The 100-Year-Old Penalty for Being Black


This proves many of my points. Taking the best and brightest out of the comprehensive schools damages them; even with more funding, they still can’t keep up. That pattern is not at all uncommon.

Undeniably true. But what is universal, is that children benefit from exposure to kids of all difference backgrounds and education; sifting the tares and the wheat hurts everyone and is one of the most powerful driving forces behind generational poverty and miseducation.


Preventing people from sending their kids to private school will be a nonstarter. But vouchers are an awful idea too. Just like retirees and childless pay for schools in taxes, everyone must pay. But if it were up to me the notion that one neighborhood can fund their schools far more than another would be done. This was attempted to be rectified in NJ in the Abbott program, but it has become a shitshow of continued inequity where wealthy Hoboken still gets enormous aid.

If you could see my kids HS, you see none of that is true. It has tremendous racial, educational and economic diversity. A tool can build or destroy, it all depends on how it’s used.

It proves nothing of the sort, it’s a lottery school.


I understand and agree with that, but no meaningful change is going to happen in the near future. The majority who do live in the suburbs are not going to stop putting the same R’s into office, and they maintain tight control over any blue influence with gerrymandering.

Telling parents to keep their kids in bad schools while waiting for a change that might not come reminds me of the person asking folks with insurance to give it up in attempt to force insurance companies to change with a boycott. As someone else said, you have to put your oxygen mask on first. Suffocating in solidarity doesn’t do anyone any good.


This is why we can’t have nice things.

Oh, I understand. That’s how they get you to participate in the scam. They know you wouldn’t do it if your kids’ education wasn’t at stake.

I pulled my kids from public elementary myself; I wasn’t willing to psychologically damage them (and really, it was that extreme, due to individual issues) in order to preserve my principles.

But I’ve decided not to defend a corrupt system, simply because my children (who are from different racial groups, btw) at one point benefited from the corruption. You have to do what you can! For us that meant sending our kids to a comprehensive neighborhood public High School, which is situated in the middle of a nearly all-white upper middle class neighborhood, that is more than 75% black and more than 50% poverty. The majority of the children are on public assistance of some sort, and guns in the school are almost as common as they were in the 1960s when I attended public school.

Something to keep in mind, though - when your kids enjoy a home life that includes intellectual discussion, high levels of literacy, and generations of good education, they will be the leaders if they can survive in a comprehensive public school. Your house may well become filled with the very smartest and most underserved of the children that the system is failing, and your kids will end up the captains of the academic teams and quite possibly the sports teams as well. In practice, knowingly putting my kids in a school with a reputation for violence and poor educational outcomes was not as big of a problem as you would expect.


Would you explain what you mean by this?

I was a strong believer in the public school system. I pulled my daughter out of a class with an elderly ailing teacher who could not deal with a class comprised of ESL and behaviorally unstable children. She regularly with held recess, field trips, and activities from the whole class. She verbally shamed and berated children while I was there volunteering. My emails to the principal were not replied to. My daughter’s skills were dropping due to the low preformance of the entire class and she did not want to go to school.

What makes you think I am? I am only pointing to the immediate reality of people’s lives and the double bind they are in.

What makes you think I’m not?

This sounds nice, but is by no means certain.

No such program is available in my state.


@Medievalist, Have you read this blog?: He says much of what you do. He’s a teacher in Springfield MA who sent his kids to the local schools. I agree education begins at home, and that’s a gigantic nut to crack. I don’t agree with it, but one of the things some of the NYC charters do is keep the kids away from home as long as possible, like 7am to 6pm IIRC.

Call me what you will, but I prefer to solve problems with more freedom not less, if at all possible. Otherwise taking away freedom becomes a habit.


The biggest irony of all is that it would cost me far less to live in a newer, larger home in a suburban development with much better schools, far fewer homeless people, and lower crime. But I choose to stay in the urban center because I want to raise my kids in a diverse racial and religious population.


100%. The experience my kids have gotten is priceless. My son’s 1st girlfriend was Hindu and my daughter’s best friend is a Muslim from Uzbekistan. I grew up in lily white Long Island and have struggled a lifetime to shed it, my kids suffer no such awful baggage.


Charter schools are excellent. At siphoning off funds that should be used to improve the public system.


The system is self-perpetuating. It keeps people down - and in the context of this thread, we are absolutely talking about black Americans - because it makes it impossible for people to believe immediate or lasting improvements will come from their efforts. It makes white people’s best immediate choices act to sustain the system long term. It presents the choice between what is achievable (helping my children) and what is not (fixing the system in my lifetime).

It is not going to get better until we all decide to make it so, and that means the people who act unilaterally - the people who take action before it’s a safe bet - will suffer for it. Just like every freedom fighter ever.

I apologize for the unclear use of “you” and “your” that I see in my previous posts. I am not the best writer; I didn’t mean to imply anything about what you (and @gellfex) are personally doing. In the statement “you have to do what you can” I meant me - I feel that it was necessary for me to do what I did, and regret that I have not the capacities to do more.

School choice is also a force acting to preserve historic inequalities, so it’s not entirely a bad thing if you don’t have it. All this stuff is very locally variable.

Not until you linked it! Thank you, I like getting different perspectives on this stuff.

I agree with the first sentence more than the second… freedom to discriminate against people of color is not a freedom I feel bad about taking away from privileged people like myself. And in my state, there’s little or no freedom associated with publicly funded schools - we’re zero-tolerance here, with a school-to-prison pipeline that’s chock full of children of color, the doors and windows of the schools chained or welded shut, and an armed police presence in every school where poor students actually attend.


Our sheriff included third grade reading scores in the projections for the construction of a new county jail.


There’s no such freedom, any more than there’s freedom to kill. There is only levels of tolerance for injustice, whether individual or institutional. Tanking away people freedom to send their kids to private school is different. What next, prevent them from moving?

IMO the focus on charters and funding is a red herring. Here in NJ there have been urban districts lavishly funded by the Abbott Decision over 25 years ago, and outcomes have not improved. Instead of railing against the charters, the district and unions should be looking to them for successful innovations to emulate. But they just hunker down and play the victim. I can only speak for my city, but the schools are a money vanishing machine with little accountability. The stories of dysfunction I’ve heard from both students and faculty are shocking.




I have never suggested taking away that freedom. To quote myself:

The lottery issue is like school choice, it’s preselection masquerading as fairness.

If you apply for a lottery or exercise school choice, you are by definition an involved parent, and have the knowledge resources to know that such options are available and how to take advantage of them.

The children of parents with greater knowledge resources always do better, and the schools where the involved parents are always do better. Thus, once again, the lottery system “skims the cream off the top” which obviously diminishes the comprehensive schools that must take anyone assigned to them.

In my area, I watch the charter school kids compete against the kids in the comprehensive schools at sporting events. The differing income level and social status are obvious. The charter school field hockey players all have team jerseys and legwarmers and water bottles donated by parents. My kids team (they laughingly call themselves the “ghetto” team, because they have more non-white players than any other in the league) has jerseys that were paid for by tax dollars. So, who got more funding? Why, it was that ghetto school, the numbers don’t lie.

Charter, magnet, and private schools, lotteries and school choice are all engines of selection, that make privileged people act to harm the less privileged. We need comprehensive public school nationwide, not funded by local taxation, and with mandatory attendance from all social classes and economic circumstances. It’s our best chance for the best possible future for all our children. We can break the cycle, and lift the penalty for being black.



You appear to repeatedly say no one should be able to opt out of sending their kids to the school school system. If that isn’t what you mean you need to restate it.

I wholeheartedly agree that equally funded schools are desirable and the system of local funding is ludicrous, but point out that even lavish funding does not solve entrenched urban problems. Some things you can’t solve by throwing money at the schools, or even preschools, since that was part of the Abbott mandate.

We see charters differently. But I see no problem limiting them to 10 or 20% of the system. The systems need prodding, they’re complacent with perennial failure.


I am well aware of the system and how it is perpetuated, and the school to prison pipeline. I spent the last hour and a half at an Odyssey House, because I am essentially a social worker for my city’s school district. Last week I attended a Promising Youth conference, I train emotional skills and act as an advocate within the schools. I work exclusively with at-risk and foster youth. But I still could not bring myself to leave my kids in that situation. That’s not freedom fighting.

I know.

All I am asking is that people see the grey areas, and have empathy for the people who are caught in the tug of war. I do what I can politically, but I can’t say I’m optimistic, given the political climate in my state.


When I was about eight, we visited my grandparents in the US, and my grandmother gave me a copy of “Night Comes to the Cumberlands”
which was a pretty enlightening book on the reasons for Appalachian poverty at that time.


I think it starts with the parents. The kids who will not participate in their own education are going to fail, even in a good school. And the converse applies as well.


This is the real grist that grinds the mill. MLK identified the greatest roadblock to justice was the demand for order by otherwise sympathetic white liberals, not riders in hoods.

The phrase ‘negative peace’ is one I think about often. The shit-school-to-prison pipeline is well documented, more than sixty years after the civil rights era began. A day does not hardly go by as I bear witness to another black body brutalized, tortured, left for dead, in schools, on playgrounds, in streets, all in the name of order.

The charter school movement has wrecked majority-black school districts across the country, with New Orleans perhaps the most wretched example. That is not an accident.


And if you had all of that you wouldn’t need a check in the mailbox. I thought the whole concept of a check was to be a proxy for what can’t be delivered which is merely things working as they ought to.

And it can’t be delivered. Not for a century. Maybe more. It’s too worn in and with America practicing capitalism at its most rapacious even if you poured resources into black and white equity all you’d get a layer of black elites over a vast, yawning chasm of the underclass, possibly worse-off than they were.

America’s problems can best be summed up by the old chestnut: “can’t get there from here.” I’ve no idea how to fix that. Or if it can be fixed.