Congratulations, America! You’ve once again managed to provide the shittiest public education for Black students and families. So as we close out this decade and enter a new year, I’ve taken the liberty of highlighting some of these moments, policies and practices that have upheld your deep-rooted oppression!
Lock Them Up!
In 2016, we allowed what has to be the world’s most notorious ignoramus and renowned racist—Donald Trump—into the White House. His agenda was to undo everything President Obama did, including guidelines that protected students of color.
In 2014, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education issued the “Dear Colleague” letter as a reminder to elementary and secondary schools on laws prohibiting them from unfairly and harshly punishing students because of the color of their skin. This letter also included guidance on how to remedy discriminatory discipline.
Black students—specifically Black boys—were (and are) being suspended at significantly higher rates than White students with obvious effects on their academic achievement. So this was a step in the right direction. But for no good reason at all, Donald gave marching orders to one of his minions—U.S. Department of Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos—that rolled back those guidelines.
So while we were once on a path to dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline and closing the achievement gap, Donald and Betsy stopped us dead in our tracks. At this rate, why waste time? Just send Black kids right to jail.
Privilege Trumped Progressivism
I’ve never watched that show called “The Masked Singer” but I think we should do a spin-off called “The Masked Progressive” where everyday liberals, politicians and community leaders are exposed for their fake advocacy and false promises to marginalized communities.
Politicians have caught wind of Black people’s dwindling support and are rebranding themselves as progressives to win their votes. But deep down inside, they’re still self-serving politicians trying to protect their own interests and privilege.
We have 2020 presidential candidates like Cory Booker running on a progressive platform but flip-flopping on his school choice stance. And while he brags about still living in the hood he grew up in, I’m sure inconsistent advocacy doesn’t help the people living in his neighborhood—those who don’t have a clear pathway to Stanford and Yale like he did.
In an attempt to save face with the public and the unions, weeks later she pretty much told parents if they don’t like your public school, go fix it. But hell, she didn’t do that—she took her kids out of a public school she felt wasn’t working and put them in private school.
In 2016, the NAACP called for a charter moratorium. I found it interesting but was also disappointed by how they chose to come out of the closet on that issue considering they’ve been pretty much quiet about the state of education for Black people since the Civil Rights era.
For the record, if anything is being destroyed, it’s the futures of Black kids who are still stuck in failing schools governed by this traditional system that was never designed to help them succeed. And as an honorable mention, if traditional schools were doing their damn jobs, charter schools wouldn’t even exist.
If you’ve been paying attention to my previous H+O’s, you know that I’m pro-great school, regardless of model. So not only do I believe these anti-choice pundits are wrong, I’m disappointed by people like Andre Perry whose latest assertion is the charter school fight isn’t Black peoples’ to fight. Because if we allow the walls to keep closing in on our choices without pushing back, we’ll end up squashed by this one-size-fits-all, failing system. And I bet this decade probably left the 46% of Black parents that support charter schools feeling a little confined.
You Is Black, You Is Dumb and You Is Untalented
The last 10 years have screamed, “Hey Black kids, we don’t believe in you and you shouldn’t believe in yourselves!”
Then just in 2018 and 2019 alone, Memphis, Houston, New Orleans, Washington D.C. and a few other cities were at the center of controversy for schemes involving changing students’ grades and academic records.
The T.M. Landry College Preparatory School scandal is the most outrageous with allegations of physical and mental abuse towards students and forced, bogus lies on college applications that sent students to Ivy League schools thirsty to meet diversity quotas.
And all of these schools had majority Black student populations.
Look, I’m sure teachers and administrators feel an immense amount of pressure to ensure students are meeting academic standards and graduating from high school. But that’s no excuse for falsifying grades, records and passing students along to attend college unprepared.
Leave the B.S. in 2019
I made light of these situations in my opening but all jokes and snarky sarcasm aside, the state of public education and treatment of Black students is no laughing matter. Because while there has been some progression, these policies and practices embedded in and influenced by systemic racism and historic oppression that have left Black students lagging at the tail-end of the achievement gap.
Looking at the past and where we are now, I don’t have much faith in the “powers that be” to equalize public education for Black kids. In fact, I expect them to keep pretending like they’re doing the best they can to educate Black kids and acting like Black kids just can’t learn.
My faith lies entirely in our communities. We’re tired. We’re catching wind of the B.S. and we’re slowly but surely fighting back. And because of that, we’ll turn things around for our kids.
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 ...