The NYC DOE Has Racism Coursing Through Its Veins and Carranza Is Trying To Do Something About It. Why the Pushback?: Part 1.

City kids are struggling with basic math and English — but a new Department of Education curricular initiative focuses instead on racial privilege and activism, The Post has learned.

As soon as I read this opening sentence of this NY Post article, I was completely taken aback. Racial privilege? Activism? What — you mean activating my right to renounce white privilege? That’s the only racial privilege that I know of, so that must be to what The Post is referring.

Let me tell you something: I’m so sick of the backlash that appears any time meaningful measures are enacted to empower, embolden, and educate the under-served students being educated in NYC DOE-run schools. As I painstakingly read through the article, I became even more disturbed by the fact that there was no voice or perspective given from that of an actual current teacher in the DOE.

How can you write an article harshly criticizing the merits of a teaching initiative that is seeking to address the racially-motivated, diabolically-discriminative practices of our educational system, without including any input from actual classroom teachers in the finished product? As a Black educator, this is particularly offensive because many of the inequities that Black students face, Black teachers face too. I would imagine this is true for multiple cultural groups who fall outside of the acceptable White mainstream.

Even the talk of candidly tackling the embedded biases that aid and abet the stench of discriminatory practices in everything from hiring of teachers to disciplinary targeting of student has those in opposition screaming from their crumbling proverbial mountaintops. If those from the anti anti-discrimination camp are seeking to sincerely question the need for anti-bias curriculum in our NYC schools, that approach, in my opinion and experience, lacks credibility and is deeply flawed. My common sense and my Masters of Arts in the Teaching of Writing confirm my supposition. Why is it that every time something begins to be done to right the wrongs of centuries of grossly inequitable practices between the ancestors of slaves and the ancestors of slave masters is there a divisive outcry?

Do they not think this training is needed? I’m here to tell you otherwise! The DOE has racism coursing through its bureaucratic veins. White privilege is beyond evident and minority students and teachers feel the ripple effect of its sting. Right now I know of a Black educator in the DOE who is teaching in a hostile environment for reporting another educator who questioned why she couldn’t use the “N word” since rappers use it in rap music. That educator happens to be white and sees nothing wrong with such comments or how they can be perceived by Black people around her.

Since when has there been so much concern about the English language arts and math skills of New York City’s students which, sadly, is too-closely correlated with being a minority in the DOE? Even if I were to follow that slippery slope into the abyss of a trajectory, then why exactly are so many of the students who comprise the bottom third in results on the State exam 1-2-3-4 hierarchy (with 1 being far below grade level and 4 being exceeding grade level standards) members of one or several marginalized communities? Where and when did that all begin?

Looks like the notion of BLACK LIVES MATTER transfers over to the realm of education just as unsuccessfully as it has to law enforcement. Nobody except other Black educators and our sparsely disseminated cohort of allies from other cultural and socio-economic sectors are truly fighting for Black and Brown students to do well academically. Now all of a sudden we’re looking into our ugly past and that makes a lot of White educators uncomfortable. They want to deflect.

You know what else rubbed me wrong about the premise of this article? The fact that Asian students are used as pawns in the discussion of inequitable practices within the DOE. Asians are a convenient minority when discussing race because they are usually distanced from their “Brownness” and clumped with their White counterparts, more akin to than polarized from the plight of other Brown and Black students. In fact, if we were to delve into this a bit further, according to a study from NPR, it is Asian students who benefit the most from having Black educators! 

Cherng and Halpin found that all the students, including white students, had significantly more favorable perceptions of Latino versus white teachers across the board, and had significantly more favorable perceptions of black versus white teachers on at least two or three of seven categories in the survey. The strongest positive relationship was the flipside of what Cherng experienced in his own classroom: Asian-American students had very rosy views of their black teachers…No matter what, students had warmer perceptions of their teachers of color.

Chancellor Carrazza is getting a lot of flak for something that is bigger than him. This probe into New York’s inequitable educational practices is a State-wide implementation endeavor. I just got an email from NYSED today announcing the change in leadership at the top (a new Acting Commissioner of Education was announced — Beth Berlin) wherein the two members of the Board of Regents who penned the email declare, “Together we have placed an emphasis on educating the whole child and worked to achieve equity in education for all. Commissioner Elia has been steadfast in her commitment to placing the interests of students first. “

Why so much push back against what overwhelmingly seems like a step in the right direction?

Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow!

What do you think?

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