Momma taught me early on, Black folks need to stick together. We owe something to the race. We don’t really air our business in public for a smirking crowd. And as one of the founders of the State of Black Education in Oakland, I had somewhat stayed out of the reparations controversy, short of a conversation with someone from J4OS, where I let my disapproval be known.
Given the speed it is moving and the lack of people actually reading it, with many signing off because of the title, I feel compelled to respond.
It’s ironic that a so-called “Reparations for Black Students” policy in Oakland would exclude roughly half of the Black kids, and by the union’s own account they only spoke to 150 hand-picked families in creating it. The policy similarly excludes those who have suffered the most from the system, those kicked and pushed out. And ultimately it will be another unfunded mandate, as written, relying on a vague promise of funding from a broke district, and giving that money to the very foxes that have raided the henhouse for the last century.
Who Deserves Reparations and Who Doesn’t
Does the reparations policy help the thousand plus kids on the street who have been pushed out of schools—No. Does it help the thousands of Black families that choose charters- No. Does it support the thousands of Black families in Oakland that hustle for private schools-No. Does it support the thousand plus students, from Oakland who attend neighboring districts-No. How about those Oakland kids in juvenile hall, or whatever they call it now-No. Does it address foster youth- most of whom are Black- No, does it address homeless youth- most of whom are Black-No.
To me, if you are Black, you suffer from the same conditions. And any money raised for “Black Student Reparations” should go to alleviate those. We should not have an exclusive reparations policy that only cares for a subset of the Black family. We all need to all eat together at the table. And unless a policy embraces all Black children it is not a policy that I, or SoBEO, can endorse.
Black Families Need Help
No sector is serving Black students, and every sector needs to get on the bus of real change. I hear stories from Black parents about catching hell at charters, the district, private schools, pretty much everywhere. And while the Flats may suffer the indignities of being overburdened and under-resourced, some of the worst stories from our families are from the Hills schools.
We need to bring everyone along on the ride, not divide the community between those who deserve reparations and those who don’t, on an arbitrary and political distinction.
Take the Good and Make it Better
There are good things, that should be embraced for all kids in the policy. The current funding formula does hurt Black children, we should change that—at the district and charters. We should go further though and do targeted make up funding for Black children.
The policy does mention literacy support, and research-based literacy practices. I hope they have read the NAACP’s complaint on literacy practices and recommendations. We need to embrace the NAACP’s recommendations, and also guarantee dyslexia screening for every Black child, in charter or the district, and make programs available for young people who are out of school.
The policy does obliquely address the housing crisis for Black families, but not in a practical way. The policy mentions that OUSD should come up for back rent for Black families, which will never happen. But OUSD could come up with affordable housing for Black folks, as one of the largest landowners sitting on empty buildings and vacant lots, and that should be included as a more structural solution.
I could go on.
Yes, on reparations, but no on this proposal. We need a broader community engagement process, and a policy that reflects and benefits all of Oakland’s children. We need to stick together, and we can’t be divided and conquered, leaving some kids further behind, while we know they have the same exact needs and suffer the same exact systemic inequities.
Finally, we need to actually fund it, and have committed funding. We just saw foster case managers cut, we saw the office of equity cut. If there is no actual funding guaranteed this will become just another policy on paper, and performance politics, that won’t help a single Black child. So I hope we can move forward together and get real answers for all of Oakland’s children and deliver all of them some real benefits.
We convene thousands of Black families every year and would be happy to help get broader community engagement and a better policy.