Jersey City’s Public School superintendent, Charles T. Epps Jr., while addressing the city’s clergy, shared his opinion of what he perceives as a major ill within the school system.
“Our worst enemy is the young ladies,” Epps said. “The young girls are bad. I don’t know what they’re drinking today, but they’re bad.”
Epps was addressing members of the International Ministerial Alliance of Jersey City & Vicinity. Almost as shocking, not one audience member voiced opposition to the damaging statements. The discussion topic was the school system’s $1 million annual police budget. According to Epps, the female student population necessitates this budgetary allotment — not gangs or drugs. Girls.
Epps’ statements are damaging and inflammatory. Moreover, he uses a personal position to make a point that he seems to decry — that of the alcohol induced, violent individual. Were this a Hollywood starlet unfairly labeling hip-hop as the root of all evil unleashed on women, the digerati would have, in turn, unleashed a tsunami of posts, blogs, tweets and emails that would have made trending topics, well — trend this story. But, we know that is not the case. Why are we so comfortable with denigration from within our race? What triggers our thought processes to simply “quiet” when the detractor reminds us of Cliff Huxtable? To be clear, Epps wasn’t exercising his civil liberties for free speech any more than school systems demanding that all students turn over the passwords to their Facebook accounts is not an invasion of privacy.
Look, anyone who lives in an urban area can tell you the difficulties of navigating the public school systems. Once a worldwide model, they now stand at the cusp of something great or their own spiraling death. But, never before has the transition of this institution been so irresponsibly placed on a gender. This is more confusion-fuel added to the barn fire that has sparked the growing trend (and acceptance!) of community gang rapes across the country. Or, teenage dating violence — so out of control that Rhode Island passed the Lindsey Ann Burke Act to address it.
In their rebuttal to Epps’ comments, Darnell L. Moore, visiting professor of gender and sexuality at NYU, and Dr. Aimee Cox, assistant professor of African American and African studies at Rutgers, wrote:
“What is most alarming about Epps’s diatribe is the sexist undertone that shaded his comments. He specifically singled out young females — the majority of whom happen to be black and brown in his district — as foe. Epps’s rhetoric mirrors the sneers of those who have historically imagined women (black, brown and poor) as the cancer eroding the core of the traditional family, as ‘welfare queens’ wreaking havoc on the taxpayer’s pocket, and as the ‘baby’s having baby’s’ who either neglect them or abort them altogether. Epps added to the list a new nomenclature in naming young females in JCPS the ‘enemy.’ His actions should not go unpunished.”
The debate and passing of welfare reform. Near government shut-down based on miniscule funding for Planned Parenthood. Wrongly so, women of color were tools of propaganda for both and that’s a fact. Epps’ must know this and that compounds the frustration. But first, let’s publicly address the wrong. We’ll deal with the hurt afterward.
I know some extraordinary young ladies who are setting the world on fire with their vitality, beauty, and most of all, smarts. They are my nieces, my goddaughter, a 13-year old community advocate named Marypat Hector whom I have mad respect for. There are even two teenage girls I’ve never met, but I’ll do whatever is necessary to keep them from harm’s way. I won’t see them, or any other young lady, stifled, labeled or compromised in any manner. Before anybody else walks this path, I beg you — think. Because these are our daughters and them being under the wheels of the bus, well — that’s just not going to happen.