Black Kids Don’t Need a Handout or a Shortcut, They Just Need Schools That Work

Dec 7, 2018 12:00:00 AM


Outrage: Black Kids Are Dumb, Poor and Incapable of Success

Do y’all remember the line from “The Color Purple,” “I’m poor, I’m Black...I may even be ugly. But dear God, I’m here”? Well, replace “ugly” with “dumb” and we have the rhetoric that our schools have force-fed Black kids for ages. And even after some of us make it to college, we still feel that way. Because, let’s face it, Black kids can’t excel academically if the system doesn’t cheat for them, right? That’s why administrators were changing students’ test scores, attendance records and grades  in Atlanta, D.C. and Memphis so they could graduate from high school and why teachers give kids coursework way below their grade-level. And that has to be the reason why T.M. Landry College Preparatory School made their students lie and tell stereotypical sob stories on their college applications. But [pullquote position="left"]we know that Black kids are indeed very capable of achieving and excelling.[/pullquote] Anyone who has survived a poorly performing school knows this. Anyone who has suffered a teacher who didn’t give a damn about them knows this. Anyone who got to college and figured out that they haven’t been set up for success but still graduated knows this. Anyone who is working to change that trajectory for the kids navigating the system knows that. But this narrative perpetuated in the school system has people believing that Black kids need a shortcut, handouts, pity and mercy. And it’s especially sad when the perpetrators in these situations are Black. Zora Neale Hurston was right— all skinfolk ain’t kinfolk. If you aren’t pissed off, you should be. Because these people and these stereotypes are the reasons why our kids are victims of the belief gap.

Hope: We Can Win

Have you ever heard of a school district wanting to close a high performing, fully enrolled school with a predominantly low-income student body? No? Well, it was happening here in Chicago—the school-bulldozing capital of the world. But, parents stopped it from happening. ICYMI, National Teachers Academy, on the South Side of Chicago, was on the brink of being converted into a high school. The parents, students, teachers and community members and even Chance the Rapper began an advocacy campaign that fought CPS and the other communities seeking to turn the elementary school into a high school. After a year of organizing, advocacy and legal battles, not only did they win a court injunction granting a reversal of the closing but CPS completely abandoned plans to convert the school. This is a huge win for the NTA family, and also a win for parents all across the country who are fighting for their child’s education. Here’s the takeaway: Last week I wrote a piece about how the Black education movement is growing. It’s true and NTA is a piece of that movement. We are using our voices and power. There’s evidence of wins all around the country. We have to use this momentum. There’s no more room for excuses. This should not only give us hope—it should ignite a fire. This is our time.

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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