After years of doing the work of student organizing in Chicago, I’m still extremely confused by organizing efforts on behalf of students in a predominantly Black and Brown school district that are led and executed by white adults who live on the northside. For example, take Friday’s CPS Sick-Out action.
Whose vision are they speaking on?
Who does that vision represent? Who does it include? Who does it not include, and how can we get them not just included, but centered. How can this movement support Black and Brown students executing their vision, with white adults putting their effort in to support?
At this point, there is a movement. Sure, it is great that there is some kind of movement to increase Covid safety procedures. Conversations are going on, but those conversations don’t mean batshit if they neither include nor represent the majority, the 90% of students in Chicago Public Schools.
Performative Allyship Won’t Cut It
We don’t need you to speak for us. We have voices. We know how to speak. We would be speaking if white people would sit down and respectfully shut up.
We would be speaking if we were not historically excluded from these conversations because non-Black and non-Brown peoples think they are gods when they are doing something “good.” That is exactly the direction your ship is steering in right now.
Tell me: what would this “movement” be without the majority of CPS families: working-poor Black and Brown families? Exactly! Nothing. The only reason why the sick-out movement is so dependent on white northside adults now is because you are the ones making visible momentum. But that momentum was not actually created by you; it was created by struggle.
Sure, press and news coverage is awesome, but what exactly does that mean for the non-white parent who still has to send their kid back to school in unsafe conditions? What does that mean for the non-white child whose presence at school is treated like a brainless robot?
What does that mean for the everyday people in my community and many other predominantly black and brown– non-white communities who still are not in on these conversations? While you are talking to the press, those people in those communities actually don’t know two shits about what you are talking about, because what you are saying is not our reality. You don’t know our reality.
Movement and struggle are powered by energy. Energy cannot be created nor destroyed. You took the momentum from the general struggle and created a movement, but it is executing on your own ideations, your own intentions, etc. The “action” you all took on Friday was performative, tokenizing and not the organizing effort our communities need right now. Y’all are wasting energy. And it didn’t just happen on Friday. I mean all of it. The press conferences, rallies, news coverage, tweets, all of it.
It’s Time to Make Room for Black and Brown Youth
Now, you may not have realized what you took…because… you are white. White people’s birthright is to colonize. It’s in your blood, you were born with it, whether those are your genuine intentions or not. Just as the colonizer is in your blood, as the descendant of many enslaved Africans, their struggle has become mine and so, it is in my blood to become angry when a white person refuses to recognize their privilege in organizing and takes up space rather than opening space for Black and Brown youth and our CPS communities to speak and execute upon our truth.
Remote learning will not be a solution for working-poor Black and Brown communities.
We need safer safety measures, easy and comprehensive access to vaccinations, vaccine education and testing. We need to recreate and re-envision school environments, what they look like, the way the people and in particular students are treated. We need therapeutic services, trauma intervention, and harm reduction. We need a chance to rebuild our communication skills.
We need acknowledgment of all of our trauma and struggle, that is what the 90% of this school district needs. That is what the 100% of us humans on this planet need, and that is what we all collectively need to be fighting for in this moment.
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