In collaboration with IDEA I was fortunate to host a webinar with a group of Chicago Educators, parents, community members, and a CPS student on why we went on strike in the fall of 2019. You can watch our webinar here.
Every year, for the past 11 years that I have taught in Chicago Public Schools (CPS), Chicago claims it doesn’t have enough money to properly fund its public schools. And every year there is some “justification” for not giving our students equitable funding.
In 2010, CPS didn’t have enough money and threatened to cut extracurricular programs and non-varsity sports.
In 2013, it was “necessary” to close more than 50 public schools, the most schools ever shut down at one time in our country’s history.
Now, every year our students watch as librarians, counselors, social workers, support staff, security and teachers are cut. They see how special education has been criminally mismanaged. They wonder why the technology in their school does not work, why paint is peeling off their classroom walls, why their track is unusable, why their heating and cooling vents spew out white clumps of powder, or why there are broken asbestos tiles in their classrooms.
Yet through all of this, Chicago always finds money for policing.
Throughout my time teaching in CPS, I have heard stories of the abusive nature of the Chicago Police Department (CPD) from my students. At first, due to my whiteness, I had a hard time believing my students, because what they were telling was so different from my own experiences. For me as a white person, the police are at worst a minor annoyance. But for my black students, the police can mean danger, abuse, harassment, brutality and death.
It has been well documented that CPD has been terrorizing Chicago’s black and brown communities for generations, going back to the 1960s, with the murder of Fred Hamptonwhile he slept, to the 1970s, with acts of torture led by Commander Jon Burge.
This year, Chicago Public Schools students will be learning through the Reparations WON curriculum of the standard torture practices during the Jon Burge era. For about a 20-year period, Commander Jon Burge and his officers would pick up innocent black men and force them into confessing to crimes that they did not commit. His standard methods of getting forced confessions was torture, which included suffocation, putting loaded weapons into mouths and electric shocks to the genital area.
Although the Burge torture era has ended, the corruption within the Chicago Police Department has not.
CPD has and continues to operate using a code of silence, with secret detention sites like Homan Square, the planting of evidence, falsifying reports and killing people of color in our city. All of these standard operating procedures are well documented.
Through all of this, the “union” representing the CPD ― the Fraternal Order of Police(FOP) ― proudly continues to justify these practices. This is the same FOP who is upset about the Reparations WON curriculum, because they want the curriculum to tell both sides. Both sides of torture?
Instead of working to improve policing to make sure acts of police torture, abuse and murder come to a stop, the FOP is working to make sure the mandates in the FOP contract protect cops who kill. Over the years, the FOP has negotiated items in the police contract that allows the police to make up stories and intimidate people who might file complaints against them, to name a just a few.
Now, Mayor Emanuel thinks the police are deserving of a new $95 million training facility. Just another example of Rahm using taxpayer money for anything and everything besides our students. Rahm will fund River Walks, Navy Pier, basketball stadiums and hotels while stealing TIF funds from the neighborhoods and schools that need them. His policies lead to the cutting of librarians, social workers, counselors, teachers, and support staff. School budgets continue to be cut. Parents go on hunger strikes to keep schools open. Still more schools are proposed to be closed, in Englewood.
You must survive on less.
At the same time schools and our students are having to operate with less, in conditions the mayor would never tolerate for his own children, Chicago is increasing funding to systems, like the police, that harshly punish black and brown children and families.
The Chicago Police Department costs taxpayers $4 million a day in operating costs, which makes up 40 percent of our city’s entire budget and totals up to $1.5 billion dollars per year. Police brutality cases in Chicago have cost our city more than $500 million dollars. To put this spending on policing in perspective, the daily cost of CPD is:
“… more than the city spends on the Departments of Public Health, Family and Support Services, Transportation, and Planning and Development combined. Mental-health spending receives $10 million per year, and only $2 million per year is allocated to violence-prevention services.”
Just recently, a case involving a Chicago police shooting and killing of Ronald “Ronnieman” Johnson shows once again CPD planted evidence, showcasing continued corruption. Ronald was shot while running in 2014. It was claimed that he had a gun and, according to an image put out by CPD, it showed he had a gun. This was a claim his family has disputed. The officers weren’t charged. But now, after a forensic scientist reviewed the image, it has become evident that it is a false image.
Meaning Ronald didn’t have a gun. Meaning there is no justification for his death.
Before Rahm gives any money to the CPD, he should follow all of the recommendations of the Department of Justice report. In case you missed it, the DOJ investigation was the largest civil rights investigation into a police department in history. The DOJ findings included that CPD was responsible for the use of excessive and deadly force against people who pose no threat, use of force in health crises, exhibit racially discriminatory behavior, having officers with no accountability and who are poorly trained.
On top of addressing the DOJ concerns, Rahm should also have a democratically elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC), as many community organizations have been advocating for years. (While he is at it, he should have an elected school board, too.)
Until the Chicago Police Department cleans up its act, it should not receive additional funding to build a new cop academy. Police can improve their training methods in their current training facilities. You don’t need a new building to teach police how not to be racist or why they should not kill innocent people.
If Rahm can’t find money for the education of our students, then there is no way he should find money for the incarceration of them. #NoCopAcademy
Also consider donating and supporting the Chicago Torture Justice Center which, “seeks to address the traumas of police violence and institutionalized racism through access to healing and wellness services, trauma-informed resources, and community connection. The Center is a part of and supports a movement to end all forms of police violence.”
Dear President Trump,
You seem to have a strong dislike towards Chicago. Is it due to the fact that Chicago was the only city in the country, during your presidential campaign, where you were afraid to take the stage in? Or is it because former President Obama adopted Chicago as his hometown? I know you weren’t a fan of Obama since you called him, “the Founder of ISIS” and declared for years that he wasn’t born in America.
Okay, so you have two reasons to not like our city. But beyond that I’m not sure why you are so obsessed with Tweeting or talking badly about Chicago. You just criticized Chicago again in your pep rally in Florida this weekend. If you want to actually help our city, then you should listen to people from Chicago. You shouldn’t meet with people who aren’t from here to talk about us. Just like that pastor from Ohio who claimed on live TV that “top gang thugs” from Chicago wanted to meet with you. Except that after his bold proclamation on national television, he admitted he “misspoke”, i.e. had lied about that.
So for Presidents’ Day, I thought long and hard and I decided to give you a gift. As a high school Social Studies teacher in Chicago, I decided to teach you about Chicago and specifically why we do not want the Feds to come to our city.
Don’t think I am singling you out due to your political party either. Many of us in Chicago have been trying to teach our own Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel the same things that I am about to teach you, but he refuses to listen. He claims he cares about our city and our people, but his policies prove he doesn’t. I don’t want you to follow in his footsteps.
Now to your lesson on Chicago:
A few things to note President Trump, Chicago is not the wild west.
There is no doubt that certain neighborhoods in our city have very high levels of violence (I will address that in more depth shortly), but it is important you know that while some neighborhoods have increases in violence, many other neighborhoods have seen decreases in violence. The parts of Chicago that are funded appropriately are beautiful, which is why Chicago is the third most visited city in the U.S. I mean, you should know the downtown is beautiful, you do own the hotel in Trump Tower, right on the Chicago River.
In fact, contrary to what Attorney General Jeff Sessions and you say, crime is not up nationally, it is down. In addition, the police in Chicago have way too much power, so you can cool it with your Executive Orders giving police more power. Did you read the recent scathing Department of Justice Report on systemic abuses by the Chicago Police? Included in it were policies that promote a Code of Silence, poor training methods, harassment, abuse, torture at a secret facility, and murder, all done to the residents of Chicago, by the police. The Chicago Police continue to take life, while accounting for 39% of our city’s entire operating budget, which is $4 million dollars per day. In addition, Chicago Police brutality cases have cost our city half a Billion dollars.
In fact, Chicago does not even make the top ten of the most violent cities per capita in the country.
But sadly, violence is an issue in parts of our city, so lets address it.
There is no doubt that certain neighborhoods in our city are not anywhere as safe as they should be. As a Chicago Public Schools teacher for the past ten years, I have personally seen and experienced the impact that the violence has had on my students, their families, my colleagues, and myself.
Here is the thing about violence, hardly anyone would choose to commit crimes or be violent if there were other options. The issue is that the amount of other options are extremely limited, in particular in our most vulnerable and violent neighborhoods.
You yourself said Chicago’s violence is, “very fixable.” I hope that means you are willing to address the root causes of the violence.
Chicago, through the purposeful segregation policies of redlining, restrictive covenants, and eminent domain over the years, has been divided into a city of “haves” and “have nots.” Generally, downtown and the North side of the city are the “haves” and the South and West sides are the “have nots.”
Those of us who live in Chicago know that jobs and investment in struggling communities, which includes public schools, is the key to stopping violence. The investment in these communities should improve the lives of the residents, rather then push them out. As one Chicago writer says, “Want to fix Chicago? Invest in its people, embrace the idea that the rest of the city matters, not just the North Side.” Chicago has also closed half of its mental health clinics which were primarily located on the South and West sides. Now the largest primary provider of mental health in the entire country (yes, I said entire country) is the Cook County Jail located here in Chicago.
We need to stop diverting money away from neighborhoods that need it the most. This money has been stolen from the neighborhoods and used for things like new stadiums and beautification of our already beautiful downtown. We need to fully fund our public schools and create new revenue options to do that. Another Chicago writer said we need to “Talk about the systemic issues.” We need to talk about how people do not have job options in far too many neighborhoods in our city.
The way Chicago Public Schools are run is also terrible and contributes to the violence. The Mayor has complete control over our schools. He closed the most schools in the history of our country and has continually cut school funding. He picks the members of the school board, who show their gratitude for being appointed by doing whatever he says. This includes opening new charter schools, even though charters are proven no more effective than public schools. The person in charge of our school district has ZERO educational experience. All of these school closings, funding cuts and diversions of money to charter schools by our Mayor have and continue to harm our students and our city, which in turn is tied into the violence.
A Chicago organizer puts it clearly, “”Poverty is violence, and it exacerbates violence… If you give people access to mental health care, education, you give them the opportunity to realize their full humanity. And we’re denied that.”
To put it simply we do NOT need to give the police more power. We do NOT need more police. We need to create jobs and fund our public schools and our neighborhoods.
People need jobs.
Services need to be provided.
Schools need to be fully funded.
All neighborhoods need to be equitably funded.
I hope you appreciate the gift I am giving you. I am saving you some work on investigating the root causes of violence in our city. You don’t need to send the Feds to our city… unless the purpose of them coming is to get rid of our mayor. Just kidding, kind of.
But I guess all this to say, I would like to ask you to stop talking bad about our city.
Or, as the kids say, just take the name Chicago out of your mouth.
An actual resident of Chicago
P.S. Release your tax returns.
To view this piece on Huffington Post click here.
Photo courtesy of depaulia.com Karen Lewis speaking at the April 1st 2016 Day of Action
Recently Mayor Rahm Emanuel made the statement that, “Teachers are striking out of choice, not necessity.” Mind you that this is the same tired language that he said during our last strike in 2012.
There is nothing more I would rather do than teach. But unfortunately we are left with no other options but to strike.
Unlike Rahm, we love the students of Chicago. We want them to have fully funded schools, that have counselors, librarians, nurses, working technology, classrooms that aren’t falling apart, sports, limits on class sizes and activities. We want our students to have every opportunity that Rahm’s kids get by sending them to the Lab School. Do our kids not deserve those things?
Legally teachers are only allowed to strike over pay and benefits, which allows Rahm to play the “greedy teacher” card and say things like we are “striking out of choice”. It allows some to state our salaries and imply that we already get paid enough, or to make matters worse, are overpaid.
I will be striking because I do not want my salary cut by 7%. I do not want my wife’s (also a CPS teacher) salary cut by 7%. But even though I am legally striking over salary and benefits here is a list of the many other reasons that all impact our students of why I will be striking:
- Rahm and the bad leaders in CPS do NOT send their kids to CPS. As a CPS teacher for the past ten years and also now a CPS parent, this is offensive. If CPS isn’t good enough for Rahm’s kids, then why are they okay for our kids?
- The appointed school board is made up of people scared to say “no” to Rahm. The “Handpicked-by-Rahm-School-Board” meets at 10am on a weekday, sits on their thrones and pretends to listen to people. They then go into closed meetings to talk freely and make their decisions. This is not Democracy and every one of them should be ashamed of the charade they play and the decisions they make that harm our students. Make this an elected school board, be a model of Democracy for our students.
- Student Based Budgeting has significantly reduced the amount of money that schools receive. This funding system conveniently allows Rahm and his cronies who run CPS to pass the “budget blame” and lack of funding onto the principals, who like us, are working hard to help the students.
- I’m striking for every student who has died in this city. We teachers are the ones who have to help our students and ourselves cope with the student death from violence, poverty, and the police.
- I’m striking because there are only 4 crises counselors for the nearly 400,000 students of Chicago Public Schools. When something tragic happens (which happens far too frequently) there are only 4 trained specialists to help schools deal with these tragedies.
- I’m striking because CPS keeps cutting counselors, social workers, and nurses. These people could aid and help our students deal with trauma, but many of these positions have been cut.
- I’m striking because the Mayor plans to hire 960 more police officers while firing teachers. You can’t arrest away the violence problem. Give people job and educational opportunities and invest in the neighborhoods and there will be no need to hire more police. Is it not enough that the Chicago Police Department costs taxpayers $4 million dollars a day? Or that CPD police brutality payouts have cost the taxpayers over $200 million dollars? Instead of giving our students and citizens opportunities we provide them with an increased and unwanted police presence.
- Instead of giving more educational opportunities Rahm closed 50 schools in the neighborhoods that need the most help.
- On top of closing schools Rahm closed mental health clinics. Now the largest provider of mental health services in the entire country is Cook Country Jail. Close schools, close the clinics, and watch the prison population grow…
- I’m striking because the police to continue to run a secret detention facility inHoman Square that has disappeared over 7,000 residents in Chicago. This has been going on for years, but the worst part of it is that it still operates and continues to traumatize residents and students on the West Side of our city.
- I’m striking because Rahm sat on the Laquan McDonald video for an entire year. I’m striking because of every other police involved murder of Chicago residents likeRekia Boyd, Cedric Chatman, Paul O’Neal, and every other victim of Chicago Police brutality.
- I’m striking because when residents of our city demanded a Civilian Police Accountability Council not only were they ignored, Rahm has essentially kept the same police review board that was not working before and just gave it a new name.
- Privatizing our custodial and engineering staffs, which has led to filthy, germ infested schools.
- Refusing to look for any other ideas to fund our schools and city, like the use of TIF funds that many Alderman support.
- For having the most militarized school district in the entire country at a cost to Chicago taxpayers of $17 million per year. Our students do not need JROTC programs indoctrinating them on the military model, because eventually the military model leads to humans being taught how to kill other humans.
- For Rahm saying, “25% of CPS students won’t amount to anything.”
- For firing massive amounts of teachers.
- For having 15 months to try to negotiate a contract and CPS refuses to negotiate in good faith. CPS and the Mayor have refused any of the ideas presented by the CTU to create additional funding for our schools and city.
- For having to have parents and community members go on hunger strikes to get what should be standard educational opportunities in all neighborhoods.
There are some days that I think yes, it sure would be easier to just pack up and leave. I have watched as respected colleagues and friends have lost their jobs due to CPS budget cuts.
But through all this mess, we teachers know that what we do is right for the students. Because we spend hours on end teaching, counseling, listening, and learning to and from our students. We send our own children to CPS. We know that the teachers are doing amazing things in our schools. We know what schools should look like for all our students.
So yes, legally I will be striking to save 7% of my hard earned salary, but know that morally I am striking so that enough people realize that the change we educators seek is possible. We are only a few steps away from getting an elected school board, getting rid of this mayor, being more creative with how our schools are funded, and truly working to help the kids that we dedicate our professional lives to.
Of course I would rather teach than strike. But there comes a time when to make change you must be willing to sacrifice. You had better believe that the teachers of Chicago Public Schools are willing to stand up and sacrifice in our latest attempt to make our city better.
For more things that Chicago Teachers are fighting for in this contract please click here.
To view this piece on Huffington Post please click here.
CITY-DATA.COM Chelsea, MI the town I grew up in.
When I was a senior in high school I was at a party and the police showed up to break it up. Instead of waiting around to get in trouble, a group of friends and I took off running. We heard the police yell, “Stop”, but there was no way that we were going to allow ourselves to get caught by the police. We ran and a few police officers chased us, but being athletic 17-18 year olds, we got away from the police after an extended foot chase. We were not caught and our identities were never found out.
Were my friends and I making poor choices at that party? Of course. Were we immature and full of cockiness? Most definitely.
But not for one second did we think that running from the cops would ever end in our physical harm, let alone our death, by the hands of the police.
Many white people who grew up in white America at some point in their lives have made similar poor judgments.
In another instance of extremely poor choices when I was a teenager, a group of friends and I decided that it would be a good idea to go into a building that we knew had alcohol stored in it and take it. We broke in, took what we wanted, and proceeded to have a great night. We all woke up the next morning to the terrible realization of what we had done. We made a pact to not say anything to anyone about what had happened, hoping that we would not get caught.
The police quickly figured out what had happened, the party we had been at was near to where the burglary took place. The police then started talking to every person at the party.
When the police called my house to say they were coming to talk to me, I told my parents about the police being on their way and that I had nothing to do with the break-in the officer was talking about on the phone. When the cop arrived and started asking me questions, I looked at that cop straight in the eye and lied. I told him I knew nothing and had no idea what burglary he was talking about. The officer did know that I was there since someone had already told him the actual story. The cop said to me calmly, “Tell me the truth of what happened because if you tell me another lie again, I am taking you to the police station.” So I told him what had happened.
My parents cried because of what I had done and that I had lied to them. The gossip train got rolling pretty quickly and the news of what we had done was somewhat of a big deal, for the town of about 10,000 people that I grew up in. We were high school athletes and many of us had parents who were respected in the community.
But you know what sentences we received for theft and breaking and entering? Nothing. No charges were pressed. No criminal records ever got attached to our names. We were able to apologize to the owners of the building that we had robbed. The owners agreed to not press charges in exchange that we serve community service to them for a set period of time. Our high school suspended us from athletic competition for 1 month.
We were not arrested, we never feared for our lives.
We were white in white America.
We made poor choices.
I am fortunate enough based on my various privileges that my life has not been significantly more difficult.
People who are not white do not get the privileges that I received.
People who are not white would’ve been killed for running from the police and then many in the general public would’ve tried to justify their death, saying things like, “well if they wouldn’t have run they would still be alive.”
That statement, besides being sick, is also not true since there arecountless examples of Black people just going about their day-to-day lives who were killed by the police.
But let’s imagine that my friends or I were killed for running from the police.
That’s the thing, you actually can’t imagine it, because it nearly never happens.
White people do not regularly get killed for doing stupid crimes or for just being, this is a privilege we have.
Dylann Roof murders 9 black people in a church and comes out unhurt, wearing a bullet proof vest, and is bought fast food all by thepolice. Dylann Roof is a famous example of how the police treat white people accused of crimes, but his treatment is not an anomaly. Here are ten other examples of police disarming and not killing violent white people. White privilege protects white people from the police, here are twenty examples of how it works.
Korryn Gaines is killed for an outstanding warrant for disorderly conduct, John Crawford for shopping at Walmart while talking on the phone, Tamir Rice for playing, Rekia Boyd for standing in a group,Betty Jones for being in her house, Alton Sterling and Eric Garner for selling things, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, and Corey Jones for driving. I selected just a few of the names of black people who have been killed recently by the police. The list grows. Meanwhile, unarmed Black men are seven times as likely as unarmed white men to die from police gunfire.
Imagine if my friends and I had been black when we broke in and stole that alcohol. We would now all have criminal records, which would’ve made every aspect of our lives immensely more difficult if not nearly impossible. Instead of having a criminal record, I went to college, found apartments to live in, became a teacher, got married, got my Masters degree, have good credit, can financially support my children, and am working to become a National Board certified teacher.
All of these things would not have happened if charges were pressed against my friends and I.
I was young, arrogant, bored, and stupid. The vast majority of the teenagers I teach or have taught are smarter than I was at their age. Yet, if they ever make a much simpler mistake than I made, they pay for their mistakes with their actual lives and people try to justify their death. Or they become so caught up in the criminal justice system that no matter the offense, their life trajectory is now nowhere near where it was before their mistake.
If you are a parent you can look at my poor choices and say to yourself, “my kid will never make any mistakes like you made”. I hope you are right, but I also know in white America kids do stupid stuff all the time. The difference is when white kids do it people say, “its just kids being kids” or “they will learn from their mistakes”.
But when kids of color make those same poor teenage filled choices they are labeled as thugs and are given harsh penalties (i.e. jail) to “alter” their lifestyle.
The extremely lenient penalty that I received still scared the mess out of me and taught me a lesson that has forever altered my life. Leniency and educating kids on their mistakes will work with the vast majority of kids who make poor choices.
The only reason I was afforded those privileges is because I grew up white, in white America.
To view this piece on Huffington Post click here.
Chicago Tribune Editorial Board Member, Kristen McQueary is back at again. Remember this past August, when she wrote a piece titled “In Chicago, wishing for a Hurricane Katrina”? She didn’t realize how terribly offensive and racist her piece was. (The Tribune apparently realized that, as they went back and changed her piece, including the title, which is why I provided an original PDF of the article.) Many people throughout the city expressed their outrage and actually tried to educate Ms. McQueary, as to why her piece was offensive. I wrote a piece titled why “Why Wishing for a Hurricane Katrina is the Equivalent of Putting on a Klan Hood” to help her understand. Now 7 months later, it seems the education the residents of Chicago tried to provide is not sinking in. Because she is back at it again with her piece, “Anti-Police Screed Goes Unchecked by CTU, Karen Lewis”. I tried to contact her, but Ms. McQueary, @StateHouseChick has blocked me on Twitter, and apparently does not like to be taught about her privilege and offensive comments.
So let us begin again, in the education of Tribune Editorial Board Member Kristen McQueary.
I pulled a few of her many quotes (I could’ve pulled many more) in her new piece, which most shows her need for an education. I will now direct the rest of this piece directly to you Kristen McQueary.
“Instead of focusing on improving education for Chicago kids, the union is the city’s latest command post for angst.”
Did you really just say that? You are saying Chicago’s teachers need to focus on improving education for the kids? Um, hello? Why do you think we were out in the streets on April 1st? We were trying to bring attention to the deplorable budget cuts that impact every student, parent, and person who works in schools in this city. Teachers are on the front lines daily. While you are downtown in your ivory tower. Many of us educators work and live in the communities that you hoped a hurricane would wipe out. When someone is shot in this city, who do you think is forced to counsel students and discuss their fears? Educators. Far too many counselors, social workers, and psychologists have been cut from the never ending budget cuts. So we educators have to help our students express their fears and pain. When Rahm closed 50 schools in 2013, we had to teach our students that they are not failures, just because CPS called their grammar schools failing and closed them. Every bad thing that happens in this city, we have to talk to our students about. So to state plainly or even imply for a second that teachers need to focus on improving education for our students, is one of the most offensive not to mention uneducated things you can say to or about educators.
“Chicago cops have been the target of some of that angst since November when the release of a video showing a white cop shooting a black teenager ignited protests over lack of accountability within the Chicago Police Department.”
Yes, as CPD should be. Chicago police killed Laquan McDonald by shooting him 16 times and then you know what happened to Officer Jason Van Dyke who shot Laquan? Jail? Nope, he got a job with the Fraternal Order of Police. CPD operated a secret detention site in Homan Square where they would illegally detain and interrogate primarily Black citizens for years. The Guardian did a huge expose on it, in case you missed it. Dante Servin shot and killed unarmed Rekia Boyd in 2012, he was found not guilty and still has a job with CPD. Police officers instead of speaking up and out about the terrible things that have happened are staying quiet and covering up the abuses and murders by police. There is a lot of research out right now, as to the racist past and present of the Chicago Police. Read this report that just came out that says, “Chicago Police have no regards for the lives of minorities”.
Now Ms. McQueary, ask yourself this? Who do you think works with the people who are targeted by the police on a daily basis? That’s right, it is us, educators. We hear stories daily in our classrooms of police abuses against our students. As one of my favorite Chicago teacher’s Xian Barrett said to me, “There’s no way to create a safe, sharing classroom in CPS and NOT hear students’ fear and/or awful experiences with Chicago Police.”
Kristen, I honestly understand your struggle of not believing that police do terrible things to Black youth. Kristen like you I, I am white, and like you, because we are white we have the privilege of not having many negative interactions with the police. But all you need to do is listen to Black youth about their grievances with the police (well first you might want to try to not be racist, because otherwise no one will feel comfortable enough to even want to talk to you).
Kristen, I wrote a piece last week that explained how Black Lives Matter is educating Chicago’s teachers. Many teachers at first did not feel like the timing was right for Page’s comments, but then many of us, I know I did, really had to reflect on her comments.
As a Social Studies teacher I had to remember that even Dr. King was told that he was moving too fast, his ideas were not timed right, and to just wait. When he was locked in a Birmingham jail, a group of white religious leaders wrote a newspaper op-ed about asking him and the Civil Rights Movement to slow down. King’s response turned out to be one of the most important documents during the Civil Rights Movement, “Letters from a Birmingham Jail”. Kristen you know how we white people love to quote King, but the idea of a movement like Black Lives Matter, Civil Rights, Women’s Rights or any other movement is to push thinking and force change. That is what Page’s comments at the rally are doing.
As you end your piece Kristen, you say, “The double standard is palpable”. I couldn’t agree with that last sentence more, for you, the double standard is palpable. You sit up in your Tribune ivory tower and write about things that you know nothing about, like education and how tragic events like a Hurricane would be good for Chicago.
But even worse, you write about things that you apparently have no desire to even learn about. That is the issue. You are just too comfortable. You refuse to challenge yourself and learn about your privilege. That is why people call you racist.
You have two choices, continue to be the fragile white person that is shocked when someone categorizes you as racist OR (this is the better option) you can really try to educate yourself. As I mentioned in my response to your Wishing for a Katrina piece in August, I suggested a starting point for you would be the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh, which details and explains white privilege and how it benefits all white people all the time. Read books by Lisa Delpit, Theresa Perry, Beverly Daniel-Tatum, Howard Zinn, Bell Hooks, Ta-Nehisi Coates and many more authors. Even better, actually listen and hear the messages of the Black Lives Matter movement — or in your case, any black person who would take the time to try to educate you.
As a white person to another white person, your whiteness is holding your writing back. You need to not ask why the CTU didn’t rebuke the “F*ck the Police” comment, instead you need to ask why that comment was said. Interview Page, or someone from the Black Youth Project 100. Educate yourself Kristen. Because your current lack of education is damaging your career as well as this city.
If you haven’t heard the name Cedric Chatman, then you should know his name. Cedric is another tragic example of a black youth being killed by police and a city trying to cover up the murder. Cedric was killed nearly three years ago, almost two years before Laquan McDonald. To no surprise to anyone in Chicago, Rahm is currently trying to prevent the video from being released.
Black Americans being killed by police is not just a Chicago problem. This is an American problem.
I can’t sit back and witness the continued murder of black Americans, while far too many white Americans sit back and say nothing at all about it or even worse, blame the victims themselves.
As a white person who grew up in a majority white area, I know how white people view the police. They help keep us safe. The only times a white person fears a cop is when we are going more than 15mph over the speed limit and spot them in our rearview or when they show up to peacefully break up our youthful parties. The general consensus among whites is that the police won’t harm us, or our children; they will save us from the bad guys and give us due process if we mess up. If any interaction falls outside of this norm, it is ludicrous.
As we have sadly seen over the past few years, the world does not operate like this for black Americans, whiteness lets us have that sacred, safe privilege.
I know if you don’t experience something personally it’s hard to really internalize it. But this is the very reason why the intense, disturbing, police videos are so important to see.
Of course, no one wants to see someone being killed on camera.
But if you don’t watch it, then it never happened.
If white America is as tired of hearing about race and racism as some media outlets claim, then there are ways to help.
Start by giving a damn. I could call this empathy, but we are past that point in this struggle.
White culture tends to blame the victim, not the police officer, with comments like, “If Eric Garner had just… “ “If Laquan McDonald would’ve…”, or “If Tamir Rice’s parents would’ve…”.
Or we try to deflect from the real conversation about racism and ask questions like, “What about black on black crime? Why don’t black people care about that?”. Firstly, black people do care. Secondly, they protest it, which just doesn’t get the press coverage that black conflict gets on mainstream media.
Even comments like “Most police are good” are harmful. Yes, I agree that most police are good, but we’re focusing on the ones that aren’t. It is clear that there is an issue with the police and/or police training that needs to be addressed in this country. This has been going on for decades and as an example, Chicago operated Homan Square, a secret police site used to illegally hold and torture primarily black Chicagoans.
Here is a list of all the black people killed by police across America from 1999-2014, if you still need more proof.
So what can white Americans do?
- Listen to black people when they share experiences with race.
Some white Americans would rather go out of their way to find the most random black person saying how race isn’t a problem anymore and that black America just needs to “get over it” then actually listen to the overwhelming amount of black narratives and stories that show how racism is still so prevalent in our country. Rule of thumb, if it is just a black person sitting in their car talking about how racism isn’t real anymore you need a more credible source and for that matter if you only quote Ben Carson as your “black source” you again need find a more credible source.
2. Read articles, books, and narratives about race. The authors of these writings should be black.
There is a plethora of researched articles and books about race out there. It may not be comfortable to learn about how racism benefits us as white people and what white privilege is and does for us, but if you really want to consider yourself empathic or even Christian for that matter then you need to spend the time educating yourself. Here are a few good places to start.
3. STOP listening to white people on the news tell you about black people.
This isn’t specific to any news or TV station (although some are much worse than others). But, if you are getting your information about issues of race, including but not limited to police abuses, violence, protests, racism, etc., from this source, then you need to stop and refer back to the previous point #2.
4. Put yourself in the minority.
Go to areas of the city that aren’t white. (No you won’t be killed, robbed, raped or shot at—actually the odds are better that those things would happen in a white area, but that is a different article.) The first step with this point is realizing that yes, you are welcome and yes, it is safe. Try to take the images portrayed in movies out of your head. Try to limit your unnecessary fears. Use websites like Yelp & Trip Advisor to help you figure out where you want to go. There are great places to eat, shop, and see in black communities no matter what city you live in. When you go, plan to interact, not just observe “another culture”.
5. Teach your children that black people aren’t scary, by your words and actions.
The words you use around children are powerful; strike ghetto and thug from your language to describe places and people. Watch movies and shows with black leads or majority black actors. If possible, have your kids interact with kids who aren’t white, in situations where they are equals. Also refer back to my previous point #4.
A former black student of mine wrote an article titled, “The Reason I Can’t Have White Friends”. The title is sad and justified and the words are powerful. But, we white people need to read his words and then start educating our children and ourselves.
“I have grown tired of having to explain to people why mouthing off to police shouldn’t get me killed. I am tired of having to try twice as hard to smile on the train so people aren’t automatically afraid of me. I am tired of being afraid of police officers as they drive past my house or walk by me on the street. I am tired of being too afraid of police violence to go to the public pool, walk down the street, go to the movie theater walk with skittles or exist in my own skin. But I am unable to express this pain to people other than those of my own race. It is almost impossible to get other people to understand my pain. It is even harder to get people to acknowledge that the pain I and my people feel is even real. We live in a “post-racial” society but it seems that this “post-racial” attitude has tricked people into thinking that denying racism will completely destroy it.”
This piece on Huffington Post
This piece on Gapers Block
Tonight I just read an article in the Chicago Tribune in which the author “metaphorically” wishes a Hurricane Katrina would wipe out Chicago. I wish I were making this up, please read this piece. But after intense public pressure the Tribune did decide to “soften” their piece so here is the original piece as it was written. Even while I and many others were tweeting her about how offensive her piece is, she sent out the following tweet:
What Hurricane Katrina did was kill nearly 2,000 people and displace and relocate 1 million people on the Gulf Coast. In New Orleans the population of the city fell by half due to loss of homes and displacement. 50% of the city’s residents homes lost and forced to move.
Historical and proudly black communities were wiped out.
Now some people like this author will likely say, but New Orleans is back! Who is New Orleans back for? For people that look like me (i.e. white people). NOT the people who lived in those predominantly black precincts.
By the author wishing for a Katrina here in Chicago she is basically saying to get to rid of the black people and let the whites move in wherever they want. It would be like white flight in reverse, coming back from the ‘burbs to the city. We (white people) could proudly colonize, I mean move into Englewood and then joke on our porches while sipping tea about what life used to be like on the corner of 63rd and Racine, while we watch that new yoga studio go in. We would colonize Woodlawn, Roseland, and Austin too and the best part is we (white people) would get that land for cheap thanks to Katrina part II and Disaster Capitalism.
Arne Duncan (one of our fellow white brethren) said it best when he said, “Hurricane Katrina was the best thing for New Orleans Schools”.
I mean to actually fix the schools for the kids who live there, that is preposterous and besides that would be too much work. What is great is getting to have new (wealthier and/or whiter) kids move in, then rebuild the schools and boom schools are “great” now.
The author of this piece needs an education in white privilege. I suggest a starting point for her (and anyone who agrees with her) would be the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh which details and explains White Privilege and how it benefits all white people all the time. She then could read books by Lisa Delpit, Theresa Perry, Beverly Daniel-Tatum, Howard Zinn, bell hooks, Ta-Nehisi Coates and many more authors. Even better she could actually listen and hear the messages of the Black Lives Matter movement or in that case any black person who would take the time to try to educate her.
The key as a white person is to listen to black people and not try to put our white privilege on what they are saying or for heaven’s sake say something like All Lives Matter.
Chicago Tribune author, here is the secret all lives do matter but our (white) lives aren’t being killed for all of America to see (just in case you needed to learn that too).
This country is going through a movement to bring to the forefront and hopefully make real changes to the way policing is done, so we can stop having black men and women murdered by the people who are supposed to be protecting them. There are many ways in which white people (like myself) can help. The first one is to listen to the real stories that people of color share about racism, the second is to call out racism when you see or hear it (like this Tribune article), and the third one (this is the hardest) is to educate our own (white) people. As a teacher in predominantly black schools in Chicago Public Schools I love teaching, learning and talking about race with my students, but talking about race with white people is hard. I’m no expert but I am willing to read, learn, and listen. I am working on always speaking up when I hear any type of racist comment. I am a work in progress, but I am taking the second and third piece of advice I gave by calling out this Katrina piece for what it is, racist and by attempting to teach (other white people) why it is racist.
I will end with a quote from scholar Beverly Daniel-Tatum with the key being white people must be “actively anti-racist”.
Her quote says, “I visualize the ongoing cycle of racism as a moving walkway at the airport. Active racist behavior is equivalent to walking fast on the conveyor belt. The person engaged in active racist behavior has identified with the ideology of our White supremacist system and is moving with it. Passive racist behavior is equivalent to standing still on the walkway. No overt effort is being made, but the conveyor belt moves the bystanders along to the same destination as those who are actively walking. But unless they are walking actively in the opposite direction at a speed faster than the conveyor belt – unless they are actively anti-racist – they will find themselves carried along with the others.”
This piece on Gapers Block
Three of my students and myself were featured on the Outside the Loop radio show hosted by Mike Stephen on WGN radio. Click here to see the link on WGN.