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Education for Black Kids Cannot Look the Same as It Did in 2020

We lost so many lives this year—lives that could’ve been saved if people just gave a damn for once. And I’m not referring to the close to 300 thousand Americans who have succumbed to the coronavirus. I’m talking about the casualties lost as a result of a trash ass education system.

No shock here—a recent study conducted by McKinsey & Company revealed that students have fallen behind in their learning during the pandemic. Another “no shit, Sherlock” moment—this report said that white students are three months behind and Black students are five months behind with projections that these gaps will widen as we continue with distance learning.

It doesn’t take the brains of NASA scientist to know this was going to happen. I called it early on in the pandemic. 

I knew that Black kids were going to get screwed, regardless of whether or not they reopened schools. 

I knew that the historical divestment in education in our communities would show up in inequitable access and distribution of laptops and internet needed to execute remote learning.

I knew the disinterest in truly nurturing and engaging our kids’ brilliance would bleed through laptop screens, leaving many of them indifferent about logging on.

I knew because dammit (in my Childish Gambino voice), this America—the country that has always believed that an educated Black person is a dangerous Black person. And I knew y’all were lying when y’all said Black lives mattered this year because our communities also suffered most from inadequate and inaccessible healthcare, trauma from external and intracommunal racism and violence, and economic depression due to job loss because of COVID.

I’m not naive to think these issues will disappear on January 1st, 2021 because hell, they haven’t gone anywhere in over 400 years. But, I am confident in calling distance learning a disaster that, unfortunately, just has to run its course until this rash that is the coronavirus clears up. And what I absolutely know is education for Black kids cannot look the same as it did in 2020 or any of the years prior, so we have to start planning now for later.

First we have to redefine and reimagine education—not just for Black kids but for all students who need to learn and unlearn some things

Redefining through executing intentional and consistent assessments of those who have been historically marginalized, then actually giving us what we need. That commands incorporating meaningful student engagement practices and academic content, displaying cultural inclusion and representation, truth-telling about America’s history and, most importantly, throwing away “achievement” measures that currently weigh the depth of Black kids’ intelligence and ability to succeed against delusive standards of “white excellence.” 

And to get to all of these things we have to obliterate the pandemic that has outlasted all others, racism and bias in our school system

These barriers of injustice and oppression are blocking efforts for much needed funding and resource equity, proper care and supports for special needs students, pathways for aspiring Black teachers and administrators and overall advocacy for Black kids.

So when we level those walls with our power, that’s when we can go get the bag the government owes us to either invest in our neighborhood schools or build freedom schools. Because at this point the system is going to work for us or we’ll work our way out of it–that’s how we’ll finally get a quality education.

The treatment of Black people in 2020 is no coincidence, it’s tradition. This tacky ass year has continued to expose educational disparities as an ailment associated with the racism pandemic and it’s no longer asymptomatic. It’s been here—we now see it clearly, we feel it and we are fully aware of its ongoing and devastating effects on our community. 

Black people, I know we’re tired of losing other Black lives, going into every new year fearful and angry because our bodies and genius are seen as valueless. And I know we’re tired of having to defend ourselves against every single attack. But if we don’t level up and fight harder for what we deserve, we’ll continue to see a lifetime of 2020s instead of an existence that’s liberated.

What’s our 2021 resolution?

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Tanesha Peeples

South Side community leader Tanesha Peeples is a Chicago Public Schools alumna and proud Englewoodian. She currently serves on the board of the Montessori School of Englewood. Formerly, she served the Deputy Director of Outreach for Education Post, for whom she penned the long-running column Hope and Outrage. As an undergraduate student at Northern Illinois University, Tanesha began to develop a passion for and understand the importance of public service. After obtaining her bachelor’s degree in political science and public administration, she returned to Chicago with a new perspective on community, politics and civic engagement. Tanesha then attended and graduated from DePaul University with a master’s degree in public service management and urban planning and development. Throughout her professional career, Tanesha has used her education, passion and experience to navigate a number of nonprofit, political and independent ventures, advancing her mission to educate and empower marginalized populations. Prior to joining Education Post, she also managed her own consulting firm specializing in community relations. Tanesha’s vision is one where everyone—regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender or zip code—can have access to a comfortable quality of life and enjoy the freedoms and liberties promised to all Americans. Find her on Twitter at @PeeplesChoice85.