by Tracy Renee Jones

I bet you had JUST started to breathe easier now that Osama is serving as crustacean fare in the low below but low and behold…another enemy is among us and this time it’s not a real tall skinny guy wearing a turban and making Youtube videos as he searches for porn.

Nope.

It’s Not Sarah Palin

Our oldest and worst feared enemy is back… Black Girls.

Yup!

Last month the Superintendent of the Jersey City Board of Education addressed a group of clergy members during a meeting held at the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Jersey City & Vicinitylocated in what is surly a dilapidated area of Martin Luther King Drive (aren’t they all?) in Jersey City. During the meeting which consisted of approximately twelve people (plus one journalist allowed to observe the meeting) Epps made the following statements:
“Young ladies” are the community’s “worst enemy.”

“The young girls are bad. I don’t know what they’re drinking today, but they’re bad.”During the discussion Dr. Epps mentioned an initiative to recruit “mentors” for Jersey City students as part of collaboration with the Big Brother Big Sisters program. I can also reassure you that these people coming from the financial big wigs of the Exchange Place areas aren’t of the darker hue. Dr. Epps doesn’t sound very much like a concerned educator speaking on behalf of a group of kid whom he would like to help.
Epps is quoted as he praised staff members of JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs who have volunteered as mentors to “..signed up to help even the dirty, nasty, bad kids….”.Now his comments may have caught you off guard, as it did me, but the audience of ministers didn’t seem to be phased by the good Dr’s comment regarding his opinion of young urban girls (read: Black). You might think “of course not, because most of the audience of ministers was probably male, right?”

Wrong…
Pastor Joyce Watterman, of Continuous Flow Christian Center on Monticello Avenue, said later she was “surprised” by Epps’ opinions on young girls, but doesn’t necessarily disagree with him. Global oppression of women may cause some females to swing too hard in the wrong direction, Watterman said.”It affects our young girls, too, so that when we rise up, we sometimes overdo it,” she said. Watterman added that she doesn’t encounter many girls in her community that she believes are violent. But Epps may see some in his community, she said.Aside from the fact that this woman belongs to a church whose name reminds me of a feminine product I will also like to point out that the Monticello section of Jersey City is one of the worse areas in Jersey City. I should know since I grew up in this very neighborhood; I can still smell the stench. There has always been a lot going on; this section of the city lost any semblance of civilization long ago. But I digress..

The message in the opinion of the Superintendent and the fact that he was not challenged by his religious constituents is not surprising given that a few sentences that tie in the ills of man to the existence of vagina is an easily accepted meme in religious circles.

Let’s not forget it’s the big, bad Eve and her metaphorical vagina that’s to blame for all of this.

This belief sounds eerily similar to the ones held by the most extremist members of Islam. These people are no different than those who so easily condemn the female gender as the perpetrator of each perceived cultural inefficiency suffered by man.

It’s bullshit there and it’s bullshit here.

I’ll even go as far as to suggest the Dr. used the words “worst enemy” specifically to incite the very stereotype of the “wild (brown/urban) woman” when he said this. I would expect better vocabulary from a man who holds an impressive list of educational degrees including a doctorate from Rutgers University while he explains the reason for the One Million dollar spending budget to provide police staff officers to the district’s schools. Police officers, who also beat, sexually assault and harass the students they are paid to protect. Who protects the kids from the police?

I would expect a man with so many degrees to be able to at least pull out a nice PowerPoint presentation and use some big words to confuse the simple audience on why his spending is out of control yet his schools have a fail rate of 35 out of 40 schools?

Did anyone ever find out why Rakim, Da-Sheeka and Javier can’t read?

I’m just saying, this guy has a staff of several full time assistants and he himself commands a salary of $268, 000 plus for the hard job he does as Superintendent of the Jersey City Board of Education in addition to the check he formally received from the State of New Jersey as an Assemblyman when he held both jobs concurrently. I expect better results from someone who for many years collected two separate checks from the state of New Jersey than to tell me that a nearly 100% failure rate in the Jersey City public schools is due to “girls gone wild”.

One lonely voice spoke out publically against Dr. Epps’s comments, Dr. Anne Wallace, Ph.D. an Assistant Professor of English at my alma mater NJCU wrote a letter to the editor on May 8th where she blasted Epps’s derogatory comments in reference to young girls.

In the letter to the Editor of the Jersey Journal Dr. Wallace eloquently states what I feel is wrong when it comes to urban/black girls and those who are supposed to be in the position to mold and educate them:
“As the mother of two young girls, I find these words personally hurtful. But I know he is not directing his comments at girls like mine — middle class, white girls with highly educated parents. Yet that knowledge provides no comfort because we all know that he is referring primarily to black and brown girls, many of whom are from low-income families.

“For Dr. Epps to label, out loud to a group of clergy, the girls of Jersey City as the culprit of all that is wrong in our city is just reprehensible. Think about how deeply his words cut for these girls. Black women have been wrongly stereotyped as out of control and over-sexualized for nearly 200 years in this country, beginning in slavery.”

“For a black man in a leadership position like Dr. Epps to buy into and, even worse, to perpetuate that myth is inexcusable. He should know better.”

“We know the power of words. Tell a child that she is bad, and she will internalize that, at least in part. As an English professor at a public university in Jersey City, I work with students who are underprepared for college because they have been told that they are dumb or unteachable their whole lives.

“Yet when Dr. Epps says that our city’s children are bad and nasty, none of their value matters anymore. Because he has reduced them — in their own eyes and in the public imagination — to nothing.In my opinion the sexist opinions held by Dr. Epps is the least of the reasons that he should be removed, fired or disposed of in whatever way is fit. There are no shortage of eager, educated and passionate young people coming into their own in Jersey City that could surly take over these positions and do them as a service and not a platform to spew sexist/socio-economical garbage.

By removing him from this pubic educator CEO position he will no longer be able to spend tax payer money while allegedly tricking off with female friends during cushy over seas ‘conference trips’ on the city of Jersey City’s dime.

But I can’t help but to wonder at what point in time do we expect to become better human beings as a race when we choose to support people that don’t support us back. I expect to get backlash from my writing this article because I know for a fact that for some people being concerned with ‘the care and treatment of others’ is directly related to the care and treatment they are receiving from the person in question.

Black girls aren’t the worst thing to happen to the public schools in Jersey City; the perception that Black children don’t matter is. Black boys were lost in this conversation a long time ago. It’s unfortunate that a White Professor was the only person to speak out on this issue only to turn around and then be labeled as ‘elitist’ and have her views expressed as ‘bias’ in a rebuttal from Dr. Epps in an additional letter to the Editor of the Jersey Journal.

I can’t help but to shake my head sometimes, it seems as if Blacks love to get beat down by people who look just like them and God help you if you attempt to stop the ass whipping. Epps cannot accuse Dr. Wallace of being an ‘elitist’ and think that accusation is cause enough to dismiss anything she states in her letter.

I learned how to read between the lines at NJCU after having not attended the Jersey City public schools much. Thanks, Dad.