Betsy DeVos, The Grinch That Stole Civil Rights

Dec 20, 2018 12:00:00 AM


Outrage: The White House Doesn't Care About Black Kids I wanted to go into my vacation and the holidays on a high note. But, leave it to Trump and his people to kill a dream. Why are we surprised by Betsy’s latest move to rescind civil rights protections when it’s just her being unqualified, out-of-touch Betsy? It’s a bootleg attack on commonsense school discipline reforms, and a cowardly way to avoid the need for common-sense gun reforms. Can she really ignore school gun violence while kids of color are being gunned down in the streets every day? Can she really ignore the huge disparity in Black and Brown kids being suspended at much higher rates than White students, even for the same infractions? It’s basically a continuation of the Trump administration’s efforts to unravel Obama’s work and assault people of color. We’ve been leading up to this all year. I’ve been talking about this all year. And overall, I’m convinced that the goal is to keep Black kids undereducated and feed them into prisons, not colleges. Because as if Black kids aren’t already suspended and expelled at higher rates than other students, they’re finding the most ignorant reasons to keep them out of school— like for their hairstyles. Some states and districts are doing their best to keep kids of color out of high-performing schools, knowing full well that kids who attend low-performing school in high poverty communities have a higher chance of entering the prison system. And then there are the politicians who have no qualms about explaining to Black kids why they’d rather invest in prisons than schools. Meanwhile, we have Black students suffering because they can’t read, have been passed through schools and sent out into the world unprepared to succeed. If you didn’t think education was the civil rights issue of our time, you need to get in tune—because Betsy may have legally sent us back to Jim Crow with this stunt. Hope: 2018’s “Highest Hopes”: Black Power Edition Now that I’ve gotten that out, let’s forget about Betsy—for the year. Instead, picture me in a cozy setting in my holiday sweater, drinking an adult beverage and running down my top five Black power wins in education. Because as bad as things seem, we’ve raised our voices and made some headway. So check it out!

5. Seven Women, One Voice

This year we suffered the loss of school integration pioneer, Linda Brown. However, we must not forget how Linda paved the way for so many of us to become advocates--like the women of One Voice Blog Magazine. I applaud and thank Vesia, Vivett, Dia, Bernita, Kerry-Ann, Kelli and Gwen for creating a space where Black women can speak their truth in education and beyond.

4. She Moved On Up

We had several Black candidates run for office all throughout the country. Notably, Stacey Abrams and Ben Gillum who lost because America was being America. But Jahana Hayes won. She won for all of the Black kids who grew up in low-income communities and single parents who have had the greatest obstacles thrown at them. And she won for the educators who are fighting for their students to have access to a quality education. I look forward to seeing how Rep. Hayes transforms education policy in the future!

3. Have Several Seats

Local school board elections often fly under the radar, especially when there are other high-stakes elections happening at the same time. But it’s important to remember the influence and power school board members have on local education. This year, three Black candidates were the first to integrate historically White school boards in very diverse areas. Let’s give them props for making monumental moves and hopefully they’re able to bring real awareness and implement changes that support students of color in schools.

2. We Stepped Up

If you didn’t know about the Black movement in education, now you know! Convenings, school board actions, supreme court challenges—we did that. Advocates from all around the country are contributing to what’s become this larger movement for educational justice for students of color.

1. Powerful Parents

The most important advocates are the parents because they have the greatest assets—their kids. Black parents have been stereotyped, pushed out and counted out. But groups like The Memphis Lift and The Oakland Reach have shown us that they will no longer tolerate schools giving our kids a dreadful education. So for those parents who have been afraid to step out and use their voice, follow these parents’ lead. Because they are on fire and it will continue to grow. Dismantling the racism that saturates our school system is no walk in the park. But with the network we’re building and the momentum we’re gaining, I’m excited to see the moves we make in 2019. Cheers to a powerful 2018 and I’ll see y’all on the front lines in the new year!

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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