Commentary: Brown skin v. The Board of Education | St. Louis Public Radio

Commentary: Brown skin v. The Board of Education

Feb 14, 2011

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 14, 2011 - It's been half a century, yet black children are still relegated to unequal education.

How can we prove that black parents love their children and are invested in their educational success? What words would better explain that black parents do not wish harm upon their children, they do not pray for poverty, abuse, neglect or incarceration for them. Is there a reason some kids get to have a good education, but others do not?

A prevailing perception persists that black parents are not involved in their children's education. Well, we cannot tell that by looking at Kelli Williams-Bolar of Ohio. She's the parent who used her father's address to register her children in a school district she did not live in because she wanted a better school for her children.

How many times do single white mothers move in with their parents to get back on their feet? How many times do their white neighbors convey empathy on the economic situation of the woman and her children? How many times do white neighbors and teachers turn a blind eye to the housing rules to allow these young white children another start?

I have white friends who have used their parents' address to send their children to the "good schools" for free. Is there a reason this does not make the news? Is there a benefit to sending a message to black parents that wanting more or trying to access a well resourced school for your child may cost your freedom?

Well, there is no such empathy for this mother. She is spending 10 days in jail because she wanted too much for her children. She is spending 10 days in jail because she could not afford to purchase a home in an affluent neighborhood where her children would have access to a quality education. But the rhetoric abounds that black parents are not active in their children's education.

The crime she has committed is being poor and black. However, she's a perfect example to the wide world that black parents do care about their children's education, even if they are not the PTO president.

Congratulations Ms. Williams-Bolar. The rhetoric around black parents not being involved or astute when it comes to their children's education now has a counter narrative that suggests that black parents will also go to any length to ensure their children receive a good education.

Gerardo Lopez, in "Parent Involvement as Racialized Performance," argues that when assessing parental involvement, the norms are established by the lens of whites to critique the behavior of other groups and their parenting styles and abilities.

In this regard, the discourse surrounding parental involvement constructs a racial division whereby marginalized parents are viewed as lacking the abilities and skills necessary for educational success. Policy solutions, therefore, suggest that parents need to adjust their behaviors to mimic or emulate mainstream modes of appropriate home-school interaction.

Historic racial covenants, institutional and systemic discrimination have provided the platform in which Black parents may not be starting with the same intergenerational wealth or socio-economic privilege as their white counterparts. So the state of Ohio has decided to criminalize loving your children and wanting the best for them. The state of Ohio is sending the message that by any means necessary we will hunt you down, find you and put in jail if you ever attempt to want more for your children than you can afford.

It did not matter that she was going to teach in the district where her children are currently attending school. It didn't matter to the judge that she is months away from graduation and, thus obtaining employment in that district.

It may be 57 years since the landmark Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka that outlawed separate but equal education, but equality is still fleeting for thousands of black children, here, in Ohio and across the nation.

Amy Hunter is director of racial justice at the YWCA Metro St. Louis