That’s what the speaker said. African American students from the to-be-closed Manierre Elementary School near our church in Chicago were prevented from enrolling in the nearby magnent and selective enrollment schools. Schools, where the speaker said, whites were the majority race.
Outrageous! This will not stand! Protest and march!
That’s the response the speaker wanted the crowd to have. It was my first response when I learned about the presentation and the assertions. But I’ve spent 16 years as a parent in the very schools the speaker implied as having racist frameworks.
His words were grandstanding. Designed more to incite a crowd than to actually get to some solutions.
The deadline for selective and magnet programs passed December 2012. The children weren’t banned — they were late. Whites comprise about 33% of the population at every school in our vicinity, 60% – 65% being the rest of the city’s tapestry: blacks, hispanic, asian and other.)
It’s no surprise to anyone – of any color – that the education system is failing minorities. According to the CPS website, the 2011 ISAT results show that only 1 in 9 African American elementary students exceed the state standards; the achievement gap between white and black elementary students is more than 31%, with a dramatic increase in the last 5 years. That ratio grows even wider in high school. That growing disparity is outrageous and should not be allowed to continue.
The system is failing to educate, inspire and empower children of color and children of limited means. As Christians and as citizens we must be concerned and engaged in being part of building the beloved community for all God’s people. But we get there not by grandstanding or demagoguing but by working together – all of us.
And here is why I believe the rhetoric on public schools has something to do with our faith: it’s easy to have a “party line” on issues. It’s easy to see the problems and solutions through one lens. It’s easy to paint with a wide brush and blur context, obscure facts and fan suspicions. It’s a lot harder to build a new future.
But a new future is what God is after. We are working for the kingdom of God to come to earth as it is in heaven. And to get there we don’t need mob mentality, we need thoughtful conversations and commitment to a shared future. And not just in the public education realm but on a range of issues (gun control, weaponry sales to Israel, abortion restrictions, immigration reform, to name just a few far ranging and somewhat random topics). I humbly suggest that people of faith could be conversation changers if we could just tone down the volume and work through solutions.