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The Problem of White Parents

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I have not listened to the New York Times podcast Nice White Parents, simply because it would get in the way of me listening to music 14 hours a day and that’s not going to happen. But I have had many many people recommend it to me due to it reinforcing my long-standing arguments about white parents, inequality in education, and structural racism. Here’s a review:

People often ask me how to fix public education. I usually answer with a long list of problems, but I don’t have the answer. What I have never said, however, is: “If you want to understand why schools aren’t better, you have to look at White parents.”

Nice White Parents, the new podcast by Serial Productions, boldly and unapologetically goes there. It’s a tale of White parents with benevolent intentions clumsily wielding their power without even knowing it. It’s the story of White agenda-setting with little attention to the needs or priorities of anyone else.

But it’s far more complicated on the ground. White parents bring connections and money with a desire to improve schools — on their terms. Black and brown parents see them as interlopers, coming to save their poor little school with their money and vision.

The juxtaposition is illustrated when a White sixth-grader claims, “It used to be a bad school. We turned it around. Now it’s a top choice. Its status has changed.” On the other hand, the Puerto Rican PTA president felt like she was being saved against her will. “Money twists everything around,” she says.

When I first opened a public charter school in Los Angeles, it was located close to rich and poor, White and non-White neighborhoods. The first class was about half White. The next year the White population decreased to 40%. That’s when the White flight began. Within a few years, the school only had 10% White students, and soon after, just 2%.

This is not unique.

So, how many White kids are needed at a school to make other White families feel comfortable? In my experience, the comfort level is at about 50%. It’s where White parents still feel in control, where teacher requests and special treatment are their realm.

There’s a code White parents often use when talking about largely segregated public schools. During my time running schools, the code most often showed up as, “it’s just not the right fit for our family.” Joffe-Walt reflected on what White parents say to other White parents about the decision not to send their kids to majority non-White schools. “It’s too strict, too chaotic, or too disruptive…the test scores are bad…we want more play, we want fewer worksheets, we don’t want to ride a bus, we don’t want uniforms, we don’t want tests.” In more candid moments, I’ve heard White parents say that they believe in public education, but they don’t want to ‘sacrifice’ their children for it.

I’ll leave out the fact that the reviewer is a charter school guy for now. He’s not an ally of mine. And that actually helps here. He’s someone though who realizes that the major problem in equitable education in this country is that white parents will either withdraw their students from people of color or simply take them over. Both circumstances show massive amounts of white privilege that replicate a racist society over and over and over again across the generations. When the students themselves see that them entering a school makes it “good,” that shows how the kids have already have both internalized and are articulating white privilege at a young age. This is another demonstration of Margaret Hagerman’s point in White Kids on how parents and schools replicate white supremacy in white children, very much including liberal parents.

And how is this all manifesting itself in the age of COVID, with school closures?

Not even paying in cash. UberEats. The new personalized education company scrip!

And sure, yeah, the racists are obviously rural Republican voters in Alabama, not the person next door. Or you. Or all of us whites.

…And sorry for the bad block quoting here. For some reason, I had to do a different block quote for each paragraph.

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rocketo
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seattle, wa
diannemharris
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It Is What It Is

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Tommy expected applause.

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rocketo
1 day ago
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seattle, wa
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Seattle's COVID-19 Crisis Not Big and Terrible Enough For the Mayor

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We are stuck with a mayor who believes the pandemic can be handled with the same economic and policy tools that don't work even during normal times by Charles Mudede
And Durkan, Seattle must wait for the mother of all emergencies.
Seattle must wait for the mother of all emergencies before it spends its emergency funds. 400tmax/gettyimages.com

There are many criticisms that can be leveled at the City Council's COVID-19 relief package, the most obvious of which is it's not ambitious enough. It's only $86 million. It needs a lot more money going in a lot of different directions.

The working-class sections of the city have been hit exceptionally hard by the economic crash. The extra $600 unemployment benefit has vanished and may never return. Unemployment is over 9 percent in the Seattle/Bellevue/Everett area after hitting 16.1 percent in April.

This crisis has never been met with a response that's anywhere close to realistic. We never had, for instance, a hard and long shutdown of the rental and mortgage system, a policy that would have enormously helped many families receiving the $600 benefit boost and provided some certainty, particularly to renters and small businesses.

What we have instead done at every point of this crisis is simply kick things down the road. When the eviction moratorium expiration date approaches, for example, the Governor realizes the pandemic is still not over and then extends the moratorium again. This last-minute approach is the worst way to build a social sense of confidence.

And now we have a massive food service proletariate whose future is in the dark. The COVID-19 bill does direct a significant (but still not enough) amount to the homeless crisis (it accounts for a third of the package), but the city's homeless population is bound to swell if more (much more) is not done to protect the workers employed by small businesses. (According to the authors of the relief bill, "there are at least 38,000 businesses in the City of Seattle employing a minimum of 655,000 individuals.")

The emergency bill was not enough by any means, but it was something. And yet this something was way too big for Mayor Jenny Durkan. She vetoed it.

From her press release on August 1:

Council has proposed spending 90 percent of the reserves (an additional $86 million) on new spending, and the remaining 10 percent (approximately $13 million) in other new spending in the upcoming weeks...It is irresponsible to spend the entirety of our rainy day and emergency funds in the first few months of what is likely a multi-year crisis. If 2020 is any indication, no one can responsibly project that Seattle will not have additional emergencies this year and next. Already this year, in addition to the health and economic crisis, we have seen a significant unplanned infrastructure emergency with the closure of the West Seattle Bridge.

She goes on to argue that “the City Council’s budget process cannot continue to be spending or cutting tens of millions of dollars without concrete plans," and says she "remain[s] committed to working with Council to identify specific resources for some of the newly proposed programs, where we know there is great unmet need."

Here, we can hear the mayor saying something that recalls something a droopy bank robber says in Sidney Lumet's 1975 classic Dog Day Afternoon.

This is the scene...

The bank robbers Sonny and Sal are trapped. Sonny devises a plan to leave the country by jet. They will use the hostages in the bank to get the jet at the airport. They can go to any country in the world.

Sonny: Is there any special country you want to go to?
[long pause]
Sal: Wyoming.
Sonny: No. . .Wyoming. . .that’s not a country.
[beat]
Sal: Oh.

The essence of Durkan's response to the City Council's COVID-19 package is much like Sal saying "Wyoming" to Sonny.

Why is it so hard for her to see that nothing is going to move in this city—that nothing will work in any kind of normal way—unless the city directs its resources to the damage caused by a pandemic that's far from over?

An adequate solution to this unprecedented structural crisis demands nothing less than bold and even imaginative actions and polices. But we are stuck with a mayor who believes that all of this can be handled with the same economic and policy tools that don't work for most even during normal times. One must remember that at the peak of the boom (2018), Durkan wanted to rein in spending. “My budget is also rooted in a difficult reality," said Durkan to the city. "After years of significant growth, city revenue is reaching a plateau... So we have to live within our means." And now, during the bust, she still wants keep spending in check.

Durkan never has any other place to go but this Wyoming of imagined probity. When now is the time think of other countries—that is, doing something new or radical—she says: Wyoming. When now is the time for serious social innovation, again: Wyoming. When now is the time for fiscal boldness: Wyoming.

But there is another way to look at Durkan's veto. History has shown us that the mayor has very little sympathy for the lot of those who do not live in homes and pay their part. And what do we find in the relief bill? What for her must be the mind-boggling audacity of devoting a third of the budget to the very people she sweeps about the city.

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rocketo
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"But there is another way to look at Durkan's veto. History has shown us that the mayor has very little sympathy for the lot of those who do not live in homes and pay their part. And what do we find in the relief bill? What for her must be the mind-boggling audacity of devoting a third of the budget to the very people she sweeps about the city."
seattle, wa
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robertdowneys: SHURI + science, technology, & engineering 💡

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robertdowneys:

SHURI + science, technology, & engineering 💡

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rocketo
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seattle, wa
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asking for ID in the surveillance age

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a photo peering into a display case at a Mexican bakery in Houston. taped to the glass is a green speech bubble that reads, “PLEASE DO NOT LET CHILDREN TOUCH THE BREAD.” behind this very good sign are two shelves of pan dulce. the upper shelf contains flower-shaped girasoles. the lower shelf is full of horn-shaped cuernitos. neither of these are my favorite pan dulce. that would of course be a churro, empanada de piña, a pan de queso, all to-go please. i…i’ll eat some of them later!

The vast majority of us have internalized data collection as a fact of life. It feels natural, doesn’t it? I show my ID to get into a concert (those were the days!). The websites I browse collect huge amounts of data from me. Security cameras dot my periphery in most public spaces. I’m sure that my credit card data is floating around. But when I go to the grocery store to buy a loaf of bread, nobody asks me for my ID. If I choose, I can pay cash, and nobody will even have to know how much bread I eat (it’s a lot ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ).

But my experience might be different if I can’t afford that bread. My experience accessing a food bank, for instance, might depend on where I live, what I look like, the vehicle that I use to travel there. It may depend on how many children I have, and how many children I look like I have. It would depend on how one or two gatekeepers of donated food felt about me.

If they believe me, I pass. If I don’t, I starve.

A food bank is the last place in the world to restrict access to food. It is an abuse of power to ask someone for ID, for even a piece of mail, to prove they deserve to receive food.

who might not want to show their ID?
First think about why asking for ID or a piece of mail might be an imposition to someone. Here are a few to get started:

  • People who are trans or non-binary. Their ID might not match their gender identity. It might list a name or photo that does not represent them.
  • People who live in the US outside the legal immigration system.
  • People who feel stigma or shame from having to use a food bank.
  • People who are afraid of identity theft.
  • Children who are seeking food for themselves or their family.
  • People who forgot their ID that day, or left it on the bus, or don’t have one.

Everyone on this list, and even people I didn’t describe, still deserve food! If this is someone’s first time at that food bank, a demand for ID may cause them to never come back. How can that person feed their family now? Where else should they turn? Fewer people accessing food banks can mislead a community about the true level of need in their area. It means more people will go hungry in a nation where there is plenty of food.

what’s good for the goose has nothing to do with the gander
Some people defend their decision to ask for identification or a piece of mail. They say something like, “I wouldn’t ask anyone anything that I wouldn’t be willing to give myself.” But their privilege is that they’re not the ones asking for food. They’re not in the same situation. In this case, they are the holders of power. They are the gatekeepers of food donated to help people in need.

A food bank policy, or a personal decision (or a hunch or feeling), to request ID means the person at the door is now a gatekeeper to food. It means they get to decide who can eat and who cannot. When we leave decisions up to humans, even when humans write the policies, we know they bring their own biases into their decision. If they don’t believe a person’s story, or believe that they have four kids at home, they have the power to ask that person to prove it. And what happens if they can’t? The cashier doesn’t ask me how many children are going to eat the bread I buy. I don’t have to bring a handful of birth certificates or medical records to buy the sheer volume of bread that I eat.

Access to food should not be subjective. The people who ask for ID should consider the real risks of requiring this information. Not the risks to themselves, but the risk that others perceive for themselves.

Some gatekeepers interpret an ID as an indicator of legitimacy. They might say ID is no problem for people with “nothing to hide.” But nothing worth hiding should prevent you from being able to eat. It’s easy to forget the amount of time it takes a person to get an ID. It’s easy to forget that every food bank’s rules are different. If you get them wrong you have to come back with the right documents. If it’s a two hour bus ride round trip from the food bank, it might take days to come back. It’s easy to forget that if I am worried about my safety, or my family’s safety, giving a stranger my ID is a risk. It’s easy to forget that if the gatekeeper doesn’t like me, or doesn’t trust me, thinks I’m an outsider, I am the one who suffers.

the good could be gooder
The programs my organization operates are all self-declare, no-proof programs. A self-declare program means people give us the information themselves. We still collect some data, but do not require personally-identifying information in order to receive food. A no-proof program means we don’t ask anyone to prove what they tell us.

The most common federal food assistance program asks us to collect the name and address of the person receiving food. It also asks them to affirm that their household income is below 400% of the federal poverty line. We ask them to name the number of people in their household. this helps represent the accurate number of people using these services. We are not allowed to verify this information. And why should we need to?

But we don’t even have to do it this way. The first rule of storing data is simple: you can’t turn over what you don’t collect. If you collect no personal information, no one can force you to give it to them. Nobody can steal it from you. The strongest decryption program can’t unlock what doesn’t exist.

Funders that restrict food to a specific population or territory are part of the problem. We need to remove these restrictions from all programs that perform a public service like food assistance.

We have to end the needless hoops we put up for people in need. It’s scary enough to go without food, to be in a situation where things are going so wrong you have nothing to eat. It’s scary to feel helpless, but it’s even worse to have an empty stomach too.

We in the non-profit world should be serving the public good, not creating more barriers for them.

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rocketo
2 days ago
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seattle, wa
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I'm a Nurse in New York. Teachers Should Do Their Jobs, Just Like I Did.

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The other day my husband, a public-school teacher in New York City, got a string of texts from a work friend. After checking in on our family and picking up their ongoing conversation about books and TV shows, she wrote, “So, are we going on a teacher strike in the fall?”

“What!? No!” My husband is adamantly against a strike, because he understands on a deep, personal level his duty to serve his country in the classroom.

[Read: ‘This push to reopen schools is guaranteed to fail’]

We have two young children, one of whom is developmentally disabled, and I’m an intensive-care nurse. Through the spring, I took care of COVID-19 patients at the hospital while he toggled between teaching on Zoom and helping our daughters through their own lessons. He knows that I did my part for society, and that now he should, too.

We wouldn’t be in this mess of uncertainty about the coming school year if the federal government had managed to control the virus; any glimmer of leadership from the president would have gone a long way. Grievances and fear are understandable. I support teacher-led campaigns to make sure that safety measures are in place. And any city or state experiencing a spike in cases should keep schools shut, along with indoor businesses.

What I don’t support is preemptively threatening “safety strikes,” as the American Federation of Teachers did in late July. These threats run counter to the fact that, by and large, school districts are already fine-tuning social-distancing measures and mandating mask-wearing. Teachers are not being asked to work without precautions, but some overlook this: the politics of mask-wearing have gotten so ridiculous that many seem to believe masks only protect other people, or are largely symbolic. They’re not. Nurses and doctors know that masks do a lot to keep us safe, and that other basics such as hand washing, not touching faces, and social distancing are effective at preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

Instead of taking the summer to hone arguments against returning to the classroom, administrators and teachers should be thinking about how they can best support children and their families through a turbulent time. Schools are essential to the functioning of our society, and that makes teachers essential workers. They should rise to the occasion even if it makes them nervous, just like health-care workers have.

My husband, playing devil’s advocate while we discussed this (we both know how eager he is to go back), said, “Arguably health-care workers sort of signed up for this kind of risk, but teachers did not.”

I replied, “Absolutely not!” Doctors and nurses sign up for work that is sometimes high-stress for us and sometimes life-or-death for our patients, not for us. Aside from those who choose to work in biocontainment or offer their services in war zones, we are not expected to do crucial medical work under potentially lethal circumstances.

[Fred Milgrim: A New York doctor’s warning]

I was terrified when I started taking care of COVID-19 ICU patients. Before my first COVID-19 shift, I had panic attacks that made me wheeze, and I walked onto the unit my first day in tears (so in addition to being terrified, I was also really embarrassed). My co-workers felt similarly. I heard an attending physician say, of her daughter, “What if she loses her mother?” and I read through a young nurse’s freshly written will, no joke.

In those early days, I confessed my anxieties to an acquaintance, and he asked whether I could take a medical leave of absence. I could have taken a leave, and teachers in need can too. (And parents who want their children to stay home have that option, whether through homeschooling or continued remote learning.) But I said, "No, I can't just chump out!" Chump wasn't the right word—at the moment, I was almost hysterical, and it was hard for me to even articulate how I felt, called upon to do something frightening and hard that I viscerally did not want to do.

The military language people used when discussing COVID-19 in the spring seemed totally appropriate, and in a way that mentality got me through the peak: This was a war, and I was a soldier. It wasn't my choice to serve, but it was my duty; I had skills and knowledge that were needed.

So I can understand that teachers are nervous about returning to school. But they should take a cue from their fellow essential workers and do their job. Even people who think there's a fundamental difference between a nurse and a teacher in a pandemic must realize that there isn't one between a grocery-store worker and a teacher, in terms of obligation. People who work at grocery stores in no way signed up to expose themselves to disease, but we expected them to go to work, and they did. If they had not, society would have collapsed. What do teachers think will happen if working parents cannot send their children to school? Life as we know it simply will not go on.

When some of my husband’s students told him that they had continued working as cashiers throughout the spring and summer, he said, “Wow, that’s so courageous of you.” He feels that he doesn’t really have anything to show for himself, and he looks forward to the time when he will. Now, contemplating the possibility of teachers striking, he says, “Bowing out wouldn’t be a good example to set for our students.”

[Dave Grohl: In defense of our teachers]

Teachers signed up to be a positive adult presence in children’s lives, and to help them grow up with their peers, at school, away from home. We need them to follow through, even though it’s a challenge. It’s going to be hard; it’s going to be stressful; it’s not going to be perfect. “I can’t think of one time that there was actually hand soap in the men’s bathroom,” my husband told me. That’ll have to change, hopefully for good. The point is that everyone is going to have to go above and beyond. But teachers are smart and adaptable. They can do this.

In the days before I first took care of COVID-19 patients, I discovered a deeper fear. Beneath my panic over exposing myself to the disease, I was also afraid that the work would be too difficult, too fast-paced, too chaotic: I was afraid I would fail. When I came to the hospital, I discovered that solidarity, flexibility, kindness, and a willingness to learn would be integral elements of nursing through a pandemic, and I knew I wouldn’t fail—the skills I had were the very reason I had been called upon to do this work. The same is true of teaching through a pandemic.

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rocketo
3 days ago
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this is so fucking toxic
seattle, wa
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