Joseph C. Phillips

My wife and I have big dreams for our children. We want nothing for them but health, happiness and success and we recognize that a good education can be a step towards realizing that goal. We also demand that our children perform up to their potential. The skills one learns in school – study habits, attention to detail, and meeting deadlines – are essential for success in the work world. In this we are like every other parent in America.

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However we are also Black parents of a certain generation and so the subtleties of race continue to speak to us and they are very real. Sometimes we are not sure if we are responding atavistically to the faint smell of something in the air or if what we are hearing are the soft echoes of our own imaginations. It’s sometimes impossible to tell, which is why race and issues associated with race (to coin a phrase from the late Ralph Wiley) continue to make Black People want to shout.

Last week I had what my parents generation used to call a “come to Jesus meeting” with my 7th grade son. His mid-term report card arrived in the mail. His mother and I were under-whelmed.

The comments on my son’s report card indicated that he is under the mistaken impression that school is for socializing and his grades reflect a rather lackluster effort at best. I went “old school:” after a brief lecture he received some tactile encouragement to start taking care of TCB.

There are many black students at my sons’ middle school, but he is 1 of only 3 in the highly-gifted magnet program within the school. The HGM is a program restricted to students that score 99.9% on an intellectual assessment test. One of three! That doesn’t leave much wiggle room to be the black kid that can’t cut it, that clowns in class or that falls behind.

One of Three.

Last year I attended the honor roll ceremony and the vast majority of the students receiving certificates were Asian. I didn’t enter the auditorium prepared to count heads, but it was hard to miss the fact that every other child walking across the stage had an Asian surname. Nor was it difficult to miss the 3 Black faces sitting amongst the rows of eager and happy students.


Joseph C. Phillips

Joseph C. Phillips is the author of “He Talk Like A White Boy” available wherever books are sold.