3.5%, Gratitude, & Shape-Shifting Reptiles

By Courtney | November 27, 2019

Erica Chenoweth (Harvard University: Ted Talk) found that ensuring political change takes only about 3.5% of the population to be actively engaged. She argues that the “visibility of civil resistance actions attracts more active and diverse participation from the ambivalent.” Activism builds on activism. Momentum breeds momentum. 3.5% is the tipping point.

To hold our most public of public institutions accountable to equity and justice – to combat school segregation – we are gathering the 3.5%. And 3.5% is not really that much. We need just a few more people than the two percent of Americans who’ve never eaten a taco, but not even as many as the four percent who believe that shape-shifting reptiles control the world. This is doable, I did the math. Our core corps is just under 3 million actively engaged white and/or privileged families.

Our 3.5% must be strong and strident, outspoken and intentional. Not bystander-engaged but stand-up-engaged. Skin-in-the-game-engaged, working-through-the-messiness-engaged. You are part of that 3.5%.

  • Every day that we send our kids to an integrating school, we are the 3.5%.
  • Every decision in which we deeply consider the impact of our behavior within a school community, we are the 3.5%.
  • Every playground conversation that we push back against the narrow trope of ‘good/bad’ schools, we are the 3.5%.
  • Every time we resist opportunity hoarding, we are the 3.5%.
  • Every two minute comment at a school board meeting supporting brave policy or countering the noise for policies that advantage the advantaged at other people’s expense, we are the 3.5%
  • Every choice we make to follow the lead of black &/or brown parents to fight for educational justice, we are the 3.5%.

Some days it seems that the choices we are making is just a ‘drop in the bucket’ of the work that our nation needs to do. Sometimes it feels like we are just spitting in to the “getting the ‘best’ for my kid” wind. And while this is true, it is also true that we are gathering our 3.5%. It won’t happen overnight (it will never happen if we don’t dig in), but it is happening…

…Because here we are together. And I am grateful to be here with you. And yes, I’ve eaten a hell of a lot of tacos (my jury is still out on the shape-shifting reptiles).



(white mom of high-schoolers, Los Angeles)

Posted in: news

Integrated Schools is growing a grassroots movement of, by and for parents who are intentionally, joyfully and humbly enrolling their children in integrating schools. Learn more >

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