While We're Stuck On Blackface, Black Faces Continue to Suffer in a Racist School System

Feb 8, 2019 12:00:00 AM


Yeah, I said it. All week, on social media and news outlets, there’s been coverage of Virginia’s Governor, Ralph Northam, denying claims of wearing blackface in the ’80s and refusing to resign over the controversy. https://twitter.com/NAACP/status/1093365169823141888 First of all, why are we surprised by racists doing racist things when racism is forever embedded in America’s DNA? They know what they’re doing when they do it, get caught, apologize and everyone moves on with life until the next incident happens. Sadly, it’s the American way. But, I was a little irritated to see Black public figures making this the biggest deal. I turned to CNN the other night and Don Lemon had a segment on it. Spike Lee was on the Anderson Cooper show going off and Al Sharpton was calling for resignation in The Hill. https://twitter.com/AC360/status/1093333336641069056 I get it. It’s a continuous slap in the face, we’re tired of being mistreated, want to take a stand and it’s a trending topic. But these leaders have the platform and ample opportunities to amplify much larger issues that directly affect our community and they’re not fully taking advantage. Because while we’re in an uproar over blackface, Black faces continue to perish academically in a racially biased and discriminatory school system. We all have to be outraged about that. Hey, Don, can you carve out some time to talk about how Black pre-K students are being suspended at alarming rates? Apparently they’re being so aggressive with the Play-Doh that their teachers deem them a threat. Yo, Spike! Did you know that Black kids in the suburbs of your home state of New York were catching hell, too? Not only are they being unfairly suspended but they’re also being held from taking AP classes because of the color of their skin—something we like to call the belief gap. https://twitter.com/cristymsilva/status/1092526629245444096   And Mr. Sharpton, perhaps you can use your position as a Civil Rights icon and activist to talk about how White boys are headed down the school-to-politics pipeline while Black boys are headed down the school-to-prison pipeline—and the only way to fight it is through building the school-to-activism pipeline. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are some celebrities using their platform to talk about education. Like, I was so glad to see Killer Mike and DJ Envy get into a heated debate about school options for Black kids on The Breakfast Club—a radio show that has a large Black audience.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vMRqk0wgH8   Jay Z and John Legend have consistently weighed in on the education conversation, the need for reform and more mental health services. Some celebrities have started programs, opened and gone to bat for schools catering to underserved communities. LeBron James, P. Diddy and Chance the Rapper to name a few. And of course the best First Lady ever, Michelle Obama, has always been an advocate for better education. I’m not saying that Don, Spike and Al care about the wrong issues and nor am I saying that outrage over blackface shouldn’t be a “thing.” But it’s a smaller thing on the list of way bigger things that we need to be fighting. So I don’t know if it’s selective outrage, feeling disempowered in certain areas or a lack of awareness but we can’t go on like this. Our Black kids are in a crisis and need us to be all over it. Oh and just in case y’all missed the memo, we’re done accepting apologies for racism!

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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