Category Archives: Black Lives Matter

Black Oakland Moms vs. Black Lives Matter

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I. Black Lives Matter 

I have immense respect for Black Lives Matter.

In a previous post, I reflected on how the movement has affected me.

But it will come to no surprise to anyone that I disagree with their call for a moratorium on charter schools.

II. Black Mothers in Oakland 

Recently, Black mothers in Oakland published an op-ed where they detailed why they disagree with Black Lives Matter’s call – as well as the NAACP’s call – for a moratorium on charter schools.

You should read their entire piece. It is powerful.

Here is an excerpt:

Like everyone else in our group, Mama recognizes that not all charters are great or even good. We know that while many charters play by rules that require them to accept and educate all children who come to them, some break the rules — and no one should stand for that.

But in this case, she saw a path to interrupt the intergenerational struggle of her family, and like a responsible parent, she took it.

Her choice was a personal one, not a condemnation of district schools. And for our group, exercising this choice requires personal sacrifice, while also dedicating our time working toward solutions that will strengthen the quality of education in community district schools.

We love our communities and know a quality school down the street is the sign of a community’s progress.

As our communities change, so will our choices. But it’s a choice we get to make. And our group is unanimous in asking that no one take that option away while claiming to speak in our name.

III. Segregation in Oakland 

Another piece, via KQED, also recently came out about education in Oakland. This piece detailed how segregated Oakland’s educational system remains, despite the fact that many people in Oakland profess a deep value for diversity.

The headlines says it all:

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IV. The False Liberalism of Charter Moratoriums and Neighborhood Schools  

So what happens when Black Lives Matter calls for a moratorium on charter schools and liberals cling to segregation via neighborhood schools?

You get a system where minority children are forced to attend bad schools because wealthy white people protect their schools via property values and Black Lives Matter abolishes the primary policy vehicle that might allow for better schools to be created in poor neighborhoods.

Black families are squeezed from both sides: they can’t access existing wealthy neighborhood schools and they can’t access new schools in their own neighborhoods.

Or to put it another way: the seemingly innocent desire to maintain neighborhood schools and protect school districts ends up having devastating consequences for black children.

V. Black Diversity

The conflict between Black moms in Oakland and Black Lives Matter should make it clear that black thought is not monolithic.

Black people disagree about a lot of things. Conversations with my African-American father made this clear to me at a young age. He often disagreed with various black thought leaders and would describe various tensions across black thinkers.

Often (as with white people), black disagreements occur along class lines.

Upper class, middle class, and lower class black people disagree about a lot of things – and classicism is rampant in the black community just as it is in most racial communities (my mother is Indian and the caste system epitomizes awful within race classism).

So I was not surprised at all that Black moms in Oakland disagreed with Black Lives Matter and the NAACP.

VI. Black Children Matter

Every child deserves an amazing school.

Given our nation’s history, black children deserve especially amazing schools.

We should support policies that give black children access to amazing schools (policies such as unified enrollment), and we should also support policies that allow educators to open amazing schools for black children (policies such as charter schools).

Supporting these policies will require some sacrifice. White people will have to give up their chokehold on exclusive neighborhood schools. And black people will have to pressure an institution (school districts) that have been a source of historical pride and employment.

None of this is easy, but it’s all worth fighting for.

 

How Black Lives Matter Has Affected Me

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I don’t know that I have anything particularly insightful to say about the deaths of Alton Sterling or Philandro Castile, or regarding the deaths of police officers in Dallas.

There are other more important voices to be heard, including the families of the victims and all of those putting their lives on the line in the on-going protests.

But the events of the past few weeks have surely been cause for further introspection – and in case it’s of use to others – I’ll share those below.

One additional note: for me, there has often been an inverse correlation between the intensity of a situation and my emotional tenor. When blood is boiling around me, my blood cools – this has had both positive and negative effects in my life, and in part explains the tone of this post.

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How has Black Lives Matter affected me?

I feel the issue in a way I never did before. Working in education in New Orleans, I’ve surely been exposed to the idea that too often black lives don’t matter. But there is nothing as visceral is video. Watching Tamir Rice being slain; Walter Scott being mowed down – the videos have dug into my conscience – and they have forced me to emotionally and intellectually confront a dark corner of America that I don’t experience in my day-to-day life.

It’s made me question myself. In my younger days, I was more willing to throw myself into the most difficult situations. As a law student, I lived in a war torn Sierra Leone and worked at an international war crimes tribunal because I thought I could be a part of serving those who had been devastated by violence. I thought much less about my own well-being in those days. Now, when I watch the protests, I wonder: do I still have it in me? How much am I willing to sacrifice my own well-being for others? Or am I only willing  to do good if I’m well compensated and get to work with my friends in a cool organization? I also am struck with deep admiration for those who do have it in them.

It’s made me question my role. Due to some combination of temperament, intellectual interest, and ego – I’m wired to be a doer and not an ally. It’s much easier for me to throw myself into something if I’m a leader in the charge. I’m realizing how difficult it is for me to throw myself into something when I’m a walk on player in the fight. Despite my heritage (my father was African-American and mother is an Indian immigrant), I’ve never deeply internalized either of these cultural identities; they are surely part of who I am, and they make me different than white Americans, but still, I find myself on the outside looking in… perhaps I need to broaden my definition of what it means to be a leader.

It’s made me listen more: Reading the twitter feeds and blogs and Facebook posts of Black Lives Matter leaders has drilled into me that you can’t understand something without listening to those who are most affected by it. This doesn’t mean data and analysis is not useful, only that it will always be incomplete. Additionally, I’ve also found myself reading Fox News a little bit more, as I’ve tried to deepen my understanding of those who are troubled by Black Lives Matter. This has also made me empathize with the dangers that good cops face in very difficult situations.

It’s driven home a view that we need to hold physical peace as sacred: In watching the videos of black people being killed – as well as police officers being killed – there has been one constant refrain in my  head: couldn’t death have been avoided? As a nation, if I had one wish, it was that we would be more physically peaceful. Everything can be walked back but death.

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So I’ve been affected by Black Lives Matter in deep ways – but what to do?

I’m still struggling with this, so all feedback is appreciated.

First, I want to do my job better. When I’m being lazy, or not thinking things through hard enough, or not being obsessively anxious about solving the hardest problems, I want the videos of the victims to be seared in my brain on replay. I’m in the fortunate position of being able to deploy a lot of capital to increase educational opportunities for black children. And while I don’t think education is the primary issue here, it is the area I have the most control over, so my opportunity for impact is probably greatest. And I do believe that providing great educational opportunities to black children will help them defend themselves against racism, as well as help them fight it. This should not be their burden, but it likely will be.

Second, I want to increase my effort to listen to more diverse voices. It shouldn’t take a video of someone being murdered for me to stay woke. To operationalize this, I’ve set a quarterly goal of reaching out to three people in each city I work in – people who don’t fit neatly into my existing personal and professional circles.

Third – and this more about mindset than immediate action – but I want to better define when and why I’d be willing to accept chaos and upheaval in my own life in order to help others.