For the past few weeks I’ve been going in on everything and everybody I feel has a hand in blocking the progression of and crusade for educational liberation for Black kids, especially during coronavirus. Well, why break the mold? My dear Black people, it’s our turn to take the heat—because I would be an irresponsible activist and advocate if I didn’t keep it 100.
Before y’all get mad at me, there’s a method to my madness—so just hold on and hear what I have to say.
I asked our guests, Drs. Howard Fuller and Laura McGowan Robinson, if Black people bore any responsibility for the current state of public education for Black kids and Dr. Fuller immediately answered, “Yes.”
And, I agree—I’ve always agreed.
Like back in 2013, I got booed in a community meeting discussing the proposal to close over 50 schools in Chicago (schools mostly located in predominantly Black and Brown communities) because I brought up the fact that as a community, we failed to hold the district accountable.
That lapse in accountability allowed Chicago Public Schools to blissfully ignore the needs of our neighborhood schools, landing many of them at a Level 3 performance rating (at the time, the lowest standard of performance in CPS) and on probation for years—basically failing our kids and giving CPS the green light to shut down those schools in our community.
But don’t get it twisted—I also spoke on the fact that the district was the MVP (most vicious player) in this never-ending cycle of racism in the public school system and as usual, ended with a call to action.
Now here’s why, seven years later, I’m calling us out again.
If we keep skating on continued divestment and accountability, nationally it’ll be the same thing that happened in Chicago that we may never recover from—a devastating blow to the educational self-determination of Black kids.
And yes, I know we’re fighting so many other things right now but, the fight for education liberation is falling to the wayside and we can’t let it.
Y’all, America ain’t never wanted us to be educated. The excerpt below from an article about the Freedmen’s Bureau talks about the resistance they faced trying to set up schools for newly freed Black people in 1865:
Most white Southerners were resistant to the idea of letting African Americans obtain an education. They believed that the newly freed slaves would get a false hope of equality, or would aspire to live as equals with whites. They feared that with their new freedom and education, the freedmen would be less willing to work for their former owners. They believed that providing freedmen with an education was a waste of money, because they believed that blacks were unfit by nature to profit by formal education.
Over 150 years later, we’re still asking for equality and fighting for our lives to matter because America’s attitude hasn’t really changed. And with the same attitude comes the same disparities born out of the same racism. This couldn’t be more obvious in the days of coronavirus.
Before COVID, Black kids were already drowning in significant opportunity gaps and guess what? With the shit we’re seeing now as far as resource inequity coupled with increasing racial tension, they will keep drowning.
The over-criminalization of Black boys, girls and parents is prone to be more prevalent at this time—like sharks swimming in those waters our kids are drowning in, thirsty for Black lives. We’ve already seen it when in May, a Black teen was detained in a juvenile facility for not doing her homework and a trend of parents being jailed for truancy.
These practices aren’t going to stop and the trap has already been set. Because right now, over four million students of color (Black and Brown kids) are or will be locked out of the virtual classroom because they don’t have internet at home to log on for distance learning this academic year.
Easy deductive reasoning—if they don’t have internet access, they can’t “go to school.” They’ll be punished for their failure to comply, fall behind in their learning (with research showing that the virus has already caused some of them to do so), fail their current grade, or drop or be kicked out of school altogether. Parents, you’ll be blamed for all of this.
And the Federal Communications Commission and United States government could easily solve this problem by investing the estimated $80 billion it’ll take to give every family in America broadband access. Hell, that’s only a small chunk of the $900 billion we have set aside for military spending—but I guess having money for wars and not the poor is more important.
Saying all of this to say, I know we have a lot going on these days that have us pressed and stressed. And with literally everything on our plates, we really don’t have space for anything else. But, we have to make room for education—we have to. Because to be trusting of or complacent with, largely silent about or outright ignore this systemic racism that’s locked us out of classrooms for generations makes us complicit in the failure of our kids in the public school system. Stop letting this country do this to us—fighting for education is fighting for Black lives.
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 ...