Furthermore, if the Democratic Party wants to get in real good with the 87% of us that helped carry them to the finish line, then they have to actually be the representative and restorative body they’ve always claimed to be. Translation: Bring us to the table, give us our reparations and finally let us get a piece of that American pie—and make it sweet potato, not apple.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-college or anything. But as a first generation student who was and has seen many of my peers either financially crippled by student loan debt, arrive at school unprepared and have to head out before getting that coveted degree—or both—I’m not with pushing one more Black kid onto a campus under these conditions.
First of all, can we talk about how this country has the audacity to tell Black kids that their primary pathway to success is through higher education all while trapping them in a K-12 system where quality is damn near equal to that of a third world country? This is straight game being run on us and one way they’re doing it is through graduation rates.
Then, the absence of financial literacy courses—honestly the absence of culturally and life relevant curricula, period—in schools is a setup for failure. Many of us have and are taking out loans without an in-depth understanding of how they will impact us in the future—no knowledge of how to calculate the debt-to-income ratio and overall, or how failure to repay will stain our credit and our ability to secure loans for houses and businesses—two things known to secure and build wealth.
Let me be clear—I’m not a stickler for tests, especially not as a measurement of intelligence or ability. But, there has to be some kind of qualifiers that determine college readiness. And yes this is a controversial topic where some may argue rich white kids who attend better schools and whose parents have the coin to pay for all kinds of test prep are at a more of an advantage to ace these exams. But I’d counter back with if the K-12 system did its damn job, Black kids would have the same opportunity.
Add all of this up and what comes out? Poor Black kids being finessed by the K-12 and higher education systems that consider them liabilities instead of assets because, after all, an educated Black person is a dangerous Black person.
So going back to my original point, yeah Biden definitely has to eliminate student loan debt if he really wants to advance the economic mobility of African Americans and expand access to high-quality education as stated in his “Lift Every Voice” plan. But if the higher education system wants to lose this rap of being the newest poverty pimp on the corner then it must stop capitalizing off the failures of the K-12 system and get in the business of making sure our kids get a return on their investment, too.
A version of this piece was originally published on Blavity.
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 ...