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WaPo Allows Torrent of Racist Comments in Article on Blacks, Latinos Being Underrepresented at Thomas Jefferson HS


The Washington Post this morning piggybacks off a FOIA investigation by the AP (nice job!) about why “getting into prestigious Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, a magnet school that routinely sends graduates to the most competitive colleges,” can be extremely difficult, unless of course you can afford to file appeals, “armed with private exams costing more than $500, to persuade bureaucrats their child is deserving” of admission to the top regional school nicknamed “TJ.” The problem? (bolding added by me for emphasis)

…This system exacerbates a problem plaguing gifted-and-talented programs across the nation: Black and Hispanic students almost never file the appeals that can secure their admission.

Using the Virginia Freedom of Information Act to obtain 10 years of county records, The Associated Press found that fewer than 50 black and Hispanic second-graders have filed successful appeals. That’s less than 3 percent of the 1,737 second-graders admitted through the appeals process, further skewing a program already heavily weighted toward whites and Asians. 

Fairfax County has the nation’s 10th largest public school system, with more than 188,000 students. Of those, 25 percent are Hispanic and 10 percent are African-American. But over the last 10 years, blacks and Hispanics have constituted only 12 percent of the students deemed eligible for Level IV, the most advanced academic program.

The end result?

There are just a few dozen black students at Thomas Jefferson, where sophomore Alina Ampeh is surrounded by whites and Asians — a situation she’s lived with since elementary school. She’s grateful that all those years of advanced classes prepared her for TJ’s rigorous academics, but says that doesn’t necessarily make her special: She thinks many of her classmates simply have parents who worked the system. 

So yeah, this situation is unacceptable and in dire need of immediate correction. But not according to commenters on the Washington Post article, who respond with a torrent of racist idiocy that, among other things, clearly violates the Post’s own “standards” for commenting.

For instance, check out the top-rated (!) comments like the following, all of which are racist and/or ignorant and/or just plain nasty.

  • “Just a shot in the dark – People from either 1) a non-English speaking background, or 2) a culture where achievement and effort is equated with being a “sellout” or an “Oreo cookie”, will probably always be “underrepresented” in any gifted program.”
  • “Racial bias? More like Fake News. Blacks and Hispanics are underrepresented in gifted programs in northern Virginia, and in fact, nation-wide, because, on average, they are not as academically-inclined/interested as white or Asian students. That’s it. And no amount of public monies spent on special racially-targeted programs just for them is going to materially impact that fact. Of course, until the percentage of Blacks and Hispanics in gifted programs matches their percentage of the total student body the SJWs at the WAPO will continue to dissemble and lie about the reasons for the disparity because that’s what they do.”
  • “Could it be that some culture are underrepresented because they lack sufficient households that emphasize a strict and intense work ethic?”
  • “Any chance they aren’t as gifted as other students? Nah, it couldn’t be that.”
  • “Probably for the same reasons whites and asians are underrepresented in the NBA.”

It goes on and on like this, with no sign of a (Com)Post moderator in sight to enforce the “standards” of Jeff Bezos’ fine newspaper. Just for comparison purposes, racist comments would be immediately deleted here at Blue Virginia and the commenters banned. Of course, then again, we also follow other principles of journalistic ethics – like linking to original sources, giving credit/attribution, etc. – that the corporate media rarely seems to care about in its race for eyeballs/clicks/etc.

By the way, Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax/Prince William County) has been a leader on this issue (thank you!), for instance with his SB787 that would have required – if it hadn’t been defeated in committee – Thomas Jefferson H.S. “to accept for enrollment (i) a sufficient number of students eligible to receive free or reduced price meals such that the total of such students is at least 50 percent of the weighted average of the participating divisions’ percentage of such students in the previous school year and (ii) at least five students but no more than 15 students from each middle school in each school division eligible to matriculate students to such Governor’s school who have completed at least two full years at such middle school.” Here’s what Sen. Surovell had to say about the WaPo article on “TJ” this morning.

Last week, 5 letters to the editor attacking my TJ admissions bill arguing that TJ is all about “merit” and that we just need to do a better job educating Black and Latino kids: Most of the time Merit = Wealth and having the time and ability to work your child to the right spot in the system – e.g. parents working the “gifted and talented” appeal process for their second graders as the AP just confirmed. Why can’t more leaders be honest about the shortfalls in our system?

Great question; any answers? More to the point, what is Fairfax County – or the Virginia General Assembly – planning to do about this situation?

  • Quizzical

    To me there are two separate questions here: (1) as a parent, what role are you going to play in helping your child get specific academic opportunities, such as GT or admission to TJ? (2) what role should the school system play in making sure the process is fair?

  • Tom Sins

    The comments are incredibly ignorant, and demonstrate a lack of understanding regarding complex racial forces that have a play on communities. Simply leaving it as, “maybe they’re not as smart as whites and asians” conveys a very narrow minded perception of these overarching and intertwined issues. The problems with these types of topics is that they require a very deep understanding of multiple fields of studies like biology, racism, classism, psychology, economics, philosophy, etc. That most people are NOT equipped or even capable of having without addressing the nuances of these “trapped-holes” arguments.

    • FrankUnderwoodSr

      I do not believe a deep understanding of biology, psychology, etc., is needed to understand the issues. Everybody already understands that there isn’t a uniform distribution of achievement/merit across race. There are many reasons to explain that fact, but the important question is what to do about it. Do we dismiss merit and achievement as the sole basis for TJ attendance, to distort the selection to promote a more uniform racial representation? And if so, on what basis would that be considered fair and reasonable by a majority of Americans? Those are the questions that haven’t been satisfactorily answered yet.

  • dave schutz

    I think your reaction to the WaPo comments is wrongheaded, and goes in the direction of speech restriction. There are two big reasons that is wrong, one is moral and one is instrumental. Here’s a para from a nice oped from Steven Pinker:
    https://stevenpinker.com/files/pinker/files/why_free_speech_i “The answer is that free speech is indeed fundamental. It’s important to remind ourselves why, and to have the reasons at our fingertips when that right is called into question.
    The first reason is that the very thing we’re doing when we ask whether free speech is fundamental — exchanging and evaluating ideas — presupposes that we have the right to exchange and evaluate ideas. In talking about free speech (or anything else) we’re talking. We’re not settling our disagreement by arm-wrestling or a beauty contest or a pistol duel. Unless you’re willing to discredit yourself by declaring, in the words of Nat Hentoff, “free speech for me but not for thee,” then as soon as you show up to a debate to argue against free speech, you’ve lost it.”
    The moral reason it should be okay to have a wide array of comments on the WaPo piece, including distasteful ones, is that people should be free to speak, and in these times blogs and internet comments are one of the major paths for free speech to be expressed. WaPo has, obviously, the ability to shut this down (‘freedom of the press exists for the man who owns a press’) but I think it ought not and I’m glad it hasn’t
    The instrumental reason is, as the rightwing internet site Instapundit regularly says, “You want more Trump? This is how you get more Trump!” – if you have people arguing, they are at least engaging the other guy. If you squeeze the folks whose discourse you don’t like out of public fora, they are going to go into their dark little siloes and engage each other. And then you have lost engagement with them and they get reinforced for whatever views led them there.

    • a) Then why does the Compost even have standards if they’re not going to hold to them?
      b) Many media outlets don’t allow comments at all. They are under absolutely no obligation to do so, and I believe there are pros and cons to doing so, but certainly no 1st amendment issues, as the corporate media is corporate/not the government.

  • RobertColgan

    That those commenters reflect deeply embedded beliefs doesn’t make them inherently wrong——-No, they are accurately channeling deeply embedded beliefs which are very wrong. Their software is corrupted. They’re channeling malware.
    It might be another point of discussion whether the expression of that malware is dangerous to the body politic.. .and while that fear has some validity I don’t think that’s as dangerous to society to the suppression of those attitudes, those beliefs.

    I’m a firm advocate of not letting things fester in secrecy….if a person has racist/misogynist/xenophobic thoughts I think it better they air them so that others can examine them, weigh them, and critique them for accuracy.

    This country is incredibly racist….the open or closeted generational-passed attitudes toward the “inferiority” of other races, other cultures, other lifestyles, other beliefs thrives still in a sizable minority of the demographic……and possibly in a majority if you scratch their surface deep enough to discover what’s underneath their rational thinking.

    But I’m with Schutz here in saying that the 1st Amendment not only allows discussion—–but it is the mark of a society that recognized the need for a 1st Amendment to foster such discussion….in order to create a truly openly democratic society and to disclose attitudes whose buried toxicity blocks the path to understanding, and to healing.
    You can’t have free speech without having free speech.

    • dave schutz

      Thanks, Robert. Here is a quote from Steven Pinker which I think is helpful in seeing the value of discussion in the open: “..scholars can’t hope to understand the world (particularly the social world) if some hypotheses are given a free pass and others are unmentionable. As John Stuart Mill noted, “He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that.” In The Blank Slate I argued that leftist politics had distorted the study of human nature, including sex, violence, gender, childrearing, personality, and intelligence. The second is that people who suddenly discover forbidden facts outside the crucible of reasoned debate (which is what universities should be) can take them to dangerous conclusions, such as that differences between the sexes imply that we should discriminate against women (this kind of fallacy has fueled the alt-right movement). The third problem is that illiberal antics of the hard left are discrediting the rest of academia, including the large swaths of moderates and open-minded scholars who keep their politics out of their research. (Despite the highly publicized follies of academia, it’s still a more disinterested forum than alternatives like the Twittersphere, Congress, or ideologically branded think tanks.) In particular, many right-wingers tell each other that the near-consensus among scientists on human-caused climate change is a conspiracy among politically correct academics who are committed to a government takeover of the economy. This is sheer nonsense, but it can gain traction when the noisiest voices in the academy are the repressive fanatics.”

      • RobertColgan

        Yeah, it’s a mess.
        From my perspective the greatest threat to “reasoned debate” through all strata of society, including at times academia, has been the conflation of emotion and cognition —– as if both have equal applicability to rational discourse, and can, in fact, be substituted one for the other:
        so, misogynists who fear threats to their masculinity (or patriarchal masculine dominance) from social gender equality utilize Fear disguised as Rationality for their pejoration of women…..yet will deny to the Nth the invalidity of such false ‘thinking’ even as their fear morphs into anger at the very suggestion of cognitive impropriety.
        Racism, same principle. Economic inequality, same principle. Et al.

        So we have a populace whose brainwashing has as much to do with their inability to effectively separate thought from feeling as it does the parroted repetition of implanted ideation.

        If we are to foster critical thinking in the young, we can do no worse than to harp on “I” statements which reveal either states of emotion or states of thought.
        Not: “I think that I feel angry” ………Nope.
        Not: “I feel that she shouldn’t be doing….” ……….Nope.

        Simple declarations of states of being, ” I feel upset” “I feel sad” “I feel happy”

        Simple declarations of thought “I think that won’t work” “I think the bill as written doesn’t go far enough to protect”

        If these simple declarations of either emotion or thinking (but not either/both) become the default setting——we’d be much farther ahead on the road to critical weighing-the-facts discussions with less intrusive bias muddying the discourse than we are now.

        Then there’s the matter of greed. . . . . . . . . . . . .