By W. Franklyn Richardson, Grace Baptist Church of Mt. Vernon, NY. Pastor Richardson is also chairman of the Board of the National Action Network; the Conference of National Black Churches; and Virginia Union University.
The times we face from the pandemic to the collapsing economy and the rising racial tensions present us with fresh challenges and accent the recurring inequalities in our nation. Among them are the educational deficiencies at every level regarding Black communities. The presence of a manipulative education is ground zero in the advancement of racism in the United States. In terms of access and content, inferior educational opportunities are the greatest retardant to racial progress.
Our Black ancestors always understood the value of education, as they risked their lives to learn to read, as did the slave master who passed laws under the penalty of death, for those who taught the enslaved to read. America’s continued unwillingness to provide Black people a quality education is a latent residual of the slaveholder’s mindset. Regarding access, educational systems in Black and poor communities are under-resourced by governmental formulas and assure schools’ unequal funding and low pay for teachers. These consequences guarantee the perpetuation of intergenerational miseducation, thereby fueling “the cradle to prison pipeline,” low self-esteem, inadequate wages, and limited access to opportunity, reinforcing racist stereotypes.
In addition to the lack of access to resources, we musttackle the racially biased development of a curriculum that fosters a false narrative by the inclusion of inaccurate content and excludes Black achievement and participation in this nation’s development. We have been impaired by the inclusion of his story at the exclusion of our story in the public school curriculum. Inaccurate, racist content not only fosters low self-esteem among Black people but also provides white people with an inaccurate basis for fostering racial prejudice and reinforcing discriminatory practices based on misinformation.
In some cases, it will be necessary to rebuke the false narrative already put in place, among both Black and white people, to create a more equitable society. The worst continuing chains on black Lives has been the miseducation the American system has published against Black people. As importantly, those who teach in our schools must have the required knowledge of the value, contribution, and sacrifices Black Lives have made in the United States’ development.
Moreover, this historical model of inequality in education has been exacerbated by the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on systems that serve people of color. Black families have inadequate access to electronic devices as a result of intergenerational educational disparity and are less equipped to provide at-home assistance for virtual learning. They are thereby expanding the technological gap between Black and white students and their perpetuation of Black inferiority.
The damage done to Black people for over 400 years of racism continues at this moment. The current situation requires an urgent, governmental, corporate, and community response to salvage Black lives victimized by this long practice of racial hostility. The only appropriate response to that damage is REPAIR.
In my estimation, the best remedy is the total revamping of the systems of education in this country from Pre-k to college to include funding, curriculum and easy access by all to equal educational opportunity with an emphasis on Black people who have been directly damaged by the legacy of inequality. This will require a fresh resolve by leaders in government, business, education, and communities.
Black families and our allies must come to see this inadequate access to education as the number one enemy of our children and the future stability of this nation. We must marshal our resources into a national movement for change even while we continue to wage war against a broken system’s current manifestations.