I live in Oakland, CA. It’s one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. Now that Silicon Valley in on full tilt and rich white folks are essentially pushing less rich white folks out of San Francisco, Oakland has taken the overflow. We are getting new restaurants, nightlife, you name it. The cost of living here is rising at an incredible rate.
I have a great job. I have multiple degrees. I am what you may call, upwardly mobile. I make a relatively good salary. I have no children. I only have to take care of myself. And I can’t buy a home in this city. It’s just not cost effective.
Now let’s take a look at how we are educating little Black kids. This is a national issue, but I’ll focus on the place I live, Oakland. We currently talk about education in a way that doesn’t translate to real life. We talk regarding numbers or test scores, but I want to translate that language to real life. When we talk about more than 60 percent of our students qualifying for free or reduced lunch, that means that the majority of students we serve live in poverty. When we say the vast majority of those students are not reading at or above grade level, we are saying that we have a significant amount of children that are on track to not be fully literate. We are talking about children that can’t read and often grow up to become adults that can’t read and comprehend at an acceptable level.
So what are we doing? What are we preparing our kids to be? How do we expect these kids to grow up here and live in this city if they are so far behind? What jobs are we preparing them for? Even with my credentials and earning potential, it is tough for me to live in this city. The truth is, I got my apartment near Lake Merritt years ago and rent control looks out for a brother. Are we expecting these children to just magically transform into adults that make more than $100,000 a year without a strong education base? If we stay at this rate, we are preparing these children to be serfs. The definition of a serf is an agricultural laborer bound under the feudal system to work on his lord’s estate. In other words, we are preparing our Black kids only to be qualified to serve.
Ummm, in case you’re wondering, that’s not okay!
We are setting our kids up to have to move out of this city because let’s face it, folks are buying up the hood. Hippies, white folks, and new money (that’s what I call first generation people that went from poverty to wealth) aren’t afraid of the hood anymore. In 10 years, you’d be hard pressed to be even able to afford the slums in Oakland. Let that sink in for a minute, more than 50% of the children in our public schools today will not be able to live in Oakland, and the ones that live close enough to work here are being set up to serve the needs of the upper class. We are effectively relaunching a feudalistic system.
Come on now. Let’s have the conversation. People say they want change but every time folks try to make a difference, it’s a battle. The truth is, there are people that gain from our kids being illiterate. There are people that convolute the conversation on purpose – and we let them! I say all that to say, do whatever you can to make sure our babies can read. That means show up at board meetings. Support initiatives that raise standards for our students and teachers. That means stop accepting the status quo. It means pull up to a school and volunteer. Mentor, do something.