Fifty years after the powerful impact of a combined legal strategy and activism across Black America that brought forth the Brown victory, we are worse off. The US political and economic system found ways to absorb our militancy and reformist demands because we- for the most part -wanted IN to this rotten-by-nature system. In the South, our Black- run schools were allowed to be dismantled¼ and most of our wonderful Black teachers wound up not teaching our children. In the North, white flight from the cities were the order of the day and we- for the most part- were uncritical of what and how our children were being taught by racist white teachers until¼ the rise of the Civil Rights/Black Power era of the 1960’s. It is in this era of the 60’s and 70’s that we dreamed of and struggled for POWER. Today, we need to rekindle that righteous fire to dream of and struggle for POWER. Especially the POWER to develop our children’s minds to be proudfully Black; to be inquisitive and critical thinkers; to embrace science and math¼. ¼But today, if we randomly chose 100 eager wide-eyed Black kindergarten children from throughout the five boroughs entering Mayor Bloomberg’s “public” educational system, they have less of a chance of graduating from high school and going to college and graduating than their grand parents and great-grands did back in 1954 when the US Supreme Court declared segregated schools unconstitutional.
In fact, given the present quality of education provided for our children, this is what is happening and will most likely happen to them: · Out of the 100 kindergarteners, only 40 will make it through to the 9th grade to high school– · Out of the 40 who made it to high school only about 15 or 16 will graduate from high school– · Out of the 15 or 16 who will be high school graduates, at most 6 will go on to college— · Out of the 6 who will go on to college at best 3 will graduate from a four-year college¼ and only 1 of them will be a Black man– What happens to the 97 young Black men and women who never graduate from college? We know only too well. Just walk down our neighborhood streets any workday afternoon and look at who’s hanging out. Just visit Riker’s Island¼ or any of NY’s prisons anytime. Just look at who’s behind the Burger King, KFC and McDonald’s counters for slave wages. Just look at who is getting killed in Iraq and other US imperial war zones of the world.
It would be a horrendous criminal situation if we are only talking about 100 young Black men and women. But we are talking about witnessing tens of thousands of kindergarten-aged beautiful, inquisitive Black children being sent into these anti-education centers to be transformed into intellectual zombies destined to be bling-bling consumers, prisoners and warriors protecting white supremacists’ wealth in the name of “Democracy.” We are also talking about us Black adults complying with these terrible institutional acts to render our children 21st Century slaves.
At the start of the 2004-05 school year we, African-American adult citizens of New York City, are allowing nearly 36,000 5 to 7-year-old Black children to enter the first stages of educational genocide*. Let’s never forget that some 520,000 elementary and secondary Black children are also being subjected to this educational genocide policy.
*Educational Genocide: the systematic institutional miseducation of African- American, Latino and Asian youth based on the racist assumptions and policies of white supremacy that are embedded within the very structures of the US educational system.
This systematic and institutional mis-education process renders our children and our future “superfluous”(useless) to the needs of capitalism and white supremacy. At the start of the school year, we eagerly look forward to seeing our children go into these buildings of Education Hell. Sometimes we smile. Sometimes they smile or cry. We cry with pride & joy and with an undying assumption that our sons and daughters will learn and grow into prosperous men and women. We hope beyond hope that their experiences will be better than what happened to us.
Many of us either deny the horrors we see right in front of us or have fallen under the white supremacist spell that this is the best we can do because of our limited intellectual capacities. But since 1954, the reality is monstrously opposite of our dreams. For out of the 36,000 beautiful, bright Black tots happily skipping or tearfully being torn from moms or pops on that first day of school, 31,000 will end up with miserable lives of dropouts: jail, death, drug addiction, hustling, prostitution, teenage moms with no support, AIDS, dead-end jobs¼. If we allow school year 2004-05 to go on as business as usual.
Black New Yorkers for Educational Excellence (BNYEE) is here to say that we don’t have to have “business as usual” with Bloomberg and Klein cranking up their educational genocide machine preparing to transform our children’s brilliance into madness and criminal self-centeredness. BNYEE – Black men and women who are educators, parents and students – is here to take a stand and organize to regain community control of public schools so as to implement a curriculum that stimulates intellectual growth, critical thinking, scientific & technological knowledge, Black pride and respect for community.
BNYEE is prepared to go into every corner of the Black community to help build a mass movement to not only combat educational genocide currently operating within the public school systems, but we are also prepared to implement a totally different, more egalitarian, educational system where parents and students have a direct and equal say (as do the teachers and administrators) in the day-to-day operations of schools and the entire system.
BNYEE is a fighting organization. We know that this $12-14 billion/year educational system is run by ruthless men and women primarily concerned with making a profit and maintaining the criminalization and dumbing-down process of Black and Latino children. They are not going to give up their control through moral suasion and nice negotiations. They have a “white supremacist” mandate to carry out¼ and have the backing from the governor, the US president and Congress through all kinds of racist and criminal policies including the No Child Left Behind Act that’s leaving our children behind at faster and faster rates than back in 1954.
A half-century after Brown v. Board’s promise of Black freedom and equality, we now have the possibility to unite and confront the educational genocide currently ravaging Black America in general and New York City in particular. BNYEE is just a local representation that is growing across Black America: organized resistance and struggle for education and liberation. It is ONLY You and I reading this that can fight to make this Black Freedom Promise a Reality. BNYEE invites you to join us in this righteous work to bring educational excellence to our children. For information about our next meeting and actions please call: 718-270-6287.
Author S. E. Anderson is Education Director, Center for Law and Social Justice of Medgar Evers College and author of The Black Holocaust for Beginners.
By S. E. Anderson