Why I Re-joined the NAACP; Confessions from a Prodigal Son

Black folks are still catching hell.  At district schools, charters, private schools, in the Flatlands and the Hills, we are catching hell.    It may be a different hell, “the sunken place” where we see our children’s ambitions die a slow death by a thousand sleights, checking their identity at the schoolhouse door or fighting against the tide to maintain it inside.

It’s not always so bleak, but many of us see a slow grinding process, with lower expectations, higher punishment and subtle and not so subtle reminders of the American dilemma.   Parents worry about leaving their children at school, and what unscripted lessons they are learning when the classroom door closes.

I hear it from parents everywhere, in every sector, it will break your heart, to hear how the system breaks our children or tries to.  And as a community we need to get together and have some honest conversations.

Three out of Four Black boys don’t meet reading standards in California.

So, I re-joined the NAACP.

I had always admired the work of the NAACP.  As a kid, it’s funny I remember my mom saying how Reagan didn’t speak in front of the NAACP, and I was pissed off, hated him for that, felt like he had turned his back on us.  Not that he had to show us any love, but he didn’t even show us respect.  And US was the NAACP.

And as an aspiring civil rights lawyer I idolized Thurgood Marshall and the legal fight for rights, at least the way I understood it at the time.  Derrick Bell and “Faces at the Bottom of the Well” changed some of that thinking but Thurgood Marshall was, and still is, a hero to me.

Over the years though, my confidence had slipped.  The NAACP seemed out of touch; over spending, the whole Rachel Dolezal thing, payoffs around discrimination and the sham charter school hearings.  I wondered where the substance of the organization was, as it seemed mired in muck, and not speaking to what Black folks that I hear from need or want.

Back to the roots

I had one of those parents catching hell stories cross my desk—well several.    I reached out to the Oakland NAACP for help and they were there.  In the way that I remember them being there, listening to the real concerns of families and supporting them.  I charged my card the membership fee.

In 2015-16 23.6% of African American students in OUSD graduated with the courses to apply to UC or CSU, the A-G requirements, the rate was 76.5% for White students.

So I re-joined the NAACP.

The barriers facing our children and families have no sector—they are the American problem, and we need honest internal debates, not shows put on for the outside or for sponsors, on either “side.”  I hope we can start to have those real honest debates about the state of education for our children here, what is working, what is not working, and how we make things better.

We have enough sideshows in Oakland if you get me.

We still are catching hell everywhere we go, not every day, and not in the same way, but I hear the stories and know they are true.  Damn, even with my own schools when we pull the data apart, we see the same patterns.

And if you don’t believe the stories, the numbers are undeniable.

Check your school or your district, or any school, or any district and the disparities exist.  The Times looked at the numbers nationwide and with a depressing graph telling the tale.  I challenge anyone to find a district without a racial achievement or disciplinary gap.

So again, this is an American problem.  I hope that over these next years we can come together as a community to discuss, understand and address the problems, rather than splintering into factions of blame or seeing this as a charter versus district thing.

That may make for good theater.  But we need good dialogue, and I hope that the NAACP, at least locally, will help provide that.  I am all in.


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