Dear Neil Davis,

I wanted to respond to your “What If” response in the Dec. 6 issue [What if we blamed the entire achievement gap on gangs? Viewpoints].

First of all, what if we all took a second to realize the difference between a gang sign and a peace sign, which is obviously what the young man in jersey number 73 was flashing.

What if we took a moment to realize that if this young man is wearing a football jersey, chances are he’s not contributing to the achievement gap at all, seeing as how you have to have a C average or above to stay on the team. And practices every morning and night wouldn’t allow him enough time to become affiliated with any gangs.

What if you, sir, took a moment to apologize to all of the people who read your statement, and were as offended as I was by the sheer ignorance of your words. What if you took a moment to apologize to all of the young black men who attend Oak Park and River Forest High School, or any high school, who are busting their behinds to make something of themselves.

What if you took a moment to realize that even if the achievement gap was completely nonexistent, words like yours are the reason there will always be a gap between blacks and whites. The fact that you looked at this young black man and automatically thought, “Watch out, gang member. Can’t support the lights or they’ll come shoot up the next game,” and that you referenced “their neighborhood” as if this person couldn’t possibly live in Oak Park, shows that you have issues that go far beyond lighting the stadium.

As a matter of fact, what if we all took a second to acknowledge the fact that yes, Oak Park does have some racial issues (gasp).

Our schools collect standardized testing data, categorize it into “black scores” and “white scores,” and sit back and complain that there’s a problem while at the same time stressing diversity as a school and as a community. You want to see real achievement gaps? Take Oak Park’s scores as a whole and compare them to the scores of an “Inner City” school. Then you’ll see real gaps.

The harsh truth of the matter is: The only way the achievement gap can really be closed is if kids start doing the work. Black students and white students get the same teachers, the same tests, they have access to the same libraries and the same resources. We have BOSS (Black Organization for Student Success) and ACTSO (African American Cultural Technological Scientific Olympics), organizations set up specifically to foster the achievement of black students. We have teachers and deans and counselors who are available to all 3,000+ of us equally.

There are black students in inner-city Chicago schools who would kill to have the resources, the libraries, the computer labs, the books, the dedicated teachers, the reasonable class sizes, the sheer size of OPRF, the reputation for greatness that this community has. But they don’t, and we do. We have every means to succeed, and the only way we are going to be able to do that is if we step up and take responsibility.

You don’t like the fact that black students get disciplined differently from white students? Then stay out of trouble. You can’t fight the judge from behind bars. Parents, stop fostering these negative ideas in your children and teach them that they can’t learn to be proud of their race if they continue to use it as a crutch.

Unless we’re using said crutch to beat the ignorance out of the people who would rather blame imaginary gang activity than their own incompetence for a failure in the community.

Brittany Grace, 17
Oak Park

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