What was different for black Chicago children two weeks after a grueling, internationally watched, hard-fought strike than two weeks before the strike?
By most accounts, black children would be going back to the same schools they attended before the strike, with few difference-making improvements.
There is an old African proverb: “When elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled.” When big cities and school boards fight with teachers’ unions, it is the children who get trampled.
Here are the shockingly abysmal educational, social and economic realities for black children in the Chicago Public Schools system:
• Only three of 100 black young men earn a college degree by age 26.
• Only 39 percent of black male students graduate from high school.
• The system has the highest suspension, expulsion and arrest rates of black students in the world.
• In 1995, 45 percent of teachers were black. In 2012, 19 percent are black and the trend is expected to continue.
• Less than 2 percent of the teachers are black men.
• 52 percent of black men in Chicago, most of whom attended CPS schools are not working.
• After the agreement between Chicago and the teachers’ union, the city is expected to close between 80 and 120 elementary and high schools in the near future, mostly in black communities.
• Chicago has become the murder capital of the world for school-aged black males.
• Illinois had 11,775 black male students in its 22 largest colleges in 2010, while there were 24,914 black men caged in its 22 largest prisons that same year. (One out of every three black males born in America after 2001 will be incarcerated in prison or jail.)
Black children are not being adequately prepared to successfully compete globally or to participate in any meaningful way in the 21st century.
While black parents may be relieved that black children are back in a structured learning environment following the end of the strike, how can we truly celebrate a resolution that fails to significantly benefit black children?
Black people will not rest while this educational genocide continues to decimate the black community. It is time for black parents and black communities in Chicago to strike a blow for all black people across America and across the world. We must take over the education of our children.
We must occupy the schools.
We must take the control of the education of our children from charter schools, public schools, private schools, corporate schools, city administrations, unions, school boards, voucher proponents, elected officials, foundations, businesses, school reform organizations, the media and any other entity that fails to put the best interest of black children first.
Black people should not be distracted by settlement “wins” in this round of the vicious battle between the city of Chicago and Chicago Board of Education versus the Chicago Teachers Union and supportive local and national unions. Rather, let’s be concerned with who lost.
Black children lost and will continue to lose unless black parents and communities rise up and take control of the education of black children.
Phillip Jackson is founder and executive director of The Black Star Project based in Chicago. He may be reached at 773-285-9600 or Blackstar1000@ameritech.net. The website is blackstarproject.org