The Racist Education System and Its History

If you have been keeping up with the news, you are probably all too aware of the fact that McGraw-Hill, a grade school textbook company, is now rewriting their books to change the things that they said. What many people don’t understand is that this is far from the first time Texas or any state has had racist tendency toward schools. Racism is a part of daily life in this country, whether you want to admit it or not, and it will continue to have lasting effects long after it becomes solely history. As a very conservative state and a rather large percentage of the country’s population, Texas has some considerable influence. But Texas is not the only state that has been guilty of whitewashing education. In fact, even the instance of going to school is racist. The fact that people are still shocked that this is going on shows how normalized it has become, and I’m going to take the time to desensitize you to the world that we live in.

Growing up in Texas, even as a child, I knew there was something wrong with the education I was receiving. My parents didn’t necessarily let me know, and they have always motivated me to get my education, but they would have me read history books that were age appropriate. I was the child who would come home, do her homework, and then sit down with a book and then write a book report for my parents. I wish I still had those reports, but we lost everything in storage a few years back.  I loved learning about black history. Ruby Bridges, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., slavery and Jim Crow. Unprompted, I read the Autobiography of Malcolm X in 5th grade. I lived to learn. I grew up knowing that slavery had so much intent riding on it. The most impacting book I read was a little pamphlet on the Willie Lynch  Speech given in 1712. History, as brutal as it may be, was always something I wanted to know about. I wanted to be the Nicolas Cage in National Treasure, the great history discoverer. I wanted to be the one who could finally find the solution to racism. I wanted to see Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream played out in every aspect.

Of course, I was clearly an overly optimistic child, with starry eyes of hope and a sense of sureness that this would easily be fixed in a matter of years or decades.My father quickly put an end to that optimism. Looking back, I don’t consider it a bad thing, but sometimes I wish I had the ability to not see things the way I do, to be so cynical. Unfortunately, every child’s innocence must be taken away at some point, and though I know now that it was a very tough decision for my parents to make the decision, I will always appreciate how they sat me down me and started to teach me the things I needed to know.

However, I know that I will probably be one of the only children who have that opportunity to be educated at home as well as at school. My father was a truck driver and my mother stayed at home, leaving more time for us. We were well off, and I never wanted for anything. I remember Barnes and Noble would always be my favorite place to go. But my middle-class childhood was a blessing, and that the majority of America struggles to simply stay afloat. Idealistically, money isn’t everything, and having or not having material items are not the end all be all. However, while I understand the consequences of the system of capitalism, the fact of the matter is that we need money. Money is what enables us to transportation, to living spaces. Sure we could all walk and live on the street and eat berries and stuff, but with the world that we live in, it isn’t feasible. Money enables us to choices and options. Clothes, food, fun, and many more. But the one I wish to talk about is education.

Now what does money have to do with education? Starting with modern day, education and money are very closely linked. Private schools are funded without using government money, while public school does rely on government funding. Public schools get money from the government through the allotment from the state funds, which trickles down to the district funds. Through the chain of trickling down, the amount of money that is given somehow decreases considerably. There, from what is leftover, is split up and given to all the schools in the district. This distribution isn’t too much as it is, and workers often go underpaid.  The money that is distributed isn’t distributed evenly then. In more developed, more suburban areas that are populated with wealthier people, are given money. Other areas, the  more lower income areas located in “urban” settings are given less money. This is all part of the racist education inequality.

How is this racist? It would make sense, to most people considering that the people who pay more money are living in the areas that are more suburban, making this distribution fair. Right? Wrong. The way schools are set up, you have to go to the school that is nearest to you in the district, which makes sense for the sake of transportation and data collecting. But neighborhoods aren’t created equally. We still have practices left over from before the case of Brown v. Board of Education that allows people of color, specifically black people, to be pushed to certain neighborhoods and forced to stay there. This is called redlining, and it hasn’t stopped since segregation. In addition, as the government decides to “develop” more and more land throughout the country, the process of gentrification continues to move people of color who can no longer afford the rising prices of rent. While many believe that through gentrification, people of color are only collateral damage, in fact, that is not true. Gentrification was also another form of segregation. Each time the sphere of whiteness expanded, like the inclusion of the Irish, they needed more housing options. and of course, because white supremacy says that they would never sleep in the shoddy, torn down places that people of color and poor people were forced to stay in, they had to come in and rebuild, remodel, and raise prices.

In addition, the disciplinary system also has traces of racism. Black and Hispanic students are not only more likely to be targeted for disciplined, but they’re more likely to be disciplined harsher than would white students. There has been tracking in the school system for years, and through this system, students are either placed in the “gifted,” more accelerated track, the average track, and those who perform lower are deemed as troubled. These students, from as early as 3rd grade, are placed on track to the school to prison pipeline. This unfairly targets students of color, with the most being students of color with mental health issues. The quickness to punish people of color more than white students may not be a conscious decision to everyone, but it still has a negative impact, and it ultimately feeds into the system of mass incarceration.

With all of these factors combined with the fact that the board of education in Texas has always been very cis white heteronormative in a conservative state, only provides the perfect environment for the continued racism. I understand people out of state are shocked, but this is not new. And, while rewriting these books is a step forward, the fact that they still have yet to be recalled only shows that we are still very much in a society ruled by white supremacy, and we need to stop blaming the people of color who didn’t create the problem and expecting them to find the solution on their own. At this point, as to fixing this issue, it’s not about pointing fingers, but all taking responsibility and coming together to rethink the way we live and the way we educate those who are to be our future.

-JW

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One thought on “The Racist Education System and Its History

  1. I wholeheartedly agree that it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that education is fair and equal. While we are a long way off from achieving this, I also agree that we must take more responsibility in our individual family units to bridge that gap. I love that your parents had you doing book reports in addition to homework. I plan to do the same for my kids. Of course, it’s often a privilege to have time to devote this special attention to our kids. However, our our triumph as a people depends on it.

    Liked by 1 person

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