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EDITORIAL | By Nehemiah D. Frank, founder & editor-in-chief
It’s always inspiring to be the witness of progress, especially racial and gender progress in a state that has traditionally demonstrated a slowness to accepting progressive ideas.
But as the great phrase continues echoing through the centuries “the wheels of justice turn slowly.” As a millennial, I’ll always remain optimistic regarding the possibility that we can make those wheels turn a bit faster.
I’m pleased that a Republican governor in America’s reddest state, Oklahoma, recognizes how important diversity and inclusion is in reaching towards our highest ambitions to become a Top Ten State in the nation for education.
Governor Stitt is already demonstrating that he can be a bold and courageous leader and disrupt the status quo.
He recently elected six new appointments to the state’s Board of Education: Carlisha Williams-Bradley, William E. “Bill” Flanagan, Kurt Bollenbach, Estela Hernandez, Brian Bobek, and Jennifer Monies.
Before Stitt’s new appointees, the Board was white and mostly comprised of men. Today, in America’s reddest state the Board now consists of more people of color and women.
For those who think I’m giving this new Republican governor too much credit too soon, I’ll kindly ask you to take a seat. Because when kids are involved, we really need to take party politics out of the conversation.
I’m keenly aware that the governor’s influence extends beyond the signing and vetoing of bills.
Every human being is granted, by the creator, the natural right of his or her, own, voice, and I know that’s what Oklahomans need in our new governor. We need Governor Stitt to advocate for more resources and opportunities for our students and schools who need it the most.
For me, equity for black, brown, and rural children in Oklahoma should be the governor’s top priority in education.
Anyone who thinks otherwise isn’t a proponent of equity for children.
We need Governor Stitt to be the voice for the marginalized students and to convince and rally Oklahoma legislators on both sides of the political aisle to agree and allocate funding specially geared towards educational policies that will grant equitable resources to students and schools that need them the most — that’s the pathway towards becoming a Top Ten State for education.
I believe it can happen, but not without sacrifice and not without having difficult conversations about the legacy of systemic racism.
The last time we as a society tried creating a more an equitable school system, by racially integrating the schools, the majority of middle-class white families began abandoning the city schools, all while taking their property taxes with them, which led to major funding disparities for school districts like Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
Hence, inner-city public schools didn’t go into decline because of integration nor because of the influx of charter schools.
Traditional public schools went into decline because many middle-class white folks didn’t like the idea of nonwhite teachers educating their kids nor did they like the idea of black students attending schools with their white children.
Although some may still share those biases today, we have come a long way as a society.
Nevertheless, yesterday’s actions undoubtedly are the cause for today’s inequities in public education, and they are the reasons why black, brown and native families have opted out and chose public charters over traditional public schools.
We have to come to the realization that everyone isn’t going to be happy, some will be upset because they may be fooled into believing that equity, in the form of more resources for low-income schools will rob or take away funding from wealthier school districts like Jenks, Broken Arrow, and Edmond.
I am, however, not here to blame any specific group or community.
I’m here to highlight the truth and one of the many variables that led to today’s inequities and underfunded schools.
Those who have been comfortably ignoring the inequities in education, that has existed since 1907, have no desire in creating more competition for their own children.
And I get it.
But we as a society have to reconcile with our past mistakes.
Truth, reconciliation, and sacrifice are the only pathway to making Oklahoma become a Top Ten State for education.
We have to be intentional about equity.
As a registered Democrat, I’m happy Gov. Stitt is making education a top priority.
That is something that I can get with.
Nehemiah D. Frank is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Black Wall Street Times and sits on the Editorial Community Advisory Board at the Tulsa World. He graduated from Harold Washington College in Chicago, IL, and earned a second degree in political science from Oklahoma State University. Nehemiah is a rising voice in America and an emerging leader in the educational justice and equity movement. He’s a motivational speaker and presented a TED Talk at the University of Tulsa in the spring of 2018. Nehemiah is also blogger at Education Post. He has been featured on NBC, Blavity, and Tulsa People.