Sunday, November 19, 2017

There Is Nothing ‘Mom and Pop’ About Charter Schools by Aaron Michael Baker

Originally posted at:

In a forgotten time in this country, the “mom and pop” moniker stood for everything that was right about the family owned small business. Urban grocery stores, owned and operated by small families who often lived in the same building, provided an indispensable service to neighborhood residents within walking distance. Qualifying for the nickname had everything to do with the daily responsibilities of running the business falling only to family members; mom, dad, and often the young children. With the rise of Walmart in the mid-twentieth century, true “mom and pop” shops began to vanish and the connotation of the name quickly expanded and consequently lost its original meaning. “Mom and pop” shops represent a time in this country when capitalism had a soul and upward mobility was more than a distant memory.
Ben Felder of The Oklahoman recently reported that a $16 million federal grant is expected to significantly expand the number of “mom and pop” charter schools in Oklahoma. “Mom and pop” is used in this case to refer to those charter schools not operated by corporate Charter Management Organizations or CMOs. There are very few positive things to say about the current Oklahoma education funding crisis, but according to Felder, the relatively low number of charter schools run by CMOs in Oklahoma is directly tied to the low per pupil spending in the funding formula. We spend so little on education that the corporate education machine’s tried and true formula for a quick profit does not make business sense in Oklahoma!
The National Education Association reports that about 4 in 10 charter schools are run by for profit corporations, while 6 in 10 are not for profit and not directly tied to a CMO. The latter group wishes to emphasize their distinctive by taking on the name “mom and pop” as if to say, “we are not corporate.” Nothing could be further from the truth. For instance, Stanley Hupfeld Academy in Oklahoma City would more appropriately be called “Integris Health Elementary.” Urban “mom and pop” charter school, John Rex Charter Elementary Schoolshould be called “Devon Energy Elementary.” Naming a charter school after an individual sends a very personal and local message while simultaneously masking massive corporate contribution and influence.
Selective enrollment is a cornerstone of the charter school model. There is nothing “mom and pop” about being essentially a “members only” organization. Even charter schools that claim to be neighborhood schools (serving students in the immediate vicinity of the school) have enrollment caps that consistently turn students away. In keeping with the analogy, it is worth noting that small businesses that refuse to serve particular clientele usually don’t win in court. The charter school way is more like “Sam’s Club” than anything else.
We spend so little on education that the corporate education machine’s tried and true formula for a quick profit does not make business sense in Oklahoma!
I have previously written about how the School Choice Movement, of which charter schools are an essential part, likes to be known as the “little guy” going up against the giant, monolithic, public school system. The “mom and pop” charter schools want to be pitied above all others because they view themselves as the “little guys” of the “little guys.” The truth is that neighborhood public schools pose no threat to charter school upstarts. Great public schools have been the center of activity in communities across this country for generations; without a charter, without a corporate benefactor, and without the “ability” to deny services to students whose education comes with certain challenges. If any school deserves the title “mom and pop,” it is the traditional neighborhood public school that is truly owned and operated by the community and for the community. 

The Completely Avoidable Teacher Shortage and What To Do About It by Steven Singer

Originally posted at:

Is anybody here?
Is anyone else left? Am I the only one still employed here?
Somedays it feels like it.
Somedays teaching in a public school is kind of like trying to run a resort hotel – ALL BY YOURSELF.
You’ve got to teach the classes and watch the lunch periods and cover the absences and monitor the halls and buy the pencils and tissues and fill out the lesson plans and conduct the staff meetings and…
Wouldn’t it be better if there were more people here?
I mean seriously. Why do we put the entire responsibility for everything – almost everything – involved in public education and put it all on the shoulders of school teachers?
And since we’re asking questions, why do we ALSO challenge their right to a fair wage, decent healthcare, benefits, reasonable hours, overtime, sick leave, training, collective bargaining… just about ANYTHING to encourage them to stay in the profession and to get the next generation interested in replacing them when they retire?
Well, that’s part of the design.
So if we wanted today’s children to have the same quality of service kids received in this country only a decade ago, we’d need to hire almost 400,000 more teachers!
Instead, our children are packed into classes of 25, 30 even 40 students!
There’s no way a single teacher can give all those children her undivided attention at all times. There’s no way she can provide them with the kind of individualized instruction we know kids need in order to fulfill their potentials.
So why did we let this happen? Why do we continue to let this happen?
First, you have to understand that there are two very different kinds of public school experience. There is the kind provided by the rich schools where the local tax base has enough money to give kids everything they need including small class sizes and hiring enough teachers to get things done efficiently. And there’s the poor schools where the majority of our kids get educated by the most dedicated put upon teachers who give 110% everyday but somehow can’t manage to keep all those plates spinning in the air at the same time so the media swoops in, wags its finger and proclaims them a “failure.”
It’s not teachers who are failing. It’s a system that stacks the deck against them and anxiously anticipates them being unable to meet unfair and impossible expectations.
Why do we let THAT happen?
This is a chance to open a new market and scoop up buckets of juicy profit all for themselves and their donors.
It’s called privatized education. You know – charter schools and vouchers schools. Educational institutions not run by the public, not beholden to elected officials, but instead by bureaucrats who have the freedom to act in the shadows, cut student services and pocket the savings.
THAT’S why there’s a teacher shortage.
Those are people they have to pay a living wage. Those are people who know a thing or two and might complain about how the corporate scheme adversely affects the children in their care.
That’s why!
So these business people would rather teaching become a minimum wage stepping stone for young adults before they move on to something that pays them enough to actually support themselves and their families.
And to do that, the powers that be need to get rid of professional teachers.
People like me – folks with national board certification and a masters degree – they need to go.
THAT’S why class sizes are so large. That’s why so few young people are picking teaching as a major in college.
It’s exactly what the super-rich want.
And it doesn’t have to be some half mad Mr. Burns who makes the decisions. In my own district, the school board just decided to save money by cutting middle school math and language arts teachers – the core educators who teach the most important subjects on the standardized tests they pretend to value so much!
I’m under no illusions that my neighborhood school directors are in bed with the privatization industry. Some are clueless and some know the score. But the decision was prompted mostly by need. We’re losing too many kids to the local charter schooldespite its terrible academic track record, despite that an army of kids slowly trickle back to us each year after they get the boot from the privatizers, our district coffers are suffering because marketing is winning over common sense.
So number crunching administrators had a choice – straighten their backbones and fight, or suggest cutting flesh and bone to make the budget.
They chose the easier path.
As a result, middle school classes are noticeably larger, teachers have been moved to areas where they aren’t necessarily most prepared to teach and administrators actually have the gall to hold out their clipboards, show us the state test scores and cluck their tongues.
I actually heard an administrator this week claim that my subject, language arts, counts for double points on the state achievement rubric. I responded that this information should be presented to the school board as a reason to hire another language arts teacher, reduce class sizes and increase the chances of boosting test scores!
That went over like a lead balloon.
But it demonstrates why we’ve lost so much ground.
Everyone knows larger class sizes are bad – especially in core subjects, especially for younger students, especially for struggling students. Yet no one wants to do anything to cut class sizes.
If the state and federal government were really committed to increasing test scores, that’s the reform they would mandate when scores drop. Your kids aren’t doing as well in math and reading. Here’s some money to hire more teachers.
But NO.
Instead we’re warned that if we don’t somehow pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, they’ll close our school and give it to a private company to run – as if there were any evidence at all that this would help.
But, the school privatization cheerleader rebuts, why should we reward failing schools with more money?
The same reason you reward a starving stomach with more food. So the hungry person will survive!
Right now you’re doing the same thing with the testing corporations. They make the tests and grade the tests. So if students fail, the testing corporations get more money because then students have to take — MORE TESTS! And they are forced to take testing remediation classes that have to buy testing remediation materials produced by – wait for it – the same companies that make and grade the tests!
It’s a scam, ladies and gentlemen! And anyone who looks can see it.
But when you bring this up to administrators, they usually just nod and say that there’s nothing we can do about it. All we can do is keep trying to win the game – a game that’s rigged against us.
That’s exactly the attitude that’s gotten us where we are.
We can’t just keep doing it, keep appeasing the testing and privatization industry and their patsies in the media and government.
We must fight the system, itself, not go along with it.
We need to get on a bus and go to the state capital and Washington, DC, as a staff and protest. We need our school boards to pass resolutions against the unfair system. We need class action lawsuits. We need to tell everyone in the media what we know and repeat it again and again until it becomes a refrain.
And when we get these unfair evaluations of our under-resourced impoverished and multicultural districts, we need to cry foul. “Oh look! Pearson’s tests failed another group of mostly brown and black kids! I wonder what they have against children of color!”
Force them to change. Provide adequate, equitable and sustainable funding so we can hire the number of teachers necessary to actually get the job done. Make the profession attractive to the next generation by increasing teacher pay, autonomy, resources and respect. And stop evaluating educators with unproven, disproven and debunked evaluation schemes like value-added measures and standardized test scores. Judge them on what they do and not a trussed up series of expected outcomes designed by people who either have no idea what they’re talking about or actively work to stack the deck against students and teachers.
But most of all — No more going along.
No more taking the path most traveled.
Because we’ve seen where it leads.

It leads to our destruction.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Dear Millennials, Please Save Our Schools by Teresa Shimogawa

(Me, at age 9)

A post that is 25% about why we need to care about politics, and 75% about why millennials should be the ones to step up and care about our public schools.

Dear Millennials,
I am one of the “older millennials,” born in 1982, which means that part of me relates to the Gen X generation, but a large portion of me is very much Millennial. There are a lot of negative things said about our generation. Quite frankly, I find it comical that the generations who couldn’t figure out that inhaling cigarette smoke led to cancer would have the nerve to make fun of our organic food. Those generations elected politicians who outsourced our jobs, gave us a Wall Street economy, and oh yeah, Donald Trump. But okay. Go ahead and tell us how much we suck.
I don’t want to pick a fight with the other generations today. Actually, this essay is for the millennials.
Millennials are usually aware of the danger of privatization and special interests. Candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders appealed so much to us because they challenged the 1%, and most of us are fed up with the corruption and greed. We’ve seen the growth of banks that have become “too big to fail,” tax breaks for the wealthy, charter schools and school vouchers being pushed as a “better” alternative to our public schools, the privatization of prisons, the military-industrial complex feeding endless war–all of this seemed to have been spinning out of control under the noses of our previous generations, and continue to grow larger than life.
In Southern California, my generation has felt the squeeze of getting priced out of buying homes, even with good jobs. People have had to take on enormous debt just to get through college, only to find limited job prospects once they graduate. We’re talking about limited good jobs. Jobs that pay a living wage. It’s no wonder that millennials are jaded about politics and many feel disconnected from our political parties. Candidates who promote an active and empowered citizenry make us millennials feel hopeful about democracy amidst a system that seems otherwise rigged.
Unfortunately, knowing about a problem and doing something about it are two different things in life.
There are many passionate and energetic millennials out there trying to make a difference. But there are also a lot of them waiting on the sidelines, maybe waiting for “their turn,” just sort of letting the other generations do their thing. I am so tired of going to events and being one of the youngest people there…at the age of 35!
Millennials, listen up. We’re the ones inheriting the world. That’s not a cliche line that I’m trying to use on you. We’re in the middle of our careers or going to school or working. We’re thinking about starting families or already have young families and our kids in school. Many of us have become homeowners. We’re paying taxes. We’re in the thick of the busiest years of our lives, and I know we’re busy changing diapers or working our 9-5 or busting our butts in college and trying not to drown in student loans.
But guys, I’m pleading with you, we CAN NOT stick our heads into the sand. I don’t want to hear my fellow millennials utter the lamest words people are so quick to throw out in a conversation:
I’m too busy.
Come on. If you have time to go to your kids’ soccer game, or to that concert in L.A., or watch Monday night football, or whatever the hell you do, you have time to do something as a citizen in a “democracy.” You have time to invest in your future.
People defriend others on Facebook over politics, as if someone just insulted their mama, and yet the thought of doing something political, like maybe attending a meeting, going to a rally, precinct walking, joining an interest group, or whatever– that doesn’t typically cross the average person’s mind. Because they’re TOO BUSY. Why get offended about politics if it’s not important enough to participate in? The world already has enough armchair intellectuals and armchair activists. We don’t need more keyboard jockeys. We need people to start doing stuff.
Voting is a good step. But it’s a baby step. There are so many things to do beyond voting. As we’ve seen in many elections (even for us millennials), voting isn’t enough. We need other people to vote too. And we our elected officials to know that we are paying attention, and we need to hold them accountable.
Many people assume that “other” people will magically make things happen. Somebody else will volunteer. Or maybe if we just don’t think about it, maybe it will go away.
We see what’s happening, but too often we feel as tiny as ants and believe that perceived lack of efficacy absolves us from taking responsibility.
We have to do something. Anything. Even small things.
Or maybe it just feels too painful. The baby keeps you up all night and you’re stressed out at work and having marital problems and a laundry list of other stressors, and bothering with “politics” just seems like it would exacerbate the pain. It’s easier to stay away.
But staying away from politics, much in the same way that staying away from your dishes and laundry and bills and health, never ends well. The pain catches up with you tenfold. Staying away is guaranteed to create more problems in your life.
This is our world. We are constantly affected by the decisions made by other people, every single moment of our existence–how can we not care? How can we not want to have a say? We have to invest in our communities. Our homes. Our schools. We have to use our voices. We have to show our children how to use their voices–model it for them. Why would we want other people making all of the decisions for us, especially since many of these decisions are being driven by special interests.
Let me just tell you why I started writing this letter. I was recently looking at somebody’s Facebook page (a millennial) and it said that they worked at a “public charter school.”
My first reaction was: are you kidding me?
Orwellian doublespeak.
Do not be fooled by this. A public school is not the same as a “public charter school.” Shame on this person for feeding into the corporate game. For selling our communities down the river just to live a deluded life of self-importance and success at the expense of our children.
You might be scratching your head, because unless you’re in the thick of these issues we tend to ignore them or not look too closely, and that’s how we get fooled. But we have to think critically about everything if we want to avoid a life of manipulation.
A public charter school means it’s basically like a private school that uses public money, but they cloak themselves as “public.” They are most definitely not the same.
Charter schools use slick marketing techniques that make parents feel empowered. They throw out cliche lines like “school choice” and “parent choice” and they pretend to care about opinions, but in reality the vast majority of them only care about their bottom lines. They may try to bribe you with a free laptop. They use the rhetoric of “failing public schools” to try to justify their predatory ways. This is all smoke in mirrors.
They don’t want your empowerment. They want your kid so they can make money. Charter schools are big business. According to Chris Hedges, in 2012 he reported that the federal government spends $600 billion a year on education. There is money to be made by the corporations–if they can take over.
By cloaking themselves as “public,” they attempt to remove themselves from the controversy that vouchers present (since vouchers use public money for a private school of the parent’s choice). Charter schools are a clever way to “privatize” our schools. It’s a workaround in places where vouchers aren’t legal. But make no mistake. Charter schools have much more in common with vouchers than they do with public schools, including the fact that both charter schools and voucher programs do not provide results nation-wide that prove that they are better.  In fact in most cases, they are worse.
In the process, charter schools break unions and they heavily push standardized testing. People get fooled into thinking that test scores are an indicator of success, rather than knowing what they really are–English proficiency exams and a measure of affluence. People buy houses based on tests scores, but really, you should just admit to yourself that it’s not actually about the test score. The underlying truth is that people are looking for a higher score so their kids don’t have to go to school with the poor kids. By saying it is “test scores” it makes that truth more palatable in your head, and you get to avoid looking like a jerk.
The most troubling part of charter schools is not having elected school boards. School boards consist of individuals elected to govern the school district, and they make all of the important decisions. We vote for them. We the people. The origins of school boards trace back to Massachusetts in the 1600s. They are a very important, democratic aspect of public education. It is how we can keep our schools accountable and close to the communities they serve.
Allowing public schools to be replaced with charter schools means no elected school boards, and consequently no transparency. If the public doesn’t like what the school district is doing, well, too bad. You don’t get to vote anybody out or recall them. You’re not going to have access to salaries, budgets, or any of the other information that are available in a public school district. Charter schools can do whatever they want and you, the taxpayer, will have no right to that information, even though they are lining their pockets with taxpayer money.
It’s scandalous.
Most charter schools aren’t homegrown and innovative as was their intent  when they first sprang up in the 90s. Today, most charter schools are run by corporations, and many of them are headquartered out-of-state. It makes one wonder how an out-of-state corporation would know local needs, and how they would be held accountable.
You may not be in the habit of thinking about education as being profitable. We went to school. We send our kids to school. We’re not writing checks for tuition to the public schools, so we tend to not think about it. The national average of per pupil spending is a little over $12,000. Times that by the number of school-age kids in our country.
There is money to be made. Lots of money.
Charter schools make a profit off the backs of children, and you have no right to know how they spend their money. They operate like a business. Hire less qualified teachers and pay them less, spend less on supplies, keep costs down–all at the expense of the children–and then reap robust profits. That’s how it works. It’s a racket.
Charter schools prey on poor areas. They infiltrated New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Now they’re prowling around Puerto Rico. They are known for exploiting poor parents and parents who don’t speak English, fooling them into believing that their schools are better.
In reality, charter schools do not outperform public schools. Studies have shown that charter schools vary significantly in quality. There is a “far-reaching” subset of poorly performing charter schools, and it is difficult to close them down (no oversight! No taxpayer accountability!).
You may know of an anomaly charter school that embodies the spirit of the original intent of charter schools–innovative and offers something more than the local public school–but these are not the norm in the charter school world. Why would we allow our community schools to be basically privatized by corporate charters that do not typically perform better than the public schools? This makes no rational sense.
Furthermore, even the “good” charter schools lack elected school boards. We are literally allowing private interests to take away our right to vote so they can profit off of our children.
Charters often do not serve the same proportion of English learners and students with disabilities. In fact, many charters have been known to get rid of their less desirable students who don’t help their test scores. Public schools have to educate all students. They can’t cherry-pick like charter schools.
There is even a self-exiled Turkish religious leader who has been linked to inciting a coup in Turkey, and he happens to run 128 Gulen charter schools in 28 states, siphoning over $2.1 billion in taxpayer dollars since 2010. Locally we have the Magnolia Science Academy in Santa Ana, California, and their Chief Executive Officer and Superintendent is Caprice Young, the same woman who founded the California Charter Schools Association. She cloaks herself as being an advocate for education reform, but she is basically just a charter school lobbyist. THESE PEOPLE HAVE AN AGENDA. A money-making, public school squashing agenda.
Did you know that there are charter school lobbying organizations that are being funded by the likes of Eli Broad, the Koch Brothers, the Waltons, and other filthy rich people who have no interest in actually investing in our schools. They have no education experience, but they want to tell us what is wrong with our schools. One has to wonder why they have taken such an interest in attacking public schools (with elected board members) instead of maybe, gee, I don’t know, helping them? Millennials are smart enough to follow the money trail. Follow the money, guys. Why do they care so much that they spent $9.2 million dollars to elect 2 pro-charter candidates to the Los Angeles school board?
Think, think.
Guys, this really pisses me off. If you still don’t believe me about the slippery slope of charter schools, and how it’s a dangerou idea to let them take over, you can read more.
Yikes. I have a headache just looking at all of this.
And if you’re still unclear about the financial incentive that big business has to take over our public schools, look no further than Donald Trump’s appointment of billionaire Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary, a woman who has been on record boasting about how much money her family gives to the Republican Party, who has pushed vouchers for private schools, and was also on record knowing very little about public education. Our current Education Secretary didn’t know what the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was, which is like Education 101 for any educator. The President appointed a woman who is against public education to advise him on public education policies. Follow the trail.
What about nonprofit charter schools, you might be wondering. Thanks for asking. There’s money to be made there, too. Administrators and companies hired to manage the schools take a huge cut out of the budget. For example, a charter school administrator who was tasked with overseeing school programs for 6,700 students in New York was making $485,000/year, and this was at a non-profit. It’s basically the same criticism of a lot of charities today–if so much is going toward the overhead and administration, how much is actually going to the cause?
Are public schools perfect? No.
Can we do something about it? Yes.
I like knowing that I can do something about it. I can go to a school board meeting. I have access to public minutes. I can work to help get candidates elected. I can vote. I can hold my elected officials accountable. We can work as a community to tackle problems. There is transparency. I want to keep it that way. I want my neighborhood schools to stay in the hands of the voters–not get outsourced to charter schools pretending to be public schools just to make a profit. There is a difference.
Students and parents come and go. The community stays. Public schools belong to our communities, and it should be the community who determines the needs of our local schools through elected school boards.
Our public schools are important. More educated countries consistently rank higher for having better governments. We don’t have to stretch our imaginations to figure out why. There is a correlation between increased voter participation and higher education levels amongst voters. You’re more likely to have better jobs. You can navigate bureaucracy and have better self-advocacy skills. You have skills and resources to be more likely to participate in interest groups and/or political parties. Voters need to be able to hold schools accountable. We need public schools and we need our school boards.
Listen, I don’t like everything about schools. But you aren’t going to like everything about anything. Heck, I don’t even like half the people who I’m related to. That’s life. You know what you do if you don’t like something?
You get out there and do something about. You find consensus. You don’t vote to sabotage your own self-interests as a person living in a community, or vote to sell your neighbor’s kids down the river. Likewise, you don’t allow others to make decisions behind closed doors and fool you into going along with their money-making schemes.
Here’s another thing. The folks trying to malign public schools neglect to address the serious issues facing our society. Namely, poverty.  51% of our kids today are living in poverty. Our children are not suffering from public schools. Our children are suffering from poverty.
Come on, Millennials. We can connect the dots. Their clever and expensive marketing doesn’t have to fool us. A school doesn’t “suck” because the school sucks. Public schools serve everyone. They serve society’s impoverished communities, including the children who come to school hungry, the kids who sleep on the floors of an overcrowded apartment, the kids who don’t have access to adequate health care, children in homes with a variety of social problems. Children battling issues. English learners. Everyone.
We need to ensure that our public schools continue to be places that serve all children. Charter schools do not guarantee this. In fact, it’s likely they won’t want your kid if he/she doesn’t help their test scores.
I have a 2nd grader who attends a public school. My 2 other children are still in preschool, but they will also attend the public school.
I attended public schools my entire life, and even attended public universities.
I teach at a public school.
My late husband attended public schools and taught at a public school.
We think public schools are pretty damn important. Public education has allowed us to create the life that I have. Public school helped me have a career. It helped me find my love of writing. As a widow and a single mother, I am eternally grateful that the public schools helped me get a solid education that has allowed me to live an independent life.
I can say “I’m too busy” to care about the heavy political issues coming from every direction. I’ve got a lot of really great and valid excuses, but instead I go precinct walking with my toddler strapped onto my back. I take the kids to protests. I’m not saying I’m a saint. I can probably do more. But what I am saying is that I’m doing something despite my pretty difficult circumstances.
I simply will not allow my children to become revenue for a business. I will not sit back and watch the public schools in my community get gobbled up by greed. I’m not going to watch our democratic rights be taken away from us without a fight. Not on my watch.
I will not sit back and watch my future and the futures of my children and grandchildren sold to the highest bidder.
I’m not going to be the kind of person who stands for nothing.
We’ve got a lot of work to do. But it’s time, Millennials. It’s time for us to step up to the plate. It’s time to do the work. We’re up for the challenge.
It’s time to reclaim our government.
It’s time to demand that our elected officials stay accountable to the people who elected them.
It’s time that we pay attention to local decision-making with as much diligence as we pay attention to our TV programs and sports teams.
Stay vigilant.
Care about each other.
Fight for each other.
Stand up to injustice.
Fight oppression.
Build bridges.
It sounds idealistic, but how about this. Why don’t we commit to at least doing something? This isn’t a partisan issue. This is protecting our local government.
Let’s do this. Post something you can and will do in your local community. We can get ideas from each other. No experience necessary. You just have to have a heart to want to leave future generations with healthy public schools who will educate all children, the same kind of heart that wants clean water, affordable housing, accessible and affordable health care, and the basic things we should have in a democracy. I wrote this for you, Millennials, because I know you have the hearts to care. That’s what makes our generation special. We care. We’re smart and curious, and I think the missing piece is that we’re used to letting older generations do the adulting. We’re used to being treated as if it’s not our turn. We haven’t been invited to the table.
It’s time to adult.
Millennials, you have a place at that table. A very important place. It’s time for us to take over this dinner party. I humbly ask you to join me. It’s that important.
Your Millennial Sister

Friday, November 17, 2017

Black Progress Does Not Come At White Expense by Steven Singer

Relax, white people.

Take a breath.

It’s okay.

America survived its first black President.

You didn’t have to freak out and elect a neo-authoritarian-pseudo-populist!

Holy Crap!

But I get it.

You’re scared.

You’re used to the faces of authority being white and male. Yet for eight whole years you had to endure Barack Obama – a far from perfect neoliberal politician, who none-the-less gave the U.S. the most stable two terms in decades.

And then you were asked to vote for a white face (sigh!) that unfortunately was attached to breasts and a vagina! Oh the horror!

Seriously, white people. Sit the fuck down and listen to some sense.

You can function just fine in a world where people of color and women have the same rights as you and yours.

I know. Sounds crazy! But it’s true.

Think about it.

Would that hurt you?

I don’t think so. In fact, it might actually help, because then we could focus on the fact that police in this country kill far too many unarmed people – of any race – than they should. In most countries, they make lots of arrests but kill almost no one. Here, they kill hundreds – thousands!

We need to demilitarize law enforcement. We need new training programs that emphasize de-escalation of violence – not a shoot-first-ask questions-later mentality.

And it’s hard to focus on that when racism and prejudice get in the way. We need to fix racism first. Only then can we address the root issue.

Here’s another example.

No run down under-resourced schools that just happen to serve mostly students of color and yet across town we’ve got the Taj Mahal with marble columns and a broad curriculum that just happens to serve the best and whitest.

Instead we’d have schools that serve everyone – a broad mix of cultures, races and ethnicities all properly resourced and offering a broad range of curriculum and extra-curricular activities.

Would that hurt you?

I don’t think so. In fact, it would actually help because every child would get what he or she needs to succeed. Crime would drop, and even prejudiced and racist attitudes would begin to disappear because it’s harder to hold xenophobic views about people who you actually know because you’ve learned everything with them since you were in kindergarten.

There’s one thing you have to understand. Racism isn’t an ideology. It’s a sickness. It’s a virus that blinds people to real truths about the world and makes them more prone to holding views that are just plain wrong.

The same with sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and a plethora of modern day maladies that should have gone the way of small pox and polio.

Inoculating yourself against prejudice will not hurt you. Living in a society where everyone has the same rights doesn’t impinge on those you already have.

Yes, it will mean dismantling white supremacy. But that’s a good thing. You don’t really want the world to prize you just because of the color of your skin.

Do you?

Do you want to get into college just because you’re white?

Do you want to get a job just because of the hue of your epidermis?

Do you want the sum total of your value as a human being to be dependent on the way light reflects off your skin?

I don’t.

I’m white, and I don’t want that for me or my posterity.

I want people to judge me for me – not some preconceived notion of who I am based on culturally received generalities and the amount of melanin in my outermost cells.

Fuck that shit.

I’m me. And if that’s not good enough for anyone they can just go and jump in the river.

I don’t need white supremacy. And I don’t want it.

I refuse to sit back and accept things I don’t deserve while others are denied what they do deserve just so I can get some free stuff.

We’re all human beings. It’s time we treated everyone as such.

That means everyone gets the same human rights.

To paraphrase Oprah – YOU get human rights, and YOU get human rights and EVERYONEgets human rights!

White will no longer be considered normal. Neither will male.

It’s just another way to be – no better or worse than any other.

That doesn’t mean being ashamed of your whiteness. Hell. We can revel in it.

Imagine reconnecting with all the messy ethnicities we’ve plastered over to claim this homogenous white overclass! Imagine being Polish again, and Czech and German and Scandinavian and so many other nationalities that we barely connect with because we don’t want to draw attention to ourselves as anything other than white — That’s me. Just white. Plain white. Nothing to see here. White.

We’ve had to sacrifice a whole lot to get that status. But we don’t have to keep sacrificing. We can be who we are, too.

The Alt-Right Nazis are out there in the streets chanting, “You will not replace us.”

How about we replace ourselves.

Why don’t we redefine who we are as – who we are.

Not homogenous. Not white. But specific human beings belonging to various cultural, ethnic and religious groups and societies.

Human beings all taking part in the symphony of homo sapia, engaged in a robust love of all things people and a recognition that all people are human.

Think for a moment what that truly means.

Take a deep breath.

Let it in. Let it out.

It means letting go of this irrational fear that anti-racism is anti-white.

So, let me say it again – no. Black progress will not come at white expense. Nor will female progress or anyone’s progress.

We are one race. We are one people – though we are also many – and we will survive or perish together.

Take my hand and let’s build a better world for all of us.

Let us all benefit.

Let us all progress.