“As parents, taking responsibility for our children’s academic and life success is something we must do, not something that is done for us-but with us.” Gwen Samuel, Founder Connecticut Parents Union
The Struggle is still so real – sigh…
The stereotypes and prejudgments about Black, brown and poor parents have become so normalized in most decision making circles, that if we, as parents of color, do not vote as a collective and take back the narrative being perpetuated about us in these circles of “education experts”, we will continue to internalize that we are incapable of making informed decisions about our children’s educational needs. Furthermore, if we don’t wake up and stay woke, we may find efforts underway to blatantly strip us of our rights as parents, using this very familiar savior mentality strategy. Note: Many are already trying to strip our communities of our voting rights.
Savior Mentality Thinking: Good Intentions * We are helping them * Hidden Motives * We want their resources * We are better than them * They are people too * They need our help * Morality * Ignorance * Obligation * Politics * We are right * Ethnocentrism * We must instill democracy * Good will * We are bringing peace * Lies* Excuses * False pretenses * Reasons * Socially acceptable * Obligation * Missionaries * Savages * Othering.
Yep – this is all very real y’all!
Needless to say, this savior mentality also perpetuates the narrative that being Black, brown and/or poor is to be a victim in need of saving because we were born Black, brown and/or into a low income family.
Last month, I had the distinct pleasure of attending a very informative education policy and reform event in Florida. Presenters discussed how education is “really” funded, how education funding is “really” spent and what education choice would “really” look like if parents, especially Black, brown, and/or poor families had full access to diverse choices in education and what it has to offer for their children!
I learned a lot about fixed and variable costs in education and I learned about hold harmless provisions that allow school districts to retain funds for students they no longer serve. I’m still trying to understand how this is a fiscally sound policy.
In addition, this education policy and reform event reaffirmed to me that being literate equals liberation because when parents are armed with knowledge about the educational process, we are able to engage tête-à-tête with power brokers in education because knowledge applied is power!
I must say I was happy, sad, and mad, all at the same time at this event.
I was happy decision makers and influencers of public policy, across party lines, were taking the time to learn more about the educational funding process to help them make informed decisions on behalf of students. However, I was also sad and mad that some decision makers and presenters really think parents, especially Black, brown, and poor families are not capable of learning or even knowing what is best for their children, as it relates to education!
In one of the sessions, a presenter even implied that if suburban parents, which I took to mean majority white parents, were to lead the charge for school choice things would be better in education for all because marginalized populations are not organized and don’t vote.
To help put this in context for me, an education advocate from Colorado Springs spoke about how their working-class community experienced the closing of schools in one of their diverse neighborhoods and the only parents who initially spoke out about the inequality of the school board’s decision were the white parents. And it was the lone Black school board member who championed their efforts and sparked a movement called, The Mad Momma’s.
These mad mommas caught the attention of a local wealthy businessman who was involved nationally with school reform and he funded their activist training to organize other parents; and, he eventually started his own private scholarship organization to give economically disadvantaged parents an opportunity to exercise educational choice.
So, why should diverse educational choices matter to parents, students, especially of color and/or the poor, lawmakers, small businesses and every other tax payer? Because education in the 21st century and the needs of our community and country is evolving around technology, innovation and the revitalization of manufacturing – this is why vocational/technical schools still matter.
ALL children are unique with different learning styles and abilities and each child has a per pupil funding amount attached to their education prek- 12 educational journey.
One size fits all students school models are not creating the skilled future workforce needed to help stabilize the economy in our states and local communities – that is a fact – just ask employers.
As the “Growing Gap Between What Business Needs and What Education Provides” Forbes article states
We don’t have a jobs crisis in the world, we have a skills crisis. Some clear evidence from this report.
● 45% of US employers say lack of skills is the “main reason” for entry-level vacancies
● Only 42% of worldwide employers believe new graduates are adequately prepared for work.
But for me, as a Black mom, it’s much bigger than just saying parents need educational choice to reduce the skills and opportunity gap. We cannot continue to perpetuate the narrative that white parents and education leaders are the saviors of Black, brown and/or poor children in education reform. As long as this savior narrative thrives, the longer “education experts” continue to devalue our contributions to help improve educational delivery systems.
We must address internalized oppression.
I couldn’t have explained “internalized oppression” better than what is written in this blog by musician, writer, mental health advocate, LGBTQ activist, filmmaker and television personality Logan Lynn entitled Internalized Oppression: The New Slavery.
The fight for civil rights continues to this day around race, gender, sexuality, class; many of us are still being told by our country that we are animals, undeserving of the same rights and protections granted to our fellow citizens, and we too often believe them. We accept the limitations put upon us by the world around us, and we perpetuate the dehumanizing messages being drilled into us because, on some level, over time, we have taken them to heart and made them our truth. In the end, we become the stereotype.”
At the end of the day, most parents, regardless of skin color or economic status, we just want our children to have more access to educational and employment opportunities than we had when we were growing up. This includes having access to diverse educational opportunities led by diverse staff in safe high-quality learning environments.
This is why I am so excited to attend and be presenting at the #StayWoke Inaugural National Black Male Educators Convening because Black educators, parents, students and community leaders are helping to dispel myths about Black people’s commitment to the academic success of marginalized students.
So please don’t count parents of color and/or the poor out of the education solution building process. Slowly but consistently, parents and other taxpayers, are no longer blindly trusting lawmakers and other decision makers, to make fiscal and human resource accountable decisions on behalf of their children and all children.
As a whole, parents from all backgrounds, are demanding protections of their constitutional right to the upbringing and education of their children. This includes the right for parents to choose the best educational opportunity to meet the academic and life needs for their children and all children despite their zip-code.
So….whatever the intentions of the so-called good intentioned folk – at the beginning, middle and end of the day- these are our children! We don’t need anyone’s permission to do what is best for them to ensure their safety, education and overall wellbeing.