THE SILENT TEARS OF BLACK MOMS AS REALITY SETS IN – OUR BLACK CHILDREN HAVE BECOME THE NEW COTTON IN PUBLIC EDUCATION
This article was first posted on www.realtalkgwensamuel.com
By Gwen Samuel
I am in a self-reflective mood this evening in need of God’s wisdom and guidance. Why? I’m in deep thought about parent rights, particularly Black parents and the erosion of their Constitutional rights and of Black children and the total dismissal of their educational rights and social emotional well-being.
We, as Black parents are crying entirely too many tears of desperation in our daily struggle for educational justice.
In addition, a dear friend of mine just passed away a few days ago, Lorraine Farrar-James from Bridgeport, Connecticut. She was a black mom and social justice activist who was taught by and walked alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I dedicate this blog to her lifelong fight for educational justice and the legacy she leaves behind. She knew that as a Black mother, her destiny was tied to all Black parents and children in their fierce fight for educational justice.
Parents- It’s Time to Move From the Sidelines into the Game of Education
We, as parents, find ourselves increasingly playing defense in the fight for our children’s future. It is time to go on the offense and change the rules of the status quo’s educational game that harms our children EVERY. SINGLE. DAY!
Just last week, I attended a Black educators event and the statement “Black kids are the New Cotton” was made among the closing remarks.
I remember taking in a sharp breath, looking around the room for facial expressions to see if I misunderstood the statement.
The participants’ deer in headlights eyes affirmed I heard what I heard and the daily fears of this Black mom for the education, social and emotional wellbeing of our black children was validated.
To be brutally honest, I felt a strong wave of hopelessness and helplessness at that very moment because hearing black children being referred to as cotton- a commodity for sale – through public education funding brought memories and stories of my grandparents and great grandparents who lived on a plantation as property to be bought and sold because the law said they were not human beings.
I had to ask myself, how far would the traditional public schools, that are totally run by teacher unions, go to maintain the status quo of keeping an unjust public education system unchanged and unchallenged?
Nobody wants to say it, but teacher unions are not supposed to have total control of an entire educational system that has multiple stakeholders and interests, the most important constituent being the student!
Charter founder Margaret Fortune doesn’t mince words on the subject:
“We have to be in a situation as Black families to hold everybody accountable for the performance of Black kids. We can’t get into a situation where Black kids are the new cotton and we’re harvesting them for their public-school funding.”
Fortune is upfront about her fundamental belief that California’s traditional public schools have a failing record when it comes to Black kids. And she sees the California Teachers’ Associations constant fight against the existence of charter schools to really mean “we can’t teach Black kids and we will not let anybody else.” Please, say it again for the people in the back, my sister.
The Constitution Matters
The constitution of this country guarantees liberty and justice for all — and that must include educational freedom. We as parents have the right to raise our children according to our values, culture, and beliefs.
As parents, we need to move from being just empowered to in power thus choosing the best educational option for our children. We deserve and demand the right to prioritize the safety and academic success of our children. Our babies deserve their God given right to be free to learn, thrive and grow. Our children deserve to be free from abuse and educational neglect from a public educational system that deems them inferior and not worth educating or respecting.
In recent years, I have noticed changes in law and public policy that trample on parental choice in public education. These attacks on our freedom often come in the form of moratoriums and caps being placed on high quality public charter schools—schools that are in high demand and serve majority Black and Hispanic children in many urban communities.
Just this week marginalized communities from across the country felt the sting of anti- parental choice from the House Democrats when they released their spending bill—it includes a recommended $40 million reduction from the federal charter school grant program but an $18 million increase to magnet schools. Unlike most charters, most magnet schools are run by very traditional thinking school districts that value their teacher’s union and their multimillion-dollar perks more than their Black and Hispanic children and their right to a safe and just education. How do I know? I got receipts!
In my state of Connecticut, magnet schools use racial quotas that deny access to Hartford’s eligible Black and Hispanic children on wait lists though they live in the neighborhoods of these magnets. Someone explain to me how is that putting children first?
The Urgent Call To Action Because Our Kids Can’t Wait
To all Black parents, we are faced with these questions:
- To what lengths will the teacher unions and the status quo, that allows them this monopoly over public education, go to maintain an educational system that views our Black children more like a commodity for sale than little human beings in need of a safe and quality education?
- How far are we, as parents, willing to go to protect our right as parents to choose the best educational option for our children thus ensuring their safety and academicsuccess?
Let us be very clear, we are in a public education war. It is a teacher union-controlled monopoly over public education versus the constitutional rights of other people’s children in public education.
The first step is for us as parents to connect with allies, regardless of their political party, who will be honest with us about how overwhelming the fight can be against status quo protectors that work around the clock to keep our children trapped in public schools that they would never allow their own children to attend. But, let us not be fooled, just because someone says they work in parent engagement, does not mean that they are committed to informing parents of the very real threat to parent choice in public education.
We have fought too long and too hard to expand our educational choices and we will fight just as hard to protect them.
The days of Black folk picking cotton are over and the days of picking on our Black children are done. You do not have to like Black parents, but you must respect our parental choice in education!