African-Americans protest for equal rights in Oklahoma.
By Executive Editor Nehemiah D. Frank
Parallels of a not so distant past
Was there ever a time in our state’s history when Oklahoma students and teachers received horrible treatment as they do today?
The answer to that question is yes.
During America’s Jim Crow era, Oklahoma was all but prudent to its African-American students and teachers. In fact, the state was quite wicked and utterly unsympathetic in ensuring that African-American children did not receive a proper education.
Black teachers were paid less, received outdated textbooks with missing pages, and received physical abuse for teaching their Black pupils the US Constitution. Moreover, the state purposely allocated less funding to the majority black schools with the objective of maintaining the status quo of white supremacy.
Unfortunately, today’s legislators are treating lower and middle-class students and public school teachers of every race how white legislators treated African-American students and their Black pedagogues during legal segregation.
Why is Education the new Civil Rights Movement?
A year after the state of Oklahoma was established, legislators architected and enforced their first piece of legislation that favored the majority racial population of the state, white Americans. “White and black children were to be educated in separate schools. The faculty was to be the same race as the student.” — House Bill No. 365
“Educational provisions for black children were far inferior to that provided for white children. Per capita spent on white children was twelve to eighteen times as much as that spent on [African-American] children.” — Desegregation and Integration of Oklahoma Schools
At the dawn of the twentieth century, William Edward Burghardt Du Bois state’s that “the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line.”
Today’s academic gap between Black and White students in the state is the consequence of decades of racist policies passed by Oklahoma legislators.
Mr. Du Bois went on to reveal the consequential realities of capitalism. That capitalism would in fact halve the African-American population — one rich and one poor.
Now, Du Bois’ revelation has come to fruition.
The Oklahoma capital battles against the working classes, agitating hardworking citizens and selfishly withholding funds from lower and middle-class students and their teachers. The state reallocates educational funding for prison expansion in a region of the world with a micro population in contrast to the 7 billion inhabits on the planet. It also boasts the world’s highest incarceration rate for women.
While teachers work two and three jobs to make ends meet and attempt to change their personal financial situation while simultaneously advocating for more funding for their students.
The wealthy ensure their taxes remain low by paying professional lobbyists to advocate at the state capital and travel to Washington D.C. on their behalf on a routine basis.
Sadly, corruptible legislators fall for the perks and lavish gifts. They vote in favor of their wealthy friends and with the understanding that a vote against the agenda of their wealthy bosses involves the possibility of being out of a job in the next election.
Photo Credit | Morgan Hughes
It will take a radical lower and middle-class joint movement to topple the status quo. A movement that is all inclusive and aims to satisfy all Oklahomans’ desire for a life of peace and prosperity. A life that allows teachers to spend time with their families on weekends. A life where Oklahoma students are able to compete academically with the top states in the nation.
And right now, the wealthy classes remain silent, while state legislators push back everyday Oklahomans.
Billionaire Education Secretary of the U.S. Betsy DeVos even co-signed the same antagonistic rhetoric that Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin pushed — telling the lower and middle-class teachers to go back to the classroom and to do it with only half of their initial request of $10,000.
Photo Credit|Debra Thoreson
African-American Oklahomans have been marching for equal funding for education since the conception of the state of Oklahoma. As W.E.B. Du Bois recommended, Oklahoma teachers of all ethnicities must march together for the right to a quality life and quality education for their students.
Lastly, teachers may not be physically reprimanded in the public’s eye. However, Oklahoma pedagogues face physical abuse by sacrificing their mental and social health as a result of being overworked by maintaining multiple jobs and spending time away from home.
Nehemiah D. Frank is the Founder & Executive Editor of the Black Wall St. Times. Frank graduated from Harold Washington College in Chicago, IL in General Studies, and earned a Political Science degree from Oklahoma State University. He is highly involved in community activism, a middle school teacher at Sankofa School of the Performing Arts, a blogger for Education Post, and dedicates most of his time to empowering and uplifting his community of North Tulsa, home to America’s Black Wall Street. Frank is a 2017 Terence Crutcher Foundation Honoree and the Community Impact Award for the MET Cares Foundation and has been featured on NBC, Blavity, and Tulsa People. Frank recently gave a TEDx Talk at the University of Tulsa.