Sunday, March 25, 2018

Centricity Considered

I caught a few of the Ohio high school basketball championship games over the weekend. The Division 3 championship was won by a suburban Cincinnati team, Deer Park, that finished the season undefeated. It was the only high school in Ohio to accomplish that feat this year.

Deer Park (OH) HS celebrates state championship victory

What I found interesting when I tuned into the game was the name of the school that Deer Park played for the championship---AFRICENTRIC. My first two questions were what kind of name is that for a high school and where is that in Ohio?

Thankfully there is Google to turn to in order to answer all our questions.

It turns out that Africentric is part of the Columbus (OH) public school system. Its official name is not Africentric High School but Columbus Africentric Early College. This is the description in Wikipedia.

Columbus Africentric Early College is a public high school located near downtown Columbus, Ohio. It is a part of Columbus City Schools. The school's previous name, Mohawk Middle School, was changed in the late 1990s, to allow the school not only separation from its original status, but also to expand it into a large school.

Logo of the Africentric Early College Basketball Team

I can only assume that the Africentric name and the use of "Early College" rather "High School" were done to build up the self esteem and identity of the students who attend the school and to create an expectation of future success. However, as I wrote in "Self Esteem Is Overrated" , new research suggests that black teenagers actually have self-esteem that surpasses their white counterparts.

In addition, in a society that celebrates and promotes diversity, why would a public high school be named Africentric? Would we even consider an Asiacentric, Latincentric or Eurocentric school?

I understand the wounds and scars that resulted from slavery. I understand the desire to connect with one's ancestry. However, what purpose is really served by having these teenagers attend a school named Africentric? How is this preparing them to succeed in the United States of America?

These young men and women live in Columbus, Ohio. They don't live in Ghana, Senegal or Nigeria. To be successful in life, they will need to integrate and associate with a diverse group of Americans from many cultures. I am not sure that having an Africentric outlook is going to serve them well in the long term.

All of this reminded me of a column written by Dennis Prager recently who asked the question, "Who Are The Luckiest Jews, Black and Latinos?"  I have not doubt this could also be expanded to include the luckiest Asians and Europeans as well.

Prager is Jewish who was taught by his father that Jews in America were the luckiest Jews in Jewish history. This was despite the fact that his father had seen many acts of anti-semitism in his life.

Prager makes the same point regarding African-Americans and cites the words of black journalist Keith Richburg of The Washington Post who had this to say after covering Africa for his newspaper.

"Somewhere, sometime, maybe 400 years ago, an ancestor of mine whose name I'll never know was shackled in leg irons, kept in a dark pit ... and then put with thousands of other Africans into the crowded, filthy cargo hold of a ship for the long and treacherous journey across the Atlantic. Many of them died along the way, of disease, of hunger. But my ancestor survived ... He was ripped away from his country and his family, forced into slavery somewhere in the Caribbean. Then one of his descendants somehow made it up to South Carolina, and one of those descendants, my father, made it to Detroit during the Second World War, and there I was born, 36 years ago. And if that original ancestor hadn't been forced to make that horrific voyage, I would not have been standing there that day on the Rusumo Falls bridge, a journalist -- a mere spectator -- watching the bodies glide past me like river logs. ... And so I thank God my ancestor made that voyage. ... I empathize with Africa's!  pain.
I recoil in horror at the mindless waste of human life, and human potential. I salute the gallantry and dignity and sheer perseverance of the Africans. But most of all, I feel secretly glad that my ancestor made it out -- because, now, I am not one of them.”

It should not be lost on anyone that there are about 2.1 million immigrants who live in the United States today that came here from Africa. They came to the United States of their own free will and volition. They came despite the fact that we hear from many that the United States is racist, oppressive and unfair. Yes, the United States is far from perfect, but for most of the world it is a far sight better than what people are dealing with where they live.

Compare that 2.1 million African immigrants with the fact that the total slave population brought to the United States was less than 500,000 in the period from 1650-1860.

As I have written before, this was also a small fraction of the slave trade that went to other parts of the Western Hemisphere.

Credit: Slavery in America

Only about 4% of the Atlantic Slave Trade went to North America.

About 10 times that number went to both the West Indies and Brazil.

2% ended up in Europe which you almost never hear anything about.

Slavery left a horrible stain on the United States but this context is almost never mentioned in the history books or by the media.

I also doubt that it is being taught at Africentric Early College.

I can only hope that the lessons that are taught at Africentric to those students do not involve telling them they have gotten a raw deal, that the deck is stacked against them and they are not likely to be able to get ahead in America. It would be educational malpractice if they are also being taught to embrace their African heritage more than their future in America.

Let's consider for a minute whether it makes more sense for a black child today to be Africentric or Americentric?

There are 84 million children age 14 and under in Nigeria right now. The GDP per capita in Nigeria is $2,200. Life expectancy is 53 years.

In the United States, there are only 61 million children 14 and under. GDP per capita is over $57,000. Life expectancy is 79 years.

Based on these numbers, is the future brighter for students who have an Africentric or Americentric outlook?

If those numbers are not compelling enough, look at the numbers from the African continent who have applied for "green card" status in the current diversity lottery who wish to immigrate to the United States.

The present day country of Ghana is one the three areas of Africa in which most African Americans can trace their heritage. (The other two current day countries are Nigeria and Cameroon).

Ghana also happens to be the country which has more of its citizens (1.73 million) seeking immigration to the United States than in any other country in the world. Interestingly, Ghana only took over the top spot in 2015 because citizens of Nigeria were ruled no longer eligible for the diversity lottery because of the numbers of Nigerians who had been admitted into the United States in the previous five years.

How is it that so many in Africa want to live in America while we have schools in America that want to be Africentric?

In any event, congratulations to the young men on the Africentric boys basketball team for an outstanding season. Not to be overlooked is the fact the the Africentric girls team also won the Ohio Div 3 championship. That is their sixth state title in the last 12 years!

It seems to me this high school in Columbus ought to consider calling itself Successcentric.

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