Our country has, at times, and in fits and starts, worked toward desegregation, but never meaningfully worked toward real integration. Desegregation is about the moving of bodies, the demographic percentages in a school building. Integration is about, in the words of David Kirkland, “fundamentally working to organize our society in a different way, where our differences are seen as spaces that we not only celebrate but LET BE, where this forms the vibrancy of our being as a society.” It is about decentering Whiteness, it is about creating new forms of shared power, and it is about recognizing the full humanity of every kid.
Historically, the ways White &/or privileged people talk about “good” vs. “bad” schools, the choices we make, both individually and collectively, about where to educate our children, and the ways we show up when we do enroll in global-majority schools have served to maintain our advantages and in turn, continue to oppress others.
This didn’t happen by accident.
Todays episode is an edit of our first ever webinar- The Integrated Schools Movement: Where We Begin. In it, we explore how our schools got to where they are now, and what role we play in either maintaining or disrupting this system. Members of our all-volunteer crew share personal stories of enrolling our kids in global-majority schools, and the joys and missteps we experience while showing up as parents and community members.
- A video of the webinar
- Slides shared during the webinar
- The original resource list shared after the webinar:
- Native Land Finder
- Episode: White Supremacy and Black Educational Excellence: Hidden Stories of the Integration Movement – Integrated Schools podcast featuring a conversation with Dr. Vanessa Siddle Walker and Dr. Elizabeth McRae facilitated by Dani McClain
- Vanessa Siddle Walker: The Lost Education of Horace Tate
- Elizabeth McRae: Mothers of Massive Resistance
- The current levels of segregation in our schools.
- The wealth gap – from Brookings, and The Washington Post
- Richard Rothstein – The Color of Law
- Michelle Alexander – The New Jim Crow
- EdBuild on the $23 billion funding gap between districts serving predominantly students of color vs White students.
- David Kirkland
- Episode: Kirkland on Integration
- Rucker Johnson
- Dr Kfir Mordechay
- Episode: Gentrification
- Dr. Amanda Lewis
- Engage with Integrated Schools
Use these links or start at our Bookshop.org storefront to support local bookstores, and send a portion of the proceeds back to us.
Join our Patreon to support this work, and connect with us and other listeners to discuss these issues even further.
Where We Begin Podcast
Andrew: Welcome to the Integrated Schools Podcast. I'm Andrew, a White dad from Denver. And this is “Where We Begin: An Integrated Schools Webinar”.
Back in July of last year, we here at Integrated Schools put on our first ever webinar. You know, one of the projects that my late cohost, Integrated Schools founder Courtney Mykytyn, was really excited about before her untimely death was workshops. She had done just a few and found the possibilities of reaching people in person and really bringing them into this movement very compelling. A number of us here were committed to continuing to build on that vision. And then the pandemic hit. So while we couldn't get together in person, we decided to take a bunch of the content that Courtney had created, add our own flair to it, and put on a webinar as one does in a pandemic. And I'm thrilled to share an edit of that webinar today.
I think it's a great introduction to Integrated Schools and lays out the historical context that got us here and why it's a problem. If you're a longtime listener, some of this may feel familiar. And if you watched the webinar, I guess, it all will. So why share it today? Well, first of all, it's a great excuse to introduce you to some of the other amazing people that keep Integrated Schools running. There are five of us on this webinar. You've heard Anna before on the podcast several times, Molly joined me for an episode with Dr. Ann Ishimaru at the end of last season, and I'm really excited for you to meet Courtney and Kim, two amazing moms who are integral members of the Integrated Schools team.
The other reason we're sharing today is that we're doing another webinar. On April 19th, 5:00 PM Pacific/8:00 PM Eastern, we are pleased to bring you the “Integrated Schools Movement: How We Show Up, Part One”. The “Where We Begin” webinar was really an introduction to Integrated Schools. “How We Show Up” is designed to dig into some of the issues that can come up when we parents with racial or economic privilege show up in schools where our kids are in the minority. “How We Show Up” will feature stories from the same crew of parents, addressing issues around rallying and recruitment, parent involvement, including PTAs, and staff interactions. We're really excited about it and I hope you'll join us. There's a link to register in the show notes. It's free. It's going to be great.
Alright, let's hear the “Where We Begin” webinar.
Courtney: Hi, welcome everyone. I'm extremely nervous and very excited you all are here today. Thank you for joining us at the very first Integrated Schools webinar. My name is Courtney and my White nine-year-old attends an integrating school up the block from us and I also have a giant two year old baby. I'm a member of the parent board of Integrated Schools. I'm talking to you today from Lenapehoking, the land of the Lenape and Canarsie people, known today as Brooklyn, New York.
We draw a direct line from the colonization of Indigenous lands by White settlers to the creation of our colonialist school systems. Conversations like the one tonight, that include historical context, can never go far enough in either direction. And so, as we talk tonight, past present and future of this movement to integrate schools, we acknowledge our current limitations and commit to ongoing learning and relearning of the long history that precedes us and the immense future before us.
This webinar is focusing on one part of the story of school segregation, specifically how White and/or privileged people intentionally segregated their kids within our school systems and continue to do so today. There are many other pieces of this puzzle, there are many other parts to the story. Some of them we will touch on briefly, but we will not touch on all of the things tonight.
To be clear, we respect intentionally built and created spaces for Black and Indigenous and people of color. We acknowledge the power of all-Black spaces and we are not seeking to integrate all spaces.
As an organization, Integrated Schools is constantly evolving. Our founder, Courtney Mykytyn, was always talking about how if we're doing things right, what we say today is going to be different from how we move forward in the future. And so we are not going to get everything right tonight and we know that this work is generational. It is not starting with us, for sure, and it certainly will not end with us.
And so, why are we so White? Why are we a predominantly White organization? White people have fought against desegregation and integration at every chance. At times violently, at times discreetly, but always and without pause, working against efforts at desegregation. As earlier, I said that we draw a direct line between the colonization of Indigenous lands by White settlers to the colonization of our school systems, we also draw a direct line from the decisions we make for the schooling of our kids and the murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Riah Milton, and many, many other Black people that should be with us today. The spaces we decide on for our kids impact the morality they develop.
And so why are we so White? We have work to do as people whose ancestors defined and decided to draw lines around race. We have distant relatives and not so distant relatives who used that social construct to maintain power and privilege. There is undoing work that is specific to the programming of Whiteness on White people, in us, in our bodies, and when we zoom out, people of privilege, in this country that needs to be ongoing before and during any efforts towards school integration. Courtney Mykytyn said, A lot of this is Whiteness work, but it is not just for White people. One doesn't have to be White to uphold White supremacy.
She started this organization largely because of the covert yet palpable racism in conversation among White people about schools. But we are late to this integration game. We are not here first. We are part of a movement, a movement that necessitates anti-Blackness work, anti-racist parenting work. We know there are many BIPOC who believe in anti-racist school integration. And so we say to you, we are honored to be here with all of you who are engaging in this work of school integration, wherever you are joining us from.
So, I'm going to ask you all to join me in taking a deep breath. A lot of times we think about racism, anti-racism, parenting, we think about it in our heads and the anti-racist work, racism actually lives in our bodies. And so I'm going to, one way I get back into my body is by taking a deep breath. So I’m going to invite you to do that with me now. Take a deep breath in.
And I'm going to invite you to reflect on your own schooling experience with me. Take a moment and think back to your school experience, elementary, middle, and high school. Who was there with you? Who wasn't there? What sorts of friendships did you have? What sorts of conversations did you have and didn't you have, and what comes up for you as you think about this? As you take a few moments to reflect on your caregivers' decisions for school for you, we will each take a moment to introduce ourselves. We’ll say our names, our pronouns, land acknowledgment, current name of place of residence, involvement with Integrated Schools, and tell us where your kids go to school.
Andrew: Thanks Courtney. I'm Andrew. He/him/his are my pronouns. I'm from Denver, the stolen land of, at varying times, the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Ute, and Sioux. I have nine and six year old White daughters who attend the same elementary school that I went to, which we opted out of our zoned school to attend. And I host the Integrated Schools Podcast and I'm part of the parent advisory board.
Kim: I'm Kim and my pronouns are she/her/hers. And I'm speaking to you today from the land of the Powhatan, also known as Richmond, Virginia. I'm a White mom. I'm married to a man of Mexican descent and we have four kids together. And I asked my kids in preparing for this how they wanted to be called when we're talking about their race, and they said half Mexican, half White. So I have four half Mexican, half White kids and their ages are seven, six, five, and then a little three month baby, who just started giggling. And I am also a member of the Integrated Schools parent advisory board. And I'm happy to be with you tonight.
Molly: Hi, I'm Molly. My pronouns are she/her/hers. I'm a White parent raising five White children with a White spouse. I’m from the land of the Wappinger and Quinnipiac people, now known as New Haven, Connecticut. And my children range in age from four to 21. I'm not going to say all the places they go to school, too many. And I'm also on the Integrated Schools parent advisory board.
Anna: I'm Anna. My pronouns are she/her/hers. I am a White mom of two White kids ages four and eight, who attend an integrating school in our neighborhood. And I am from the land of the Tongva tribe, currently known as Los Angeles, and I am also on the parent advisory board of Integrated Schools.
Courtney: Thanks everyone. I'm going to take this opportunity, I hope you had a chance to think about your schooling, and I'm going to share a bit with you about my schooling experience. So who was there? When I was growing up everyone I went to school with was basically White from similar economic brackets and that segregation split even further when I went to high school. Most of the White and Jewish kids went to the high school I went to, and most of the White non-Jewish kids went to the other high school in our town. Who wasn't there? There was a literal bridge where all the Black people lived and that's, that, those are the words that lived in my brain my whole time growing up.
My friendships were mostly with people who looked like me, who were from a similar socioeconomic status as me, whose homes looked and felt very similar to my own. And when I think about conversations I had, I can recall almost no meaningful conversations about race, other than celebrating certain Black lives with respect to civil rights in school. What comes up for me when I think through this and think about my schooling, I think that my developing idea of what was normal equalled what was White. And it was reinforced in so many ways, my peers, my neighbors, my teachers, my textbooks. I assumed everyone lived like we lived, and that was fine, and not worth thinking any further about. I now know that none of that was an accident and in fact it was by design. And I'm going to hand it over to Andrew now to talk to us a bit about that design.
Andrew: Thanks, Courtney. Really grateful to everyone for being here. I want to talk a bit about history in the context of “I” versus “we” decisions. And if you stick with me, I hope that will make sense. Before I jump in, a little disclaimer: I am in no way a researcher or historian or expert, I have a bachelor's degree in music. I came to this conversation probably like many of you, steeped in an understanding of good and bad schools, of what it means to be a good parent, that focused on me and my family and my kids, on “I” decisions. And the impact on the broader community on us, on “we”, was never really part of the conversation.
My late cohost, Integrated Schools founder Courtney, knew that the stories we tell about our past help to shape our present. And looking at the current levels of segregation in our schools and the impact that that's having on all kids, I couldn't quite wrap my mind around it without understanding some history. So, I'm just going to just try to give you my sort of takeaway here, recognizing my lack of expertise. So advance apologies to any education historians who may be listening, this is just sort of how I've tried to make sense out of this history.
So, 1954, Brown v. Board, a historic decision, unanimous decision, says that separate is inherently unequal. A year later, Brown II comes along and says that the solutions to separate being unequal have to be implemented locally, and with “all deliberate speed”. This is, as Dr. Vanessa Siddle Walker says, basically designed to make sure that the South isn't too unhappy with the Brown I decision.
And so a number of things are happening in this moment in the country. And, and one of the things that comes out of it is Massive Resistance. This is the declared strategy to undermine school desegregation. The Massive Resistance story is often told about the White male politicians, the powerbrokers, the George Wallaces. But if you read Dr. Elizabeth McRae's Mothers of Massive Resistance, you see that much of the massive resisting was actually done by White parents, largely women, the Mothers of Massive Resistance that give her book its title. These are parents who recognize that maintaining White supremacy was going to require work, concentrated grassroots organizing, what Dr. McRae calls constant gardening: tending to the garden of White supremacy to help it thrive in this new environment.
So Brown v. Board, about a decade later the Civil Rights Act dismantled a lot of the legal justification for segregation. And these parents recognize that the explicitly racist language that they had been using wasn't gonna work anymore. So they start turning to ostensibly race neutral language, but the goal is still the same: the maintenance of White supremacy through school segregation. In the early days, this language took the form of things like local control or parental rights. White parents stopped saying, at least out loud, I don't want my kid to go to school with Black kids. They started saying things like, I want my kid to learn a curriculum that's in line with my values; or my concern is not for maintaining White supremacy, but rather for maintaining my property values.
These parents tended this garden with thoughtful insight, dedicated organizing. And as they worked on this race neutral language, they honed it and they perfected it, it became more and more effective. Eventually allowing what Dr. McRae says, the, the consumers of this rhetoric to maintain a racial innocence. To consume and then recreate this rhetoric, without having to face the inherent racism built into it. It allowed parents to focus on personal, “I” decisions that felt reasonable and justified, without ever considering the “we” impact.
And so what was the “we” impact? Well, it was pretty massive. So as of the 2016-2017 school year, White students are no longer the racial majority in public schools. Despite making up 48% of public school students, White kids on average attend a school that's 69% White.
More than 40% of Black and Latinx students attend a school with 90% or greater students of color. And this number has been on the rise since the late eighties, when the Reagan administration began pulling back on support of court-ordered desegregation. More than half of students go to school in racially segregated districts. So these are entire school districts where over 75% of kids are either students of color or White students. So by many measures, our schools are as segregated now as they were 60 years ago.
But why does this matter? What's the problem with segregated schools? You look at the work of Dr. Vanessa Siddle Walker and others, they tell the story of strong Black schools, many of the leaders of the civil rights era were educated in them. Why does it matter if we're segregated like this? I think it's important to start with one reason that it doesn't matter. And it doesn't matter because White kids are not magical learning unicorn fairies that sprinkle fairy dust of achievement on all their classmates, right? Our kids are not inherently any more special than other kids, despite the system treating them as more special. Proximity to Whiteness is not the answer to educational justice. And our White kids are not here to save the schools. But I do see three major reasons that the degree of segregation is currently a problem.
The first one is that racial segregation leads to socioeconomic segregation. So for all sorts of intentional deliberate reasons, there is a massive wealth gap in this country. You can look at the work of Richard Rothstein, Michelle Alexander, and many others. This is not the place to get into all the reasons, it could be its own webinar, for sure, but everything from the burning of Black Wall Street, to redlining, to how the GI Bill was implemented, to our current criminal justice system, has resulted in the ratio of White family wealth to Black family wealth being more than ten to one.
And this is wealth, right? So beyond discrepancies in salary. Net worth, the type of wealth that's passed on from generation to generation. So racially segregated schools result, in most places, in socioeconomically segregated schools. And our school system is not designed to provide equity when there are large concentrations of poverty. There was just a study last year by the nonprofit EdBuild, they found that districts serving predominantly students of color receive about $23 billion less every year, that's B billion, than districts serving predominantly White students. So the first problem was segregation, it results in, as Dr. David Kirkland says, concentrations of privilege and concentrations of vulnerability.
The second reason I think that the current level of segregation is a problem, and you can look to the work of Rucker Johnson, Nikole Hannah-Jones, many others, we see that our education system is designed to educate White kids. There's an old adage in desegregation work, that green follows white. We invest our green, our money in White kids. The only thing that has been shown to meaningfully redistribute resources at scale in this country is desegregation. So, purely from an empirical viewpoint, given the way our education system works from power structures to funding formulated district boundaries, for kids of color to receive the same opportunities, the same quality of materials, the same level of experienced teachers, the same AP course offerings, the same extracurricular options, they have to be in schools that have White kids.
Now I would certainly argue that this should not be the case. And that separate from working for real integration, we should also be working to counteract this trend by fighting for more equitable funding. But concentrations of privilege inevitably create concentrations of vulnerability. The goal of integration isn't to create a system that treats all kids like White kids but to create a system that provides resources to all kids the way we provide resources to White kids, that sees potential in all kids the way we see potential in White kids.
The final reason that I want to mention that I think the current level of segregation is a problem is that Elizabeth McRae's constant gardeners were right. When our kids don't learn together, it allows White supremacy to continue. Thurgood Marshall in his dissent in the Milliken v. Bradley case in 1974 says, Unless our children begin to learn together, there's little hope that our people will ever begin to live together.
Going to desegregated schools has been shown to decrease implicit bias, increase civic participation, decrease negative stereotypes, and help kids see a larger group of people as a “we” worth considering in their decisions. Imagine the world that we could create if as kids who have found their shared humanity go on, they become the next generation of teachers and doctors and police officers.
Now as Courtney mentioned, I would not argue that integration is the solution in this moment in every school. I think there are powerful examples of predominantly Black and Brown schools that play an important role in building political and social capital for people of color. But I do believe that participating in the concentration of privilege, using the ways that our system allows those of us with privilege to further concentrate that, is participating in a system of White supremacy. And I think we all have an obligation to push back on that, to think about as journalist Dani McClain calls it, living for the We.
But I definitely realize that that is not always an easy choice to make. We tend to think of Elizabeth McRae's mothers, the parents tending the garden of White supremacy, as living in the past, a racist caricature of people who lived in a different time and didn't know any better. Like they certainly aren't us. But I think the reason we don't think that they're us, the reason that we don't see how we are part of that same thread, is because that's exactly what they wanted. These women were successful. The constant gardening is working. The way that we talk about schools today continues to be focused on what feel like reasonable “I” choices, without recognizing the “we” impacts. We've removed the explicitly racist language in most circumstances, but the impact continues to be the same. And this problem runs deep, I am in no way immune from it.
Before we moved to Denver, we spent four years in Pittsburgh, the stolen land of the Osage. We bought a house knowing that we would be leaving before our kids were school-aged and so we opted into a zone where “nobody sends their kids to school”. I'm sure you've heard that. Of course there are schools there, there are kids in those schools, but that is the way it was talked about in our White and privileged circles. Had we been planning to stay until our kids were school age, the social pressure would have been on us to have a plan for how to get out of the school we were assigned to. Maybe it's private school, maybe it's the eco-friendly charter school around the corner. Maybe it's moving. Going to our assigned school would have been seen as almost child abuse in our circles. And that's a school, mind you, full of beautiful kids who are equally deserving of opportunity.
When we bought our current house in Denver, I thought, Okay, schools are important, let me see if we can buy a house in a “good school” boundary. There are experts who clearly know more than me about schools, they say the school is good, it's got a high rating, it must be. We're lucky enough to be able to buy a house here. Great. I'm done with that choice. I don't have to think about it. I don't have to consider the “we” impact of it.
And because I’d never learned this history, I didn't realize how much of a participant I was in my own language and actions. I remember asking a friend who had recently moved into the boundary for the school where my kids currently go, her oldest was just a newborn, they bought the house and I said, What's your plan for school? Basically, how are you going to use your privilege to leave your neighborhood school because “nobody goes to that school”. In that moment, my self-image was certainly not of a White supremacist, but I had been fed by the poison fruit of the constantly tended garden. I was working to perpetuate that system while claiming racial innocence.
So I came to understand this history, the, the problems caused by it. I became ever more committed to working to minimize my participation. We opted for a school out of the school that was zoned for, the” good” school, into a 2 out of 10 on the school rating website that shall not be named. But to be clear, this wasn't because I was sacrificing my children for my cause. And it wasn't because somehow our one family was going to solve systemic racism by making this choice. There's a fine line to walk here. I definitely believe that it is better for my kids to be in their current school. They're becoming better, more well-rounded, empathetic, caring people. It is a reasonable “I” decision. But too much of that quickly becomes opportunity hoarding: using Black and Brown children to enhance my children's experience, diversity as a commodity, a tool to broaden their resume. Now, I also believe that our choice is a small step in not participating in the hoarding of privilege, that it is good for our society for “we”. But too much of that quickly becomes White saviorism: I'm a martyr here to fix things, to save the school in our society. School integration is about both “I” and “we”, but neither too much.
So for me, the first step was desegregating my kids. But desegregation alone is not enough if we want to actually move towards justice. We have to talk about true integration, about creating new forms of shared power, about decentering Whiteness, dealing with in-school segregation, and that's a challenge for both kids and parents.
So, thrilled to bring on Kim, who's going to talk a little bit about the parent experience and the challenges that come up trying to integrate our families. And then Molly will come out to talk about why the choices that we make for our kids are so important.
Kim: Hi everybody, I'm Kim. And I just, my section, I'm going to talk, I'm going to try to give some terms and then also to highlight those with some stories to really illustrate those terms. And I just wanted it to begin with a little bit of a disclaimer, is that I'm going to be telling stories, stories that involve real people, and there's a real responsibility there. So if you notice my face get red, it's because I'm, I’m coming to you in my most vulnerable human self. And I really, I, I just want to share these stories in the best way possible.
As I, as I said before, I have four kids, so my oldest daughter, we live in a primarily White area of the city and so our zoned school is highly White, highly resourced. So we decided to send her there her kindergarten year. It was fine. And I noticed, I remember it was around Thanksgiving, like the Whiteness. I just felt it in my body and I, we, it was, it's a Turkey celebration and it was a ton of parents, mostly White moms. There were some few dads around and it was just everyone placing the goldfish on the plates. And in that moment, I just felt like, Whoa, this is, this doesn't feel like where we're supposed to be.
So we made a choice to desegregate our child. So we said, Hey, there's a global majority, a school that's largely attended by Black students that's about a mile from our house. Said, Okay, let's, let's make that move and go ahead and switch schools. We did not go to the school thinking, Let's fix it. We went to the school because we said, Hey, we want to be at a school that more reflects the diversity of our entire community.
But one thing that I failed to notice then is, right, like I felt the Whiteness in other people and that has also often been the pattern I've noticed with myself is that I see it with other people before I see it with myself. So I brought that White supremacy culture with me to now our largely Black school. And of course I did. I've been on this earth for 38 years, it is ingrained in me. And so no matter what my intentions were, it still showed up and it followed me through the doors to the, our new school.
So I'm going to talk a little bit about the difference between intent versus impact and give a story that hopefully illustrates those. So I was an elementary school teacher, I started staying home after my third child was born. Anyway, so it's the first month of school, I'm sitting in the gym where everybody waits till the kids are released at the end of the day. And two grandmas that I had gotten to know, they started talking about the word study homework. And I, my intent was, I was a teacher and I can help! So I just inserted myself into that conversation. I was not invited into it. I put myself there and said, Oh, I can help, I have a degree, I know how to do it, let me help you!
And I remember as soon as the words were out of my mouth, like, Hmm, that didn't land right. The impact, right, for the women who have been there in that space before, they had been reading the Dr. Seuss books with their kids and their grandkids night after night, they didn't invite me into the conversation. They didn't need me there. So I noticed that, I went home, wrote like a little handwritten note, and then they were gracious with me and then just kept showing up, you know, day after day and, and chatting a bit in the gym as we picked up our kids. So that's just a little bit of the difference between intent versus impact. We all have good intentions. Your impact: how does it land? How does it land with folks that have been in that space before you?
There's a bit of a motto that has been helpful for me. And it's Show Up, Shush Up, which I did not do in that example, and Stay Put. And so I hope this story illustrates the, really, the Stay Put piece of it. So this is a birthday example and kind of stay with me here cause there's a lot of moving parts. So my son, in November, that's his birthday. And I decided, Hey, I'm going to plan this birthday and so I put all this thought into it and I was, we had some White friends I was going to invite. And then we had gotten to know, there are a couple of White families at the school, but I didn't want to invite them because I wanted Black people, it doesn’t matter. I totally just curated this birthday party, right? Like it was a curated birthday party.
And so one of the Black grandmas, who we had invited her son, she starts to bring up the birthday party when we're sitting across from each other at the picnic table, like, Hey, how about this, what can we get your son for his birthday? And I say, Shh shh, stop. And she looks at me, thinking like I was no longer having the birthday party, that her and her grandson were no longer invited. And she just looks at me straight in the face and is like, You're full of shit. And I felt it, like a slap in the face. And I just had destroyed trust at that moment. No, that wasn't my intention, you know, but I, I, I, yeah, it, it felt horrible. And it felt like I no longer had her trust.
So anyway, this, this is the Stay Put piece, put these right. But I showed up the next day, you know, sitting at the picnic table, I'm talking to Ms. P and I explained it to her. She understood and you know, we talk, it's an ongoing relationship and relationships are messy, but you stay put and you stay put in, in that space. And so then by February of this year, when there were some folks that were trying to organize a dance class, I remember asking Ms. P., Hey, would you be willing to do it, to join in? And she's like, Alright, I'll do it with you, as long as it doesn't suck. So she decided to join in and do it. And I feel like that's a good way to think about staying put.
And then the last example that I, I want to talk about. There's no one else to really explain the difference between desegregation and what real integration is than Dr. David Kirkland. He's out of NYU, a scholar, a thought leader, and he talks about what real integration is. David Kirkland says that: “Diversity is like being asked to the dance. Inclusiveness, or inclusion, is like being asked to dance. But integration from a racial justice perspective is the ability to dance on your own terms, to your own song, in your own way, your own beat.”
And I think that's just really beautiful. Desegregation happened when, you know, my family and I, we walked through the door of a global majority school. We showed up in that space but integration, it's the daily messy work of being in relationship, getting to know folks. It's where I stand at the playground. Like I mentioned, right, there's some White families, a couple that I like that go there. I intentionally do not stand by those folks at the playground. I'm, I think about who I greet first. I think about how I'm showing up in spaces. And I mess up a lot and I stay and my kids stay.
And so a final, also birthday example, but a much better one. This was in the spring of last year and girlfriend that I’d gotten to know, she was having a birthday party for her son and she's put like five people on a text and said, Hey, it's my son's birthday tomorrow, can everybody like stay after on the playground and bring something? So somebody showed up with cupcakes, somebody brought juice boxes. She went to the dollar store and got silly string. And it was an amazing moment. The kids that were there after school, we stayed, played, we sang Happy Birthday. The kids did silly string all over a tree that's there. And like that's what my kids talk about. So those are the moments, like small as they are, those are real glimmers of hope for me of real integration and what that can be and how freeing and how liberatory that can be to, to be in the moment and be authentic humans together.
So, I'm excited to pass it off to Molly now, and Molly is going to talk about how the choices that we make for kids are as important, if not more important than the values that we hold.
Molly: Thanks, Kim! Hi everyone! So we've been talking about our choices as parents and how we can parent and maintain a goal of education justice. We can state what our values are, but do our actions match our stated values, especially when it comes to our decisions about our kids? Do our values truly guide the choices we are making for our kids? What are my kids learning from my parenting choices? Because they are watching us and coming to their own conclusions.
Our choices determine our children's environment and those choices that we make, big and small, either set us further into or out of White supremacy culture. What we are doing right now will be the story of how we raised our kids. Our parenting decisions will string together with other threads in their lives to create our children's story, which is ultimately theirs to tell. If we aim to raise anti-racist children, children that believe in and hopefully fight for equity for all people, do our choices align with our values?
Our oldest, now 21, attended our city's Whitest K-8 public school. And a few years ago she asked us why she'd gone to school where she did. We had discussed our values, we talked openly about them all the time, but she recognized dissonance between those stated values and what she learned from the choices that we made with her schooling. And why, if we believed what we said we did, did we put her in a school of such Whiteness and privilege? Our daughter lived with this dissonance that prevented her from being part of what we said we valued and she rightfully held us accountable. Our actions had an impact beyond our words.
Our goal in the choices we make for our kids has to be for them to develop a sense of justice and radical empathy, which is actively striving to better understand and share the feelings of others in order to understand our own judgment and to challenge these judgments so that we might accept everyone for who and where they are. An empathy so basic and essential that it's not been twisted into the story that kindness takes care of everything. Telling our kids about kindness is giving them a way to act. Making parenting choices for them that help them learn empathy is giving them the tools to be. If we raise our kids to act a way, instead of being a way, we contribute to the preservation of racial innocence, as Andrew covered earlier. This is a key ingredient to anti-racist parenting: making parenting choices that give our kids the chance to develop radical empathy. This in turn could determine whether or not our children are learning and playing together in community or just existing adjacently and contributing to segregation within the walls of a desegregated school. Radical empathy achieved through personal experiences for our kids is the path to disrupt racial apathy.
Racism is nimble and White people find new and more subtle ways to express racism. Allowing the appearance of kindness but because of a lack of radical empathy, repeat the harms of racism by engaging in practices and behaviors that reproduce racial inequality. The same old, same old. As we say, the river of racism's flowing. If we swim upstream, we can start to disturb the current. This disruption and our discomfort are crucial if we are to parent with a priority of racial justice.
My daughter, when in eighth grade, a different daughter than I've mentioned earlier, was one of the only White kids. She spoke up to a White teacher about how a couple of White students were treating a Black student when the teacher wasn't looking. She felt that the teacher was likely choosing to not address this racialized dynamic. And so my daughter reached out to another Black teacher beforehand, to sort of process the situation and to share her concerns, she didn't want to insert herself as a White girl in a place that wasn't hers. And essentially what she was, the framing that she had, was one of White saviorism at 13 though she didn't have those words.
I love the story because I love that she developed empathy and compassion and knew that she was responsible to her peers and our dearly value all of those things. But I can only continue to love that story if she continues to develop and hold these because they can be undone. White supremacy culture could easily lull her into not paying attention, into not checking her intentions against her impact. The spaces we put her in are a good first step but the work is ongoing.
This choice to put our kids in spaces where they can feel the truth of our values, isn't always easy and it's vital to not see this as a gift that our children are giving to Black, Indigenous, and people of color. And Black, Indigenous, and people of color are not assets of experience that our children are gaining. The types of spaces we want for our kids are not about providing proximity to our White children. It's about an equal commitment to equity; it's about thwarting the power and resource hoarding and co-creating new spaces and visions of what power is; being in culturally affirming places where Whiteness is not centered, but White children aren't absent. Aligning our values with the choices we make for our kids, is about our collective liberation. Our children are not healthy and well as long as they grow up ignorant of the harm and benefiting from segregated spaces with concentrations of privilege and Whiteness.
There is so much focus on the supposed deficits of Black and Brown communities. These stories are so deeply entrenched in our culture that we must work hard just to see them. This noticing is a practice that requires regular work, effort, and exploration. What if we focused on the real moral and cultural deficits in the communities that White supremacy culture considers to be so advantaged and beneficial.
This isn't comfortable work. We have discomfort in learning how to decenter our Whiteness and being in spaces that don't reflect our cultural identity. But young children don't. We can follow them into comfort, into connection. It requires that we listen and watch, that we trust and believe people, be uncomfortable and be open. Beautiful things could follow.
And let's be real. We pay an enormous amount of attention to our kids. What if we shifted and really watched to see how they navigate spaces that we likely didn't have the privilege to be children in? What if we showed up, shut up, shush up, stayed put, and realized our kids didn't share our concerns? And what if we consider just how much our concerns are born from White supremacy culture?
So the questions that are at the center of what I'm talking about are: what are we participating in? Does it reflect our values? What values are our children learning from these choices? What is our discomfort and what's our children's discomfort? If we don't honor this distinction, our echo chambers persist. And are we willing to make new different choices that better align with our stated values and that will build a better world?
So Anna is going to tag me out and she's going to tell you more about Integrated Schools as a movement and how you can be involved. Thanks, everyone.
Anna: Yay. Thank you, Molly. So I'm going to wrap this up with a brief overview of our movement here at Integrated Schools. So we are a movement of parents practicing anti-racist school integration. And I'm going to walk you through our theory of change.
So, here's where we are now. Our schools are more segregated than before the civil rights movement, as Andrew mentioned. We are combating the smog of White supremacy culture and it’s everywhere and it is especially in the conversations that we have, as White and/or privileged parents, around schools.
So our first step is to generate awareness. That's what we're doing here now. We're hopefully doing it in future webinars, so please come back. That's what we're doing on our podcasts. That's what we do on social media, on our Facebook group. And it's also what we do when we talk to other White and/or privileged folks on the playground, when we are attempting to combat this toxic smog of racism and White supremacy culture.
The next step for us is to desegregate our children. And sometimes it can be hard to know, what is the desegregation? Like, where do we go? So this may be your neighborhood school, that is a global majority, under-enrolled school. If our neighborhood school, as Kim mentioned, is a highly regarded, by traditional White and/or privileged metrics, with concentrations of Whiteness and/or privilege, it may not be our neighborhood school. We may choose a school where there is space for us and where we can humbly enroll our children and show up as Kim said, not as colonizers or saviors, but with the intention of being community members.
And, you know, if our neighborhood school is gentrifying, it may be a school outside of our immediate area that isn't experiencing gentrification so painfully or violently.
So this next step: integrating our families with caution and care, unsettling ourselves. And this is through, you know, the showing up, but also through a lot of self exploration. Learning, unlearning, reading, webinars, seminars, developing a practice of anti-racism in our parenting and actions, to understand how we can participate in the dismantling of systems. It's about learning from Black and Indigenous and people of color leaders, activists, and educators, and compensating them for their labor. It's deeply considering the systems where we benefit and how we can untangle ourselves.
We understand desegregation is not integration and desegregation can cause harm. You know, true integration is elusive. As a country, you know, we've never actually prioritized it, we're done it. And when we did desegregation, it created a lot of stress and trauma on Black and Indigenous and people of color communities. So, you know, we're asking to hold two kinds of conversations, right? So we're having the “schools conversation” with other White parents and how that smog gets carried around the playground and in line at Starbucks. But then also when we're in our spaces, we’re listening, we’re hushing up. Show up, shut up, stay put. And we hope that leads to a constituency which grows and allows for a meaningful policy change.
You know, folks often ask us, you know, what policies are we supposed to be fighting for? What is the integration policy at the state, at the school district, at the federal level? And the answer is, for us today: we don't know what those right policies are. Until we are really shoulder to shoulder in our communities, experiencing the shared humanity of one another and listening to the voices of folks who have not in the past been heard, on what they want, what better policies could be, ‘cause where we want to be is a multiracial democracy where we can all revel in our shared humanity and experience. We can have that collective liberation of freedom, for all of us, from the oppression of White supremacy culture.
Many of you know, our founder and executive director, Courtney Mykytyn, died tragically in December of last year. She started Integrated Schools in her living room after seeing a lot of the toxic narrative around schooling among her White or privileged friends. And as she went through her own life, she made mistakes, even in her own choices and she deeply considered how those mistakes impacted others and wanted to create a space that would allow for the growth and expansion of this idea. That integration, maybe we could figure out a way that it would cause less harm to communities of color.
And her idea took hold. We have, you know, 25 chapters around the country. We have a team of advisors, collaborators, and board members that are deeply committed to this vision. And you know, right before she died, she and Andrew recorded an amazing episode of the podcast that I would love for you all to listen to, if you haven't already, called “All I want for Christmas is 3.5%”. And the idea of this was originally from Erica Chenoweh in her Harvard University Ted Talk, where Chenoweth was studying the tipping point of social movements. So what happens when sweeping social movements take hold and become social change. And, what she found was that that critical mass was really only 3.5% of the population to be actively engaged. And what she actually said was the visibility of civil resistance actions attracts more and more active and diverse participation from the ambivalent. That activism builds on activism, that momentum breeds momentum. And that 3.5%, it's just the tipping point.
So for us thinking about education to hold our most public of public institutions, accountable to equity and justice, and to combat school segregation, we are gathering that 3.5%. And we have to be in, we have to be radical, we have to be strong and strident, outspoken, and intentional, and we have to be working through the messiness of what it means to show up. And all of us here can be a part of that 3.5%. Every single day that we send our kids to an integrating school, we are that 3.5%. Every decision we make where we deeply consider the impact of our behavior within a school community, we are the 3.5%. Every playground conversation where we push back against that narrow trope of good/bad schools, we are the 3.5%. Every time we resist opportunity hoarding. Every choice we make to follow the lead of Black and/or Brown parents to fight for educational justice, we are that 3.5%. You know, we tell you this to encourage you to spread hope, part of this twofold mission. Like we want us together to see the connection between our desire for racial justice and our choices around schools. And then we need to talk about it outside, on the playground, in line at Target. And then when you feel lonely, you can come in here and commune with us so you can go back out there and keep having those conversations. Because as one of our dearest friends, Courtney Martin said, Courtney Mykytyn once told her, People like you do things like this.
Integrated Schools is a movement. Movements are amoebic, they're decentralized, they're evolving, they're generational. We are growing and we're changing here and who we are as an organization is not set in stone. We are not perfect. We don't have it all figured out. And we've given you a lot tonight. I feel like we're all eager to share. I feel like I've been talking kind of fast to get it all out there. So what I want to do is just pause for a minute, take a breath. You know, these past few months have been incredibly trying for everyone. And you here tonight, maybe feeling really overwhelmed, pandemic, civil uprising, it's all a lot. And for us at Integrated Schools, you know, sharing this information with you this past hour, isn't the end. There's a lot more. Everything that Integrated Schools is about is actually what comes next.
You know, once you have taken this information into your body and then metabolized these points, discussed it, you can take that as a first step and keep going. We would encourage you to connect with a local chapter, to join our Parent-to-Parent, to listen to the podcast, to join our Facebook community. We have a great resource list on our website. And allow these ideas to maybe inform the choices that you make going forward. Really quickly, we want to leave you with just one question and we're going to think about it too.
What do we want our children's educational stories to be? Do we want them to be stories of segregation or do we want them to be stories of true meaningful integration?
Andrew: So that was the first webinar. I am so grateful to Molly, Courtney, Kim, and Anna. Even the process of putting that webinar together was a really great collaborative effort and pushed me in my thinking so much. And next week we've got even more for you. As Anna mentioned, Integrated Schools is about everything that comes next and “How We Show Up: Part One” webinar is at least some of that next. So please join us! April 19th at 5:00 PM Pacific, 8:00 PM Eastern.
If you'd like to support this podcast and the broader work of Integrated Schools, we'd love to have you join our Patreon, Patreon.com/Integrated Schools. And of course we always welcome your feedback, [email protected] Schools.org or on socials @IntegratedSchools.
I'm grateful to be in this with you, as I try to know better and do better. See you next time.