Failing a Race
While most Americans consider the fight for Civil Rights to have ended at the turning of Brown vs. Board, MLK Jr., and the end of the 60’s, the injustices plaguing Black communities across the country make the fight far from over. During my time teaching summer school in inner-city Atlanta, I was a first hand witness to the more subtle, systematic racism that widely oppresses the opportunities for advancement of the race.
I suffered with my students. I hurt for Franklin who was one month from graduating still lacking basic literacy, and I broke for Daryl who struggled with elementary arithmetic computation causing him to be frustrated with the introduction to algebra.
Taken at face value, I have heard higher income white Americans blindly attribute the achievement gap to complacent parents, apathetic students, and communities that are too lazy to want to learn. But what I experienced were parents who were desperate for their child’s success, frustrated students who have been left in the dust, and a community suffering projections of racial stereotypes from the outside world.
You see, my students come to summer school because they want to learn, they want to graduate, but they have also been a victim of school system and a nation that has expected little of them, lacked adequate resources, and intervened minimally to fill in educational gaps that allowed them to fall through the cracks, making them the invisible children of the world.
Across the nation, inner-city schools are underperforming and are filled with minority populations - causing education inequity to fall on the lines of both class and race. And further, when we examine the Black-White achievement gap in the context of our civil rights history of denied opportunities to black students and compare it to the continued redlining of communities today, it would be difficult to argue that the existing gap is merely a coincidence or the fault of one race alone. Rather, it shows that stereotypes, discrimination and racism still burns in the very threads of our laws and permeates deeply in our communities and schools.
The Civil Rights Movement fought for the end of racial segregation and discrimination, but if we examine our progress in public education, we see that little has been achieved. And when you measure in terms of opportunities for mobility, the war has yet to be won.
[photos taken at the new National Center for Civil & Human Rights in Atlanta]