Scarcity and Hoarding

Hi Friends,

Happy 2022! We’re still here, still holding on. Thank you for continuing this work into the new year.

Last time, I talked about our actions as a society from a scarcity mentality, which reinforces a hierarchy of human value and prevents a focus on universal human rights. I’d like to look at scarcity in more detail, especially as it pertains to resource and opportunity hoarding. (Whytni, thank you for asking me about this!)

One example of scarcity is Black Friday, especially this past year because of supply chain challenges (which continue). Remember at the beginning of the pandemic, the panicked run on toilet paper and other essentials when things were shutting down in March 2020? Unfortunately, fear of scarcity can lead to actual scarcity. It’s a fair thing to be concerned that you won’t have the things you need, but fear can lead us to hoarding more than we need, thereby depriving others of what they need. And, the context of our culture means that we’re told from every angle that we need more things than we actually do.

I’m thinking a lot about scarcity in the context of education because for many school districts around the country, it’s school choice time. I recently read Learning In Public and it has some really on-the-nose observations about the panic parents engage in when they try to get “the best” school for their kids. The experience, from everyone I have talked to, is pretty awful, sometimes damaging relationships, inducing high amounts of stress, and even affecting our kids’ well-being. Why do we do this? (Fear.) What are we afraid of? (Failure — as defined by others.)

Consider these questions:
- What would an abundance of quality education look like?
- Can we use our impulse to get the best for our kids to instead advocate for quality education for every kid?
- What do we value in a school that might better serve our children (and all children)?
- Do we want our children to attend certain schools because “everyone says it’s the best” or for our own reasons?
- How do our choices ensure that some schools have more resources and opportunities for students than others?
- What could we change so that every school has adequate resources and opportunities to offer their students?
(Shout out to Integrated Schools, yet again, and especially their Awkward Conversations guide.)

We don’t have to fear scarcity and spend hours going on school tours or bribing administrators or despairing that we will fail our children and their futures. We can choose to stop hoarding the “best” schools and instead change what role we want our schools to play in our childrens’ lives. Wikipedia had a very insightful paragraph about this:

“In the school context, opportunity hoarding contributes to the educational achievement gap when parents ensure that their children to get all the educational needs that they believe their children need to have so they “do not fail” in both school and the greater economic environment among their peers, the workplace to the disadvantage of students from historically marginalized groups.” and “…opportunity hoarding has been identified as one of the components of collective violence that sustain a spectrum of inequalities between members of a society.”

There are so many examples of the ways White, privileged families make these hoarding choices. One of the most striking examples to me was hearing about resource hoarding in the gifted community. Families scrambling to find support for their gifted students were keeping the resources they found to themselves, refusing to share information or opportunities with each other because they were so panicked about getting those things only for their kid. What does this teach our children about being in community with others? How does this cutthroat mindset make us feel? Is this how we want to live?

I’m so inspired by the stories I hear from you about your anti-racist work in your communities. I want to share something from one of my former colleagues in Arlington’s CCPTA. She spoke up at a School Board meeting connecting advantaged children and disadvantaged children by pointing out that one kid can be both simultaneously. She wanted to call attention to the divisive idea that equity “dumbs down standards for [white] children.” Her approach resists divisions, instead focusing on what communities need to do in order to love every child in their schools. (You can hear her words in the November 16 meeting at 38:35.)

I also appreciated Miriam A. Rollin’s description of what education equity looks like (you can ignore the headline and the beginning). If you’re at all concerned about the future of our democracy, education (equitable education) is at the heart of it. Nikole Hannah-Jones also touches on hoarding in her interview with Chris Hayes.

The perception that White students lose something when disadvantaged students have their needs addressed is a white supremacist message. It creates division among those who would unite, stokes fear instead of love or solidarity. It creates competition instead of community. Equity means that everyone gets what they need. The only thing lost by turning away from white supremacy is competitive advantage, like steroids in professional sports, a system of unfairness that takes away from all of us.

White supremacy in our culture keeps us in the childhood stage of being developmentally unable to share, grabbing for all of the toys in sight with a desperate “MINE!” Rejecting this mentality frees us all. We are stunted in our ability to resist because we have been fed fairy tales of the American Dream and fairness and equality. Our democracy, our country, is truly amazing AND flawed, just like each of us is neither all good or all bad. If we want to live up to its promises and inspiration, we must reject white supremacy and hear the truth.

Listen. Amplify. Follow. In Solidarity.