June 3, 2020

White boys on blogs telling black men what to think about educating black people

I’ll admit from the beginning that I write this out of deep frustration.

I’m so over white people who want to lecture black people about what is best for us, especially when it comes to education. After 400 years of outlawing our education, and then another century of botching our education, can we safely assume you’re not the experts on our brains?

Today’s example comes from Mark Weber, a blogging grad student at Rutgers University. He has written a post that should be used in a critical race theory class at his own university. In the new era of Donald Trump it shows the amount of white license there is now to talk down to black folks.

At least when we battle with anti-black racists the game is clear. They don’t believe in black humanity or black intelligence, so we have no common ground.

You’re a bigot and we are bigot hunters. Game on.

But it’s surprising when we have to check white progressives who believe themselves to have a superior understanding of our condition.

Weber is that guy.

Academic types routinely make overly complicated arguments, while the little people like to keep it simple. About education we say black and brown children are poorly served by American schools. Everyone involved needs to get much better, quickly, or get out of the game.

There should be lots of support, but no excuses.

By what authority can I say that?

I am black (and brown), and I grew up in a black and brown family. I might have a thing or two to say about our lived experience with schools. My experiences say our kids are brilliant, but the public education system isn’t ready to get them over the obscenely low bar of “proficiency.”

As my friend Eric Mahmoud says, “we don’t have a hardware problem, we have a software problem.” He runs schools that beat the odds so I believe him.

But for Mark and other “professionals” in the education labyrinth, public schools are like little churches, and teachers are petty saints. Advocating better outcomes puts you in the cross hairs of these people who are ready to throw down for their jobs, their position, and their privilege.

The Webers of the world have the luxury of spending their days and nights devising intellectual property to prove marginalized students need no alternative to traditional, state-run, bureaucratized, industrialized, unionized, white-controlled education systems.

He is good at it if you believe, as he does, that attempts to grant black people new pathways to education is a national scandal. He wouldn’t know it, but his world view is the left-wing companion to Chief Justice Scalia’s.

If black students aren’t in good schools it’s because their condition somehow warrants or explains their place in “lesser” schools.

In his offensive blog post Weber goes after Derrell Bradford, leader of NYCAN and Corps Knowledge, a group that defends Teach For America as a viable program.

He says this about Corps Knowledge (I’ve added some notes in bold):

See, when you spend your time attacking Gary Rubinstein [a white guy] for being a teacher at a high-performing urban school [that admitted only 10 black students out of a thousand last year], you don’t have to address the fact that TFA corps members are sent out to teach in schools serving socio-economically disadvantaged communities [where many white teachers have avoided for years] with inadequate training [while studies show most colleges of education are inadequate]— something even TFA has acknowledged. Nor do you have to address the fact that TFA is a highly inefficient program because so many of its graduates do not stay in their initial teaching assignments [ignoring the fact that 50% of traditionally trained teachers bolt from the classroom].

And this is the part where he goes all Matt Damon on us and whitesplains racism to us:

When you spend your time implying that Randi Weingarten is a racist for making a wholly germane comparison between the suspension rates at Success Academy [a school with 23,000 poor families on the waiting list] and that horrific assault in South Carolina [at a traditional public school] — a juxtaposition so obvious that plenty of writers [really, a failing school compares with a popular one that succeeds?], including those in favor of school “choice,” have made it — then you don’t have to address whether SA might have a problem that needs to be acknowledged and fixed [or you can ignore that black parents and educators stand firm on their support for Success Academy].

But wait, it gets worse.

Before demeaning the intelligence of both Bradford, and Laura Waters (a blogger in New Jersey who challenges his work), he says “I’ve been following Derrell and Laura for a good long while now. Since it’s the Christmas season, I’ll be charitable: they are both less than impressive.”

Then says this:

Derrell is perhaps the most incoherent arguer in the reform industry. His Uber-charter school analogy was so exquisitely bad it deserves to be in a museum. He was extraordinarily ineffective as a lobbyist in Trenton, even as he managed to take on education policy jobs for which he was totally unqualified. He grouses about Weingarten’s alleged complicity in the inequitable distribution of education resources, even as he made a career being an apologist for the underfunding of New Jersey’s public schools.

Cute. The unqualified minority trope. That is only topped by the time Diane Ravitch, neoconservative paragon of latter day unionist theology, had a particularly back to the future moment where she suggested Bradford should stick to talking about sports.

Because black people are good at that sort of thing.

And, don’t believe for a moment that white folks #OnHere only deem people of color who disagree with them to be feeble and untalented, never underestimate a good dose of sexism too.

Here’s Weber on Waterst:

Laura apparently thinks she has the ability to read the minds of the dead; worse, when their widows point out that Laura has utterly misrepresented their positions, she refuses to back down and apologize. When Laura tries to understand quantitative education research (skip down to the comments), it’s like a fish trying to understand general relativity.


This reminds me of how Thomas Jefferson said that the poetry of Phyllis Wheatley was beneath the dignity of his criticism. I can’t think of a better way for Weber to accuse Waters of suffering from a terrible lack of a penis.

Insufferable. White. Male. Privilege.

Don’t despair, Weber assures you Derrell and Waters deserve his Jeffersonian backhand, because, of course, they lack intelligence:

Look, I’ll be the first to admit I can be rough on the reformy types. But I’m not complaining about anyone’s tone here: I’m complaining about the ignorance and incoherence of their arguments…These reformies have nothing. Which is why their arguments are so very, very lame…Step it up, folks. Don’t you get tired of constantly embarrassing yourselves?

In the end I know this, Derrell is too much of a gentleman to return fire, and he’s hardly likely to share my racial assessment of the situation. Black folks aren’t a monolith and that’s OK.

Same goes for Waters. She has the smarts, poise, and spunk needed to make my defense of her unnecessary.

So, in the end I write this for every black person who will encounter a self-righteous, arrogant, and cultural chauvinist louse like Weber.

I am not a gentleman. I am a message from centuries past.

You never were our superior.

Hands off our kids.

5 thoughts on “White boys on blogs telling black men what to think about educating black people

  1. Great piece Chris, I would caution quoting EM, his strategies are out dated and their results are questionable. I told you once before, Look real carefully. But again, your approach to this comment was on point.

    1. Thanks Lisa. I’m only quoting his idea about our children being basically good, and putting the responsibility on adults to figure out what they need. In terms of his methods, I think they are evolving as always. They are researching and practicing new approaches. Given the challenges I think most school leaders are constantly striving to do better. I’m glad they have so space to try.

      Always good to hear from you. We’re due for lunch!

  2. What is the significance of putting a black bar across someone’s likeness? What statement are you making there?

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