By Any Means Necessary: What If the Privileged Actually Lived by Malcolm’s Words?

I have noticed that folks love to use quotes like Malcolm X’s famous line. He implored Black people to stop at nothing in the pursuit of freedom and justice.

A lot of folks cringed when they heard him say it then. Now, though, many who claim to love justice, equity and equal opportunity for all put these quotes on banners and GIFs like a mantra.

But are they living it? It shouldn’t just be the oppressed that will actually fight for their freedom by any means necessary. These fellow believers in justice should be in it with them. By any means necessary.

But, alas, the privileged aren’t about that life.

People like Randi Weingarten and Al Sharpton have a plethora of choices and educational options for their families. They choose their neighborhoods or the choicest of schools. Look past the grandstanding and political posturing and you see they aren’t outraged about educational injustice at all. They are immensely content.

Let’s be honest, affluent homeowners look for assurances that they won’t have to live near poor people. Privileged parents secretly relish any invisible (or conspicuous) barrier to their child needing to interact with poor or underserved children.

Affluent families rely on gated communities, deep monochrome suburbs, expensive housing and sky-high property taxes to build a waterless moat between them and families of color. They choose schools that often reflect the same mindset that is averse to being in proximity to children of more financially-straitened circumstances.

By any means necessary.

We should apply Malcolm’s message directly to our fight for those who are marginalized and poorly served in our schools. Our families should use whatever strength we can muster to resist being forced to attend any school not setting our children up for success. We cannot accept a school that negatively impacts our child’s academic, physical or emotional well-being.

To some, that means using a relative or friend’s address to attend a more desirable school.

For others, that means illegally enrolling their child in another district altogether.

For others, it means putting their Black child in a white school, where that child is the sole student of color in their class—despite what it might do to their Black child’s psyche.

These are the lengths parents will go to in order to ensure their child has access to the resources that the privileged hoard.

By any means necessary.

What it could mean is that we ensure that every single Black child in America has unmitigated access to high-quality school options. Access to choices that don’t limit these children to lotteries, criteria-based schools or other games of chance. Choices they could access just like the affluent and privileged—Black or white.

One of white America’s favorite heroes, Benjamin Franklin, is said to have cautioned, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

What if achieving educational justice for poor students of color was pursued by any means necessary?

What would this pursuit look like coming from the affluent Black and white communities who pander to each other instead of working diligently on behalf of trapped Black children?

What if the privileged said they would ensure, by any means necessary, that other people’s children have the same academic foundation and experiences as their own children?

Even the Venerated NAACP

Recently, the a member of the NAACP’s leadership team shared that her own grandchild benefits tremendously from a high-performing charter school. “Gloria Sweet-Love, a task force member, has a grandson currently attending a charter school, and she calls it “wonderful.” She highlights Tennessee’s charter school system as a national bright spot.” But instead of demanding that other people’s children have the same access to a quality school—any type of high quality school—she falls in line, bowed, bought, and bossed to demand a moratorium for one sector.

This hypocrisy is the opposite of what Malcolm stood for.

It is counter to the legacy of the NAACP, and it highlights why educational injustice prevails in this country.

Malcolm was right and still is. In this instance, Ben Franklin was also right. One doesn’t have to look any further than the morally bankrupt NAACP and other sellouts.

Families, there are others who will partner with you to fight for our communities’ rights to educational justice. I am with you in this fight.

By any means necessary.

 

What do you think?

About the author

Sharif El-Mekki

Sharif El-Mekki is the principal of Mastery Charter School–Shoemaker Campus, a neighborhood public charter school in Philadelphia that serves 750 students in grades 7-12. From 2013-2015, he was one of three principal ambassador fellows working on issues of education policy and practice with U.S. Department of Education under Secretary Arne Duncan.

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