Editorial

Why School Choice Is Important To African-American Students: Origins of Inequality In Public Education 

Sankofa Middle School sports culturally empowered colored lockers – Black, Red, and Green

Editorial | by Nehemiah D. Frank

In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated schools were unconstitutional. Upon the Justices’ decision, African-American students were forced to integrate into majority white schools. However, white students were not required to attend majority African-American schools.

The Justices’ ruling was decided on Oliver Brown’s desire to send his daughter, Linda, to an all white school that was conveniently located near their home in Topeka, KS which had presumably “better educational opportunities” for his daughter.

Social American Culture Shock

In retrospect, perhaps the Justices’ did not think about the negative repercussions of their ruling. After all, it was 1954, and the nation had not yet celebrated the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, which occurred in 1863.  This means there were once enslaved elders living during the early civil rights era.

When Brown v. Board of Education was decided it caused Plessy v. Ferguson to be simultaneously overturned too, which threw the entire south into a state of culture shock.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Culture Shock: as a sense of confusion and uncertainty sometimes with feelings of anxiety that may affect people exposed to an alien culture or environment without adequate preparation

The decision came only 91 years after slavery had ended. It was the same year that de jure (i.e. segregation by law) segregation was ruled unconstitutional. My argument is, it was too much systematic change in too short of period in time. On account of that, the American south went into culture shock; and today our nation is still experiencing the aftershocks of that landmark decision.

Back in 1954 – expectedly, enraged white students hurled threats and epithets at their African-American classmates’ first day of integrated schooling; in some school districts, as many as 2,000 white students boycotted going to schools that allowed African-Americans students to attend.

American Justices, not social scholars, forced this idea of an integrated school system on their youth without demonstrating a desegregated American workforce.

Hence, desegregating schools was a real-time social science experiment on the macro scale, and no one could have ever predicted the outcome of its hypothesis. 

Immediately upon their decision, middle and upper-class white’s began relocating to the suburbs so their children could attend majority white schools. Wealthier whites moved their children into private schools. And those who refused to move rezoned, African Americans out of their school districts. 

We would be foolish not to think many of the teachers that taught black students, in 1954 and throughout the heyday of the 60s movement, didn’t share the same thoughts as whites who relocated to the suburbs or the ones who rezoned African Americans out of their school district. 

What’s worse, we trusted them with our children and their system failed us and left an achievement gap inbetween white and black students that has been predicted to take 200 years to close. 

No Adequate Preparation For Desegregation 

  • White teachers were forced to teach students of color without proper training (i.e. cultural competency classes). Today, most white teachers do not know how to connect to their African-American students because they did not grow-up with African-Americans as classmates, or many  of them may have never had African-Americans as friends. Furthermore, white teachers during the 50s and  even today come from middle and upper-class families; whereas, many African-American students come from lower-middle and economically depressed communities – a direct result of institutional racism via chattel slavery and Jim Crow. Relatability is a major  issue.
  • A large majority of white American teachers have internalized racist ideas about their African-American students. Subconscious biases that  may prevent them from believing  that African American students are capable of succeeding in Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate classes. Hence, African-American students are far too often disenfranchised by white thought.
  • The genesis of this subconscious racialized way of thought originates in policies that were passed in our states past. For example, it was against the law for an African American to act more intelligent than whites. (see Hannibal Johnson’s Apartheid in Indian Country (Seeing Red Over BlackDisenfranchisement).
  • African-American students were expected to understand and follow the cultural norms of white American society. Anyone with an ounce of self-pride would have found it difficult to control themselves with classmates who they knew presumably held xenophobic biases against them.

Not Enough Positive Exposure To The Other Culture and Feelings of Anxiety 

  • White and African-American students were expected to, eventually, get along; yet, in 2017, African-American students are still mocked, bullied, and even murdered by racist classmates. Still expelled and arrested at higher rates than white students. And still academically discriminated against by white teachers.
  • Both cohorts were expected to learn white American history, and although culturally empowering to white students, not taking a balanced approach to the cultural aspects of all ethnic contributions to American history in education is not culturally empowering to African-American students, but has and still remains a detriment to their psychological development and self-esteem.

Where Are All the African-American Teachers? 

•Only 7 percent of American teachers are African-American.

•Over 63 percent of American teachers working in African-American communities are White.

Only 2 percent of American teachers are African-American men.

  • Fact, white parents, did not want their children taught by African-American teachers in 1954 and many whites do not want African-Americans as teachers today. The majority of the population at that time, and some still have that narrow minded ideological thought today, did not believe African-American teachers possessed the intelligence to teach white children. Once again, this type of thought was not only perpetuated in Hollywood but was legally enforced. Again: For example, in the state of Oklahoma, it was against the law for an African American to act smarter than whites. (see Hannibal Johnson’s Apartheid in Indian Country Seeing Red Over Black Disenfranchisement).

This failed social science experiment of integrating all American schools without a proper tested module has led to the nearly cemented school-to-prison-pipeline and  African-Americans are the largest group in that pipeline. 

Today, social scientists can correlate the number of prison beds needed in 20 yrs. and can do so based on calculating the number of third-graders that fail the third-grade standardized reading test each year.

If African Americans continue sending their children to failing schools as many as 1 in 3 African-American males will be incarcerated in the future.

African-American students have a higher probability of landing in prison if they attend low performing and failing schools.

DSCN0109.JPG

Academy Central is the site for the New Greenwood Leadership Academy

This is Why School Choice Is So Important To African-American Students

Until Tulsa Public Schools can demonstrate a better outcome 48 African-American students, African-American student should have a choice to attend other schools that have a proven track record of academic success. 

Research indicates between the third, fourth, and fifth grades black students, who are exposed to teachers who look like them are 

(1) less likely to leave high school before graduating and 

(2) more likely to pursue an advanced degree.

Unsurprisingly a study, conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, found that America’s current teaching workforce is majority white.

Why Having An African-American Teacher Matters?

•The probability an African-American student drops out before earning their high school diploma decreased by 29 percent when exposed to a teacher who looks like them.

•The likelihood of a black male student dropping out before graduating from high school fell by 39 percent when exposed to a black male teacher.

•Black pupils of both sexes are more likely to attend a four-year institution when they’ve had black teachers.

The study also found that white students are less inclined to believe racial stereotypes when they have a black teacher.

DSCN0073

Black Teacher Shortages in the State of Oklahoma

•Black men are 1.9% of the teacher working in Tulsa where 24% of the elementary students are black.

•Black men represent 2.9% of elementary teachers working in Oklahoma City.

•Black men represent 0.5% of elementary teachers working in Edmond where 15% of the elementary students are black.

Oklahoma is a challenging place to solve the problem of black teacher shortages because of the state’s ongoing budget problems and discriminatory past. However, it should not be a deterrence from what is of the utmost importance – educating our youth. 

Once again, African-American families should have the option of sending their children to wherever they strategically think their child will be more successful.

No child should have to be subjected to a system of education that continues to fail, study after study and project after project. Our children are not lab rats waiting to undergo the next social science experiment that ends in a disaster. They are the next generation of leaders and leaders cannot be reared in environments with individuals who are ill trained and poorly resourced.

School Recommendations For Fall 2017 

*Schools are rated by state test scores for grades third and up.

Greenwood Leadership Academy (pre-K through first-grade)

Debra Brown Community Schools (Elementary) – Grade A+ 

Sankofa Middle School – Grade B+

If we’ve missed a school that you think should be on this list please contact us. 

iStock-510398013-960x600