The American dream usually boils down to a definition along the lines of, “work hard, play by the rules and you’ll be able to raise a family safely in this country.” 

But if you’re a Black kid, the message that is actually sent is far different: The dream isn’t for you. 

Failing schools, curricula designed for white learners, severe lack of preparation for higher education, and more are why brightbeam’s Tanesha Peeples said we need to fight against the “false American dream” in an appearance on “The Tammi Mac Late Show” on Fox Soul. 

Joining a panel discussion on how to bring equity and equality to education, Tanesha said that, no matter how you do it, Black families and students and educators and administrators need significantly more say and power in the ways we educate children in this country—especially their own children.

“Black people are brilliant,” she said, referring to the pre-Brown v. Board of Education reality of Black-only schools that featured significant educational attainment for students—until flawed and overly blunt school integration efforts over the last half-century kicked out all the Black education experts who already knew how to serve their students. 

“We had our own systems before, our own schools before,” she said. 

Panelist Dr. Steve Perry said increased funding for K-12 education is necessary to see better interventions for the students who need them. But the key thing is, that increased funding cannot be used as a reward for those already perpetuating a failing system.

“When we’re talking about giving more money to K-12 schools that are failing, what we’re talking about is paying people who are largely white and female and suburban to work in those schools,” Perry said. “We’re not talking about increasing the quality of the product.” 

The key, then, lies in properly targeting—and then providing resources to—the alternative schooling options that are seeing results for Black students.

One way to do that is to tie education funding more directly to students themselves.

“The money should follow the child,” said author Vince Ellison, of Project 21. 

Ellison said the current schooling system we have in place for American Black students is “child abuse on another level.” 

Dr. Thomas A. Parham, president of Cal State University of Dominguez Hills, brought the conversation to the core ideas of what learning itself is supposed to mean, especially for Black Americans.

“The biggest problem we have,” above even poverty or racism or failing school systems, Parham said, “is the need for mental liberation.” 

“They’ll take the shackles [former slaves’ hands] but they’ll never take the shackles off this,” Parham said, pointing to his head. Good education, he said, is not Eurocentric metrics based on box-checking task lists, but “cultivat[ing] the best of what you have internally.” 

Weren’t able to tune into “The Tammi Mac Late Night Show”? No worries. Just watch above or click the link here to get more resources on how to lift up your school districts. 

Don’t forget to check out more of Tanesha’s work with her Hope + Outrage column and her weekly “Talk Dat Real Sh*t” broadcast on Facebook Live


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