What White Children Learn in School

If black children are being oppressed, marginalized, unfairly punished and branded as dangerous in school then white children are learning how to oppress, marginalize and fear black children AND they are learning to normalize it.

It has been my experience that white “progressives” don’t talk about the social justice aspect of unschooling. Most white progressives still think, and therefore teach their children, that it is a sign of growth to be around black children. I see white parents use children of color as props, posting photos of hand holding and hugs as flags of ally-ship and insinuating that these pictures capture some kind of racial harmony or social justice goals.

Last year, I was pleasantly surprised by a call to the NPR show Connections: The African American Home-Schooling Movement, where black guests shared their experiences and thoughts on why African Americans are the fastest growing home schoolers (yay!). 

Near the end of the program a call came in from Sue, a white teacher, she and her husband sent their children to public school specifically so that they could be in a more “diverse” space and then one day her 5yr old said:

“ The brown kids are the ones who are bad, the only kids who are good are me and…(named the only other white kid in the class)”

This is what white children learn in school. 

Not only does the structure of school limit freedom, agency and imagination, the focus on being “color blind” means schools are spaces where there is no depth to the present or historical experiences of people of color.

Reminds me of Zakkiyya Chase’s episode on Fare of the Free Child.  Chase is the author of No Dream Deferred: Why Black and Latino Families are Choosing to Homeschool, a book that examines the history of public education in America.  In the podcast Akilah Richards and Zakkiyya talk about how integration made schools into spaces where students are groomed to assimilate and erase. 

They discuss the Class of 1980, a section of the book focused on the high school classes of 1980, the first class to graduate from integrated K-12 grade schools in the United States.  The Class of 1980 graduated without fulfilling the promises of integration.  Integration was supposed to start a new era of inclusion and tolerance for differences…. Look were we are today after 40 years of integration. 

Putting children of different races together for a few hours a day does nothing towards justice and equity.  While Black Americans get that reality check at some point in their lives either at home, in school or in the streets, White Americans keep “whimsical ideas of unity” through adulthood without tools of implementation.  On the contrary, white children actually learn entitlement, they come out thinking they can and should save the world (insert programs like peace corps) instead of knowing that they are generations deep in debt to the people they think need saving. Remember that video of Conan O’brien being schooled by a little girl in Haiti?!It is important to acknowledge that the school system is graduating white children and adults who normalize being centered while others are oppressed and who only know how to communicate and collaborate in spaces where their culture is centered.

White supremacy is pervasive in our society so I’m not saying homeschooling and unschooling automatically solve these problems, I AM saying these are issues white families should consider when schooling, homeschooling or unschooling.  In my opinion the best way for the next generation to learn is by witnessing their parents unlearn and deschool themselves and their relationships. To be clear, white parents, deschooling in this aspect would not be to save people of color it would be to align with the kind of person you want to be and raise.  People of color will continue to be empowered whether or not you do the work to unlearn oppressive behaviors, that is the beauty and strength of building outside the system, it makes the system and it’s participants irrelevant.

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