This subject runs the serious risk of being seen as elitist. But, it is important enough to surface in a way that makes clear that is not the case and to turn it to the advantage of the disadvantaged.
Advantages in life come randomly through baby nurseries in hospitals in various ways. While we all come into life without a stich of cloth, moments later advantages and disadvantages begin to appear and tend to grow as time passes.
Some babies go home to rudimentary housing, filth, inadequate sanitation and parents [if there are two] who are struggling to stay afloat and know far too little about how to properly care for a baby.
Other babies go home to their own room with a crib and frilly dresses for girls and a baby nurse or Nanny with fawning parents who have been preparing for the big day for at least 9 months.
From that point on things keep diverging. Where those babies go for day care, for preschool and beyond spells out the future of those children long before they have any chance to know it or do anything about it.
Let’s jump ahead a bunch of years and look at when those exemplar babies are 20 years old
An unlucky kid is probably stuck in a vicious circle of poverty and lack of opportunity. This could be worse in many cases because that the kid may have already been in jail.
A lucky kid may already be in college and getting ready to be independent and developing a career.
If another unlucky kid has really exceptional drive, she may have begun discovering how to overcome all the disadvantages she was born into.
If another lucky kid is normal, he may be taking for granted all his built in advantages and coasting toward a life of mediocrity.
The disadvantage of advantage is that in a child’s formative years the challenges that build character, strength [grit] and values of focus are not automatically there unless the parents work hard to create the right kind of different challenges that young people need to be able to grow strong enough to deal with the real challenges of modern life.
The advantage of disadvantage is that when a child has the innate capacity to rise to the challenges, the growth potential is bound to be ever greater than for the advantaged child.
The question is how to blend the two different environments. As we watch Baltimore and all the other current sites of racial problems, it is clearer than ever that this problem is at the root of both sides of this equation.
In Baltimore of the six police persons recently charged with crimes were one black woman and two black men and three white men. Those people likely had come more from disadvantaged environments, than advantaged, yet they all are being held partially accountable for serious misdeeds related to someone who surely was quite obviously even more disadvantaged.
If more advantaged people come to see this dilemma in their environment, perhaps they might be even more sympathetic to the plight of the kind of people they did not know well, if at all, as they grew up.
As a society we need to remember the irony of this inversion of disadvantage and advantage in approaching solutions to urban youth. It will not be enough to simply put more resources into disadvantaged youth; we need to get more advantaged kids into the process as well.
A blend may not be easy to achieve. But, it can be possible. In the past in the South when black and white children were allowed, even encouraged, to know each other, close friendships often ensued and endured into adulthood. The result more often than not was better children -black and white — in many ways all around.
Perhaps that history can be resurrected and studied for new ideas applicable today?