Today it’s more often the result of skills gaps than discrimination. That’s something every black student needs to know.
I was raised, in part, by my paternal grandmother—a phenomenal black woman born in 1925 who came of age during Jim Crow, attended Bethune-Cookman University in the early 1940s, and experienced both the promise and limitations of the civil-rights era when integrating schools in Florida in 1969. She did her best to teach sixth-graders subject-verb agreement minutes after being spat on by their parents. Her life’s journey provided unlimited content as we sat together for nearly three decades, stuck to the plastic slipcovers on her sofa, playing cards, drinking sweet tea, and talking uninhibitedly about race in America.
The first discussion I can remember happened in 1988, when I was 11, after a visit to McDonald’s. After ordering, my grandmother paid with a crisp $20 bill from her pocketbook, and the cashier put the change directly on the counter. When we got to the parking lot, she was incensed. “You see that? White woman didn’t want to touch me.” I had noticed it too, but thought the cashier was being nice, trying to avoid passing on her own germs.
Roland G. Fryer, Jr., a John A. Paulson Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, is professor of economics at Harvard University and founder of Equal Opportunity Ventures.
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