My heart is hurting.
I’ve been sitting here trying to write another piece for EduMom — and there is plenty to write about on a myriad of different education policy topics as we head toward the next school year. But honestly, after this weekend — I’m just not feeling it.
The events in Charlottesville, Virginia has caught the attention of the nation and like a nasty train wreck happening in front of my eyes, I can’t seem to look away.
And, unfortunately for many of us, this is one train wreck we’ve seen a million times before.
Sure, the events of Saturday are more blatant and in your face, but for some of us, this is the same thing we’ve seen play out all of our lives. I’m sure it must be shocking for many to see this play out for the very first time, but to a lot of us, this is old news.
You see, there was no rally of solidarity for my family when I was four years old and the KKK targeted my family with death threats and violence when living in Abington, Pennsylvania.
I had been so excited to be allowed to answer our phone with a polite and respectful, "Good afternoon. Thank you for calling the Rodrigues residence. How may I help you?" that I was shocked to hear an angry voice telling me they were coming to burn our house to the ground.
When my father got home, he didn’t react much, and just called his friend Azuma, an immigrant from Africa — and they sat on the front porch of our home with two handguns waiting for someone to show up.
After a while, we moved away and just hoped no one would find us. Thankfully, they didn’t.
This became one of my first memories. But there would be others. Finding out that family members referred to us as the "black grandchildren" and listening to my mother tell stories of being denied prenatal care because of our ethnicity. Getting spit on and called a "spic" while walking with my father and uncle in Provincetown when I was 8. Being denied the ability to rent apartments in Boston because I look like such a nice white girl, only to be betrayed by my name. People assuming I didn’t speak English in parent teacher conferences because my kids are "Spanish" (whatever that means.)
Or district school teachers who don’t like what I have to say on this blog in 2017:
All of this is not to play the poor me game, Lord knows there are millions who have it worse than I do.
But it’s shocking to witness this awakening by some folks who seem to have really believed that we lived in some kind of post-racial utopia and that blatant acts of racism weren’t a daily occurrence.
These micro-aggressions are happening every single day to millions of us.
But if I can continue with some real talk for all of you, this is where a lot of our frustration comes from when we talk about education policy as well.
You refuse to listen when we tell you there is a problem. There. Is. A. Problem.
So many of you continue to live in this magic bubble where you believe that black and brown children in this country are getting a real shot at the same quality education that rich white children have access to.
They do not. They. Do. Not.
(Look at the chart above. Do you see how many Latino children in Dorchester have zero percent proficiency in Science on the 5th grade assessment? Know what THAT means? Those amazing high tech jobs coming to Boston aren’t going to be filled by kids who look like mine. And the cycle of poverty faced by Latino children continues.)
The achievement gaps keep getting wider and wider and the list of excuses as to why they "can’t be fixed" keeps getting longer and longer.
We pay schools full of teachers more than $100,000 per year and they still blame us and tell us our children just "can’t learn" because the socio-economic conditions they are growing up in are just "too tough" while we ignore the charter school down the street that CAN get it done because collaboration is "just not possible."
(The Winthrop School is 44% Latino.
And FAILING OUR CHILDREN by consistently maintaining a level 4 status and paying teachers buckets of money to do it. It’s disgusting.)
It is possible.
We CAN do it. We just have to recognize that it is a problem and one that should be placed in high priority.
You have to listen to us when we tell you that we have a crisis around cultural competency in our schools that breaks down the relationships between parents and teachers and makes it impossible for the two to build the trust needed to make what seems like the impossible, possible.
You have to hear us when we tell you that the elegant solutions that are manufactured around fancy glass conference tables that seem like the perfect fix to all of our problems to YOU — yet fall flat in the context of our neighborhoods — will never work until you listen to our voices.
You have to trust us. Value us. Not just hear us, but listen to us. Our lens is just as important and valuable as yours.
We keep telling you there is a problem here. Systemic racism is a thing. Institutional racism exists. Now. In 2017.
So rally if you want. But can we just start doing something real to fix this already? Like maybe allowing people of color to step up and tell you what the issues actually are and tell you what we need to start doing to address them?
What do you think?