Whitewashing

I read an interesting cover story in the Washington City Paper yesterday about diversity and DCPS. Apparently, DC schools Chancellor Rhee is “marketing” schools to, shall we say, “whiter” families to increase, shall we say again, the attractiveness of DC public schools.  Many middle class folks, especially those precocious young professionals, can’t afford to live in the District AND send their kids to private school, so there’s an emerging faith in neighborhood schools, especially in areas that are newly gentrified.

I had a couple of curious thoughts when reading this piece.  First, why do they always show Rhee staring ominously into the camera?  Check it, it looks like she wants to kick your ass or something.

I always get the impression that they’re playing off her Korean or Asian heritage, that Asian women in some cases are strict, no-nonsense kind of people who can go crazy at any moment.  I don’t think this is the case with Japanese women, or as the stereotype goes, but perhaps Korean and Chinese women, especially mothers.  That’s just my sense.

But the author claims that we should not be “afraid” of Rhee’s courting of the whites.  I don’t think fear is the right emotion to refer to in any case.  Now, I’m removed from political discussions in DC and from the whole in and out of boundary debates that occur amongst parent groups and education activists.  When I worked in DCPS, it certainly did seem like a complicated process, definitely if you wanted your child to attend private special education schools because the current system could not meet your child’s needs.

I don’t know why, but I sometimes get a little annoyed with so-called “gentrifiers.”  They come into neighborhoods, mainly white middle class folks or young professionals, buy up homes or apartments, demand a Whole Foods and a swanky wine bar, and then drive up the rents and costs for everyone.  It seems like no one can afford real estate in the city anymore unless you have a trust fund or your parents can bail you out.  Then, the folks that have established roots there get pushed out into PG County, which in some parts is a total mess, not to mention even the schools in those areas.

I guess this quote from the article made me feel kind of funny:

It may be hard for folks like Miles-Crocker, Toyer and other African-Americans to watch the chancellor butter up affluent, mostly white, newcomers when there are so many poor black people who have been stuck in DCPS and badly served by it. But, truth be told, it’s the right thing to do. No one community is entitled to public education. It belongs to all of us. That was the message Thurgood Marshall and others attempted to deliver decades ago. It’s one we can’t afford to forget. Society really is made better when we’re all in the same schoolhouse, learning to appreciate our differences while celebrating our common bond.

This came at the end when the author was kind of waxing philosophical to wrap things up.  Why, “truth be told” is this the “right thing to do?”  I mean, if you’ve been in DC for generations, saw your kids poorly served by the system, the first people to get their comeuppance are the gentrifiers pushing people out?  Why not deliver a huge mea culpa to the folks already in the neighborhood by giving them some pretty damn good schools without the courtship of the yuppies?  Then, if you build them, they will come.  Sure, according to the quote above, an African-American Supreme Court justice once said that education is for all, I get it.  So, the thing to do is push out the people who’ve suffered so long with inequities, pump up their schools with a fresh cohort of white middle class families, thereby driving up costs so that those who are owed are pushed out?  In the same paper, there was also an article about how Rhee is great for DC real estate. Fantastic, but who can afford to live there?  Even though diversity may be obvious on the color of the skin, there still will never be an instance where low-income folks are educated alongside middle and upper income students.  The middling and upper classes always find ways to push the plebes out.

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