s grades. You mean 1.3 GPA, right?”
“No, Ira. 0.13. and half his classmates were at or lower than that. It came out because the school informed the kid’s mother, a working woman trying to support three children on her own, that they were going to set her son back to be a freshman again, and he could spend another couple years in the meat grinder.”
Tony raised his hand, “Hey! Hold on, insegnante. You can’t just blame the schools. It’s a parent’s duty to keep an eye on their kids. Go to the parent-teacher conferences. Make sure they’re doing their homework. Staying out of trouble.“
Tim pointed at him, “Says the guy who owns his own house free and clear. With a solid income from the restaurant. Whose kids have a two parent family. In a town where the only gunshots you hear are during the day at the rifle range out at Montana Creek.”
“Listen my friend, I come from people who didn’t even speak the language when they got to this country. They worked hard. They taught me to work hard. I got what I got by working for it. And me and the wife got married—in a church—by a priest—and stayed married because we worked at it. All my kids work hard at school and they all got jobs outside school. They do their homework. They play sports. They stay outta trouble. That doesn’t just happen by itself.”
Gene nodded towards Tony then Uncle Tim. “You’re right, Tony. I agree with all that. At the same time, I’m going to have to side with Tim on this black kid and his mom. I’ll go out on a limb and suppose it’s a black family, right Jake?”
Gene went on. “What I hear is the school says this kid is at least three years behind grade level. After ten years of failure in school; administrators who are knocking back six figures, plus retirement and benefits, would to set him back for a couple more years? If I was him I’d say, ‘The hell with that.’
I never told you guys this but public school made me feel like a failure. I wasn’t a bad kid. I was bored. What saved me was two things: first, my mother believed in books. I had my own bookshelf as a little kid. So I read. I loved to read. In high school I used to cut classes all the time so I could read books which became a problem. I’d miss days, sometimes weeks of school whenever I came across a good book series, but thanks to reading I could show up for the tests and pass them. The second thing was, we didn’t have cell phones or computers back then. Cell phones and computers are the heroin of American education.
Having said that, the other side of my public school education is my mother was raising three kids by herself, just like that black woman. She got up at four in the morning to pour coffee at a donut shop. She went to parent teacher conferences and a lot of the teachers made her feel like a failure because of me. By the time I was in high school my mother knew I was skipping school and my grades were the shits. But at the end of the day, it was one more thing to stress her out and there wasn’t much she could do about it except yell. Got ugly at home sometimes.”
Roy asked Gene how he managed to graduate.
“They stuck me in a vocational carpentry class for my last two years of high school because they didn’t know what to do with me. I learned things in that class I use to this day. I went to carpentry every day. Still skipped out on the other classes. If they’d just tried to jack me back to my freshman year I’d have left town. Would have had a whole different life. I wish my old carpentry teacher was still around. I’d go thank him.”
“Always a few sides to life.” Roy said, “Well Jake, You’ve outlined the problem. What would you do if you were in charge of schools there?”
Jake laughed. “Probably count the days ‘till I retire. Maybe change Baltimore’s nickname from Charm City to Chocolate City. I don’t know. I’m not in charge of Baltimore and lucky me that I’m not. You jokers wanted candidates for the top black racists. I give you the Baltimore City School District which meets all the criteria: rich, influential, part of the entrenched power structure, and ah, racist.”
Roy said, “Well spoken, Jake. Let’s hear it for the short-timer.”
“Jake, Jake, Jake the Snake! WAZ WAZ WAZ”
“It appears the AYE’s have it then, Are you a NAY, Tim?”
“Of course I’m a NAY.”
“We’ve got a winner!” Roy adjusted his fez. “Congratulations Baltimore City Schools, you’ve made it to the top of the class. We feel sorry about what a disaster school is for so many kids there. It’s none of our business, we know. We kicked a few ideas around, like going back to basics that kid’s need to find and hold a job: phonics, Saxon math books, penmanship. We figured those things probably won’t fly against wokeness and critical race theory for at least a few years, so for now, here’s one thought from your old white friends at Woodshed Nation.
Baltimore’s got hundreds of abandoned houses with beautiful wood inside them: tight grain oak, chestnut, Eastern white pine…You couldn’t buy wood like that today for love nor money. The city’s been tearing those houses down for years. You might take some of that $1.62 billion, get a couple hundred kids who show promise, get them into shop classes like we took when we were in school, set the kids up with trades people: carpenters, plumbers, painters, electricians, and repair those houses so people can live in them. Set the kids up for a life with real jobs that will never be outsourced overseas.