Mayor and Presidential Candidate Pete Buttigieg Is Lying on Black Families Who Want a Better Education

Mayor Buttigieg, a presidential candidate who was gaining in some polls and in Iowa, wows some folks with his talk about equity, also, like most politicians (and educators for that matter) appears to operate with a deficit mindset about Black and Brown students.

A video of an interview the presidential candidate did where he claimed the issue with underachievement is that Black kids didn’t have any role models, recently surfaced giving deeper insight into how Mayor Pete really feels. It’s no surprise. I am sure as a mayor and presidential candidate, Mayor Pete hasn’t been speaking to folks who actually educate the Black children he maligns in the video.

While running for mayor in 2011, the then-candidate while speaking about poor minority children, expressed, “‘Kids’ from ‘lower income, minority neighborhoods’ don’t have ‘someone they know personally who testifies to the value of education.’”

As teacher and administrator for twenty-six years, I can attest that it is a boldface lie.

What Mayor Pete, and others who buy into Black pathology, must realize is that it is not that Black communities don’t value education, but rather they recognize that there’s a huge difference between an education and what is typically tossed at their children. They know, with certainty, that the white folks on the other side of the tracks or across City Avenue have a wholly different educational experience

One is an education, the other is not. If poor Black communities devalue anything, it is the crap that folks try to spin. 

In the “Root,” Michael Harriot, calls Mayor Pete a lying MF:

Mayor Pete’s bullshittery is not just wrong, it is proof.

It proves men like him are more willing to perpetuate the fantastic narrative of negro neighborhoods needing more role models and briefcase-carriers than make the people in power stare into the sun and see the blinding light of racism. Get-along moderates would rather make shit up out of whole cloth than wade into the waters of reality. Pete Buttigieg doesn’t want to change anything. He just wants to be something.

This is not just a lie of omission, it is a dangerous precedent. This is why institutional inequality persists. Not because of white hoods and racial slurs. It is because this insidious double-talk erases the problem by camouflaging it. Because it is painted as a problem of black lethargy and not white apathy. Pete Buttigieg is standing over a dying man, holding the oxygen machine in his hand and telling everyone:

Nah, he doesn’t need CPR. He’s just holding his breath.

Mayor Pete, newsflash, Black, Native, and Brown children, receiving educational scraps want to be something, too. I am not sure who is your educational policy person today, but I hope it is someone from the communities you thought don’t care about education. They have a lot they can teach you.

Sharif El-Mekki
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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