The conversation about integrating public schools is one in which we should all actively engage–and the DCSC has.
However, recent conversations on this topic reference two lines of thinking in need of some serious reframing: 1. That charter schools grossly exacerbate segregation and/or that 2. Integration is not a worthwhile pursuit.
These lines of thinking make harmful assumptions and, perhaps more alarmingly, exclude the most integral components of the discussion related to diversity. The underlying assumption about segregated schools that needs to be called out is this: that black and brown children’s ability to learn and thrive is linked to their proximity to white children.
It seems that: 1) Black/Brown students = at risk students; 2) Black/Brown students = poor students; i.e. Black/Brown students are the ones that need help. The help is seen as white students. The answer of how to solve the question of segregation seems to be: 1) We entice white kids to a predominately black/brown school; OR 2) We bring black/brown kids to a predominately white school. And by engaging in either of these two strategies, we can overcome the problem of segregation and the lives of these black/brown students are made better.
But these solutions imply that white students (and their schools) are better and blatantly suggests that not including white students makes a school somehow less. This is a disservice to both white and black/brown students. It’s magical thinking via “magical” children.
We must be mindful of the frame we are using to talk about this work. Segregation is not a black and brown problem. Black and brown students are not in need of saving. And white students are not, and have never been, their saviors.
Chris Stewart and others have iterated helpful frames of thought: namely, that the ability of black children and children of color to learn and thrive is not and should not be linked to their proximity to white children. Integration is not what will “save” our black and brown children.
The DCSC celebrates amazing schools. Those that affirm their students and actively prepare them to reach their dreams and surpass their potential. Many of these schools are schools where the student population is predominantly black or brown with a school community of black and brown leaders. We applaud and support their work.
We also know that integration, when done thoughtfully and with purpose, is a powerful tool for creating schools that affirm their students and actively prepare them to reach their dreams and surpass their potential. Integration is about providing equitable access to resources for everyone. Our schools actively engage in work where integration is about respecting, recognizing and honoring all students. It is about providing equitable access to resources for everyone, regardless of their zip codes or skin tone. As a coalition that believes and promotes diverse charter schools, this is one of our fundamental core values.
School integration is not a panacea. It is not easy work and often it’s not simple. To do this work and do it well, we must confront hard questions and ugly truths–but most importantly, we must understand that where we start the conversation is just as important as where the conversation ends.