No. 742

For many people, perhaps most, there comes a time when not being politically correct is the best and right thing to do. This is such a time for me.
Some time back, I told you about a large community in our state where, over the past 10 years, the public schools have lost 2,000 of its white students, almost all. While I could be wrong, I believe I know one of the major reasons why this has happened. The population of this community is made up of 68 percent African-Americans. This plurality has made it possible to elect an African-American mayor, the majority of the school board members and, about 11 years ago, they also hired an African-American school superintendent.
Since 1947, when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, African-Americans have seen sports as their best hope for success, notoriety and big money, especially males. Today we see the National Basketball Association made up of 80 percent African-American players and 78 percent of the National Football League. Other competitive sports have a similar story, especially track and field and long distance marathon runners. That’s pretty amazing when you consider that African-Americans make up only 14 percent of the United States population. The end result is that this has created a sports culture in the African-American community. As this relates to the exodus of white students from this school district, it was never a part of any plan for this to happen.
The bottom line is that no student, white or African-American, can spend the amount of practice time necessary to excel, to make it to the college level much less plan for a career in professional sports, and have much time left over for anything else. In the overall scheme of things, something has to suffer, and in most cases it’s academics. There are a myriad of reasons why white parents have taken their children out of this public school district, which is now made up of 94 percent African-American students. Some white parents are prejudiced, but most simply want their children to have a better quality academic education.
When you drive down Main Street in this city and see building after building that once held a thriving business being boarded up and the business gone, you know who suffers and who it hurts the most. With even a little introspection, the answer should be obvious. It is the vast majority of African-Americans who are negatively impacted, because these businesses represented jobs, services, and the tax base to provide police, fire, sanitation, parks, recreation and all other city services. Make no mistake, so goes your schools, so goes your community.
While doing research, I learned that the odds of an African-American student athlete making it to the pros is 4,000 to 1, and for a white student athlete it’s 90,000 to 1.
Here is my message of hope for every person who will read this column, because it affects all of us. It may take years or even decades to turn this situation around, not only in this community, but in other communities with similar circumstances. This is a journey we must begin. The only way to change the culture in this school district and this community is to place the focus on academics.
I would like to see this slogan adopted, __(Name)_____ Public Schools: Committed to Academic Excellence. The doors of opportunity for African-Americans are open today as never before in our nation’s history and pursuing a dead-end career in sports should not even be a consideration. Let’s work on this together over the coming months and years because I know we can do better.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To begin a bookcase literacy project visit You won’t go wrong helping a needy child.)