Spending more dollars on exploring solar-systems than school systems is cause for critique, not celebration.
Yesterday, as the Internet raved on the trending topic of America’s more than nine year journey to fly by Pluto, a feeling took over me. It was a feeling of shame and sadness, a feeling that I believe Mr. Gil Scott-Heron felt in 1970 when he recited “Whitey on the Moon,” a response to Neil Armstrong’s moon landing.
Mr. Scott-Heron, a Black man, wasn’t proud of his country’s accomplishment, as he was more concerned with social and personal issues, like the rising cost of food and the doctor’s bill that followed a rat biting his sister.
“A rat done bit my sister Nell with whitey on the moon. Her face and arms began to swell and whitey’s on the moon. I can’t pay no doctor bills, but whitey’s on the moon. Ten years from now, I’ll be payin’ still, While whitey’s on the moon. The man just upped my rent last night, cause whitey’s on the moon,” Mr. Scott-Heron said on the 1970 recording.
The context of Mr. Scott-Heron’s poem appears to be timeless, and I’m sure upon conception he was aware it would be.
For nearly a decade, America has invested what I would assume is billions, if not trillions, of dollars to reach Pluto, not to mention whatever other capital investments were made to explore space.
However, for nearly a decade—and longer—America has invested what I would is assume less than half of NASA’s budget on modernizing public education and recreation in the inner-cities.
Spending more dollars on exploring solar-systems than improving school systems is cause for gross critique, not mass celebration.
I don’t applaud America for what my fellow countrymen perceive is a milestone. To the contrary, I shame this rich nation for its skewed priorities. The type of decision making that says unseen space is more valued than an occupied place is not one that deserves respect nor admiration.
And though access to quality public education ranks high on my set of values, which is why I referred to it early on in this piece, other social issues—like veterans’ quality of life, diversity in the technology and news industry, and homelessness—also weigh on me deeply.
Homeless Americans—many of them veterans or LGBTQIA youth—sleep outside of multi-million dollar priorities every night, yet there’s no high profile federal push to expand homeless shelters or improve the existing ones.
Young students, many of them black and brown, everyday scrounge their spaces and places for basic supplies, like pencils, toilet paper and hand soap, yet coming up with a sustainable funding formula for public education seems to be like pulling teeth.
Am I, an educated black man, being asked to believe that it’s easier to calculate the distance from Earth to Pluto than it is to develop a funding formula that’ll ensure every student has access to best teaching and learning resources?
I see young black boys often play basketball at an abandoned school yard illuminated only by a car’s headlights, yet I’m expected to marvel at the clarity in which a space camera captured a planet?
Sorry, but I just don’t give a f*ck.
For me, and many in my community, its hard to focus on outer space when the spaces and places right in front of us are over-policed with bad and good cops who are indistinguishable.
I abhor the truth that a race must prove their humanity to the mainstream society, while the mainstream society ignores them, and, instead, searches for humanity and life forms elsewhere.
Today may be a great day for many. It may be, for some, an occasion worth gathering loved ones and displaying American pride.
For me, however, today, and every day, until this country does right by its own words, will be a cause for gross critique.
*Tune into 900amWURD or 900amWURD.com every Friday evening during the 6 o’clock hour to hear me relive #TheWeekThatWas*
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™