The article “Black Valedictorians and the Toxic Trope of Black Exceptionalism,” written by young poet and writer Samuel Getachew was published in the New York Times in June 2021. It addresses the topic of racial discrimination in the US education system and treats black people’s triumph as something exceptional. The author states that the single stories of black people’s success that they achieved despite all the challenges they had to face mask the problem of racial inequality instead of drawing attention to it. The author shares the stories of his personal school experience with the readers and draws several real-life examples that demonstrate society’s attitude towards black people and their achievements.
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The author claims that while American society treats black people’s triumph as something special that was achieved regardless of the obstacles, racial inequality will remain the national problem. The article begins with the story of Akintude Ahmad, whose success made him famous across the whole country and turned him into a hometown hero in Oakland, where the author is from as well. Mr. Ahmad’s story was presented in the media as something unique, a personal triumph he achieved despite the obstacles he had to face during his early years. The author of the article and Mr. Ahmad himself disapprove of such an attitude towards success, which in general is not something exceptional. Stories of that kind only distract people from the racial discrimination problem by demonstrating that black people may be fortunate as well.
The idea of thriving despite racial discrimination in education is an entirely wrong strategy for eliminating the problem. Seeing that success is possible to achieve only through the obstacles and flux of condemnation, black people may abandon the idea of trying because it may not be worth all the challenges. The author proves that by giving an example of his fellow student, Mr. Muhammad.
His classmates dissuaded him from joining the Paideia program that promotes equal education conditions for all students. In this section, the author states that black students themselves are unwilling to participate in such education programs because they are afraid of being either improperly treated or misjudged. Hence, the author claims that the education programs like Paideia will work only if school administrations eliminate the gap between black and white students, excluding all the possible misunderstandings. Only systematic, consistent, and student equality-oriented policy will have a result. The author stresses that establishing and promoting such a policy will give more promising results than separate stories of black people’s success achieved despite the challenging circumstances.
However, the problem of racial discrimination in the education system is more controversial than it may seem at first sight. Hence, it is possible to figure out several arguments that oppose the author’s stance. First, it seems reasonable to mention that the articles on black people’s success and achievements are now available to a wide audience. It makes their work and enormous efforts noticeable and gives them fame, recognition, and support. Black people still face a lot of challenges and oppression on their life path, but the current situation has improved in past decades. Moreover, it continues to change in favor of equal rights for people of all racial groups.
All the changes take time, and it is impossible to make people who are used to a particular behavior start acting in a different way. The slow pace of elimination of racial discrimination is caused not by society’s unwillingness to equalize black and white people’s rights but by its slow adaptation to changes. It is impossible to make people adapt to something that does not fit in their reality in a short period of time. Hence, the most appropriate way of changing people’s opinions toward eliminating racial discrimination in schools is to take measures one by one to give society time to adapt to the changes.
What is more, it is necessary to change the way of thinking of black students themselves. The article’s author points out that they are unwilling to participate in education programs that may prove beneficial for them due to the fear of being mistreated or misjudged. Hence, all the changes and programs targeting the elimination of discrimination are pointless until the black people themselves start to trust them more and participate.
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Considering all mentioned above, it is possible to conclude that the article “Black Valedictorians and the Toxic Trope of Black Exceptionalism” by Samuel Getachew is devoted to the up-to-date problem that society faces today. However, the situation concerning racial discrimination is slowly changing in favor of black and white people’s equality, though it may seem that it currently faces a dead end. Both the white and black American population must note and accept these changes instead of being afraid of them. It is also important to realize that serious and life-changing reformations take time, and that is why they should be regarded from a long-term perspective.
Getachew, S. (2021). “Black Valedictorians and the Toxic Trope of Black Exceptionalism.” The New York Times. Web.