white people. do something (#6)

George Floyd

“If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”   — Lilla Watson, Australian Indigenous writer and activist


Bronx Academy of Letters Community Poem

#6. Work on ensuring that black educators are hired where black children are being taught. If you want to know more about why and how this makes a difference for black children, check out this episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast. There are some really good nuggets in there about how schools can support the achievement of black students — from ensuring black students aren’t closed out of gifted programs by using test results instead of white teachers’ recommendations to the influence that having a black teacher has on a black student’s education to the importance to fostering a school ethos wherein black students think, “This school is here for me.”

#6 of the 75 Things White People Can Do For Racial Justice has a few issues and, well, cans of worms. Gifted programs, in which I have my daughter at PS. 165, are problematic. In a perfect world they would not exist. Also, yes black educators should be hired where black children are being taught, but they should be hired where ALL children are being taught. In my entire K-12 public school experience in Princeton, N.J., I had one black teacher in the 2nd grade. The entire public school system needs a complete overhaul, and frankly, truly the only way for us to have equitable education is for all private schools to be abolished. Radical I know, but it would cause a swift and revolutionary change in how we educate all of our kids.

So in the meantime, how about checking in with your local public school and see how they’re doing, what they need that you can give in terms of time and money. And as my friend and former principal of The Bronx Academy of Letters, Anna Hall, points out, if your local public school is thriving due to local property-tax or a super PTA fundraising operation, call the school next door that’s struggling and see what you can do for them. Let’s try our best to look out for all of our kids, not just the ones we gave birth to.

Suggestions from a friend who work in public education:

-Send your kids to public school; not for the public good, but for their good, so your children are ones who don’t kill literally or metaphorically black people; so they embrace community in ways that are only possible if they have real community across not only lines of race but class

-If your kids go to private school, do not donate there, which private schools ask, but to a local public school that is at least 85% title one at least 5% of what you are paying in tution or some #

-If you pay for a prep program, SAT whatever, for your kids, sponsor two of equal or greater value for title 1 student of color

-Ask in your child’s school private or not – for a syllabus – and make sure it is full of black and brown stories, insist on knowing and insist on better, force and participate in an intensive black history month, latinx and so on, lead it, don’t wait for parents of color to do so

-Talk to your child about race and class everyday and make sure they are challenging the curriculum and the racism that they will experience

-Ask your school to hire for diversity; vote for a PTA president who is a person of color, be the PTA president and make choices that honor the history, the voices, the stories of POC

And this from another friend in education:
The issue that I might underscore is the PTA fundraising issue — as though property tax-funded public schools weren’t subject to enough inequity, rich white folks have collectively made peace somehow with creating massive endowments to support their local public schools, which can transform a public experience into something approaching a private one for the kids lucky enough to go there — i.e. “my kids” need this, screw “their kids,” they can fend for themselves.  I’ve started giving money directly to local schools + programs in my area who don’t have these kinds of resources — and that might be a thing more people could do.  At minimum, parents could match their generous home school PTA donations with an equal donation to a neighboring school that doesn’t have the same kind of fundraising resources.

And in practical terms, I think white folks (especially those with money) need to be thinking about how to advocate for more systemic shifts — creating fundraising systems (shared endowments, joint fundraisers, commonly funded programs) that are shared by whole districts, for example, instead of school-by-school efforts.  Or demanding to see how public funds are distributed and spent, and insisting that privately-raised funds be factored into budgeting decisions when cuts are made.  Or agitating for more equitable systems of funding schools altogether, separate from property taxes.  Or working to diversify leadership on local school boards – whether that means recruiting strong leaders of color + funding/supporting their campaigns, or running directly.  At the very least, showing up regularly to the board’s meetings and asking hard questions is a start.

Here is a letter from New York City Department of Education Chancellor Carranza, including important resources.

St. Louis

Essential Reading:

Essential Listening:


Chineke! Orchestra and Sphinx Organization join forces to perform the first movement of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Othello Suite: Dance (shared by our friends at the National Arts Club).

And finally, with any luck I will be flying to Italy on Sunday. I have been given a Guggenheim Fellowship to complete a translation of a novel by one of Italy’s, and indeed, one of the world’s, great writer’s Elsa Morante. I will pick up the blog again–I still have 69 Things White People Can Do For Social Justice to go–and I committed to doing that and to staying in touch with all of you. Your support, feedback, contributions, and love have been truly awesome during this horrific time. More anon.

4 Replies to “white people. do something (#6)”

  1. Love all that you’re doing. Great seeing you yesterday from PPL. Travel safely and good luck with the project. So impressed with all your accomplishments.


    I hope it’s a very smooth, safe, uneventful trip to Italy; it will feel so good to get there and to be there, I know. Thank you for all your effort, love, creativity, humanity, humor and general brilliance over these few months. Your blog has been truly wonderful.

    I hope you’ll stay in touch.

    Love to you,



  3. Thank you, Jenny, for showing me how it’s done. I’m dazzled and inspired and moved to tears.

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