To commemorate Black History Month, Education Post is featuring stories from parents, students and educators that connect past to present in the continued fight for better schools for Black communities using #MyBlackHistory.
I’ve never been one to go along with the crowd. I sure as heck won’t be doing so when it comes to the development of my children’s minds. I am not exactly sure where I got my rebel instincts. But even as a kid I remember taking an approach that said “question everything.” Try to think it through before you just jump in.
Why did all of the boys in my neighborhood play basketball instead of another sport? I realized that it wasn’t just because Black boys are predisposed to love basketball; it was because that was the easiest sport to access. They even turned the tennis court at Parkside and Adams in my Westside neighborhood of Chicago into a basketball court. But, there was a golf course in Columbus Park. And that’s where I wanted to hang. As I got older, I realized that a lot of times the world was just like our selection of sports activities when I was growing up: The most popular decision is usually the easiest decision and the easiest decision is very rarely the best. This reality confronted my wife and I when our first child was born. We knew that our daughter would grow fast and need a school soon. And we knew that the majority of our peers would do the same thing that the vast majority of Black families in America do, find a school and enroll them. Some of our friends would have good fortune to live in a community with a “good” public school and some would get into specialized programs. Some would have the wherewithal to send their babies to private schools and some would just accept the realities of their street address and send their children to the zoned public school. But none of that seemed right to us. So, we questioned. We looked into it. What did we find? We found a system of standards that we thought could be summed up in a short phrase, “low expectations.” We found a system that was normalizing patterns of thought and behavior that offended our Christian sensibilities. We found a system that had a terrible track record of performance when it comes to the cultivation of the Black mind and one short on ideas about how to turn that around any time soon. Sure there were some rays of hope: a school with a positive culture or one with a strong Black framework. But, on the whole, the system just didn’t seem designed for our Black kids. So we did what we had to do. We found a way to resist. We decided to home-school our children. Two years in, my 5-year-old is working through a second- and third-grade curriculum in a safe environment with people who love her faith, her culture and her beautiful, brown skin. And the boys are ready to follow in her footsteps. We’re not alone. Inner-city Black families are the largest growing population of home-schoolers in America. I believe that this growth in Black home-schooling families is a sign of a growing resistance—a quiet, radical non-participation that puts the rescue of Black minds in the place where perhaps it should have been all along…in the Black home.
Chris Butler is first a husband and a dad. He has been involved across the spectrum of public engagement activities and has worked with a number of diverse constituencies in urban and suburban communities. He has also been involved in several political campaigns including his service as a youth and young adult coordinator for Barack Obama’s primary bid for U.S. Senate.