A few years ago, a proudly progressive school board member told me that while he would like to talk about school integration, he simply couldn’t spend his political capital on the issue. “White parents,” he said “would eat this alive.” Since then, we’ve heard similar refrains from board members across the country. From big and small cities, coastal and heartland cities, northern and southern cities, those who might want to do something toward meaningful integration need a constituency.
White families aren’t known for standing up for school integration. Those of us who do care need to make some noise — and a lot of it. Here are a few encouraging recent stories of white &/or privileged parents – alone or in partnership – speaking up.
In New York City, a grassroots community-led movement, years in the making, has successfully worked for an end to middle school screening in in District 15 (Brooklyn). In addition to the work that District 15 Parents for Middle School Equity , the NYC Alliance for School Integration & Desegregation and Integrate NYC and others have done, NYC is offering $2 million in new grants for other areas to develop integration plans. “Momentum for change is growing,” says Mayor de Blasio at a press conference at M.S. 51 in Park Slope, a sought-after middle school that the mayor’s own children attended. “What’s so powerful is that it is coming from the grassroots.”
While her daughters watched from the audience, Ali said: “After 3 years in our upper middle class, predominantly white neighborhood school in west Austin, my husband and I transferred our girls to an east Austin elementary school… My girls now attend a school that scores a ‘4’ on greatschools, is 82% black and brown, and 89% economically disadvantaged… We are happy and grateful to have this opportunity… Integration is possible. My family is doing it.” (Join Ali and other parents & educators pushing for school integration in Texas’s capital here)
In Nashville, a group of parents are pushing administration to address the fact that their school, serves 88% white students in a neighborhood that is almost 66% black students. The school a mile away is 92% black. The parents wrote a letter to the principal, stating that they were “concerned with the school’s growing lack of racial and socioeconomic diversity.” According to this article, district higher-ups said that they “supported the integration efforts, but ultimately they couldn’t play favorites; It is up to the parents to make it happen.”
The local NPR station in Kansas City, hosted a 50 minute discussion on school integration in their city. One of the panelists was a hard-charging white mom working to change the conversations around integration; join Lisa here!
Share your organizing stories!