Obama's Trayvon Problem
I hope President Barack Obama is tuning in to the George Zimmerman murder trial. It is showing off his greatest failure.
Last week, media pundits, trial commentators, and internet racists ridiculed Rachel Jeantel, the 19-year-old star witness who was on the phone with Trayvon Martin right before Zimmerman shot the boy. This cruel crew made fun of her manner of speech and her embarrassing admission that she cannot read or write in cursive.
Her shortcomings personify the first African-American commander-in-chief's refusal to help this nation's blacks obtain the same opportunities he and his wife had. First-class education helped the first couple become articulate, productive members of society.
Jeantel represents the Obama generation. She began high school in 2009, the first year of his first term. She is one of the hundreds of thousands of African-American children who were supposed to benefit from his promise that change was coming. Almost halfway into the president's second term, most kids attending inner-city high schools speak like Jeantel; that includes everyone from those struggling to maintain a 2.0 grade point average to honor students posting better than a 3.5. I understand Jeantel's plight, because as a public high school volunteer, I mentor teenagers just like her. But when no one is teaching children how to speak proper English, how can anyone expect them to survive in the real world? Forget crumbling on the witness stand. They won't stand a chance during a job interview.
Obama has been too busy spying on Americans and quibbling with Republicans over immigration reform to help fix illiteracy, the greatest challenge facing educators at inner-city schools such as Miami Norland High, where Jeantel is a senior. Just as Obama couldn't do squat about banning guns that kill thousands of African-Americans in cities like Miami and his hometown of Chicago, he has done little to improve literacy and grammar skills of black teenagers like Jeantel.
I want our first black president to do only one thing: Afford all African-American children the opportunity to speak the same way he does. The clock is ticking on his legacy.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Miami New Times' biggest stories.