today in black history

June 16, 2024

Author John Howard Griffin, who posed as a Black man for his seminal book on southern racism,"Black Like Me," was born in 1920.

The Campaign to Destroy Public Schools

POSTED: March 30, 2022, 1:30 pm

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There is underway across the nation a coordinated campaign to destroy public education as right-wing operatives push bans on books that focus on race and gender, attack Critical-Race-Theory to undermine the teaching of Black and ethnic studies, and use gay children as foils to harass and threaten teachers in the classroom. This so-called ‘cultural war’ is nothing more than an attempt to dismantle the one institution in our struggling democracy, public schools, which has the capacity to lay the groundwork for equality in America. What we are witnessing in school districts today is an effort to create a hostile environment in public schools for children of color and those who identify as LGBTQ, or any child or family that subscribes to progressive ideals of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

What has been consistent since the trans-Atlantic slave trade populated the Americas with enslaved Africans is the consistent focus of White supremacy to deny Black people an education. An enslaved person’s learning to read provoked violence from a slave master or overseer and could be a death sentence. Whites and Black people considered education as a vehicle to liberation. As the Black Codes transformed into rigid segregation or ‘Jim Crow,’ segregationists made every effort to keep Black people in ignorance by isolating Black children in under resourced schools and making certain that they would receive an inferior education. To the point that the Virginia General Assembly adopted a policy of “massive resistance” after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, with officials in Prince Edward County closing public schools for five years rather than adhere to the Court’s ruling. While some Black children succeeded under these inhospitable conditions, most did not and faced a lifetime of hardship.

Today, there is a revival of the strategy of “massive resistance,” but rather than close schools, the strategy is now one of rotting schools from the inside. Coming upon the heels of Donald Trump’s campaign of lies and deception, his loyalists have descended upon local school districts as their next battleground. The appearance of angry White parents at local school board meetings, frothing at the mouth over a scholarly critique – critical race theory – that is not part of K-12 curricula anywhere represents part of a broader strategy to undermine equity in public schools. Despite grounded and well-documented research that details the benefit all children receive from a diverse education; a concerted effort is underway to whitewash curriculum and strip it of any acknowledgment of the role that race has played in the history and development of the United States. White supremacists attacking public schools are attempting the erase the truth behind the experiences of Black and brown people in this country. This extends to the banning of book titles from authors of color, and books that focus on race and justice.

“Knowing that heterogeneous classrooms result in children who value diversity, are empathetic and champion equality, the right-wing is attacking equity at its source – the public-school classroom.”

Behind Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ “Don’t say Gay” law is a strategy to use LGBTQ children as a wedge to manipulate the Black community’s spiritual conservatism to ‘divide and conquer,’ while cultivating fear among teachers by muzzling them in the classroom. This draconian law does nothing to protect children but does everything to dehumanize them and indoctrinate them to be hateful and suspicious of difference. Knowing that heterogeneous classrooms result in children who value diversity, are empathetic and champion equality, the right-wing is attacking equity at its source – the public-school classroom.

Public schools are the linchpin of our democratic system of governance though citizens overlook the critical role they play in our country. A citizen accrues all the expected benefits of civil society, improved health and wellness, increased mortality, decent housing, wealth generation and financial stability, when they have access to formal education and then have options by which to construct a reasonable quality of life. Public schools can level the playing field. That has been the experience in America. It is why public schools are coming under attack, and, without a counter strategy, we risk trapping Black and brown children in schools designed to crush their hopes and aspirations.

Black and brown parents must see the writing on the wall and work cooperatively to demand equity in public education. Parents of color must make their presence felt at local school board meetings and the ballot box during school board elections. The times call not for passive resistance, but aggressive and visible opposition to attacks on public schools by asserting their rights as taxpayers and parents.

Walter Fields is Executive Editor of

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