Will Having a Black Vice-President Aid in the Dismantling of Discriminatory Policies and Practices for Black Children in Public Schools?
It’s been one month since the Biden-Harris administration has taken over a fractured and frail America. Although Black Americans are ecstatic to have a vice-president who looks like them, the question remains: How will the Biden-Harris administration heal and unify the country? More specifically, Black people want to know, how will Kamala Harris support the Black community especially since she is a graduate of Howard University, a Historically Black College/University (HBCU) whose focus has always made the Black child a top priority since the 1800’s. Despite this focus on Black upward mobility, statistics show that 1 in 4 (24%) of students at HBCU’s today are non-Black.
Kamala Harris may have fallen into that non-Black category because her mother was an immigrant from India. However, by American standards, she is categorized as Black because of her father’s genetic makeup; as the saying goes, “if you have one drop of Black blood, then you are Black.” But does social stratification guarantee that her beliefs and values mirror that of the Black community? Everyone knows that the Black community is not monolithic. Prior to being sworn into office on January 20th, some Blacks had already begun questioning Harris’ “Blackness” or her commitment to the Black community because of her record as a prosecutor.
Nonetheless, the Black community has long been concerned with issues such as reparations, reforming the criminal justice system, and adequately preparing Black children for college and the workforce. According to the Congressional Black Caucus’ (CBC) website, this year’s agenda is on equity, economic empowerment, and mobilizing the next generation of Black leaders. Their goal is to do this by creating opportunities that lift all Americans out of poverty, into the middle class and beyond.
Educators can support this national agenda by creating a mandatory Black studies curriculum where the Black community and economic empowerment are prioritized in all K-12 public schools. Since the inception of public schools in America in the 1840’s, a Eurocentric curriculum has been taught that teaches children to appreciate the accomplishments of European colonization regardless of the brutal effects it had on Black people and despite the damage it continues to perpetuate on them today through institutionalized and systemic racism. This white-washing of Black children is the basis of the miseducation of Americans, both Black and White, who do not see the value of the Black community, which ultimately instills a fear and distrust of innocent Black people.
It is no surprise that there is a growing movement to reimagine the public school system, since the COVID-19 pandemic exposed many of the racial disparities in education. Some educators are taking it one step further by calling for the entire system to be abolished and rebuilt starting by eliminating the discriminatory policies that punish Black children for small disciplinary infractions. Black children are criminalized and targeted in schools where they are suspended and expelled disproportionately. Since the inception of high stakes testing, Black children have also been tracked and given IEP’s more often than their White counterparts by focusing heavily upon quantitative data that does not address the “whole child.”
The latest scientifically-based research shows that investments in social and emotional learning, restorative practices, and mental health supports creates trust between a school and the community it serves. Evidence also shows that community schools that provide wrap around services which includes health and social services that address the trauma many children experience at home, also creates stronger relationships with families and communities. We must acknowledge the current research and demand that our elected officials pass immediate legislation to address bringing an end to discriminatory practices that are prevalent throughout all public school systems. Instead of investing in military and law enforcement, states and school districts need to re-allocate funding from those sources to support mental health services, social-emotional supports, staff training in restorative practices, mentoring, rites of passage programs, and needed social services.
This system, as we know it, was never designed for Black people in the first place. It is antiquated and no longer fits today’s citizens. Today’s Black youth need to learn how to implement cooperative economics into their communities in order to support the Black community for generations to come. The Biden-Harris administration should ensure that Black children learn how to band together financially and pull their resources together in order to spend their money in the Black community.
They also should ensure that social justice is taught in the Black community. Black children need to learn how to form a bloc, run for office, change laws that impact their own community, and start a social justice movement for the greater good of their community. This new Black studies curriculum needs to teach Black children the importance of questioning the status quo and challenging social order, as many of them have demonstrated during the protests after the murder of George Floyd and Breyonna Taylor. However, many mistakes were made as some youth ruined their careers by burning down police stations and throwing Molotov cocktails at police officers. Students need to learn academically how to effectively protest in the manner of their progenitors who secured civil rights in this country and human rights for the entire world.
If Kamala Harris is a staunch supporter of Black children, she would ensure that the proper oversight is provided in the U. S. Department of Education to fix the Black community. Schools are an essential part of our communities. Although the COVID-19 pandemic exposed these disparities, they have always been there and our children have borne the brunt of it. This is our opportunity to abolish systemic racism in our schools and to usher in a new system of equity for all.
Dr. Silvia M. Lloyd is CEO of SL Public Relations and Co-Founder at Edusite Scholars. She is an author and specializes in COVID-19 Crisis Management. Speaker, program developer, curriculum writer who specializes in researching and writing on the Black experience.
Comments or Questions? Want to share your educational experience with COVID? I cordially invited you to reach out! All respectful, on-topic comments are welcome.