When White Privilege Attacks the Messenger
Boy oh boy.
You know, this whole school closures process is causing huge headaches across the entire city. Once again, as with every previous effort to close schools- race has become a factor (not just because it is a factor) because many are left wondering how much race is a factor in the schools that are targeted.
The APP program has always been a source of hot debate when it comes to race, because the student population in APP is anything but diverse. When brown children do manage to get in, they face an uphill battle of being in new, unfamiliar surroundings with new, unfamiliar people.n It’s isolating. It is no secret that minority children in APP are often taunted and teased for their skin color; with their “peers” drawing from stereotypes (or just plain cruelty) for material.
As a parent I can attest to the fact that when my kids are away from me, they do things I would never think they would do. But they do. Sometimes those things are harmful (not like, violently so) and sometimes not. Sometimes they are intentional, and sometimes not. But they do happen.
Such appears the case at Lowell’s APP program. Lowell has been fighting the district tooth and nail since it was initially announced that the District planned to split the APP program in half; having 1 N.End and 1 S.End site.
This week, KUOW reporter Phyllis Fletcher highlighted the story of one Black student in APP: Rose. Some bits and pieces:
Rose Sanders knows what the Seattle School Board is going to vote on this Thursday (1/29): Her advanced program at Lowell Elementary, and the superintendent’s idea to split it. “The north end kids are gonna stay at the Lowell building, and the south end kids are gonna have to go to Thurgood Marshall. Nobody in my class is happy about that, except for me,” said Rose. Rose is a south end kid. She’s nine years old. The split of the Accelerated Progress Program (APP) is part of the superintendent’s school closure plan. Most parents who’ve testified at board meetings are angry about it. KUOW’s Phyllis Fletcher asked Rose why she likes the idea.
ROSE DOES THE WORK OF A SIXTH GRADER IN HER CLASSROOM. BUT REALLY, SHE’S IN FOURTH GRADE. SHE CAN STILL GET EXCITED ABOUT LITTLE THINGS. LIKE A DANCE ABOUT MATH.
SANDERS: “Yes, it is multiplication time!”
SHE MAKES THIS ANNOUNCEMENT LIKE A VAUDEVILLIAN. JAZZ HANDS!
SANDERS: “Addition, addition, addition–dition–dition. Minusing is taking stuff away.”
HER FRIEND TAUGHT HER THAT ROUTINE AT LOWELL ELEMENTARY.
THIS IS ROSE’S FIRST YEAR IN APP. WHEN SHE WAS IN THIRD GRADE, HER PARENTS GOT A LETTER INVITING ROSE TO TAKE THE APP ADMISSION TEST. SO SHE TOOK IT.
SANDERS: “When I looked in the fifth grade classes and they were following the election, and the fourth grade, I was so happy, and it just made me feel like I would go perfect, and I was there perfect for the first month or so.”
AROUND NOVEMBER ROSE’S CLASS STARTED TO DO FOOD SCIENCE. ROSE HAD TO ARRANGE 15 FRENCH FRIES IN ORDER FROM SMALLEST TO BIGGEST. SO SHE DID. WHEN SHE WAS DONE, ROSE SAYS, ONE OF THE KIDS TOLD HER SHE NEEDED TO KEEP WORKING. HE SAID:
SANDERS: “‘Why are you here, anyway?'”
AND SHE SAID:
SANDERS: “‘Because I tested into this school. I can be here if I want to be here.'”
AND HE SAID:
SANDERS: “‘Well, you’re not doing your work, so why don’t you just go back to your old stupid black school.'”
THE DISTRICT HAS SAID ONE OF ITS GOALS FOR MOVING APP INTO THE CENTRAL AREA IS TO IMPROVE THE PROGRAM’S DIVERSITY (OR “ACCESS,” TO USE THE DISTRICT’S LANGUAGE). MANY APP PARENTS HAVE EXPRESSED DOUBT THAT SIMPLY MOVING HALF THE PROGRAM INTO A BLACK SCHOOL WOULD DO THAT. SOME PARENTS WORRY THAT THURGOOD–MARSHALL APP WOULD SUFFER; BECAUSE OF NEGLECT FROM THE DISTRICT, OR BECAUSE OTHER PARENTS WON’T SUPPORT IT.
DONNA HOPES THAT DOESN’T HAPPEN. AND THAT THE MOVE WOULD PROMOTE THE DISTRICT’S GOAL OF DIVERSITY FOR APP.
STEFANIK: “Part of it is to try and encourage more children of color, more families of color to come to the school so that they’re not going to look and see only eight kids that are black and say, ‘Should I come here or not.'”
The story is about what it is like to be one of very few Black kids in the APP program. It’s not about every single non-Black kid in APP. It’s not about their parents. It is about this girl’s experience. It highlights what happens when such programs are not all inclusive, and when access to such programs is not possible (as is the case for S.End students).
Because of the culture in these kinds of programs, many Black kids don’t want to attend because of the horror stories they’ve heard, and many Black parents are reluctant to move their kids into hostile territory.
It would appear that highlighting these facts are just too much for the privileged parents of non-Black students to take. They see it as being unfairly attacked, and now they’re all upset and out for blood- anyone’s. The reporters, Rose’s, or her parents.
The PTA (insert slew of comments about PTA’s here) decided to take it upon its privileged self to issue an “official statement”. And it goes a little something like this:
KUOW – Official PTA Response Dear Parents, Teachers and Staff
The Lowell PTA Board and Lowell Cultural Diversity Committee work hard to foster a community that understands, appreciates and celebrates all families at Lowell. A KUOW interview ths morning surprised us by calling this into question. The response from our community, according to many emails we received from a wide variety of diverse families today, confirms that our school has positive, thoughtful programs and systems in place to celebrate and protect diversity.
We are proud of the work parents, staff, students, and teachers have all done to make the Lowell community an open, inclusive, and inviting one. We are committed to this, and always striving to do better.
Some parents have let us know that they are contacting the radio station to share their experiences, and we will send our statement above. Principal DeWanda Cook-Weaver is working with the district to create communication for concerned families and KUOW.
Joyce, Elizabeth, Julie, Stephanie, Sophie, Karen, Elise, Chris, Mark, Leslie, Stacey and Sally – Your PTA board, and Katalin Melegh Cultural Diversity Committee Co-Chair
Police stations work hard to eliminate racial profiling. It still happens. Racism, prejudice, hatred and racial ignorance exist people! And yes, even your sweet, brilliant APP child can be a little jerk when it comes to racial stereotypes and attitude towards little Black kids, or Asian Kids, or Latino or Somali. Wake UP!
Rose’s parents are being treated like shit for allowing their daughter’s experience to be featured, and for sharing their honest perspective on what is wrong with APP ( a lot, btw).
That the privileged have had an adverse reaction and opted to go on the attack is far from shocking. In fact, it’s typical behavior. When the privileged are made uncomfortable, they will do anything, anything to re-establish their comfort zone, including using that privilege to demonize a child, her family, her race or her reality.
Many people in the Lowell community are calling Rose a liar. They are saying that her “claims” have never been proven. Proven? Are you effin’ kidding me? You want Rose and her family to prove that these incidents took place? How about you prove that they didn’t!
That’s so rich:
Adult: “Timmy did you call that Black kid a stupid nigger? You know we don’t tolerate that sort of thing and would have to call your parents.”
Timmy: “No I didn’t. I would never!”
Adult: “I didn’t think you would. You’re such a nice boy!”
Again, are you effin’ kidding me?! When do kids ever admit to such things? When can they be proven? Rarely. Does that mean they didn’t happen? Hell to the NO, it doesn’t!
There is no other way to say it: folks at Lowell are straight trippin’. They want everyone taken to task.
The KUOW reporter? Off with her head! Damn objective journalist!
Rose’s mother? Off with her head! Traitor!
Rose’s father? Off with his head! Trying to do what’s best for his daughter; the nerve!
Rose? Off with her head! She’s, she’s…..honest.
By morning they may have started a petition to close down KUOW altogether!
They’ve shaken themselves up into a huge, frothing at the mouth, angry (mostly) white mob.
Aren’t they supposed to be the culturally aware, liberal, love thy neighbor regardless of color, community? That’s not exactly what they look like right now, because that’s not exactly who they really are. They’ve been faced with it, and they don’t like it.
So they’ve opted to do the “typical”; they’ve taken their invisible knapsack of privilege off their back and now they’re beating people in the head with it so that their perception and opinion is the prevailing one.
Some of them have openly disrespected her parents and many of them are desperate to smother Rose and her story because it makes them uncomfortable.
This is a true teachable moment. But they would rather sacrifice that child than be responsible and make the choice to instead, take this issue on.
Furthermore, this kind of behavior is exactly the kind of thing that is so wrong with the APP program. The attitude and mentality. They refuse to accept the fact that they take advantage of a system and a program that is not inclusive and that is not culturally competent, despite having a special committee with that token word “diversity” in the title.
When adults can’t see past their self righteousness, all of the kids suffer the considquences.
I have to wonder…how many students will make a comment to young Rose tomorrow at school, about what their parents said about her parents the night before? And yet they question where their child could ever learn such opinions about people who are different than them.