Kermit the Frog is a Muppet character often seen on the popular show Sesame Street. He is famous for singing a song with the popular line in it that says, “It’s not easy being green”. As a Black person in America watching the states trying to turn back the clock to a time when inequality for African Americans was the law of the land, it seems that Kermit’s theme song could be modified to say, “It’s not easy being Black, either”. Or, as I prefer to say, “It’s a full time job being Black”.
For Kermit, there is a certain amount of discrimination for a green frog. He gets passed by while sitting on green leaves. He would be more noticeable if he were more colorful like red or gold. For Black folks, the source of discrimination is multi-faceted and it doesn’t really go away. When you’re young it’s the schools. When you get older its jobs, where you can live, and even your right to vote that reeks of discrimination.
As evidence that the discrimination doesn’t go away there are always new reminders. Right now in Meredian, Mississippi the Justice Department has gone to court to stop the practice of suspending Black students for the slightest infraction, like dress code violations. In fact, these quick suspensions amount to maintaining segregated schools by unequal treatment. In Meridian, the police placed at the schools act as nothing more than a taxi service transporting Black students from schools to juvenile detention centers.
One article I read puts it this way. “Black students are being pulled off the path to success by harsh discipline policies that are excluding students from school for minor discipline infractions.” After being pulled from school, they are denied lawyers.
In Chicago (right now in 2013) there are 54 schools being shut down mostly in Black areas. Here we go again. Why are the schools that are closing in Black areas? Why us again? Now those families who have to choose between limited funds to provide transportation or food and rent are saying, “It’s hard being Black”, and since things keep happening to Blacks unequally, it’s a full-time job being Black.
In other cities, they are spending money on placing police in the schools rather than on some creative method of reaching kids before the trouble starts. They are writing laws about stop and frisk and other funny laws like the one that got Trayvon killed in Florida for being Black and wearing a hoodie, while ignoring the Fourth Amendment (rights which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures).
If schools would do some preventive measures, like teaching relevant subjects, there would not be as many discipline problems. They would not be talking about cops in schools. What about a Langston Hughes and Sterling Brown class for Black and White kids. If Rufus has to learn Shakespeare, why shouldn’t Johnny have to learn Langston Hughes? Whatever happened to merit passing to the next grade? What ever happened to teaching trades in school or adding relevant subjects like James Baldwin and James Weldon Johnson to the list of poets and writers to English Literature classes? And, at least, if he never understands Hamlet, he could understand how to be a plumber and make an honest living.
An English proverb, popular in Christian theology says that the idle mind is the Devil’s playground. Well when schools teach kids to read by teaching exclusively Shakespeare and from books like Jane Eyre to poor Black kids, what do you expect? They don’t look like or talk like Shakespeare, therefore, relevance is lost. So just like Kermit who says the leaves are green, but gold is his dream, when you teach Black kids from Paul Laurence Dunbar, you are teaching them about their own lives from a writer who looks like and talks like them, and they get it.
When Barack Obama heard the Gospel from Reverend Dr. Jeremiah Wright, he understood it. That’s why he understands the Palestinian/Jewish situation. It’s like learning about love when you hear about it you might understand it intellectually, but when it happens to you, you understand it. It has its own look, feel, and sound. If you’re Black, when relevancy hits you, and you understand it, you will love being Black just like Kermit loved being green once he understood it.
The truth is that it’s not hard for Kermit to be a green frog when the rules are set by other frogs. Likewise, it’s the same for being Black. Barack Obama (as did I) found Jeremiah Wright’s teachings to be some of the greatest lessons ever heard. But Republican White men tried to tell us Wright was the Devil. The question is, what does White men know about being Black?