Sunday, December 27, 2009

Rough Ride

This morning there was a wonderful story in my hometown newspaper.  "Newspaper," you remember what that is/was?  I find that I enjoy buying one out of the little street racks because they will soon be gone. Anyway, the story, by one of the best feature writers in Portland, was about a very poor North Portland high school that is on the rise again because of the efforts of some alumni from way back in the day.  They dusted off their letterman's jackets, their yearbooks, and their memories and went to bat for the old school, encouraging clean up efforts and renewed interest in the school's needs given the current state of the economy.  
Most of the article focused on a fairly well-off suburban family who were helping the football team.  It seems that the mother had read an article one day about the team wherein the coach had mentioned that some of his charges don't eat every day.  In the middle of her daily treadmill exercise, that thought wrapped itself around her brain and she went into action.  After obtaining the coaches permission, she organized a pasta night dinner and essentially fed the team.  It became a weekly event even spilling over to a few basketball and volley ball players.  The "soccer mom" from whitopia was surprised at how polite the team members were.  She also mentioned how exciting it was when she told the guys they could always have seconds on the meal.
OK, nice story.  OK wealthy white family, African American school.  Can't be helped, it's what is here.  Now, truth be told, there are non-white folks living in this particular suburbia; there are whites and Asians, and Latinos on the aforementioned team.  A few, in both cases.  But what always comes back to me is how after basking in the glow of stories like these, seldom, if ever, do people ask the deeper, riskier questions.  Seldom, if ever, does someone express surprise or displeasure that these conditions still exist.  It's been 55 years since Brown v. Board of Education.  That's more than half a century.  Equity issues in education are still with us.  Unemployment, malnutrition, ineptitude, under-resourced.  Most high schools in Portland are still named for dead white men.  
I know the family that fed the football team meant well.  As Bishop TuTu used to say, when you are sinking in quicksand and someone offers you a hand, you take it, you don't question whose hand.  My wish here is for after dinner conversation.  Let's eat, and then talk about what brought us here.  Why it takes a newspaper feature to feed struggling students.  What we want to do about that; how much do we care that this is the way it is, or has been, or continues to be.  The school in question is Roosevelt High School.  Named for TR not FDR.  They are called the "Rough Riders."  

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