by Charles Cole

Just saw a post from Diane Ravitch suggesting Black Lives Matter should join white “progressives” in resistance to school reform.

Let me be clear, as a Black man that grew up in really really crappy schools in an environment that was at times brutal I am completely for Ed Reform.

I was fortunate, but so many of my friends weren’t.

There are 3 main delivery systems of education in this country: traditional public, charter and private. There are some really bad versions of each of these and there are good versions of each. Now if you are born with money outside of the hood, you tend to have access to various systems.

If you’re Black and poor, anti-reform folks don’t want you to have those options. It’s just that simple. But, do any of us believe that Ravitch is going to send her kid to the run down school in the hood? It’s just not going to happen.

Here’s what true reformers want: real options for families and not just options but quality options. That’s not all that provocative.

From my view education is a form of liberation for the poor and if we truly believe this then we have to allow the oppressed to be part of their liberation. If the Gates Foundation and other deep pockets want to build schools to educate poor Black kids then let me know where to cash the check.

I wish the Waltons of the world had given someone with a real vision some money when I was being mis-educated all through my childhood. It didn’t happen. Like millions of other black faces at the bottom of the well, I was on my own.

My democratic voting, fairly progressive mother that pulled out her hair trying to find a quality high school for me would have knocked someone over to grab a voucher for a private school if they were available to her in Oakland in 1997. No white progressive is going to shame or demonize mothers like her for seeking advantages for kids that have none. Neither Diane Ravitch nor anyone else will shame us for wanting for our kids what they have for theirs.

We deserve access to quality schools. Period. Black lives are being taken in the streets by out of control, militarized police departments. Black minds are being wasted in classrooms by industrialized, bureaucratized school systems.

I’ve stood in these streets for Black Lives Matter marches, and I’m not going to sit by and allow anyone to disrespect the lives of those that have loss their lives at the hands of police just so someone can make a political statement. Nah man, I’ve been harassed by those cops, I’ve been handcuffed for no good reason. I’ve also been victim to terrible teachers.

You won’t disrespect Mike Brown that way.

You won’t disrespect Sandra Bland that way.

You won’t disrespect Oscar Grant that way.

You won’t disrespect me.

It’s not going to happen on my watch.

#BLM isn’t the place for you to coopt.

They have their demands. Go read and support them.

Until then, chill on trying to co-opt one movement with an anti-movement that will ultimately do more harm to poor minorities.

Dr. Charles Cole, III​ is an educator focused on the advancement of youth of color, but more specifically Black males. This passion comes from his experiences growing up without proper support, including being homeless and attending more than ten elementary schools across the country while his parents battled addiction and incarceration. Throughout that experience, no adult, no group, no organization ever asked him how he was achieving success nor how he was surviving. Schools were not a place where students in similar predicaments were learning. This experience helped lead to the publication of his first book, ​Beyond Grit and Resilience. As founder of ​Energy Convertors​, Charles comes from the community and has shared many of the students’ experiences. Previously Charles served as a social worker, a Director for Teach for America, the Vice Chair of the California Young Democrats, Black Caucus and at a director’s level with various youth-focused nonprofits. n addition to founding Energy Convertors, Charles is a national speaker and a writer, and he can be found in Oakland and around the country working with youth on how to equip themselves appropriately to lay the groundwork for a bright future. Charles is currently a board member of ​UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital​, and co-host of the ​8 Black Hands Podcast. Charles’ life goal is to better the communities he grew up in, which include Chicago, Paducah, KY, and Oakland.    



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