Words versus deeds in the 21st Century... Arne Duncan's the racist, but Donald Sterling's words count more than actions... Judged by a more accurate criterion -- jobs for Black people -- Arne Duncan is the racist, and Donald Sterling is not

Question of the day: What do Arne Duncan and Donald Sterling have in common? Answer: Basketball. Question Two of the same day: What is the difference between Arne Duncan and Donald Sterling? Answer, Duncan's a racist, and Sterling is not. Let's Walk the Walk for a minute, while others concentrate on how to talk the talk.

One years before he became U.S. Secretary of Education (in January 2009), Chicago Schools "Chief Executive Officer" Arne Duncan (second from left above) appeared with the white leaders of the "Academy for Urban School Leadership" (AUSL) at Chicago's so-called "Sherman School of Excellence." Duncan appeared with the two wealthy AUSL chiefs, Donald Feinstein (seventh from left), Mayor Richard M. Daley (at podium), and multi-millionaire Martin Koldyke (second from right) to announce the continuation of "turnaround" and a chance from the policy of "small schools" - based "reform" to the so-called "turnaround" model (funded by the Gages Foundation that year and the following year). At Sherman and other AUSL schools, veteran black teachers and principals are replaced by novice white teachers and tall Black principals (sixth from left and fourth from right) with no Chicago teaching experience. In Chicago through 2009 and as U.S. policy since, this is called "reform" even though it has drastically reduced the number of veteran Black educators in the nation's public schools. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Whatever the odious Donald Sterling may have said in public or private, his hiring policies at the Los Angeles Clippers shows that he is willing to hire African Americans based on their talents both as workers (the majority of Clippers players are Black) and as management (so is their coach).

Arne Duncan, whose career in management began when Chicago's former mayor plucked him from obscurity and anointed him as "Chief Executive Officer" of the nation's third largest schools system (in July 2001), has precisely the opposite as an executive. Throughout Duncan's career, first in Chicago and since 2009 as U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan has promoted policies that dumped veteran African American teachers (and other school workers, including lunchroom workers and janitors) out of their jobs -- and replaced them with a growing number of white novices, many of whom are gone from teaching in less than five years.

During his years as CEO of CPS, Duncan ordered the "turnaround" of more than two dozen public schools, beginning with Dodge, Terrell and Williams elementary schools in 2004 and continuing through his last months in office in December 2008. The results of those "turnarounds" was almost always that veteran African Americans lost jobs and were replaced by whites.

Donald Sterling never did that on the Los Angeles Clippers, but once Arne Duncan became Barack Obama's top educator, he exported those same teacher bashing and union busting programs across the USA, praising "turnaround" and touting the work of Chicago's "Academy for Urban School Leadership" has having the 'secret sauce" for supposedly "turning around" inner city schools.

And on the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Secretary of Education went out of his way to repeat his talking points about civil rights, while ignoring his own history of the racist elimination of black people from teaching jobs, first in Chicago, and since 2009 across the USA.

Above, Chicago Public Schools "Chief Executive Officer" Arne Duncan at a CPS press conference on August 6, 2007, one year before he ordered his staff to cease publication of the Board's annual "Racial Ethnic Survey -- Staff" because the publication, which had been produced since the demands of the Civil Rights Movement made it mandatory in the 1960s, had begun to show that Duncan's school closing, charter school expansion, and so-called "turnaround" policies were replacing large numbers of veteran African American teachers and principals with young, white teachers and (usually) Black principals who had had no previous teaching experience in Chicago. As early as 2002, Duncan became angry when Substance reporter (now editor) George Schmidt began reporting that Duncan's policies were promoting white supremacy. Duncan told Chicago Teachers Union officials, "I am not a white supremist!" and demanded that they tell that to Schmidt. Schmidt responded that Duncan was not a racist, but that his policies were promoting white supremacy no matter what he thought he was up to. Nothing has changed in the 12 years since that exchange in Chicago except that Duncan's white supremacist policies are now the national policies of the administration of Barack Obama, America's first African American President. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.On her blog on May 23, 2014, Diane Ravitch noted some of the contradiction:

"In a speech to the Education Writers Association," Rvitch writes, "Arne Duncan said that racial isolation has gotten worse in the past two decades, including (one assumes) during his own tenure in office. An article in Education Daily by Frank Wolfe says:

'While the Education Department has promoted a number of programs and measures to improve the achievement of disadvantaged students, the singularly thorny problem of racially isolated schools has remained and has worsened, Education Secretary Arne Duncan acknowledged on Tuesday [May 20, 2014]..

"While [Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, 107 LRP 36247 (1954)] struck down de jure segregation as unconstitutional, de facto school segregation has worsened in many respects in the last two decades,' Duncan told the Education Writers Association national seminar in Nashville. 'Since 1991, all regions of the nation have experienced an increase in the percentage of black students who attend highly segregated schools, where 90 percent or more of students are students of color. Here in the South, more than a third of black students attend such racially isolated schools. In the Northeast, more than 50 percent do.'

"What? Who should be held accountable for this backsliding on our nations commitment to equality of educational opportunity (not separate but equal)?

"The US Department of Educations Office of Civil Rights has powerful enforcement powers. What are they doing about this retrograde trend? Are they demanding that charter schools reach out and seek integrated enrollments? What have they done in Chicago and Nw York City, both highly segregated urban school districts. What have they done about the proliferation of all-black vouchers? Why has Duncan been so forceful in advocating on behalf of racially segregated charter schools? When will he be held accountable for his failure to do anything to promote racial integration? How has he used the considerable powers of his office to make a difference?

"The Department of Education responded to questions by Education Daily, defending its record.

'Six decades after Brown, the U.S. Department of Educations Office for Civil Rights is vigorously working to steer America away from racial isolation,' ED said in a statement in response to questions from Education Daily. 'When we find examples of race segregation and discrimination, we put a stop to it. We negotiate settlements with districts to bring them into compliance with our civil rights laws. We carry a huge hammer. Any district that refuses to work with us faces the prospect of our withholding federal funds. Once those agreements have been signed, we closely monitor their implementation sometimes for years. We issue guidance to schools on their responsibilities to ensure racial equality. We provide grass roots technical assistance at our regional OCR offices around the country. The goal that drives our work is simple to promote excellence in education thats colorblind and equal for all.'

"Here is an example of empty bureaucratic blather," Ravitch concluded. "The US Department of Education has not played a forceful or effective role. If it had, segregation would not be worsening. Why dont they just apologize and say, 'We have really fallen down on the job. Our boss wants more charter schools, even though they are more segregated than the surrounding district. He likes to go to all-black schools and celebrate their success. Actually we have been sitting on our hands where racial integration is concerned, just like the last Bush administration. Frankly, racial integration is not on our radar screen these days. We cant afford to offend the charter lobby. Sorry, our hands are tied.

But there is more than Diane Ravitch has noted. Duncan's career as a segregationist began once he had power in Chicago in 2001 and has continued during the 13 years since.

Arne Duncan's years as "Chief Executive Officer" of Chicago's public schools (2001 - 2008) were years of increasing segregation -- as a policy of the city and the Duncan administration.

There were several neoliberal programs which Duncan promoted, all of which resulted in more intense segregation in the city (and school system) that was already one of the most segregated in the USA.

So, increased segregation didn't just "happen" -- in Chicago or elsewhere. It was done by guys like Arne Duncan and their anti-public school, teacher bashing and unioin busting agendas.

There are now several Chicago Teachers Union reports on how this was done, and they are available on the CTU website ( Among these are "The Schools Chicago's Students Deserve" and the most recent report, on the anniversary of the school closings that the Board voted to do on May 22, 2014. Not all of these policies were Duncan's (the school closings are Rahm Emanuel's contribution), but Duncan began many of them:

1. So-called "turnarounds." Despite the failure of reconstitution as a policy by the late 1990s, under Arne Duncan Chicago rebranded that failed policy and instituted "turnaround" ten years ago. The first three schools to be subjected to it were Chicago's Williams, Dodge and Terrell elementary schools. Duncan praised his own "courage" when he attacked those three schools and eliminated -- and an almost totalitarian way -- all of their staffs (from teachers to principals and lunchroom workers). All of those staffs were majority African-American, as were all of the kids in those schools. That set the pattern which continued down to this year. At the April 23, 2014 Board meeting -- TEN YEARS after Duncan began "turnaround" in Chicago -- the Board voted to slander, libel and destroy the work of the staffs of three elementary schools in Chicago -- Dvorak, McNair and Gresham.

There is a direct line from Duncan's attacked in 2004 - 2005 at the beginning of "turnaround" and today. "Turnaround," as failed a policy as "reconstitution" was, continues, and it is used primarily to replace veteran African American teachers (and principals) with novices supposedly trained in superior "teaching methods" (like what Teach for American claims). Duncan stands shoulder to shoulder with his boss in promoting this segregationist policy. In December 2008, a month after tears filled Chicago's Grant Park following the election of Barack Obama, Obama sat with Arne Duncan in Dodge "School of Excellence" (the first "turnaround" school in Chicago) to announce that Duncan was to become U.S. Secretary of Education.

2. Charters. It was during the administration of Arne Duncan that the massive replacement of Chicago's real public schools by charter schools took off. One of the trick Duncan used to do this was by getting the legislature to approve what is called the "campus" approach to charters. Under Illinois law, there was a maximum number of charter schools allowed for Chicago. To get around the law, Duncan and the Chicago Board of Education decided that one charter could have many many so-called "campuses." As a result of that, the biggest "school" in Illinois is Chicago International Charter Schools (CICS), with more than a dozen campuses and 10,000 "students." CICS is followed by the Noble Network of Charter Schools, UNO charter schools, and Aspira Charter Schools (among others). The vast majority of the "campuses" of all of Chicago's charter schools are viciously segregated: All-black; all-non-black "minority" (the UNO schools) for the most part. For reasons obvious in retrospect, Arne Duncan (and his successors) never put "desegregation" into the guidelines for Chicago's ever expanding charter school "campuses." As a result, Chicago's UNO charter schools were allowed to market their "campuses" to Latino families in an overtly racist way that also undermined the Catholic schools in those communities (i.e., the line that parents would be safe from "them" while not having to pay the tuition that parochial schools had to charge). The other charter schools were never required to keep information for the public on racial matters because desegregation was not a part of the policy. Charter school expansion in Chicago was part of the neoliberal attack on real public schools, as has become clear nationally since 2009, when the Obama administration took over.

Prior to Arne Duncan's administration in Chicago -- and for 40 years prior to that -- Chicago's public schools released two annual reports on the racial status of the city's vast public school system. Called the "Racial/Ethnic Survey", there was one for staff and one for students. The Racial Ethnic Surveys enabled anyone who wanted to to track the patterns of segregation not only in the current year, but over time. After the Internet became a major mod of publication in 2001, the Chicago Board of Education began posting those surveys on the CPS Website (

Until Arne Duncan's administration ordered in 2007 that the "Staff" racial surveys be dumped. And they have never been published since.


Because as early as 2007, the Racial Ethnic Survey -- Staff was showing that Duncan's "turnaround" policies were eliminating Black teachers and replacing them with white teachers.

So Duncan made sure that it was difficult (albeit not impossible) for critics to find the evidence of his racism. Arne Duncan will never be caught using the kinds of language that has made Donald Sterling infamous. But it is a real question as Americans examine the hypocrisies of the 21st Century whether a guy who hired Black people to work for him should have become an international symbol of white racism, while the U.S. Secretary of Education who has destroyed the careers of more Black teachers than any powerful figure in the nation's history gets a "pass" on this one.

Welcome to the 21st Century.


May 27, 2014 at 8:03 PM

By: Richard Biegaj

Arne was (and is) a pupprt

Having worked at CPS during Arne Duncan's stint as CEO, I never got the impression that he was a racist in the true sense of that word. I don't think he was bigoted against any one group of people. But I always got the impression (and still do) that he was a puppet who was handed a playbook to work from that was created by Mayor Daley and his string-pullers at the Civic Federation and other elements of the local plutocracy. (Now his puppet masters are higher up than the Daley syndicate. )Duncan as CEO was merely the pliable "face" of CPS. Trust me, he wasn't a bad guy, but I don't think he had many original thoughts. There is no way an neophyte administrator like Duncan come have dreamt up Ren 2010 all by himself. That came right out of the mayor's office.

May 28, 2014 at 6:46 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

Arne's 21st Century brand of white supremacy

The first time I began reporting that Arne Duncan's policies were white supremacy in action, almost immediately after he was patting himself on the back for his "courage" in attacking and closing Dodge, Terrell and Williams elementary schools in that infamous first round of "turnaround," Duncan sent word back to me fuming "I am not a white supremist" (his wordings). I disagreed, but the confusion over "racism" versus white supremacy prevailed, and does so to this day.

Arne Duncan and his current boss would never be caught being "racist." They just do things that racists do -- like "turnarounds" that destroy the veteran staffs of challenging urban schools, or charterizing entire communities with white-run charter schools (usually with a few black front people to do the apologetics, like the Samuel L. Jackson character in Django Unchained) that keep power firmly in the hands of white guys and the wealthier white folks. Doing the work of white supremacy in the 21st Century is in some ways easier because of decades of confusion, must of it created by so-called "progressives" that makes "racism" the crime, but tolerates vast white supremacist policies as long as they are carried out by smiling ("I am not a racist") black and white Harvard types.

Arne Duncan's not dumb, despite the lisping inanities. And his racism is not the crude early 20th Century kind, but the New Age white supremacist stuff that comes from people like Barack Obama in power. One of the confusions people have is that "racism" (a way of thinking and an ideology) is the BAD thing, while lisping apologetics for racist policies is OK as long as it's coming from a couple of guys (one of whom is President of the United States) who would never think of talking using language like Pap in "Huckleberry Finn."

It's why I noted that in reality, Donald Sterling, who is being slapped around for having that old fashioned kind of 1930s white guy racism, has done more to hire black people than Arne Duncan (who's entire career has been spent firing black teachers, principals, lunchroom workers and others, and closing schools and destroying communities).

As long as most people are befuddled by this carefully rehearsed nonsense coming out of the supposed "progressives" like Arne Duncan and victims of media rampages after some neanderthal like Sterling utters stupidly, Duncan's brand of white supremacy will continue to prevail.

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