Stop Trying to 'All Lives Matter' the Black Struggle for Educational Justice

Dec 13, 2018 12:00:00 AM


Outrage: White People Won't Be Satisfied Until We Make Our Struggle About Them

I get tired of people trying to “All Lives Matter” my advocacy—especially White people. When I write these pieces talking about the need for educational advocacy, justice and equity for Black students and families, I mostly get “Amen” commentary. But then there are those times when I get contentious pushback and calls for inclusion—like these two cents from Heather who responded to my piece about Black students not needing handouts. Let me clear this up for Heather and others. I wholeheartedly care about all students receiving a quality education. But I care more about justice and access to a quality education for the kids that look like me and have blatantly been wronged by this system. And for that, I am unapologetic. Because just like Black men and women disproportionately suffer from police brutality and systemic injustice, Black kids face the same obstacles in education. It started with us not even being allowed to attend the same schools as White people. And now because of redlining and other discriminatory housing practices, schools are still segregated. Funding is one of the most glaring and appalling signs of inequity. School districts with larger percentages of low-income students receive about $1,800 less per student annually. And guess who mostly lives in those low-income communities? Students of color. Don’t even get me started on the belief gap that feeds the opportunity gap. Black kids are at least 30 or more points behind White kids in reading and math scores, and they’re graduating high school and enrolling in college at lower rates. And while it’s a sad fact that kids of all backgrounds are committing suicide because of bullying, these little Black girls— McKenzie and Madison—recently killed themselves over racial bullying. Yeah, it’s become trendy to be liberal and advocate for equality in education but who’s really down to sacrifice for it? Because when asked to share, relinquish, or even acknowledge privileges that Black people can only dream of, most White people aren’t about that life. Some are even pushing for resegregation. Our struggle is not the same because unfortunately, all lives do not matter equally in this country. So I cannot and will not “adjust” my advocacy because it’s my Black kids that need my voice the most.

Hope: One Bad Apple Doesn’t Spoil The Whole Bunch

Have y’all ever seen a breaking news story on social media where a Black person committed a crime and some people’s comments generalize us all as criminals? As if every Black person got together and helped this one person conspire to commit the crime? Well I felt exactly where my Sis, Vivett Dukes, was coming from in this tweet. Just like a whole community of Black people can “go down” for the crimes of one person, Vivett was fearful that other Black educators could be crucified because of this whole T.M. Landry debacle. And rightfully so. But for every T.M. Landry, there are hundreds of Black educators challenging and supporting our kids the right way. Vivett is one of them. As an English language arts teacher in Long Island, New York, she uses her platform and experience to not only educate students but also to advocate for the disruption of the school-to-prison pipeline. So is Christopher Goins, founding principal of Butler College Prep, a 95 percent low-income and Black charter school on the far South Side of Chicago. Recognized in 2016 as the city’s best charter high school, Butler has developed initiatives that focus on college exploration and readiness through his annual HBCU college fair and tour. As Butler’s leader, Principal Goins has also cultivated an environment that encourages young Black males to become educators.   Mastery Charter School in Philadelphia is led by extremely well-known activist and educator, Sharif El-Mekki, who’s also devoted to producing more Black male educators. One special thing that Principal El-Mekki does is bring professionals of color to his school so that his students can see successful people who look like them and visualize themselves in those same positions.   And Principal Marilyn McCottrell is using data to raise standards and change outcomes for Black boys at Fuller Elementary School. These are just a few examples. The bottom line is, we can’t let one school or person taint our views or tarnish the work that all of these other educators have put in. And every time we, or the media, mentions a T.M. Landry, we need to follow up with and highlight a Mrs. Dukes, a Principal Goins or a Principal El-Mekki so that families know that there are still educators of color working in their best interest.

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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