Last week marked 64 years since the Supreme Court ended segregation in our schools. The Brown v. Board of Education ruling overturned Plessy v. Ferguson—the “separate but equal” law—supposedly so that Black children could have a fair and equal chance at a quality education.
And while the Constitution does not recognize education as a fundamental right, the 14th Amendment requires every state that establishes public schools to provide the children of that state equal access to an education.
Yet today, the racial tension of yesteryear is back and on the rise. In actuality, it has been lying dormant, replaced with covert Jim Crow-ism and systemic colonization—the remnants of ole’ Jim Crow in unrestricted forms of squalor, poor housing, hunger, cheap labor and high rates of illiteracy.
It makes me recall the reflection of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to civil rights activist Harry Belafonte: “I’ve come upon something that disturbs me deeply. We have fought hard and long for integration, as I believe we should have, and I know that we will win. But I’ve come to believe we’re integrating into a burning house.”
Indeed, when we think of where Black America is with public education, too many of our children’s educational careers are in an inferno consumed to rubbish.
One look at the dismal and horrifying statistics provided in the State of America’s Children 2017 by the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), provides evidence enough that Black children’s educational futures are of no priority to this country. In 2015, 85 percent of Black public school eighth-graders could not read at grade level. In 2012, nearly one out of every four Black public high school students got an out-of-school suspension—for White students it was only one out of 15.
This is unbelievable and totally unacceptable!
The intentions of integration were for Black children to attend racially diverse schools for stronger academic outcomes—thus opening doors to prosperity. Instead, it is an educational system that is still profoundly segregated based mostly on housing and neighborhood segregation, and it is anything but equal and fair for Black children.
A “wake-up-call” for Black America is long overdue!
White America seems to want no parts of the Black community (action speaks louder than words) unless they can push social programs under the pretense of “saving “poor Black children from themselves, while maintaining their privileged lifestyle while doing so.
Black America can put an end to this now!
Not only is Black America beautiful but it is also powerful. It has enough wealth in brain power to provide its own children a first-class education— turning White America’s education system on its heels.
Blacks must first determine that they are their own experts—no longer needing validation from a system that doesn’t care for its existence. Black America must be willing to pull together their resources and educate its own. It can be done!
It was done in 1870 when Blacks established the nation’s first public high school for Blacks. The Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., was an elitist preparatory school— the mecca of Black education, with a legacy of excellence that has been recorded many times over.
In a most recent account, “First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America’s First Black Public High School,” by Alison Stewart, she examines how in spite of legalized segregation, the Black community rallied for a better education, pulling together its resources, employing the highest caliber of teachers, and creating an academic standard that even White schools could not contend with.
If it was done once before, it can be done again!
We can also look to other racial and ethnic groups for examples. When I taught in Philadelphia, I would often wonder where the schools were for children of Asian descent. I figured they were mostly being educated in private schools they had created for themselves, probably in Chinatown.
It turned out there was a public school, the Folks Arts-Cultural Treasures Charter School (FACTS) in Chinatown. So I took a look and was very impressed with my discovery. It was established “out of a history of struggle for equity and justice for Asian-American students and immigrant and refugee students of all races in the public schools.”
Am I opposed to integration? No, I’m not totally opposed to integrating schools.
Recently, I had the pleasure of standing with an impressive crowd of 8,000 for “forever First Lady” Michelle Obama’s #CollegeSigningDay 2018, at Temple University. Standing amid the massive crowds that were sparkling and shining with an array of children from every creed, culture, and socioeconomic background, I have to say, I nearly lost my composure.
I began to tear up at the thought that, just over sixty short years ago, Black people were being terrorized, tortured, and in many incidences, killed for the chance to live and learn alongside White folks.
But, the current superficial “post-integration” era is failing our children. What other option is there but to create our own schools?
Black America, surely it can be done!
I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept ~ Angela Y. Davis