"It's hard when all they want to be are rappers and football players." - Elementary School Principal, LAUSD
Los Angeles, CA
2 children - 1 boy (11), 1 girl (5)
This is what I feel after a week of having been pissed, blown away, astounded, dumbfounded and down right numb with disbelief; just tired, heart sick. And oh yeah... DONE!
I am the parent of a child being educated in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Undoubtedly one of the worst, most inept, racially marginalized school districts in this nation.
I will not belabor the particular incident that sent me to this place – it causes me anxiety that I would not wish on my worst enemy but suffice it to say, as a result, I demanded a meeting with the brand new principal of my son’s school.
In short, what will follow are the words out of his mouth after having spent nearly twenty minutes discussing how my son was volunteered for a program that acts as an indicator to future schools and administrators of a child with learning/behavior issues in the classroom:
J: Let me be frank with you Mr. McGee, I have an issue with the way that it seems that black boys in this district are systematically held to an expectation of underachievement or considered to have, at the slightest hint of misbehavior, some larger emotional, social or psychological issue. Issues that would rarely if ever be attributed to their white counter-parts when exhibiting similar behaviors.
His face reddens, he breathes deep...
Mr. M: Well Mrs. M, let me be honest with you, there are a lot of imperfections in our district, as in every district. Teachers and administrators are people and people unfortunately often have biases. It is difficult for some teachers when they try to reach little African American boys that come from the inner city or ...the projects. When they don’t have fathers in the home or strong male figures it is difficult to get their attention.
J: (nodding) uh huh
Mr. M: When all it seems that these little boys want to be is football players or rappers, the teachers feel as if they do not want to learn.
J: My husband is in the home. And the little boys who do not have fathers in the home should not be punished with low-expectations and generalizations by teachers who are uncomfortable with them or ambivalent about their futures.
Mr. McGee: Your right Mrs. M and it takes people that will keep sounding the bell, saying something so that one day things will change.
J: Well, since my daughter will be starting here next year, I think this school should be about the business of educating its teachers and faculty about the realities of dealing with people unlike themselves. They should maybe get some training in diversity as the face of this school is becoming more diverse every year.
Mr McGee: (nodding slowly) Yes we... well we would like to see things improve and we need people to keep sounding the horn on things like this.
The conversation went on like this for much longer than I would impose on you. And at the close of it, when I informed him that I was a writer, knew the power of words and a carefully placed letter or two and would be looking into getting some diversity training at our school, he winced out a smile and asked underneath a bit of nervous laughter:
Mr. McGee: You wouldn’t like to come and talk to the kids about writing would you?
J: Sure I would. You set it up.
If you are the mother of a little black boy or young man I implore you to sit down with him and ask him the following questions. Encourage him to be open and honest about his feelings as they relate to school.
1.) How do you feel about school?
2.) What do you think your value is to the educational system.
3.) What value do you think education plays now and will play in the future for you?
4.) How do you think the educational establishment (teachers, principals) views you?
5.) If you could change one thing about the way you are being educated on a day to day basis, what would it be?
6.) What is your favorite subject?
7.) What do you want to be when you grow up?
Send your son’s responses to Jasai at 3727 W. Magnolia Blvd, Box 406, Burbank, CA 91505. Be sure to include his name, age, grade and the school district he is being educated through. We can do this mamas. We can make them listen. We can make a change. We can make the difference. If we don't, no one else will.