that youíve just completed getting your teenage African-American
son through four of the most important years of his life, grades
9 through 12 in a public inner-city high school in the Los Angeles Unified School
District, and youíre still not a grandparent and your son didnít
join a gang. But not only did you manage to get your son through
high school, relatively unscathed, but you also pulled of what some
consider the impossible the task of getting him an all expenses
paid trip to an out of state ivy league university. From
the PSAT, to the SAT, the California High School Exit Examination,
homework, class trips, parent meetings and all, you were front and
center and never took your eyes of the prize, a high school graduate
headed off to college out of state and a spare bedroom to do as
you please with. And no parent had a bigger smile than you did on
that glorious day when your son walked across that stage and was
handed his high school diploma, with honors.
forward two weeks and after a long day at the office where in your
spare time you finally managed to figure out how to rob Peter to
pay Paul to make sure your son has everything that a freshman college
student would need, you come home and open up your mailbox. Expecting
the usual urgent colored coded assortment of bills, you see a letter
addressed to you from your sonís former high school.
donít really think anything of it. Itís probably a letter of thanks
and congratulations for all of your hard work as an involved parent.
I mean your son was one of the top three students of his graduating
class and had the highest GPA among his African-American peers,
both female and male. Just thinking about it makes you smile all
over again inside and out, that is until you open the letter and
read the following:
go in the house and look on the mantle at the high school diploma
that you saw your son receive with your own two eyes. You look at
the sticker on the diploma that reads with ďWith High HonorsĒ and
the signature of the same principal whose letterhead is on the letter
in your hands.
go to your desk and pull out your sonís final report card that reads
straights Aís and with a grade pint average of 4.0. You re-read
the notes from his teachers.
look at the 8◊10 photos recently hung up of your son in his cap
and gown. Photos that you paid for out of your pocket at the local
Sears and couldnít wait to send out to family members and friends.
look down at the letter you just read. So what do you do?
thank God that your son made it out of the Los Angeles Unified School
District. Pray that his younger brother can do the same. Feel pity
for the students still enrolled and swear that you arenít having
anymore children because you canít afford to put them in a private
school and you have no interest in doing battle for another 12 years
with an inept school administration that canít even figure out whoís
graduated and who hasnít. And after all of that, you call your good
girlfriend, the one who writes for the newspaper and you tell her
what happened. Why? Because now that your son graduated, you wonít
be at the next budget meeting for your sonís former high school
to point out to the administration how wasted money on useless mailings
such as the one you received and undoubtedly other parents of graduates
received directly relates to why the school doesnít have money for
this and that. Add to that, you want the principal and administration
to feel the same sinking feeling in the pit of their stomachís that
you just experienced by reading that letter and what better way
than in the local community newspaper. Itís just your little going
away present for an administration that fought you every step of
the way, was seemingly hell-bent on making sure your son wasnít
prepared for graduation, and after he did
graduate, still couldnít seem to get it right.
itís all said and done, you take the letter and put in your desk
drawer alongside the numerous invitations mailed to your son every
couple of months for over three years now to join his former high
schoolís 9th Grade Academy.
onto more important issues - what to do with that spare room come
August 1 when your son is 3000 miles away at college?
Columnist, Jasmyne Cannick, is a critic and commentator based in
Los Angeles who writes about the worlds of pop
culture, race, class, and politics as it relates to the African-American
community. Her work has been featured in the Los
Angeles Times, Los Angeles
Daily News, and Ebony Magazine. A regular contributor to NPR, she
was chosen as one Essence Magazineís 25 Women Shaping the World.
to contact Ms. Cannick.