I have really struggled with writing this week. All of the violence and racism that has escalated since the election of our nation's first black president has really come to a head. As a Black man and the father of a Black son and daughter, I wonder what will the world be like when my children are raising their own sons and daughters. There is so much violence, protest, anger, distrust and more violence. It seems to be mostly centered around racism and fear. In this climate how can our children grow and learn. How do they receive a great eduation in a country where k-12 education is under funded because of fear and racism. I've learned that the best way to deal with racism and fear is thru direct communication with all involved. It is hard and uncomfortable. But it can be very liberating.
I was reminded of this while following all of the stories of violence that are going on in Dallas, Baton Rouge, LA, Chicago and many other cities across the United States. I started reminiscing about all of the race conversations I've had over the years. The best conversation was held recently with a group of educators. It was powerful for all. Including myself. The conversation was hosted by EdFuel in Detroit. They held a education leadership conference and the first session's title was, Race Relations. I assumed it would go just like all the other white washed conversations around race that i have been a part of during my career. It was group of 25 people. Five Blacks, Two Hispanics and Eighteen Whites.
I was pleasantly surprised. The facilitator and the format forces the participants to get into a positive frame of mind while having direct conversations with those of the opposite race in short-timed conversations, which force you to be direct with the participants. Also, their format forces you to listen to others perspectives, but you also find yourself hearing your own thoughts and how they have developed within yourself over the years. The conversation forced each of us to be real with ourselves and with each other regarding race and education. The session set a great tone for the rest of the conference. After all, the conference was about urban education and how to improve it in Detroit.
Race and education are linked as the cause of urban citites and school districts disfunction. State policies driven by conservative views are robbing urban areas the opportunity to improve. In Michigan, leaders who don't live nor understand Detroit are making decisions about educating kids in Detroit. This year, a diverse group of Detroiters tried to work with conservative leadership in our legislature. They ignored them and implemented reforms approved by non-Detroiters who support unregulated charter school groups. I call this racist, because these same "leaders" would not allow this to happen in their communities to their children.
This goes to the root of people of color and their anger. What is good for one group should be good for all. Everyone should be treated with respect. Police officers should not be targets of by citizens. But citizens should never be targets of police. Our nation was founded on the promise that everyone has the right to pursue the American dream. This dream is not just for a few Americans.
"Either they don't know, don't show, or don't care about what's going on in the hood". - Doghboy (Ice Cube's character), Boyz in the Hood.
Part of the American dream is having access to a good education. School choice is great, when all of the choices are great. In Detroit, most choices are not good. We are not educating our children. What do you think these children will become if they are not a part of the American dream. Our children will become America's nightmare. And it will be our fault. And all Americans will pay for it.
We must take this opportunity to bring ourselves together as a nation, as a community, as a family. I say a family because all families are disfunctional, but when they communicate together they succeed and thrive. As the American family we have to do the same.