Whiteness does not care about the comfort or education of Black students
OPINION: Bunnell Elementary School in Florida failed its Black students and tried to lay the blame on them.
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
Now they’re “sorry.”
It’s always the theater of the apology after they get caught in the act.
Y’all know who the proverbial they are.
It’s whiteness and all the people who uphold it.
In case you missed it, Bunnell Elementary School is in Flagler County, Florida, a district already known for having low test scores among its students. They made improvements this year, according to reporting from USA Today, but apparently, that wasn’t good enough.
Last Friday, the school singled out all of its Black fourth and fifth graders and pulled them into an assembly where they were held responsible for the school’s low test scores.
A PowerPoint presentation, titled “AA Presentation,” was shown to the students. The presentation itself contained typos and errors, and the irony of that is making me constipated because how are you going to create an entire assembly to shame Black children for the failures of the system (of whiteness) when you don’t even have it together enough to proofread said presentation? Y’all are just sloppy all around.
It identified Black students as “the problem” in low test scores because they “have underperform [sic] on standardized assessment for the past three years.” It notes that the school only has 32% of its students who are where they need to be when it should have 41%.
It then tasks the students with committing to getting themselves up to where they need to be on the standardized tests; passing all their curriculum-based assessments with a 75% or higher, and committing to “maintaining high iReady scores within their individual track.”
There were no bullet points in the presentation that detailed how the school was going to help the Black children keep these commitments.
Instead, it explained that the students were going to be put in a competitive bracket system that would pit them against each other — each student competing against another student, and whichever student got the highest scores on their English and math assessments would be declared the winner.
The winner would be given “a meal from McDonalds [sic].”
Even Black students who had met or exceeded the assessment standards were made to attend the assembly.
Only Black students at the school were subjected to this type of assembly.
The district is now apologizing, and the school’s principal, who is white, has been put on leave as the district investigates the incident.
The district’s interim superintendent, LaShakia Moore, posted a video statement to the district’s website in which she said, “Though no malice was intended at this assembly, it was executed in a way that does not align with the values of Flagler County Schools, the Flagler County School Board or this community. Students should never be separated by race.”
Moore has also scheduled a “Community Connection” for Tuesday, Aug. 29, in which she hopes to have “an open dialogue” on “the power of school and community connections” with “Flagler Schools administrators, local officials, community-based organizations, families, stakeholders, and students.”
Let’s set aside for a moment that a Black woman is being made the face of this disaster that happened on the watch of the very white woman principal at the school. I get that she is the superintendent of the district, but baby, where is the direct apology from the people at the school who orchestrated this mess?
I know it’s hard for y’all to focus on more than one thing at a time though, so I’ll stick with the fact that this “Community Connection” is a little late, don’t you think?
Why haven’t you been having these types of meetings and conversations before? Why haven’t you sought to learn more about the students who attend your schools? How can you set them up for success if you don’t know or care about what they need both in and out of the classroom?
Flagler County schools are the symptom. Whiteness is the disease.
Because the truth is, if they actually did care about the outcomes for these Black children, they would have been more involved and engaged with them from the start. These students wouldn’t be random statistics and score goals to hit; they would be humanized, individualized, nurtured, seen, heard and educated in a way that understands their struggles and adapts to help meet their needs.
But y’all know how they are.
These Black children mean nothing to them except in the context of being the scapegoat for a system that continues to otherize and exploit them.
So yeah, they are sorry, and they don’t condone it, and they would not have let this happen had they known beforehand, but — and I mean this as disrespectfully as possible — you can keep that apology.
A real apology involves conscious change and improved behavior. It is intentional. It is direct. It is conscious at every turn because it wants to make it right.
Conscious change would be a fully strategized plan to help those Black children get to where they need to be. Improved behavior would be constant checkups on the systems and processes and those who both manage and execute them to make sure the children continue to get what they need.
If failure is not an option, then what are you doing to make sure they don’t fail?
This, of course, won’t happen because they aren’t truly sorry.
They are having their moment on the “Summer Jam Screen,” and in that moment, they are scrambling to do everything to appear to be the opposite of what they really are: upholders and uplifters of whiteness and white supremacy.
They aren’t sorry those children are being both mistreated and left behind in their care. They are sorry that now everyone knows about it. And it’s not the kind of sorry that is apologetic; it’s “Damn we got caught” dressed in a“please accept our apology” costume.
I will reiterate: the Flagler County school system is already known for having low test scores, which is why it was newsworthy that they made improvements this year.
They were already failing their students, and that’s not the fault of Black children.
That’s the fault of a system, and that system, instead of taking accountability, that system does what that system always does; it deflects, makes itself the victim and makes the target of its mistreatment the offender.
This ain’t our first rodeo with whiteness, and it won’t be our last.
It’s tragic that the Black children in Flagler County, Florida, have to suffer.
Whiteness doesn’t care about the comfort and education of Black children. It only cares about sustaining itself.
Monique Judge is a storyteller, content creator and writer living in Los Angeles. She is a word nerd who is a fan of the Oxford comma, spends way too much time on Twitter, and has more graphic t-shirts than you. Follow her on Twitter @thejournalista or check her out at moniquejudge.com.
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