“The thought of the inferiority of the Negro is drilled into him in almost every class he enters and in almost every book he studies.” Dr. Carter G. Woodson
Public schools, and most of the other schools, for that matter, have done very little to change this phenomenon for Black/African American children. Schools have become more relentless in their models of erasure for Black/African American children by sanitizing their cultures–deeming it invaluable and insignificant. Black/African American children are not special and whole measures are being implemented by school boards and districts to address the inequity facing Black children, but there is little to no intentionality behind these efforts.
How Do I Know?
The nomenclature used to describe non-white groups is “People of Color” in the 21st- Century. In the 70s, the terminology was “minority.” Neither of these terms is specifically used to refer to Black children, namely Black children born in the United States to parents, grandparents, etc. also born in the United States of America, who are commonly referred to as African Americans. Terms like People of Color and minority are intentionally used to address large groups of people who are racially non-white, many of whom are immigrants and/or first or second generation, naturalized Americans. These terms are also used to distribute resources across a broad spectrum of non-white groups, and Black/African American children are still performing in the lowest of all academic metrics.
No. Schools are not changing to teach Black students. And, policies like Title I and Title III being used to address the needs of other children except for Black children. Title I, a provision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act provides funding to Local Educational Agencies to provide funding to schools with high populations of students from low-income families. All children can benefit from Title I funding through their schools via initiatives like free or reduced lunch if they meet the criteria of being from low-income families. To the contrary, Title III, also a provision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, provides funding for students deemed English learners in order to help them to gain English language proficiency. Only students whose first language is other than English can benefit from this federal, United States, educational funding policy.
Black/African American children deserve and need more than exclusionary funding policies from the very government that their ancestors’ labor developed politically, socially, and economically.
What Do Black/African American Children Need?
Black children, like all children, need solid cultural foundations to affirm who they are as members of racial communities. When educational policies use limited resources to address the needs of groups deemed “minority,” Black children are still left behind on purpose. It is commonly believed that Black/African Americans do not have a culture that is valued or as valued as what immigrant groups bring with them into the United States. However, American culture is defined by the very commodities attributed to Black ingenuities and creations: Black music, Black language, Black food, Black churches, Black soul, and Black style (dress, attitude, and behavior). So, when Black children use Black vernacular as craftily captured and transposed by the likes of Zora Neale Hurston, Charles Chestnutt, and others, Black/African American children are chastised in classrooms to “speak proper English.” McDonald’s can run an entire campaign on how its consumer should feel about its products, vis a vis “I’m Lovin’ It,” yet none of the society reprimands this billion-dollar food chain for its use of Black language and culture, often called “broken” “slang,” and oftentimes viewed as dumb and “slave talk,” to sell its product.
Black/African American children who speak Black vernacular need to be valued for the language, spoken and unspoken, they bring into the classroom, not reprimanded or told to learn the art of “code-switching.” They also need policies that create funding opportunities that value and support their growth and development in schools, not the leftover funding that cannot or is not used by the wide-spread idea of what “minority” means.
Schools are not changing to teach Black/African American children because there is no urgency to do it. Politically, there are not any incumbents and/or candidates of African descent who have made Black/African American children’s needs a priority. Rather, candidates often campaign under the banner of not running to serve “Black America,” but one America. If only there existed one America. From Dr. W.E.B. DuBois’ Souls of Black Folk in 1903, there is still a double consciousness that must be addressed by elected officials, and especially Black elected officials. Furthermore, policies like Title III are discriminatory and/or the act of implementing reparations to immigrant groups that the United States government repeatedly refuses to provide Black/African Americans who are descendants of enslaved Africans brought to the United States and/or kidnapped and enslaved after having lived in the “New World” for more than two centuries before the first European colonizers–penal convicts and religious zealots who were sent to what is now the United States of America, in order to elevate from convicts and debtors to colonizers.
Socially, America loves the idea of a color-blind society that alleviates the need to discuss and address racial disparities. There is a culture of receiving gains that have not been earned and Black/African American children experience this firsthand when there are no policies like Title III to specifically address their needs. Lastly, economically, schools do not have to change to meet the needs of Black children because there is a direct profit motive not to–the school to prison pipeline. Students who are disproportionately suspended and classified for Special Education, disproportionately and by design, make up the majority of US prison populations. Students with Individualized Education Plans, or IEPs, generate more funding for schools, and too many prisons have become privatized and provide stock options that are traded on US business indexes.
No. Schools are not changing to teach Black/African American children.