America’s legacy of racism is alive and well. The evidence is apparent in the racial disparities in education, income, wealth, health, and incarceration. Let’s review some facts about the current state of the educational system – the most fundamental resource for upward mobility – and how it is churning out a class of poor, unhealthy, underachieving minority youth.

If only 51% of white students were graduating from high school in four years, I imagine that most people would consider this a national crisis.  Read the rest of this entry »


Racism, like many aspects of our society, has evolved or transformed. We often hear that racism is less overt today, more covert and institutional. This is true. But I’m not sure if we are as adept as we should be at identifying the new forms racism takes on. An evolution that I’ve noticed is the idea that if something is seen as “Black,” or characteristic of African-American culture or perspective, it is deemed inferior or “radical.” This attitude makes up the undercurrent of conservative pundits’ professions of outrage surrounding Michelle Obama’s invitation of Common to the White House for a poetry night. This same undercurrent of “Black is radical” appeared when President Obama’s Christian pastor Jeremiah Wright made statements from a Black historical perspective.

Many people consider racism a “stain” on a history of American exceptionalism and progress, a position that makes them comfortable for it allows them to dismiss racism as a temporary anomaly to an otherwise righteous legacy of America. In taking this position of comfort, they ignore the reality that the legacy of slavery and racism is no “stain” but deeply woven into the fabric of America.

So, what exactly is so “radical” about Common? Read on

The Impetus

April 19, 2011

After many a conversation with my girlfriend about the state of US politics and the American experience, I have finally decided to make my opinions, perspectives, frustrations, and revelations available for public consumption.   In one of the greatest pieces of literature of the twentieth century, “The Souls of Black Folk,” W. E. B. Dubois labeled the group of blacks that were intelligent and driven enough to teach the remaining black population the information and skills needed to succeed the “Talented Tenth.”  While I disagree with the notion that the progress of any people, black, white, or brown, is dependent upon the “Tenth” that are intelligent or formally educated, I do believe that true progress does rest in the hands of a few driven people.  I understand this redefined  “Talented Tenth” as the minority of people who have the capability to not only see the world through the eyes of others, but the drive, determination, and resolve to act on that vision.  Devoid of self-interest, this new “Tenth” has an unflinching, undying devotion to equality, justice, and truth, that manifests through unrelenting  service. It is easy to be courageous in thought, admirable to be courageous in speech, but inspirational to be courageous in action. This new “Tenth” not only has courage of thought and speech, but in action.  I hope to be part of the new “Tenth.”

After many years of studying public health, it is more apparent now than ever, that all things are connected.  When you hear statistics like, “Rates of breast cancer diagnoses are higher in white women, but death due to breast cancer are higher in black women,” do you ask yourself why? Do you make the connections?  Do you travel upstream far enough to see how education policy and geographic segregation can help explain such a phenomenon?  If not, stay tuned, for I will, in future posts, try to help you all connect the dots.  I will try to share with you all how all these things are intertwined to create the fabric of our society, among other things.  No conspiracy theories, just facts and fact-based opinions.

This brings me to the name of my blog, The Waterwheel.  I thought it represented my perspective well.  The waterwheel traditionally was an organic method of creating energy, using the basic element of life.  It’s circular design is fitting in that it represents the connections individuals and issues that I hope to illuminate in future posts.  So, enjoy, engage, inspire.

–the waterwheel