My colleagues at ThinkProgress report that Oklahoma Republican Sally Kern has thoughts on the plight of blacks in America:
Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, said minorities earn less than white people because they don’t work as hard and have less initiative.
"We have a high percentage of blacks in prison, and that’s tragic, but are they in prison just because they are black or because they don’t want to study as hard in school? I’ve taught school, and I saw a lot of people of color who didn’t study hard because they said the government would take care of them."
Perhaps some credit should go to Kern for using the term "people of color" instead of words more in line with her bigoted statement. Still, it never ceases to amaze when prominent figures continue to peddle ideas like this.
There’s a lot wrong with Kern’s statement, but let’s focus on one part, where she qualifies her assessment of why so many black people are in jail. Kern says, "I taught school, and I saw a lot of people of color who didn’t study hard…" Now, I don’t know where Kern taught school, but chalking up future success to hard work, and hard work alone, is a conservative canard that ignores the reality of overpopulated, failing schools in inner cities.
Many schools are packed with young people of color who are dealing with overworked teachers in the classroom and exhausted parents at home. For kids who are income earners in their homes, or kids who are going to school hungry, or kids who have any number of pressing, adult concerns on their minds, there can be many impediments to Kern’s suggestion that they "study hard." Combine that with racist tactics used by police, and it’s clear a lot of kids just never stood a chance.
Then again, Kern is the same woman who called homosexuality the "biggest threat" to the United States today. So, perhaps we should take her ruminations on inequality and social injustice as the unserious foolishness they are.