All This Performative Pettiness in Activism Diminishes Our Collective Power

Jun 4, 2021 12:00:00 AM


*In my Principal Joe Clark voice* I need all of the Black education activists to join me in a church basement conversation, expeditiously!

I’m not liking what I’m seeing on social media, y’all. To be specific, my frustration is with the community infighting and media minstrel shows for the wrong audiences, some of which are known enemies to the Black community.

And as a side note, if anyone’s waiting for me to be messy and drop names and receipts, continue to hold because I’m not going to—I was taught to keep family business out the streets and besides, I only blast people who are blatantly on the wrong side of the fight.

Y’all, this pettiness and pandering to non-empathetic crowds is diminishing the power we have as a collective and distracting us from the real and urgent work that needs to be done. Attacks on banning critical race theory—which is really a conspiracy and the racist operation to prevent the teaching of real American history in schools—are growing. 

The commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre was this week. With all the talk about Black lives mattering, equality, unity, blah, blah, blah, you’d think that lawmakers would be having conversations and passing policy to give the descendants of those families reparations. Instead, they’re playing hot potato with the issue. And, in complete contradiction to the commemoration, the governor of Oklahoma has been on tv advocating against teaching racial concepts, mandatory diversity training and true history.

Then, I don’t know if too many people caught it but I’m still tripping on the fact–but definitely not surprised—that the Hate Crimes Bill was passed with the quickness, while the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act has been knocking, cold, starving and neglected at the Senate door since last year.

And to be clear, I’m totally against hate crimes against any group and support legislation to stop it, but I’m also too tired of 402 years of state-sanctioned violence against Black people going unchecked.

So while I have us tuned into the longest running drama and horror series in history, America v. Black People, let’s revisit the episode we’re all familiar with in our fight for education justice, An Educated Negro is a Dangerous Negro

While we have the shit above to be concerned and mad about, [pullquote]hundreds of thousands of Black kids will be returning to in-person learning in the fall with the potential for outcomes and investments to be more dreadful than they were before the pandemic.[/pullquote] Let’s pause on the part about student loss and learning loss.

Back in October of 2020, Bellwether Education Partners released a report citing that there are about three million students—all from marginalized communities—that haven’t been in a physical or virtual classroom since March of last year. They’re considered “lost.”

What we can be sure of is this: Districts are going to be scrambling, trying to do their best to find those lost bodies—not necessarily because they care about their education but because they need those per pupil dollars to keep them afloat. But tragically, we also know that some of these kids from our communities will forever be lost with studies showing that two-thirds of high school dropouts never re-enroll and there’s a likelihood that some that do return may end up dropping out again. I’m no retention specialist but I can guess that one of the reasons these students ultimately give up is because they feel they’re too far behind—which takes me to learning loss. 

Whether anyone believes in learning loss or not, in my eyes there are two facts that support its existence before and after the pandemic. First, Black kids were already experiencing learning loss before Covid—whether it be from them being pushed out and pushed through the school-to-prison pipeline, lack of investments in teachers, mental health supports and limited access to high-quality education.

Also, there’s absolutely going to be pressure on administrators and educators to make up and meet performance expectations. So with those expectations on their backs and history as an indicator, I’m guessing many corners are going to be cut in classroom instruction which will also lead to learning loss.

And one more thing—with the Jerry Springer-like brawls between unions and school districts, the pressures of the pandemic and other reasons, some teachers quit their jobs and consequently, we may have a shortage next year—as if we didn’t have one already.

Here’s what I’m getting at, y’all—for years, we’ve been starved of essentials our kids need to be successful in school. [pullquote]Most leave the system hungry for knowledge and quality education, ultimately and desperately fighting for table scraps demeaningly tossed to them by this greedy ass country.[/pullquote] The pandemic only exacerbated these issues and we have to continue to be proactive and focused in this lane. 

It’s not in our ministry or ancestry to demean each other. It’s not in our best interest to perform for racist white media that doesn’t give a damn about and is laughing at what we’re going through. We don’t have time to entertain or give energy to “actorvists” whose mission is to elevate themselves over the community. As education activists, our fight is for the kids alongside co-conspirators who are down to disrupt the trend of educational injustice. Let’s get back in stride.

Tanesha Peeples

Tanesha Peeples is driven by one question in her work—“If not me, then who?” As the former Deputy Director of Activist Development for brightbeam, Tanesha merges the worlds of communications and grassroots activism to push for change in the public education system. Her passion for community and relentless mission for justice and liberation drive her in uplifting and amplifying the voices and advocacy of those that are often ignored. Tanesha wholeheartedly believes that education is the foundation for success. Her grand vision is one where everyone—regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender or ZIP code—can have access to a comfortable quality of life and enjoy the freedoms and liberties promised to all Americans. And that's what she works towards every day.

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