The whole story is here, but the short of it is this:

In an effort to get her daughters into a better public school, Akron, Ohio mother Kelley Williams-Bolar claimed the girls lived at their father’s residence instead of the projects. Apparently, this is quite illegal in Akron, as the woman was jailed for 10 days, sentenced to 3 years of probation and, worst of all, could permanently lose her opportunity to realize her dreams of becoming a teacher herself due to this felony conviction.

I’m not really going to defend her actions or cry racism (yes, Ms. Williams-Bolar is black)…plenty of other people doing that for me. And while part of me wants to join in, the truth is that she still broke the law, and it’s not quite as light a matter as it looks at first glance.

This particular school system is set up so that it’s directly funded by the local tax base.  Consequently, the state’s position on the case is that Williams-Bolar effectively defrauded the system to get a better education for her kids.

I can see the state’s point. But I’m certainly not going to defend that point, either, because in this system the result is that poor districts are considerably less well-funded than wealthier ones. Added to the myriad of social issues faced by such schools, it’s hard to fault a parent for gaming the system.

There are a few lessons here to ponder:

  • Two “wrongs” still don’t make a “right.” Too often, people try to take ethical shortcuts to get what they want. Even if it’s a noble goal like getting your children better-educated, the ends don’t justify any amount of cheating to get it done. Just because “everyone does it” doesn’t make it right.
  • This goes double for black folks. Eventually, the system will reassert its authority. When an example is then made, it’s the poor and the minority who are likely to take the brunt of it. We need to walk in excellence and integrity so that we are beyond reproach.
  • School choice should be a given! Why should poor families be utterly locked by law into underperforming public schools? Why do teachers’ unions fight so tooth-and-nail against choice-based reforms? (And, even under the current system, why can’t a split-residence family like Williams-Bolar’s claim a preferred district? The taxes are still being paid by the students’ parents.)

The judge who sentenced Williams-Bolar is getting personally involved to try to ensure the mom won’t be barred from starting her teaching career, so maybe there’ll be an eventual happy ending to this bit of unjust justice.

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While scanning my Facebook feeds, I came across a link to a Salon.com piece entitled: “Just how offensive is Sandra Lee’s crazy Kwanzaa cake?”

The very-white lady, as is her wont, used various pre-made ingredients to create a pretty unappetizing dessert for her cooking show. For some reason, some folks took offense.

I don’t get it.

Admittedly, the cake doesn’t have a thing to do with Kwanzaa. Angel’s food cake?Chocolate icing? Apple pie filling? It doesn’t even sound good, and it looks worse.

But, as the article remarks, Kwanzaa has no food traditions. So what’s the big deal?

Kwanzaa isn’t even a legitimate holiday, having been cooked up by activist Maulana Karenga in the 1960s chiefly as an anti-Christian “alternative” to Christmas for black people.

Actually, that clears it up just fine, for me. Kwanzaa was born out of offense; specifically, Karenga’s being offended by the widespread celebration of the “white” holiday of Christmas. Consequently, anyone who seriously celebrates this reactionary “holiday” stands a solid chance of being easily offended in general, and thus is offended by this cake.

Sad, really. Anyone honestly being offended by this cake just needs to do at least one of these two things:

  1. Develop an ACTUAL Kwanzaa culinary tradition that someone would actually eat.
  2. Stop whining and grow a thicker skin.

That’s all. Maybe sometime this week, I’ll do a wrap-up of the Empire Strikes Back series that dominated this blog this year before remarking on more contemporary matters.

As the final act of this seminal movie began, it had one more surprise in store: Lando Calrissian, the First Black Man in Space Opera, played by Billy Dee Williams.
Wouldn’t you know, though: the first black man we see in Star Wars is, initially, an ANGRY black man. How stereotypical is THAT?
LANDO (to Han Solo): “Why, you slimy, no-good, double-crossing swindler. You’ve got a lot of guts coming here…after what you pulled.”
Of course, Lando’s anger turns out to simply be ruse to play a joke on his old friend (and, as it happens, only the first ruse of many).

That cape's so stylish yet manly.

At nine-years-old, I remember having tremendously conflicted feelings about the first Star Wars character that looked like me. On the upside:
  • He was successful. No angry thug here; Lando was witty, smart and sophisticated. The wonderful thing about the casting of Williams for this part was that nothing about Lando says he needed to be black.
  • He wore a cape and wore it well. I hated when he lost the cape later.
  • He used to own the Millenium Falcon, the coolest spaceship in the galaxy, before he lost it “fair and square” to a white man. (Is there a subtext here?)
  • He was slick and resourceful. He came through in the clutch when it counted.
The downsides, though?
  • He was a womanizer. He was constantly trying to steal Han’s girl!

(So what if I wanted to do the same thing?) 😀

  • He was a betrayer. This, of course, was the big thing. He sold out his old friend to Darth Vader to save his own skin!

Hey. That's not Sidney Poitier!

After the powerful lessons in loyalty that Han Solo demonstrated earlier in the film (discussed in part 3), this event really earned Lando my hatred.
.
It was quite uncomfortable hating the first Star Wars character who actually looked like me. But this and subsequent scenes began to reveal a powerful life lesson embodied in the character of Lando Calrissian: People, things and circumstances are rarely what they seem on the surface. Look deeper.
Next: What I REALLY learned from watching the First Black Man in Space Opera. Hope you’ll join me for another trip down memory lane.