“From Serial and The New York Times: “Nice White Parents” looks at the 60-year relationship between white parents and the public school down the block.”
What I love about this series is that it demonstrates:
#1: When talking about school integration, Black and Brown parents and White parents are looking for two completely different things.
White parents, when they see that their child’s school is all or mostly white, say to themselves, “Schools shouldn’t be segregated, and I want my kids to make friends with and learn alongside people of various races. After all – that’s part of why I moved to this diverse, progressive city.
Families of color, on the other hand, are looking for a building that is not dilapidated, bathrooms that work, teachers with credentials, and quality after school enrichment programs with enough art supplies, a decent basketball court, and a functioning sound system. Not to mention teachers that view their kids as intelligent and full of talent.
Drastically different agendas = recipe for disaster.
#2. When White parents come to a “struggling school district” to improve it – they usually just exacerbate division.
The podcast describes a dynamic in a New York City school, I have also observed unfold in my East Bay neighborhood.
A few White parents “early adopters” in a gentrifying progressive urban neighborhood say to each other; Hey, if all of us who live in this neighborhood just sent our kids to the neighborhood school (instead of shopping around town for a “better” alternative) then our neighborhood school would perform better! Let’s all do it together!
Who is “all of us” in the neighborhood”? White, highly educated, recent arrivals.
So, the white parents descend as a group on a school historically served students of color and what do you get? TRACKING! You get two schools in one. Voilà! Test scores in aggregate go up. White parents pat themselves on the back for how open-minded they were about sending their kids to a multi-racial school while their kids (and usually not the kids of color) are building skills that will ensure their success in high school and get them into a good 4-year college.
#3: The solution? Take on the system, not the school.
True integration doesn’t happen because White parents decide to send their kids to a school that has historically served families of color, particularly if there are no real conversations about how entrenched unconscious bias is within the school and parent community and an explicit intention to practice undoing this – not something I’ve seen a lot of. But I digress – real change happens when parents of various backgrounds and the White parents have a role here – but they actually can’t be leading, they have to be willing to follow and support the families of color, together insist that the district provide the same high-quality level of services for ALL KIDS in the district.
The problem with school integration is not an interpersonal challenge — it’s a structural one. Brave White parents, who want to honor your values of multiculturalism – take your courage to the Capital.