Parents Perpetuating Segregated Schools

Hi Friends,

I hope you enjoyed my last post about Entitlement and Racist Actions. I want to follow up somewhat promptly with more content related to educational equity in particular, especially the ways in which PTAs are structured and the ways in which mostly White and privileged parents turn schools into commodities (“good” and “bad”) thereby upholding white supremacy and systemic racism.

There was a recent story about the DC Urban Moms forum and its role in perpetuating segregation in DC area schools. Vanessa Williamson, Jackson Gode, and Hao Sun write “‘We all want what’s best for our kids:’ Discussions of D.C. public school options in an online forum” (Brookings Institution, 3/29/21). For example, “a great deal of the activity on the forum is dedicated to discussing how to leverage the District’s complex school choice system to ensure that one’s children are in one of the small number of public schools deemed acceptable, a process that reinforces the District’s geographic and educational segregation.” These conversations are happening all over the country and are perpetuating school segregation. If you want to learn more about how to counteract this, check out the resources at Integrated Schools and join our local Arlington chapter.

I also want to call attention to the Virginia PTA “A Deeper D.I.V.E. Webinar: Courageous Conversations — Creating a Safe Space in our PTAs” that addresses inclusion in PTAs and some incredibly important takeaways about the challenges PTAs face and why (start the video from the beginning if it starts partway through). Please take the time to engage with this even if you’re not involved in a PTA — the insights are relevant for much broader applications.

My housing search in Denver has brought my work into my family’s decision-making process as we consider where we want to live after we move. Schools and neighborhoods are segregated there, too, and looking at the DOE data shows evidence of “white flight” neighborhoods. I have already connected with the local chapter of Integrated Schools there so I can listen and learn from people who have been doing this work for a while and who have an understanding of the dynamics. School segregation has also been evident in our conversations with realtors who discuss “good schools” — it has been interesting to push back on their assumptions and start to model another way of thinking for them.

Where can you push back on assumptions and start to question the racist systems that are in place all around us? What everyday conversations are you a part of that you can start to model something different that doesn’t perpetuate bias and discrimination?

Listen. Amplify. Follow.

Entitlement and Racist Actions

Hi Friends!

I’m sorry it has been longer than usual since my last update. I have some really important things on my mind, so I hope you make time to listen and internalize what I have to say.

First, I have been trying to identify things as “racist actions” rather than identifying people as racist. We all do things that are racist from time to time because we’re all operating within a racist system. It doesn’t make us bad people, it means that we need to continue to learn and listen and work hard to unlearn those racist biases so we can take more anti-racist actions than racist actions in any given day.

Second, our awareness of our privilege (and there are so many kinds of privilege) must also include awareness of entitlement. Entitlement and racist actions often go hand in hand, for example, in situations of resource hoarding — “I must get all of the best things.”

For example, claiming equity to further your own priorities (or get what you want for you or your kids) without actually listening to the people you claim to support is a racist action. Please revisit the article I shared by James Bridgeforth and Steve Desir called “OPINION: When it comes to reopening schools, it’s time for leaders to listen to Black families” (The Hechinger Report, 3/8/21). Please also internalize the data shown on the APS website for “Learning Model Enrollment Data” and understand that families of color in our community are showing their preferences with their enrollment choices — not because there are no seats available, but because many of them prefer for their students to learn virtually for a myriad of reasons.

Each and every one of us can identify ways in which our equity work has only extended as far as our own child or neighborhood or school community. We must choose to break past those comfort zones and listen to the priorities of those who are most affected by inequity. If we understand, for example, that some families feel uncomfortable returning their children to school buildings because they do not have health insurance and getting sick could mean financial ruin, what could we do to support universal healthcare access or health care reform? If we understand that some families feel uncomfortable returning their children to school buildings because they have lost multiple family members to covid-19, what could we do to address health care disparities and vaccine access equity? How can we change our work to focus on the challenges facing others rather than solely looking at the challenges that affect us?

Before you text your Black friend and ask them what their anti-racist priorities are, pause. Do not ask individual BIPOC in your life to educate you about racism. Look for the BIPOC voices that are already publicly available from people who have chosen to be vulnerable and share their perspectives and experiences. Seek out anti-racist organizations that have shared their priorities and goals and who welcome you to have these conversations. There are times when it is appropriate to ask individual people for their perspectives and input (as we would with someone we care about), but it cannot be about things that are easily addressed by Google (like “how can I be less racist?” or “what is it like to be Black?”). Imagine a man asking a woman to explain sexism to him when instead he could find the answers without putting her on the spot. Now imagine that happening every single day. Asking a person who you have privilege over to explain their oppression to you is a form of oppression.

BIPOC anti-racist leaders in our community are working tirelessly for change, attending all the meetings, talking to all the people, doing all the things. They need and deserve to work with community members who have earned their trust and who can be entrusted with listening, amplifying, and following their leadership and moving their goals and priorities forward. What steps are you taking, each and every day, to become one of those people? That is your goal. Your goal is not to support, not to help, but to listen (and believe them), amplify their words and actions, and to follow their leadership. When you are invited to lead by existing BIPOC led efforts, you will know that you are heading in the right direction. Don’t stop! Keep going.

I realize that waiting to be invited might feel disempowering or uncomfortable. Sit with that feeling. Understand that BIPOC leaders experience that feeling every day. While White people can never truly understand what it is to be a racially marginalized person in our society, we must be willing to experience discomfort and show compassion and empathy for fellow human beings. We must be willing to accept that we will not always get what we want for ourselves or for our kids. Expressing hate towards people who disagree with you does not move us forward — it only perpetuates hate. Shunning people who are not taking as many anti-racist actions as you are does not move us forward — it only centers yourself and your experiences. Instead, exercise your humility, your compassion, and your desire to bring as many people along in your anti-racist actions as you can. If people around you are taking a hateful path, speak up and change the conversation. Silence is complicity.

With all of this in mind, I am thrilled to endorse my friend, Mary Kadera, for Arlington County School Board. I recruited Mary to join the CCPTA Executive Board as Vice President because I am grateful for her ability to take a countywide approach in her advocacy for students and educational equity. She showed strong leadership instincts and a cool head when she was PTA President at McKinley Elementary School, which was part of a very divisive school boundary process. Most of all, I am endorsing Mary because she has shown a willingness to listen and true compassion for every student in Arlington. Voting in the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s 2021 School Board Caucus is taking place online from May 17–23. Please vote!

Many resources are below. I’m behind on catching up on all of the amazing resources I’ve been finding (and thinking about how best to share them with you), so I’m sending this now and I’ll follow up with more soon. (Freeing myself from perfectionism!)

- Theresa Vargas writes “A high school football team told adults they were spat on and called the n-word. Nothing changed until a player posted, ‘enough is enough!’” (Washington Post, 3/20/21)
- Hannah Natanson and Justin Jouvenal write “Asian student verbally harassed, spat at outside Fairfax middle school” (Washington Post, 3/25/21)

- Paul Waldman writes “The Opportunity Society” (The American Prospect, 5/1/12) — for insight into privilege.
Reimagine Safety is a Washington Post Editorial Board project.
- Kate Silver writes “A new guide leads travelers through U.S. civil rights history” (Washington Post, 3/19/21)
- Eli Rosenberg writes “‘People shouldn’t be afraid of the word white privilege’: New labor secretary talks inequality, racism and union power in first interview” (Washington Post, 3/24/21)

- Alafair Burke writes “Opinion: Who will march for Asian Americans after the killings in Atlanta?” (Washington Post, 3/17/21)
- Marianna Sotomayor writes “In wake of Atlanta slayings, lawmakers clash during emotional hearing about attacks on Asian Americans” (Washington Post, 3/18/21). What struck me in particular is the quote from Rep. Tom McClintock “‘If America was such hate filled, discriminatory, racist society filled with animus against Asian Americans, how do you explain the remarkable success of Asian Americans in our country?’ he asked, asserting that the community faces the fewest prejudice-driven attacks and makes the most income of any ethnic group. ‘Any racist sentiments, speech or act needs to be vigorously condemned,’ he continued, ‘but to attack our society as systemically racist, a society that has produced the most prosperous and most harmonious racial society in human history, well that’s an insult and it’s flat out wrong.’” The reason I share his words is because his assertions that talking about race is divisive, that people who are successful are not also experiencing racism, and that systemic racism does not exist — these assertions are also made by liberal progressives here in Arlington and stand directly in the way of anti-racist progress.
- Silvia Foster-Frau, Fenit Nirappil and Amy B. Wang write “After enduring racism in silence, Atlanta-area Asian Americans speak up” (Washington Post, 3/20/21)
- Petula Dvorak writes “Attacks against Asian Americans are up. It’s time to pay attention.” (Washington Post, 3/18/21)
- Viet Thanh Nguyen and Janelle Wong write “Bipartisan political rhetoric about Asia leads to anti-Asian violence here” (Washington Post, 3/19/21)
- Robin Givhan writes “Harris’s self-evident truth” (Washington Post, 3/22/21)

- Theresa Vargas writes “The diversity failures at the nation’s best public high school led officials to make changes. More are needed.” (Washington Post, 3/17/21)
- Laura Meckler and Douglas MacMillan write “‘There has to be an accounting’: Former AT&T lawyer says company systemically overcharged neediest schools” (Washington Post, 3/18/21)
- Donna St. George, Valerie Strauss, Laura Meckler, Joe Heim and Hannah Natanson write “How the outbreak is reshaping education” (Washington Post, 3/15/21)
- Laura Meckler writes “Nearly half of schools are open full-time, survey finds” (Washington Post, 3/24/21)

- Leslie Kaufman writes “To Fight Flooding, This City Plans to Renovate — and Retreat” (Bloomberg Green, 3/9/21)
- Kelsey Tamborrino writes “The wage gap that threatens Biden’s climate plan” (Politico, 4/6/21)

- Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal writes “The Enduring Fiction of Affordable Housing” (The New Republic, 4/2/21)
- Catherine Rampell writes “Rents for the rich are plummeting. Rents for the poor are rising. Why?” (Washington Post, 3/22/21)

- Mark Guarino writes “Evanston, Ill., leads the country with first reparations program for Black residents” (Washington Post, 3/22/21)

Listen. Amplify. Follow.