Hoping that everyone is enjoying the summer and my weekly nourishments for the mind.
In the words of the great DJ Khaled…Another one!
My daughter is going into her senior year of high school, which means senioritis, prom and the most important part- college applications and selection. As I’m getting ready to bite my acrylic nails down to the nub with the anxiety of handling this momentous year, I think back to almost four years ago when we went through the high school application process. Now for all y’all NYC parents, you know this process and waiting to find out where your child has been accepted are more stressful than waiting for the 2016 presidential election outcome and sometimes the results are just as devastating.
When my daughter applied to high school, we lived in District 10 in the Bronx. For anyone who knows the area, some of our schools include DeWitt Clinton (my alma mater) and John F. Kennedy high school. Now don’t get it twisted, I rep the BX all day, but the schools…not so much. As a parent, I take into consideration, graduation rate, college acceptance rates and safety. So I applied to District 2 high schools only. District 2 is in Manhattan and starts around the Financial District up to and including the Upper East Side and up to about 59th Street on the West Side. These are where the majority of the “good schools” are and ultimately she ended up in a District 2 school where she and I are both happy.
But it ain’t all peaches and cream. Let me explain but for that I need to go back in time to 1954.
Brown v. Board of Education
So for all y’all who passed U.S. History, you know about Brown v. Board of Education. It’s the landmark Supreme Court case in 1954 that desegregated public schools and overturned the 1896 case Plessy v. Ferguson that said “separate but equal”. Now Black kids could go to school with White kids and live in peace, harmony, equality, rainbows and puppies. Ever since 1954, we’ve been running around, patting ourselves on our progressive backs saying that this catapulted the Civil Rights Movement and showed that America was growing up.
I’m going to rate this decision out of a possible 5 “Girl bye’s” and give Brown v. Board a “4.”
I know, I know. This is sacrilege. How dare I speak against progress for my folks? But I’m gonna argue that you only see it as progress if you hear only one side of the story, which is the dominant story, or the story you get when you have entered “The Wypipo Zone.”
Brown v. Board of Education Uncut
One of my favorite things to do, besides watching Love and Hip Hop, is listen to podcasts. Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History is another jewel and if you don’t listen to any other episode, you have to listen to the one dated June 29th called “Miss Buchanan’s Period of Adjustment.” It goes deeper into the Brown v. Board case and all the things you don’t learn in your textbooks, classrooms and anything else White folks orchestrate. So here are all the reasons why I’m side-eyeing everything I’ve learned about this decision:
What was this case really about?
We have all been taught that Brown v. Board was about the fact that segregation created unequal conditions for Blacks. Black schools got poorer quality textbooks, teachers and facilities and as a result, students received a poorer education and this is not to say that this wasn’t true in some cases. But imagine the expression on my Black ass face when two of the plaintiffs, Darlene and Oliver Brown said that the real issue was simply that they wanted choice for their daughter, Linda. They actually praised the hell out of their Black schools and the academic and social/emotional competence of their children’s Black teachers, but the Black schools were sometimes farther away and they just didn’t want white folks telling them where they could and could not go to school.
I’m like, wait a, wait a, wait a minute, one got damn minute.
So black schools were dope, Black parents just wanted some control, some POWER. As a result, White folks were like “Oh hell to the nah”. That is not the narrative we’re going to the courts with. We can all imagine what the headlines to this case would’ve been- something like, “Uppity Niggers Want Options- What’s America Coming To?” So in the name of progress, they decided they were going to stick to the old “something’s wrong with Black people“ story. This is where the doll test comes in and makes people feel bad for Black people and as a result, we got integration. Ok Brown v. Board. You just earned your first Girl Bye.
Who had to do the integrating?
Let me just say, crackers be crafty y’all and let me tell you why. We got integration but based on my new lens, Black people were the only ones who had to integrate. What I mean is, Black folks were taken out of their communities and forced to go to all White communities to receive a “better” education. This is when bussing became a thing. Why weren’t the White students bussed to Black communities? Why weren’t Black teachers teaching White students? There wasn’t a fair exchange and America reinforced white supremacy by showing us that we had to leave the hood to get ahead. This is how sneaky White supremacy is because that is a mindset that is ingrained in many Black folks to this day. With integration, came violence. Let’s not forget the Little Rock Nine, who needed the National Guard to ensure that they would not be harmed when entering Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Their bodies and lives were on the line while White people’s pride and ignorance were at risk. I don’t recall any wypipo fearing for their lives as they walked through an angry mob of Black folks to get to school. You can look for that picture. Don’t worry. I’ll wait… Congratulations Brown v. Board. You earned another Girl Bye and advance to level 3.
Where did all those dope Black schools go?
Where do you think they went? They got rid of them. The thinking was, if y’all need integration then you don’t need all Black schools and if you don’t need all Black schools, guess what else you don’t need? Those Black ass teachers. They were gone with the wind and I don’t mean fabulous. Not only were Black kids being experimented on by seeing how well they could endure in mostly all white spaces but when they came back to their communities, they were met with their former teachers standing on the unemployment line. They also lost the cultural connection with their teachers. It means a lot to see someone that looks like you, who’s teaching you and holding you to a high standard. Black students lost that and to be honest, we’ve never gotten it back. Have you seen the percentage of White teachers in education versus Black ones? I rest my case. Girl bye granted.
How does this relate to me, personally?
As I stated earlier, the high school process is stressful. While I feel empowered to “choose” the high school my child can attend (I use quotation marks because while you can list 13 schools on your application, an algorithm ultimately matches your child to a school,) I also knew that my choices were still limited because I subscribed to the idea that in order for my daughter to be successful, she couldn’t go to a school in her own hood. It bothers me because all schools should be high quality schools but unfortunately that’s not the case. To the second point I made, our kids typically have to travel to the “good schools.” I feel like my daughter has already studied abroad considering the hour commute she takes one way each day. Lastly, while she goes to a school that has predominantly Black and Brown students, the staff, with the exception of the administration, is predominantly White. I am beyond satisfied with the academic part of her education but as she and I discuss college, she is strongly considering going to an HBCU (Historically Black College and University) because there is something missing from her educational experience and that is cultural connection.
Because 63 years later, we are still out here in these streets complaining about the same issues, I’m going to give my final girl bye to this court decision.
- What have you been teaching students about this groundbreaking case and its “real” impact on Black people and people of color?
- This episode of Revisionist History is the perfect counter-argument to the benefits of Brown v. Board. I could’ve sworn there was something about counterclaim in the Common Core Learning Standards. I’m just sayin’…you’re welcome.
- Have we really discussed the ways segregation is still alive and well in neighborhoods and especially in the NYC public school system? So really, how far have we come?
- What are students’ perceptions of the education that they receive and what kind of education do they think they would receive in a predominately White school versus a predominately Black school? There’s a documentary called American Promise that shows two Black boys who go to a prestigious NYC private school and how that affects them. This could be another teaching tool. Check that out.
- Don’t just show the other side of the story in THIS case but the other side of Reconstruction, emancipation and all of the things that were supposed to be huge leaps for Black folks. Laws have never protected us because honestly. I believe when laws are written for Black folks, they’re written on wet napkins so I have little faith in them anyway.
Keep educating, keep being culturally responsive and keep side-eyeing all of the things that work against Blackness.