Recently [some] Lowell families have been at it again trying to push SFUSD Board Members to reinstate tracking in our district. For lack of a better name, and because there has been a real lack of transparency behind this groups members/motives, I’ve decided to call this group CARE/SFUSD_parentwatch.)
This is a complex issue, no doubt. And with all the issues in play: GATE, tracking,math sequencing, educational access, racial discrimination… etc. it has been quite a HOT topic on parent email groups and in PTA meetings around the district. There are many valid questions families have about changes to gifted programming and math instruction. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of misinformation and coded racism flying around as well. (Click here to read official answers to parent questions about GATE, honors AP and advanced math.)
In this first of several posts, I attempt to frame the questions and issues behind this discussion. Feel free to email me at ali @ sfpsmom.com if you have a topic you’d like to see.
Did you know there is a parent organization spreading racist narratives about Black and Latino families in our district?
CARE/SFUSD_parentwatch is a parent group in San Francisco organizing to dismantle recent (positive) changes in our district math program in order to re-instate tracking (read: segregation) in our schools. As a part of this effort, they are using racialized messages about Latinos and Black families. Unfortunately, much of this messaging is resonating with new-immigrant Asian families who may harbor fear and misunderstanding about the Black and Latino communities.
These are just a few examples of the type of messages that are now proliferating on parent email groups, in PTA meetings, and in Chinese-speaking WeChat groups across the district:
We all know racism is not new. It is also not new to pit the needs of one marginalized community against another for political gain. Chinese-speaking families have valid concerns for their children and they have a right to be heard. Nonetheless, advocating for the needs of Chinese-speaking families should not come at the expense of Black or Latino children. These types of comments on parent email groups and in Board of Education Meetings have been consistent and are increasingly creating a hostile and unsafe environment for students and families in our schools. CARE/Sfusd_parentwatch parents regularly ridicule and harass other families who challenge their biased narratives and which has led to many parents becoming fearful of participating in online spaces and in public meetings.
This is especially apparent at Lowell High School, an elite magnet school in our district, a school at which several sfusd_parentwatch members serve as elected SSC members. Recently, a student posted pictures of rappers behind a glass library display for Black History month with the hashtag #GANG beside it. Only a few weeks prior students journalists wrote about the need for creating a more inclusive environment at the school for African American and Latino students in an series of essays titled “Finding Equity” in which students detail the daily microaggressions they face as underrepresented students at the school.
To be fair, this is NOT just a Lowell problem. Saint Ignatius recently suspended students for having a “wigga” party. And Black students at the prestigious Boston Latin public magnet school recently launched a #BlackAtBLS hashtag campaign to highlight microagressions students face everyday at their school. Nonetheless, we cannot deny the culture of racism that seems to pervade some our “highest performing” schools. If turn-out to recent Board of Education Meetings is any indication, it does seem that the racist narratives are helping CARE/sfusd_parentwatch parents make headway in mobilizing more and more families (especially mono-lingual Chinese-speaking families) using a campaign of misinformation and fear, specifically about Black families.
Race-based bashing, spreading misinformation and fear mongering is not good for our children, our city or our nation. Parents of ALL cultural backgrounds must work together to support access to safe and welcoming school environments for all our children and families. It’s time to stop being silent about the coded racism we see. We must begin naming harmful narratives and work together to make our schools truly inclusive for all children in SFUSD.
What you can do:
- Attend an upcoming Board of Education Meeting this February, 23 2016. Come early and fill out a speaker card. Let the District know racists narratives have no place in our schools.
- Look around and ask questions at your school. It is appalling to hear that some schools in the district are not doing anything to celebrate Black History Month because they “do not have time”. It is unacceptable that many school do not have functioning ELAC’s year after year to represent the voices of English Learner Families, even when this is required by law.
- Speak up! Remember “Silence is Violence”. Microaggressions and racist narratives do not go away when they are ignored, they only breed more hate. By not speaking up when we hear or see racist behavior or language, we ignore the very real pain these narratives cause students and families in our school. We “normalize” this behavior and put the burden of “tolerance” on those who are already victimized by this treatment.
- Organize with other families to create safe, integrated, schools for all our kids. Start a African American Parent Advisory Council, Black Student Union, La Raza or Equity Club at your school. Get involved with the SF Families Union to team up with families of all races to help make all schools integrated and inclusive schools. Go to sffamiliesunion.org.
- Look for opportunities to learn more about the ways racism affects our schools and communities. Learn more about microagressions so you can interrupt them them they are happening in your school or community. Seek out articles online or learn more from this blog! These reads are a great start for non-black allies!
Ali Collins is an educator, community organizer and mom. She lives with her husband and twin girls in San Francisco, CA.
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