In the fifth episode in our Brown v. Board at 67: The Stories We Tell Ourselves series, we step away from scholarship to take a moment to listen. I Hope They Hear it in Our Voices is a conversation with two Black parents who live in different parts of the U.S. and who have had very different — yet very similar — school experiences. Greg and Carol tell us a lot about how far we have come since Brown v. Board, about how much work we still have to do, and the very real costs of “access to resources”. With deep gratitude for their willingness to share their stories, we listen.
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The Integrated Schools Podcast was created by Courtney Mykytyn and Andrew Lefkowits.
This episode was produced by Andrew Lefkowits.
Audio editing and mixing by Andrew Lefkowits.
Music by Kevin Casey.
[email protected] - Greg and Carol Revisited
Andrew: Welcome to the Integrated Schools Podcast. I'm Andrew, a White dad from Denver, and this is Brown v Board at 67- Greg and Carol Revisited. This is the final part from our series from two years ago, The Stories We Tell Ourselves, and it continues to be one of my favorite episodes we've ever done. The scholars we were fortunate enough to speak with for the first four episodes really complicated my understanding of the Brown decision, and I'm so grateful to them for sharing. But today we leave the scholarship behind and hear about how these stories we tell about Brown v Board really impact parents today.
You know, we started with Dr. Rucker Johnson's longitudinal research showing the benefits that come from desegregation in the places it was tried, and really highlighting what could be possible if we committed to desegregation, to investments in early childhood, and to more equitable school funding.
Dr. Noliwe Rooks reminded us of the harm caused by the Brown decision, particularly to Black teachers and Black schools, and asked us to imagine a version of integration that focused on capitalizing on the gifts that Black teachers had while providing more equitable resources.
Dr. Amanda Lewis reminded us that a school building with a diverse student population is not the same as truly integrated schooling. We so often see racial bias showing up in the ways that ostensibly race neutral rules and systems are actually implemented.
And finally, civil rights attorney David Hinojosa, helped us push a bit beyond the typical Black / White binary that the school integration conversation often takes. We learned some of the history of Latinx communities in the fight for integration. I learned so much from these conversations, but two years ago, we really wanted to include more. As Courtney said back then:
Courtney: while we never intended to offer any kind of complete history, there were other ways that we wanted to complicate the story, especially some Native American and Indigenous histories and Asian American experiences and histories around desegregation and integration, more specifically.
Andrew: Yeah, that's right. I mean, you know, just as David Hinojosa highlighted some of the ways that, that maybe we're not as aware of that Latinx communities have fought for integration and helped us understand the ways that their struggle is in some ways similar to but also different from Black communities, we wanted to do something similar with Native and Asian American communities. And we tried, we really, really tried.
Courtney: We really did. But you know what, in the end, we just couldn't find the right voices to tell the stories in, in ways that would really connect the history to the current state of education.
Andrew: Yeah. I mean, we recognize our sheer lack of really anything like expertise in any of this. Um, and, and, you know, as a podcast team of two volunteer members, um, it's just the two of us. So we just, we couldn't find the right people
So, two years later, I'm reminded that we still really haven't dug into those stories and we need to, if you know someone who'd be great to speak with, please reach out . [email protected] and let us know. We would love to dig into those topics more.
But today we can set all that aside and hear what often end up being somewhat heartbreaking stories from two Black parents, Greg and Carol.
Courtney: We wanted to spend this week just really listening. Greg and Carol both independently reached out to us after having a come across this podcast and they were willing to share their stories with each other, with us, and, and with you.
Andrew: You know, of course we need a little disclaimer in here, right? This is not some sort of investigative journalism piece. And certainly not a definitive look at the quote unquote Black experience. You know, it's a, it's a sharing from two Black parents who live in different parts of the country and who have had very different and yet in many ways, very similar educational experiences for their children. And so I, you know, I think the, the ways that they overlap is really telling.
Courtney: Yeah, I'm deeply moved and deeply grateful for Greg and Carol's willingness to share their stories with us. And it's not always, you know, easy to hear.
Andrew: But, but we need to, so.
Hey, Greg, how are you? Nice to meet you.
Greg: I’m so good. Nice to meet you, too.
Courtney: Greg, do you want to start and introduce yourself?
Greg: I’m Greg, African-American dad married with five kids. One, two, three, four, five. And I have two girls and three boys. No, no, I don't. I have three girls….
Courtney: This is the best intro ever.
Greg: Yes. And I'm just very, very, very concerned about the education of my children. You know, my wife and I will do whatever we need to do to make sure that they get what we feel is the best education that we can afford them.
Courtney Where do you live, Greg?
So I live in, uh, Oxford, Michigan, which is 50 minutes north of Detroit.
Andrew: And what kind of schools do your kids go to?
Greg: They're in public schools, but they are, you know, one of few African American kids in the district.
Courtney: And you moved to that district for the schools, right Greg?
Greg: Yes. Yep.
Courtney: Okay. So Carol, can you introduce yourself?
Carol: Hi, I'm Carol, an African American mom from Atlanta, and I have three children. A 13 year old boy who is in private school and has been there since the second grade. And then I have a four year old about to go into pre-K and I have a two year old. Like Greg said, just from the beginning, very early on, just very concerned about education and wanting the best and trying to find the best situations for my child. You know, we've, we've had some bumps along the way. And, you know, just to be honest, I just don't feel like the decisions that I have made have actually been the best for him. Which is tough.
Greg: Just like Carol said, there are times where I wonder if I've made the right decision. There were unintended consequences with the move.
Andrew: What are the things that you thought you were going to get? And then what are the things that you feel like maybe you didn't expect that, that you ended up getting?
Greg: You know, one thing the community is very, it's a close knit community. You know, the high school basketball team made it, made a run in the state playoffs and the community all went, you know, to the games. I took my son to them and that's cool. That's a good thing. You know, the parks are nice there. However, we are in a constant state of contradiction.
And so I moved, I moved into the White neighborhood, but I'm always thinking about the neighborhood I left. I decided, you know, to move to the White neighborhood to get the quote unquote, good schools, to get the, the resources, too. And I feel some kind of way about that, too. It's just a constant inner struggle, just constant.
Carol: Yeah, my son's 13 and I've got, I've got two younger kids who are just now about to, you know, embark on the whole school thing. And I'm already seeing where I'm going to do things totally different. Like I'm not moving to an area where it's predominantly White because the schools are quote unquote good. And honestly, and what makes them so good, is because they're predominantly White and that's what, that's what people think. It’s like, you know, we're going to go to the White neighborhoods because the White schools are better. And I just don't, I just want to get out of that, that mindset.
It's hard. I remember saying to my son, we went to one of his friend's high school games and, you know, we live in the South and like, bands are really big and just a Friday night football game and just watching the Black kids, I mean, just go off in the bandstand. I mean, it was amazing. And I was just looking at my son and I was like, I literally said to him, I said, I don't know if I'm doing you a disservice because you have never experienced this right here. And he's just looking at me like, What are you talking about? You just always so deep.
And I'm like, No, like, I really think that I’ve done you a disservice for not having you around your culture. And I don't want you to feel like there's anything wrong with your culture. And so I wanna, I want to put you back into it. I want you to soak it up. I want you to go to a Friday night football game and be in the bandstand and watch the girls dance. And I just want you to experience it,
Greg: My son was, um, a student used the N word. Um, he's in fifth grade and my, you know, my son has already heard the N word. And, um, the school decided to do a book study for the eighth graders on a book, I think it's called Day of Tears and it was talking about a fictional slave auction.
Greg: And my daughter, I think she might have been the only African American girl in her class. You know that the school sent the email out, notifying all the parents that they were going to do this. They say they was going to cross out the N word...
Carol: ‘Cause that'll make it better.
Greg: And so they sent out an email. I went to the school, I talked to her teacher. The email went to all the eighth grade parents, but when I got to the school and I asked the teacher how many other parents had asked her about the book, she said, None. So that made me wonder, Am I the only one concerned about race here?
Carol: Not that you're the only one that's that concerned, you're the only one it affects.
Greg: Like I told, like, don't make my daughter the example. Don't make her have to speak for an entire race.
Carol: That, that doesn't surprise me one single bit. My son's school did a trip to DC and the itinerary had them visiting everywhere. They even had time to go to a baseball game. But, uh, the one museum that was not on there was the African American museum. And when I sent an email, they were like, Oh, well, you know what, we didn't think we would have time.
Carol: I went to the school and I said, So you're trying to tell me, you have time to attend a baseball game, but you don't have time to go to this one museum? Why don't you cut one of the other ones out? And the fact that I even had to mention this just further lets me know that y'all are just so disconnected and your whole diversity and inclusion team? It's just for show.
Andrew: Oh, they have a whole team.
Carol: We have a team at my son's school.
Courtney Why did you enroll your son at this largely White private school in the first place? Like what was the, what was the hope?
Oh gosh, the resources, the opportunities. Just thinking that the education was quote unquote better. I wanted better for my son and, and so it's hard for me to, at the time, to think that he was going to thrive in our little neighborhood school. So my hope was that he was going to get to the school, he was going to thrive and everything was going to be great. And, you know, but we've, we've definitely had obstacles along the way. When he first started out, you know, Black history month came, and I'm one of those parents, I don't expect school to teach a hundred percent of anything. That, and I do know that part of our history, is, I have to teach him. It's not something that's in the textbook and it's not, anybody can just water down and give them. But I was really concerned that we didn't have not even a Black history program, but just anything the whole month of February. And I would literally ask him every single day, like, what y'all talk about today? Did y'all, did y'all have anything about Black history?
And then it was like the last week of February, my son got invited to speak at a Black history program that was on the weekend on a Saturday. And that was the extent of Black history. So it was, it was optional of course.
Courtney: Totally extracurricular, right?
Carol: Totally extracurricular, on the weekend, knowing that children have, you know, other things going on. Soccer, baseball, football, whatever, knowing that they're not going to come.
So, you know, we did that. We did that song and dance for years up until last year, when my son just was like, I'm just not even doing it. I just don't even want to do it.
Greg: I totally can relate to that Carol, like, yeah, go the whole month and not talk about Black history at all? Come on now.
Carol: And for them, it's just like, well, you know, our curriculum is, you know, and they know, and it's not like we have to focus on it.
And mind you, my child was one of two or three African American boys from second grade to fifth grade while he was at the school.
Andrew: So they say like our Black history month will be, we'll let one of our three African American students speak on a Saturday when no one will show up.
Courtney But we're really confused as to why we don't have a lot of quote diversity at this school.
Exactly. You know, and then as he gets older, it's just hard having the real conversations with him. Uh, my son was talking about swimming and he's a competitive swimmer. And he was saying that he wanted to swim at Howard, which is, you know, HBCU and he's talking about it and just having a great conversation.
And I'm sort of walking behind him and his friends and his friend’s like, Why would you even want to go there? That's not even a good school. You should probably swim for Auburn or something like that. And my son was just like, Well, what do you know about the school? Like, how do you know it's not a good school?
He was just like, I mean, because it's like, people don't really do well at those schools. And he was like, well, how do you know that? Have you been, do you know anybody that's gone to that school that hasn't done well? And the other boy was like, I just think it's just a dumb idea for you to go to a school like that if you really want to succeed in life.
And my son was just like, Dude, shut up, why you don't even know it was. It was funny to hear my son sort of speak up for himself, but it was, it was heartbreaking at the same time. ‘Cause I'm looking like Jesus, is that what y’all really think? So because he wants to go to a historically Black college, it's, it’s not that good.
Andrew: I think it speaks to what you have done as a parent to have, you know, that he hasn't internalized that in the same way, because I think that's hard. You've got to put in a lot of effort on that.
Carol: It constantly has me thinking as he got older throughout the day, what kind of like microaggression are you dealing with on a day-to-day basis at school?
And I know my son is strong-willed and I know he's strong and I know he can, you know, he can stand up for himself. But, at the end of the day, I'm like this may have been the worst decision that I have made for him, because I don't know how I'm breaking him down or how it's breaking him down psychologically to have to go through. And, you know, just little things each day. I had his English teacher tell me in seventh grade, I have no idea how he got this far. He doesn't have basic grammar and this, you know, this was just an English class. And I was like, Well, that's very odd because he's been here since second grade. So, that's on y'all. And he was like, Oh, he's been at this school since second grade? I said, Yes, he has. And then the same teacher we found out my son was going through tutorial and he wasn't helping him. He would tell him, You know, that's just, I just can't believe you're asking me that you just need to Google it.
Carol: And when I, and when I, when I approached the teacher about it, he's just like, Well, I was just joking. And I turned to my son, I said, Did it sound like a joke to you? And he said, No, it didn't, he said, because my friend asked the same exact question and he would answer him. And my son has told me, Oh, he just doesn't like me because I'm Black. But here I am, every single morning dropping you off to a school where you, you feel like one of your teachers don't like you because you're Black. It killed me.
Andrew: Greg, when you guys were looking at trying to decide what neighborhood to live in and trying to figure out, you move to this neighborhood for the schools, what was the sort of narrative around why this is a good school, what a good school is?
Greg: Yeah, the, um, so the district where we moved to, um, the entire district is IB.
Greg: I'm not even exaggerating. The high school, it sits up on a hill, just geographically. It sits on the hill. The football field, they have blue turf. I mean, it's, it's another world. When I was in high school, and I went to my neighborhood school, I thought I was doing pretty good in my school. And then the county decided they wanted sister schools, they wanted you to go see another high school.
And I went in 11th grade to see this other high school and it was in a suburban area and it was just built that year and it was beautiful. And maybe my memory is off, but I think seven college recruiters came to that school that day. They had like, now this is a public school, not a private, it was public. Back in my high school, we only, I think I would say at most five college recruiters came to see us that year.
You know, the military was there all the time.
Greg: Fast forward 20 years and it's still the same. But I will also say in the same breath, I feel some kind of way that I left the kids in that other neighborhood, because in my opinion, and I'm going to just say this how I want to say it. My kids aren't special. Um...
Andrew: We'll make sure to send them a clip of that.
Greg: Right, exactly, exactly. I mean, all the kids are special. And if all kids had the same resources, the kids will flourish. You know, like my, my kids, I do feel that they are doing well. I do. And I will also say that there are some adults in the schools that, they do care and they are thinking about race, but that doesn't take away my anxiety every single day.
This, this decision to integrate is not just the in thing to do for parents of color. We thinkin’ a lot about how this is going to affect our children. It's not just an easy casual decision.
Courtney: I feel like both of you have moved to these schools for the resources and I'm just thinking about how expensive these resources are to like the soul.
Greg: Yes. I took this phrase from a friend of ours that said pre-forgiveness, like I'm, I'm forgiving myself now for whatever my children will have to endure when they are adults, because they're going to this school, all the microaggressions, I’m pre-forgiving myself. I'm saying they going to be okay. And I don’t know, I don't know if that's true. They are strong and we really talk to them.
I mean, we, we really... like when that boy called my son the N word, that turned into like a three hour discussion at our house.
Greg: And now I got to go to the school and talk to the teacher. That takes up more of my time and my resources. And I'm always playing this constant struggle, like, should I go say something?
Carol: Oh gosh, me too.
Greg: Right? I'm the only one of the few African American parents. I don't want to go up there and they'd be like, Oh, here come the angry Black man again.
Carol: Yup. You usually get the that feeling, you so get that feeling every time you have a problem, it's like, you second guess yourself, like, well, maybe it's not that bad.
And I had to stop. I just had to stop telling myself like, no, it is that bad. If it bothers me, then it's bad. If you can complain about having peanut butter in the lunchroom, you damn right I complain about my son feeling like his teacher doesn't like him ‘cause he's Black. I just, I've had enough. I'm not gonna keep, you know, second guessing what I feel is right for my child.
And I'm, I've gotten to the point now where I, you know, I don't even like for my son to hang out with his friends, it's just, it's such a different atmosphere. And it is heartbreaking sometimes because literally he wanted to hang out with his friends on Halloween and I couldn't even let him go because we don't live in that same neighborhood. And my son is often the only Black child. And I just didn't want anything to happen to him. And trying to explain that to a White mom was literally the hardest thing, because she really did not understand my concern, my concern for the boys going out and playing a prank and having a good time that was really lighthearted and it was just something that you do as a teenager, nothing harmful. If I'm not there and I can't protect him, and if someone zooms in and see, Oh, it's a Black kid with them and then they're angry about that. No. So those little small pieces of innocence that I'm just robbing my child of, I feel like every single day. Hey Mom, we're going to play a prank, we’re gonna jump in somebody's pool. Oh no, sweetheart. You can't do that. Mm-mm. You can't. Well everybody else did it. And we were just having a good time and she was watching out her window. Yeah, absolutely not. ‘Cause if her dad looks out the window and sees you in his pool, then what, how do we know how he feels about it?
You know what I mean? And it just is, just socially, I just feel like he's, I’m just, I'm just breaking him down day by day. My son's like really into hip hop and you know, he likes sneakers and he likes Jordans and he likes hoodies and it was to the point where he would go and when I did let him go and hang out with his friends, I tried to switch him up.
Why don't you tuck your shirt? Why do you have to wear those sneakers? Why don't you wear your khakis? I couldn't even let my son be who he was. And I'm trying to dress him for his, like, for a part. Like, I want him to look a certain way before he walks out the door. It was awful. And I couldn't believe that I, that I was doing that to him.
Greg: Carol, you brought this to my remembrance. Um, we had sat down as a family and we watched The Hate You Give. And, um, the end, you know, has extras. One of the extras talked about code switching and after we got done watching it, my oldest, , she's at the high school. So there are some children of color at the high school, but she said, Daddy, I don't feel like I code switch when I'm with my White friends, I feel like I code switch when I'm with my Black friends.
Greg: Which… and then she also said, Well, you know, Mom and Dad y'all don't, y'all don't necessarily act Black. There's the stereotype. And I think this is some of, with White supremacy, with White supremacy that Whiteness means the whole gamut.
You could be at the low end of the spectrum or at the high end of the spectrum for Whites, that's they get, they get that privilege. But for African Americans, there's a stereotype. And I got to teach them that you are not the stereotype. And I know that my daughter is assimilating. I know that she is, you know, to want to belong, wanna, you know, have friends.
And, and so I get why she said the things that she said, and this is my job as a father to teach her that you are an African American, we are Black. And whatever your perception is, you have to include us in that, too.
Carol: Exactly. You know, a lot of my friends are not sending their kids to private school and not only is it because of the cost, but it's just, it's exhausting.
It's exhausting to go to social events and have to quote unquote code switch. It's exhausting being the only Black person in the room. I, I went to an event and I literally had a lady stop me mid conversation and say, You know, the school offers financial aid.
Greg: Wow. Wow.
Carol: That has, it had nothing to do with, we were not even talking about school, but it's like, she was doing me a favor. She had to just let me in on that little piece of information.
It just feels so wrong. And you know, I'm complaining about my neighborhood being gentrified, but I'm also part of that problem because my son doesn't even go to the neighborhood school.
I'm driving him outside of the city limits just to get him a quote unquote, good education. When I've got to a school that he can go to in my backyard. So…
Courtney: It's like the smog we talk about, right? Like what this good education means and, and what we're willing to give up for it.
Carol: Oh, we, we've given up tons, tons. And I just, and all you could keep thinking in the back of your head is like, this is what he needs. This is me being a good parent. It turns out that I was just wrong and I, and I can admit that. That it was, it was the wrong move. Like do we, does he have some good friends? Absolutely he does. Does he have some not so good friends that I don't let him go to their parents' house? Absolutely. But on the flip side, it'd be the same thing in our neighborhood, but at least it’s our neighborhood and is our community.
I'm not driving him outside of our city limits because our school isn't good enough anymore. It's just, it's exhausting. It's tiring. And it's just not right.
Andrew: It's like these schools that supposedly have everything don't actually have the tools to really reach your kids. Right? Like Greg, you were telling us before we started recording here about a video you watched from Dr. Vanessa Siddle Walker, that video seemed to resonate with you, didn't it?
Greg: I think Dr. Walker really summed it up. There was a way that Black people wanted integration to work, but it didn't work that way. When they looked at integration, it was an additive model. So Black teachers knew how... they knew aspiration. They knew how to make Black kids believe that they could become anything. Black teachers knew how to advocate for Black children. But they didn't have access to resources and things like that. But when integration happened, what Dr. Walker said is that it moved from an additive model to an exchange model. And so when you integrated, when we integrated, they got rid of the Black teachers. Now the Black kids have no one to aspire them. They have no one to advocate for them and they have limited access. So Carol, you know, I think that we both felt like we were going to get access, but we don't have anyone, any adults that's aspiring the kids at the school and we don't have anyone that's fighting on their behalf.
But then, now this is a big reason why I left or why we moved. It’s because I felt that global majority schools, I feel as though they are being poisoned by racism too, because they may have Black teachers and all of that, but the school climate feels more like a prison. The school to prison pipeline is real.
Carol: No, I, I totally, I totally agree with that as well.
Andrew: It's like a piece of this that has to do with expectations. It has to do with what do teachers think is possible for, for your kids compared to the other kids in the school?
Greg: So, you know, my daughter's in the ninth grade. She has a 4.0, she's doing well and I ain't bragging, but I'm excited. I am happy about that.
Andrew: You should brag about that.
Courtney: You already said your kids aren’t special, you can round that out a little.
Greg: I’m trying to! But, but no one encouraged her to take the AP class for the next year. Like, so no one's advocating. So I gotta call. And I gotta push. I asked her how many, how many African American kids do you think will be in your AP class next year? And she was like, I don't think it's going to be any. But me.
Carol: Greg, that's so funny that you, that you say that because my son had a similar experience, but it was with a band. He plays an instrument and he's, he's really good at that instrument. And they have an opportunity for kids to play in like a smaller ensemble. And I remember thinking like, Gosh, I'd really love for him to play in it. When I was talking to him about it, he was like, Yeah, it seems cool and the pieces seemed really difficult and I think I would really like it. And I said, So has anyone talked to you about joining it? And he was like, I don’t even know what to do. And I was like, Okay. I was like, Well, I'll reach out to the orchestra teacher and I'll ask about it. And so, you know, I reached out and said, Hey, he's interested in joining this ensemble. And I know he's got the talent, I know he can play the pieces. She's like, Oh, well I just, I never gave him the information on it because I didn't think he was interested. And I said, Well, who did you give information to? And she said, Well, the majority of the kids in the class got it. And I'm like, Well, well, how come he didn't? I just didn't think he was interested. You know, it's so hard to be in that space because you, you want to think that she didn't do it because he was Black. And I know that that's not what she did. But then the, but then the other voice is tapping you on the shoulder, like, Girl, yes she did.
It's such a hard space to be in. It's so hard to not come off as defensive every single time. But you know, there are some things that you just don't leave me a choice at because you really had no reason not to give it to him. And you couldn't even give me a reason.
Courtney: Just vague enough that you can't, you know, like it's hard to fight this Jell-o.
Andrew: Right. You can't argue, Yes, you did think he'd be interested. And maybe, you know, I mean, did she sit down one day and say, Hm he's Black, he probably has an interested? Probably not, but she wasn't aware of her tendency to do that.
Carol: Exactly. You hit the nail right on the head. I think that's a lot of what happens at school. I don't, I don't a hundred percent think that it's always, you know, it's intentional, but the fact that you're not in tune and you don't know, after all the training and all the people that you bring in.
I was thankful when my son had a few Black teachers. I communicated a lot more with the teachers, I knew they had my son's back and I knew that they will call me if he was slacking off. Whereas though now, you know, it's just like, Well, he, he did it, but I didn't, I didn't feel like I needed to email you.
And I'm like, Well, hold him accountable if he's done something wrong, don't, don't think that I don't care because I'm that parent. If he's done something or he hasn't done something, he hasn’t turned some work in, I need to know that. I'm a parent, just like anybody else is. Well, we just didn't want to trouble you. You're not troubling me. He's at school.
Andrew: You're not calling is troubling me.
Carol: : Yeah, exactly.
Andrew: You’re leaving me in the dark about my kid is what's troubling me.
Carol: And then when he comes home and I'm looking at a progress report and I'm like, Well, gee, what happened? Well, I didn't, I didn't turn in this, this, this, and this. And when I reach out to the teacher, like, Well, we just really didn't want to just bother you. And I, you know, I asked, I've asked my other friends and other White mom friends, and they're like, Oh, we, we always talk to him. He emails us every time he's missing an assignment. This, this year he had, he does not have one honest to God, good relationship with any of his teachers.
Am I expecting him to have that every single year? Absolutely not. But the fact that you don't have one teacher that you feel like you can go to, that can advocate for you, that you feel comfortable with, is worrisome to me. And that's, that's, I mean, that's the majority of the reason why I'm taking him out of this school.
Andrew: You are!
Carol: Oh yeah. I'm pulling, I'm pulling him out. He's a good student. He's athletic. Um, he's humble. He's like, he's everything that they want. He's that diverse piece that they like need. And so the day that I'm assuming that it got out, I got three phone calls from the diversity team. So, We're just so, so worried. Why wouldn't you reach out to me? Why would you not tell me? Why are you leaving? What school does he going to? And then when I told her that he was going to our neighborhood school, she was like, Oh, he's going to be in a culture shock. Er? Why? That's his culture though. Why, what's a culture shock for him?
I'm confused why you're concerned. That's not going to be a good environment for him. Well, these are literally the kids that live in our neighborhood. What's going to be wrong with the environment? He's just not going to thrive there and they're not going to be able to hold onto him. And what kind of programs do they have at the school?
I get it. I get that you're a private school and you do have a lot more resources than a public school, but at the end of the day, he's still going to be educated. I'm pretty sure he'll still go to any college that he wants to go to. He's going to have to work his butt off and nothing's going to be handed to him.
And it just, it just amazes me that, that that's all she could say. Now, and this is another Black woman. And I think that so many people are wrapped up into their, you know, their educational experience for their kids being purely educational, but there's a whole different side to that, too. You got to, you got to remember it's a whole child. You gotta teach to the whole child, not just the educational portion. And I feel like that's where I sort of messed up with my son. Just taking away that, that culture from him, I just can't believe I just let it go on for so long.
Greg: I, I have a story. Like, so my oldest boy, when he was in fourth grade, he was getting in trouble in his Spanish class.
And so I've set up a meeting with his teacher and she was saying how rambunctious he is, blah, blah, blah. And I, you know, received everything that she said. And then before we left the conference, I said, um, I'm not saying that my boy doesn't misbehave, but I also want you to be aware of that he's the only African American boy in the class. And I don't want the other kids in the class to think that he's acting up because he's African American. And I think if you have a good relationship with him, he would do much better. And you know, and you don't know how much I didn't want to say it.
Carol: It’s the truth.
Greg: But ever since then, you know, the teacher saw my wife one day and was like, He's a star student and dah, dah, dah, dah, you know. But it’s because you finally decided to have a relationship with him
Carol: That just blows my mind, that we even have to tell you to have a relationship with our child, but like, as you, like, you need the, okay first.
Carol: I remember my son had, I think it was his third grade, maybe his fourth grade teacher just literally just fessing up to me at like a parent teacher conference, like, I don’t really yell at him. ‘Cause he's just so handsome. And I just don't expect him to just, just know all the work that he should and get everything done.
And I'm looking at her like she has six heads. I'm like, What, what the hell is that supposed to mean? He's handsome, so you don't yell at him? So you were cutting him a break ‘cause he's the cute Black kid? And I, and I just had to tell her from that point on, I said, Okay, so from this point on, like that stops, like we don't, I hold him accountable at home so I'm expecting you to do the same. I don’t want him being treated special because, because he's Black. That's crazy.
And it’s, it's funny that Greg said that because you know, I hate to tell you, like, I don't feel like my kids are special. My kids are kids just like everybody else’s kids.
Andrew: It's interesting because when we think about the problems around race and discipline in schools, you know, in, in these global majority schools led by largely White administration and White staff, the problem is often sort of the opposite of what you have experienced, right? It's like the, the, the kids of color are the ones who get the most discipline and disproportionate and unfair discipline. But your experience is actually the opposite and that's not, that's not actually helpful.
Carol: No, it's not. It's not helpful at all. ‘Cause I don't, like I said, I don't want him to feel like I'm just going to get away with whatever I want to get away with. It made me think of the other story. When we were in like the parent meeting, some big event had happened at the school. And we were sitting, all the parents were sitting around and we were talking about it. And the one parent just was like, Well I don’t talk about that kind of stuff with my kids because we just don't need to. And it was, it was around something about some violence and, you know, I just sat up and I just said, You know what a privilege you have not to be able to have to speak about that stuff to your child when it happens. I said, because in my house we talk about it every single day. And I said, You see, I said, but you have that privilege and I don't. And I said, And that bothers me. Well, I just don't think that, you know, my kids need to be talking about this heavy kind of stuff. I said, I feel for you, I feel that you don't feel like your kids need it. I said, But I don't have those options, I just don't.
And it’s just, it’s meetings like those, like those, those parent meetings where I've just got to constantly be the one in the room, like, Hate to pop, your bubble, but there is somebody here that has to do that on a daily basis. It's exhausting. It's exhausting to go and be that voice. It’s exhausting to go and be in those spaces. And sometimes I just don't have it. Like, I just don't have the mental space for it.
Greg: Yeah. It is exhausting. It's tiresome. But then this is what, this is what keeps me going. I think about Ruby Bridges. I think about, you know, James Meredith in Mississippi. I think about Thurgood Marshall. So that keeps me going. I think about the ancestors, you know, those who have gone through. I read a lot of books about the Civil War and Reconstruction, and I just, I feel like if they can make it, man, I'm going to have to make it, too.
It's exhausting. Don't get me wrong. I just try to tap into the ancestors. I try to, that's what I do.
Carol: I think for, for me in some of the spaces that I've entered, it’s almost like I want a seat at their table. And then sometimes I, in all actuality, I don't. I have my own table with my own chairs. And I don't necessarily have to have a seat at your table. You know what I mean? And I feel like a lot of times, going into those spaces, is, they're offended when I do speak my mind or in speaking my truth, is all I'm doing. I'm not, not here to cause any problems or to stir up anything. All I'm doing is speaking my truth and what's real to me. It gets tiring to have to constantly know that I'm about to go in this meeting and here's some B.S. and that I'm not going like and I've got to sit there and twiddle my thumbs and try to figure out if I'm going to try to right what y'all just said.
That's, that's the biggest thing for me, is I just want them to know that sometimes it's not all about me trying to come into your space and take over because I'm not, that's not what I'm here to do, but, um, I am here to make you aware. I'm here to, to open your mind. To let you see that, you know, my life is not like your life and those conversations that you opt out of, I have to have them. So imagine how I feel having to talk to my son about issues that you don't want to talk about because you're uncomfortable with with your kids. You don't think I'm uncomfortable with some of the conversations I have to have with my child?
I was talking to one of my White mom friends a few weeks ago, we were talking about our kids driving and she was like, You know, it's like, I hope you don't mind me saying that she was like, but I can't imagine being in your shoes and having to have the conversations that you have with your son about driving. She said, Because I don't have to have those conversations. I don't have to tell him when a police officer approaches you, you know, keep your hands on the wheel. And she said, It's frightening. And she said, I just, I don't even know how you even do it. But I did appreciate that she knew, and she recognized that the conversations that we have at our home are very different than what she has at her home.
Greg: You know, and I will say too, that I think the system, the White supremacy system has caused many of them not to know, because we just don't talk about race at all. Like…
Carol: You know, some days I do just want to just crawl under my bed and just stay there and just not have to deal with some of this stuff. But like I said, I don't, I don't have that choice. I'm not saying that, you know, when I move my son to public school next year, that everything is going to be great. And I'm never going to have these conversations again in life, and I'm not going to have to deal with this kind of stuff. I am. I definitely am, but I feel like the conversations would be a lot more open and a lot easier to have because I'm outside of that bubble.
Andrew: Will you come back on a year from now or something and tell us how it's, how it's going?
Carol: You mean like after my son stops hating me? I sure will.
Andrew: But I'm struck by something and I hope I can say this in a way that isn't offensive, but like you guys have such low expectations and, and your schools are still failing you. Like, I feel like you're, you, you guys are clearly really intentional and conscious about this and doing such amazing things for your kids to fight back against this and like your expectations for what the school could possibly provide are, you know, like you, you're just hoping for a little bit of Black History Month. And you can't even get it, right? Like, forget like year round, culturally relevant pedagogy, forget, you know, any of that, it's like, just give me like a tiny bit of Black History Month and you can't even get that. You’re like...
Courtney: And the flyer, just the one flyer for band.
Andrew: Right. Like, your, like, your job is, is to teach your daughter that it's okay to be Black. Like you would never even think that the school could do that or take that on, or that you would even think of asking your school to do that, right? Like Carol, I think you said, right, like you don't expect your son to have a teacher that has high expectations of him every year, but maybe like once or twice over the course of his schooling, right? Like, you know, you, you it's like normal to have to ask your teacher for a relationship with your kids. Greg, you have to draw inspiration from these historic epic struggles of people of color in this country, just to be able to keep doing the day-to-day. Like, how did we get here? How is that okay? How, how are we here?
Carol: I feel like the, the expectations are pretty low. Like we don't, I'm not really asking for a whole lot. And what I found time and time again is going to like all these diversity and inclusion meetings is that all the parents of color, we’re there. We're showing up. And I remember one of the last ones I went to and I'm looking around and I just raised my hand. I said, Y'all are talking to the wrong people. Y’all got all the parents of color in here talking about that diversity and inclusion, and y'all talking to the wrong parents. We not, the ones that's supposed to be in here. You get some of your White parents in here. Those are the ones that need, that need to be in this space, in this building, talking about it.
If I've told you that my Black son has a problem with his White male teacher and you don't have the tools or the resources to figure that out and to break it down and to figure out what to do. You need some additional staff training, it's all this money that y'all have for these, for these extra programs, then make some of these other parents attend some of these diversity and inclusion meetings, because we're not the parents that you need to be talking to. We know. We get it. We're here. Where are they?
Greg: I wish my school had a meeting like that, had a diversity meeting.
Carol: Yeah, Greg. Go start one up, Greg.
Greg: Oh, here you go. Here we go. My wife already is like, okay…
Carol: Somebody’s gotta start it.
Greg: I know! Don't do that, Carol. Don’t do that to me.
Carol: Hey, I'm just saying somebody’s gotta put the footwork in. Sometimes you gotta be that change.
Andrew: I, uh, I, I'm not interested in standing up for White people. I think we're the problem but, um, but I am, I am struck, I feel like, you know, to sort of, to sort of tie back to, to Brown v. Board here, we, we think of Brown v. Board as this sort of monumental shift from racist to not racist, you know, that, that was sort of the end of it, that the, the moral arc of the universe bent towards justice that day. And then we were done with it. And all of the ways that we then continued to oppress communities of color were ostensibly colorblind, were not explicitly racist, but were implicitly racist.
And so we took away the ability to have these conversations because now, you know, why are we talking about race? We're sort of done with that is the idea. And we didn't, we didn't build up any capacity to have these meaningful conversations from White people. I mean, it's uncomfortable. It's scary. Like at, you know, I mean, every time we tape a podcast, it's like, I sit with this discomfort, this sort of fear of all the ways that we're going to screw this up, but it's, it's a skill set that we don't ask people to develop.
And because society caters to White people and puts a really high premium on White people comfort. Right, like that seems to be like, the most important thing is like, how do we keep White people comfortable?
Carol: You’re so right on that.
Andrew: So we never, we never get into it. And so when things get a little bit hairy and a little bit awkward and a little bit uncomfortable, it's like, Whoa, let's just not do this. Let’s sort of, you know, maybe we could just like hire a couple of people of color to talk to the people of color, because I don't want to be in that it's super, super uncomfortable.
Courtney: Or we’ll watch a Rosa Parks documentary.
Carol: There you go. That’s how it happens.
Greg: You're right about it, Andrew.
Courtney: You know, I'm listening to your conversation, thinking about like, this is the legacy, like after, after 65 years, this is where we are.
Greg: Yeah. That's the legacy, you know, there was another Supreme Court case. And I think Dr. Kirkland talked about like Milliken v. Bradley, and that's a, that's a case we don't talk about, you know, we know everybody knows Brown v. Board, but that Milliken v. Bradley case Thurgood Marshall said, this ruling will undo my life's work.
So Brown v. board got rid of the segregation in the South, but it didn't do it in the North. And that's what Millikan v. Bradley would have done. But it didn't. And, and ironically, that case was Southeastern Michigan. This happened before my time, but I grew up in Pontiac and during those early seventies in Pontiac, they, they wanted to integrate the schools in Pontiac school district and with busing and the Ku Klux Klan blew up 10 buses.
They blew up 10 buses. The White people that were living in Pontiac, moved north to Lake Orient and to Oxford where I'm at now. And that's the legacy. That was 40 years ago. Yeah. We still dealing with this and see, and I'm gonna just say this, like, I don't even care that I'm saying where I'm at, because I want this stuff to get out. I want everybody to know that this stuff hasn't been solved.
Carol: You, you can say that again. It's like, yeah. And we have the we've, we've been conditioned to make White people comfortable. And I'm just, I'm just to the point now where I'm just like, I just don't, I can't do that anymore.
Courtney: Um, what do you wish the majority of our listeners could, could know?
Greg: I hope they hear it in our voices.
Greg: The struggle that parents of color are going through to deal with the education of their children. I hope they can empathize with us. I hope those parents will think about it if they had to, if they had to live in a completely different country. In a completely different culture, that didn't value their children. That's what I think we go through.
But we're in a country that is supposedly ours. Like I, I read about Frederick Douglass, says something to the point of like, This, this nation doesn't love all of its children. And, and I just got to deal with that. You know, I just got to, I gotta deal with that. It’s, it’s hard. But like I said, I got to go look to these iconic role models to keep going.
Carol: Yeah, yeah.
Greg: That’s it.
Courtney: While I, while I'm over here, worried about worksheets and behavior charts. And are there enough field trips?
Carol: You know, I guess for me, and I hate to just be plain and simple, but your kids aren't special. And then that same token, neither is mine.
It boggles my mind that we try to draw a map to exclude certain neighborhoods. When all, all children deserve the same education and the same opportunities. It makes no sense that you, you have a school that has resources above and beyond and then we have some schools that are barely making it, barely have enough textbooks. And, you know, just know that everybody is not in your situation, but the school that my daughter is about to go to pre-K at? Some of these kids won't eat if they're not at school and that's the reality that people need to see, like everybody doesn't have what you have and come on out your bubble, just sometimes. I know it's uncomfortable, but you know, it's, it's necessary. It doesn't mean that those parents care any less about their kids than you care about yours. But it's just reality.
Andrew: You guys, you two, are also not special.
Courtney: And there’s the closer. Thanks, everybody.
Andrew: I don't know. I'm like sitting here, I'm sitting here with, just like a very heavy heart. And, but also recognizing that your stories are different in their own ways and also not unique. You are not the only people, you're not the only people dealing with this, you know, and this is, this is the, this is the reality that we've created, but...
Carol: Andrew, thank you for that.
Greg: Yeah, it was getting a little hefty.
Carol: Appreciate it.
Andrew: Well, I, I can't thank you two enough for joining us, for sharing your stories with us, for helping open our eyes and our listeners’ eyes to the reality that, that you guys are living.
Carol: No worries at all.
Courtney: Thanks Greg, thanks Carol.
Greg: Thank you. I thank you all for just this attempt in trying to tackle this gigantic topic.
Yeah. So Andrew, I have, um, I've thought about this conversation a lot since we recorded it.
Andrew: Yeah, me too.
Carol: And I kind of think we need to just let this sit, like we can shut up.
Andrew: Yeah. It's not really our forte, but I think I can. We'll, we’ll take a second to urge you all to share this episode. You know, the stories about school desegregation didn't end with Brown v. Board and the challenges that parents of color still face are really important.
Courtney: Yeah, absolutely.
Andrew: 2021, Andrew, I just continue to be so grateful to Greg and Carol for sharing.
I'm happy to report an update from Greg. Since the podcast came out, his district has started a diversity council so that the voices of students of color and family can be heard. He says there's still plenty of work that needs to happen, but he does feel like the podcast awakened the district in a way. And, they've also started doing some PD around diversity, equity and inclusion with some of their staff and teachers.
Have not heard an update from Carol, and that is entirely my fault, as I reached out to her just yesterday. But we will definitely get back in touch with her and update listeners as soon as we hear back.
If you'd like to support this work, patreon.com/integratedschools, let us know what you thought or share messages for Greg and Carol - [email protected] I'm grateful to be in this with you as I try to know better and do better.