Re: Washington Post Jambo Article (Long)
settummanque, or blackeagle (blkeagle@DYNASTY.NET)
Mon, 4 Aug 1997 14:58:31 -0500
This response is long; longer than most Mike Walton postings.
Be advised. It's also not one of my better ones as well.
Paul Meyermann prefaced the Washington Post article (I received a copy of it
over the weekend from a Scouter living in the D.C. area whom remembered me
working there six years back) by stating:
>A danger is created however, when Scouting is somehow considered to >be
suspect (implied to be racist) because it has not been successful in
>these areas. The article seems to imply that if only the Scouting
>program was more flexible that it would be more successful with ethnic
>and minority groups.
(cut portion only for space reasons)
>Public mis-perception regarding scouting is should not be surprising
>since many of the debates on this list seem to stem from
>(interchanging/confusing) the methods of scouting with the purpose of
Our public, and in particular, the public residing in the "communities of
color" in our cities, have come to a realization about our Scouting programs:
*Scouting is a predominate "white thing", and those few others there in the
program are there "mainly to show us that the Scouts aren't exclusive".
For proof, let's look at some basic stats that the BSA *does* keep (all of
these are 1995 figures; as soon as someone can provide me with more
up-to-date figures, I'll be happy to update the numbers; but in my informal
"reach out and touches" before the Jamboree (there was to be a reunion of
black/Hispanic Scout Executives and volunteers, which was one of those
several "groups" that the BSA didn't want "highlighted") the numbers haven't
*4,226 field professionals (excluding those at regional/national offices and
excluding paraprofessional workers); 229 are Black and 17 are of a Hispanic
origin (as self-stated). 14 are from Asian origin. Nine (9) of those
professionals are in Districts OTHER THAN "the Black district" of that
Council (220 are serving as "District Executive" or "Senior District
Executive of a "urban District" or a Field Director or District Director of
a urban field service area.
*392 field paraprofessionals; 82 percent are Black. Many of them, as the
article stated, are hired to serve as Scoutmasters or Cubmasters (or both)
as well as to administer and carry many hats in "urban areas" in our local
Councils. The majority of these part-time professionals are found within
the Northeast and Western Regions. A BIG NOTE: The BSA has been demanding
that local Councils STOP hiring parapros, largely because of a cost-cutting
move (the BSA picks up health insurance on those folks and provide other
services at the same time as they are cutting fulltime professionals).
Who is more than likely to come to your community to talk Scouting with
you?? Some white person (male or female), NOT wearing a Scouting field
uniform with the intent of "getting in there, getting things going and
getting out of there".
The BSA HAS responded to this "image problem", but not in the way *I*
would have responded. I'll explain how *I* would have responded later on.
The BSA responded by placing a Black man at the head of our Commissioner
service arm of Scouting. It failed because local Councils weren't
interested in having a "national commissioner" to come to their Council and
have lunch and dinner, talking about "what if's" and "remember whens".
They need....they want....*real Scouters*, real BLACK and HISPANIC and ASIAN
Scouters from other Councils to come and spend a couple of days, a week, a
month if they can afford it...to show PARENTS that indeed, "we've got 'em,
here's one of many, and listen to HIS or HER story...it'll sound like yours
and together we can make it YOUR son's or your story too!"
The Urban Emphasis Program is designed to defuse a lot of critics, both
inside (like me) and outside (like the Rev. Jesse Jackson, for one) and our
feelings that somehow trying to get *every boy to become a Scout* isn't a
good goal anymore. The Urban Emphasis program takes existing Scouting
partners (black churches, school systems, public housing projects, and other
non-profits, as a short list) and somehow reworking and finding out "what
does it take to bring Scouting back to these areas". In reality, I've
experienced that the Urban Emphasis program is just another way that the BSA
can "backdoor" themselves into groups and organizations that closed the
"front door" on them for various reasons (like public schools and some other
The writer has a lot of good things that ALL of us should take into some
> There may be no sharper illustration of the lack of racial diversity
> in Scouting and at this gathering of 30,000 Scouts, where thousands of
> teenage boys are turning to computers and pocket-size brochures to
> learn about cultures other than their own.
The BSA won't say this, but I'm going to give my best "estimation".
Remember, I wasn't able to step one foot on the Jamboree grounds this year
due to "lost orders" (I don't believe it either, for what it's worth)!!
Of the 26 thousand-plus actual participants, 1500 of them will be Black.
Of the 4 thousand-plus staff and support personnel, 830 of them will be
Black. When PBS airs the Presidents' comments, or better yet, when you get
the Jamboree video, count the number of Black faces in a Scout uniform that
appear. It's *those* kinds of "undercurrent messages" that keeps a lot of
Black kids from joining, not because "it's not cool" or the "thing to do".
> So far, the four-year-old effort that Randall heads, known as the
> Urban Emphasis program, seems to have led to only a small increase in
> minority membership, officials say.
3 percent in the NCAC; 8 percent in Dallas; 4 percent in Atlanta; 2 percent
in Chicago (which has the highest ratio of black youth population (TAY) to
black youth membership in '94); around one percent in Seattle and in
Richmond; I wasn't able to get numbers from NYC, Boston, nor LA.
In smaller Councils, Louisville, Kentucky again spikes it with 11 percent;
followed by Augusta, Georgia with 8 and Birmingham, Alabama with 5 percent.
But not the 12 to 14 percent that the BSA wanted to see nationally.
> African American Scout leaders cite a number of reasons black youths
> traditionally have not been attracted to Scouting. They say the youths
> often have been turned off by the Scout uniform and the failure to
> promote sports as a Scouting activity. Another problem is that
> compared with the suburbs, the District and other urban areas have
> few public facilities open in the evening for troop meetings.
Here's a couple more reasons, not listed in the article:
"No Black role models. When I put my son in Scouts, I expect to see one
Black face that he can relate to, that he can pattern himself after. All he
sees in school are white leaders - teachers, administrators, bus drivers."
Yet, when you explain to them, mostly parents, that those adults are in a
large part, the parents and concerned residents of that neighborhood, you
get a lot of "I don't know anything about Scouting. All I know is you do a
lot of camping. I can't do/I'm not able to/I don't want to go camping. I
don't see anyone else who's Black doing this...why should I?"
"I don't want my son in NOTHING that involves any kind of camping or
sleeping outside in the dark. I'm a old (person) and I can remember when we
slept outside in the dark and things would happen. I don't want any of that
happening to these boys....they are too young to experience "real life" out
(A large concern expressed by many Black families is somehow that the Klan
or some other racist organization has ties to the BSA. This is expressed
particularily when explaining programs like the Order of the Arrow, with
it's white and red sashes. However, it moves beyond the OA and into regular
camping, which for many urban units, generally happens at the Council's
summer camp facility -- miles and miles away from the neighborhoods and in
many cases inaccessible to many urban families.
Some Councils countered this by holding special "urban campouts" in city
parks or other greenbelt areas; however, many aspects of Scouting: cutting
down timber, building open fires, pitching and sleeping tentage overnight --
have been disallowed by communities not wanting their greenbelt areas to
turn into "bum hotels". There's a way around it; I'll explain it later)
"What good is it?" (my parents' favorite line). "What do you get out of it?
Do you get a job with it? Can you make money with it? I can learn a trade
in the same time you're spending with the Scouts and I will have something
to show for it."
"Is it that you want to be just like the white boys?" (my parents' second
favorite line, and one that was shared with me when I visited a urban
community center a month back, by another adult). There's this thing that
is shared by not just Blacks, but a lot of others out there. If it doesn't
live up to your expectations, you either kill it outright for anyone else or
you create your own "group". This one kills a LOT of Black youth that want
to be Scouts, but their own parents discounts it as something "we folk don't
do because we folk don't do."
There's a lot more, but it gives one an idea of what the BSA is facing.
> Scout officials from Orange County, Calif., said some local Latino
> adults and children associate the uniform with repressive police or
> military officers in their home countries.
Which was why the uniform was redesigned and an activity uniform made
available; what's missing from that equation was the emphasis that *you can
wear the activity uniform if you don't care/want/can the traditional
uniform. Add to this a lack of guidance on what to do with the rank pins
(which I've wrote and answered the Rural/Urban Field Service with "wear the
things on the shirt. You're only wearing ONE pin!")
> In addition, inner-city Scouts said that many of their friends can't
> afford a uniform, a Scout handbook, camping trips and other outings,
> although in some cities the price is lowered by charitable donations.
The costs of "the basic getups", as we talked here, can spin upwards to
$100, when you add on the costs of dues ($12 a year) and registration fees
($7; $10 if you include _Boys_Life_). All which can be manageable, as
you'll read here.
> In Pittsburgh, leaders are trying to attract and retain African
> Americans by emphasizing the movement's African origins. Ronald Curry,
> a Scout official there, said he's planning a retreat in which he will
> tell boys that Scouting's lessons about surviving in the wilderness
> originate from Zulus in Africa. He's also encouraging the use of kente
> cloth neckerchiefs, an item added in December to an official Scout
I've been asked to attend that retreat, and if it's all possible, I'll be
there for it.
> "It really is an image problem," Curry said. "The image shouldn't be
> negative. We're trying to show how black Americans can fit into
> Some minority Scouts said that not enough is being done to help
> overcome a lack of racial tolerance among many of their peers.
> Larry Bowden, 14, of Bridgeport, Conn., said a group of Scouts
> recently made racial comments in his presence.
> "They were saying black people have wider noses, that kind of stuff,"
> he said. "If it was more diverse, I think they would have more
Better Larry, than some *other* comments about what you eat, wear, and
listen to!! *heheheeee*
Now, that's I've torn this article up and gave everyone a serious case of
guilts (it's not my intention to do either but rather to place a broader
light on the problem and the way *I* see that it can be helped (never solved;
we're always going to have this problem about minority membership...it was
with us when the BSA started and it'll be with us well into the next
century...) The followup contains some rather direct ways that you and I
can give a boost to this "Urban Emphasis Program".
(Ralph, I know that you and several others have read this; this is for the
entire forum so you might want to delete my followup posting here!)
Thanks for bringing the article up, Paul!
(c) 1997 Mike Walton ("no such thing as strong coffee,...") (502) 827-9201
(settummanque, the blackeagle) http://dynasty.net/users/blkeagle
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