Pensacola, Florida
Thursday April 26th 2018


Outtakes 2/23/12


by Rick Outzen

When this paper takes stands on issues, particularly ones that I know will ruffle feathers, I am guided by these words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

“Cowardice asks the question – is it safe?
Expediency asks the question – is it politic?
Vanity asks the question – is it popular?
But conscience asks the question – is it right?
And there comes a time when one must take a position
that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular;
but one must take it because it is right.”

Escambia County and the City of Pensacola have huge disparities in economics, education, health and criminal justice. While other parts of the country have made progress in closing these gaps that were created by decades of segregation, this area has not.

The numbers are indisputable, and the situation is getting worse. We have to narrow the divide between our white and black communities. Unless we do, we are doomed to failure, especially when it comes to public education and our black youth.

It’s simple math. With minorities steadily outnumbering whites in our public schools, we can’t have a quality education system unless we adopt best practices that reach them. Drilling them on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test isn’t working.

A third of the black community is under the age of 20. Many of them live in single-parent homes that are struggling to feed, clothe and care for them. Superintendent Malcolm Thomas and his school board need to stop blaming these demographics for their failures and start coping with these realities.

The schools, local governments and non-profits must join forces to help the black community develop viable solutions.

The school district should seek out programs that have worked in other communities and review them with black leaders. More black principals and teachers need to be hired.

Both county and city need to modify their neighborhood service programs and partner with non-profits to develop more after-school programs. Community centers need to be more than senior center centers or, worse, empty buildings and monuments to politicians. Instead of curfews, the county and city should expand their youth sports and bring back midnight basketball.

Whenever programs are initiated, they must be done with input and support from the black community. The days of “plantation politics”—where whites alone decide what’s best for the black community—need to end.

We must create innovative programs that are sustainable beyond a pep rally or election cycle. We must begin now.