People of Color in Integrated SchoolsBy Ali Takata | September 20, 2021
Courtney Mykytyn founded Integrated Schools in 2015 based on the idea that to achieve meaningful school integration, White parents must take some responsibility because Black families and communities have shouldered the burden of integration (from school closures to the loss of a generation of Black educators) for too long. Because White parents have been the primary barrier to school integration and educational equity, Integrated Schools’ primary audience has been White parents with White children. While Courtney’s model continues to work for many, since her untimely death, our culture has shifted in ways Courtney never could have imagined, and so too has Integrated Schools’ discourse.
As a biracial – Japanese and Italian – woman with two mixed race children, identity and belonging are perpetual themes in my life. As soon as I connected with Integrated Schools in 2017, I wondered where I fit, both in Integrated Schools and in the broader movement for school integration. During the past 18 months, with increasing frequency, people of color have come to Integrated Schools and asked, “Where do I fit in Integrated Schools?”, “Do I belong here?”
From its inception, Integrated Schools has encouraged “White and/or privileged” parents to practice antiracist school integration. But the phrase “and/or privileged” has always felt incidental and nebulous to me. I know that it’s supposed to include me, but I’ve never felt fully seen by it and its lack of specificity doesn’t speak to my experiences. This confusion and ambiguity about who is “and/or privileged” can silence people of color and push some away.
The “and/or privileged” framing is a recognition that Integrated Schools’ messages could resonate with some people of color. While it may invite people of color to the organization, it can also create a false sense of belonging because Integrated Schools essentially speaks to the White experience. Mobilization strategies thus far have focused on both the position and privileges of White parents and how they show up in schools. While I believe in the power of “White Lips to White Ears”, Integrated Schools’ messages of dismantling White supremacy and anti-Black racism can resonate with parents of color too, but without a more complex racial awareness and analysis, people of color can feel whitewashed or unseen.
According to the US Census, The United States is more racially diverse now than ever. Despite slower overall population growth, the growth that occurred in the past decade was among people who identified as Hispanic, Asian, Black and multiracial. Additionally, among children younger than 18 years old, the population of “non-White US residents” jumped from 47% in 2010 to 53% in 2020. Given our changing demographics, multiracial spaces where no one group dominates will gradually become the norm for our children. The self-limiting impact of Integrated Schools neglecting to meaningfully recognize people of color will hold us back from achieving our mission.
For Integrated Schools to remain relevant and forward-looking, we need to expand our imagination, our conversations and our embrace to include the experiences of people of color. If Integrated Schools exists so that children can learn together and create a true multiracial democracy, then any effort towards that goal must also be multiracial. After years of grappling with this in relative obscurity within Integrated Schools, I want Integrated Schools to recognize people of color in our community so that we can more fully join and be met in the movement as our whole selves.
As a member of the Integrated Schools Leadership Team, I’m pleased to announce Integrated Schools’ decision to undertake a transformation from a primarily White organization to a true multiracial one. This decision has been months in the making and the evolution will take time, but the leaders of Integrated Schools are committed to this shift and all that it may entail. I believe this undertaking aligns with Courtney’s legacy of critical self-reflection and growth.
To support this transformation, Integrated Schools is starting a group for people of color. If you are a person of color and have felt a gap in Integrated Schools or wondered about your role, I invite you to reach out to [email protected]. This is my invitation to people of color who are invested in the school integration movement and who would like to join the conversation about what is possible as Integrated Schools evolves into a multiracial organization. I look forward to welcoming you personally.
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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 >