What is the difference between equality and equity and how does that affect education? Subira Gordan, executive director of ConnCAN, talks with Amy Julia about the lack of equity in education, the effects this has on opportunities for children, the role of antiracism in education, and the questions we can ask to move our communities toward affirming antiracist policies.
Subira Gordan is the executive director of ConnCAN, an organization that is “leading a movement to improve education outcomes for Connecticut’s kids...to ensure that all kids in The Constitution State have access to a high-quality education, regardless of their address.” Connect with ConnCAN at @ConnCAN on Facebook and @conncan on Twitter.
“Your ZIP code should not determine your future.”
“Education is a great equalizer.”
“Everyone wants to keep what they have, and they don’t recognize that what they have was made possible by government policies.”
“We should be talking about how as a community we can affirm antiracist policies.”
On the Podcast:
White Picket Fences, Season 3 of Love is Stronger Than Fear, is based on my book White Picket Fences. Check out free RESOURCES—action guide, discussion guides—that are designed to help you respond. Learn more about my writing and speaking at amyjuliabecker.com.
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Note: This transcript is generated using speech recognition software and does contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.
Becker. And this is love is stronger than fear today. I get to talk to my friend Sabira Gordon. Who's the executive director of an educational advocacy organization called con can here in Connecticut. But before we get to that conversation and I introduced you to her a little more thoroughly, I wanted to bring up two terms. The first is the term racism. We've been talking about racism on the podcast for a couple of episodes now, but I want to go back and just talk a little bit about what that word means when I use it.
Also Samira brings up the word anti-racist, which is a word that's being used in a concept that's being used a lot right now, but I think it's important to explain or define that term before we go throwing it about. So racism often racism is thought of as overt acts of hostility or bigotry from one individual to another. We usually, particularly in America, think about that as someone who is in the category called white, saying something or doing something that is overtly hateful or demeaning to someone who is considered not white, that is racism on some level.
1 (1m 15s):
But when we are talking about racism here, we're actually talking about more than those overt acts. And this is something I write about in white picket fences in the chapter that we're discussing, which is chapter five. We're talking about racism as a system, as a system that involves people who have power, who are able to structure things in such a way that one group of people is able to have advantages that another group is not. And that that advantage comes not by basis of hard work or life experience, but because of those demo graphic differences.
1 (1m 49s):
So I just wanted to clarify what I meant by racism. And if you want to hear more on that, the episode with Patricia Rayvon from earlier in the season, we talk about that distinction as well. The second thing is this term, anti-racist when I first heard the term anti-racist I thought, who does, I want to be against racism? Isn't everybody an antiracist. And then I realized that what people were trying to do is distinguish and demarcate. That there's a difference between saying I'm not a racist, which is a somewhat passive comment. I'm not a racist and I'm, anti-racist, I'm actively working against the systems and structures that perpetuate racism.
1 (2m 28s):
So the people who are talking about anti-racism are talking about that work of activism and intentionality that is seeking to undo the harmful effects of a history and a current reality of racist systems and structures within our nation. We'll talk more about that. On this episode, I would love to hear what you think. The other thing I will note is that this is not the highest quality audio we've ever had before in part, because my audio was just being funky.
1 (2m 58s):
And also there was a weed whacker outside somewhere in the middle of the episode, which you may or may not hear as well as a few dings and pings along the way. So bear with us. I hope you'll enjoy this conversation. I really love Sabira and love the way that she's able to take us into some of the nitty gritty of what it means to care for kids as they seek to have the opportunity to have a great education and great prospects for their own lives later on. Thanks for joining us
2 (3m 29s):
Severe. It is awesome to see you. Thank you so much for being here today. I'm really happy to have you on the podcast. I know we've only just recently gotten to know each other, but I've been encouraged and excited by every conversation we've had. And I want other people to hear what you have to say. So we get to do this today, and I have you here both because I like you a lot and I've enjoyed our conversations. I do an official level. I have you here because you are the executive director of an organization called CanCan, which is an educational advocacy organization here in the state of Connecticut.
2 (4m 5s):
So I want to start there and just let you introduce yourself a little bit. Can you explain what con can is, and also what your role is? Hi, wonderful to be here and thank you for having me. I too have enjoyed all of our conversations. So my name is Sabira Gordon and I'm the executive director of Khan can. And con Ken is an education advocacy organization that believes that every child in Connecticut has the right to an excellent public education. We believe that your zip code should not determine your future.
2 (4m 36s):
And as we all know here in Connecticut, where you live determines the quality of school that you ended up having, and that has a longterm effect on generational poverty and kind of where you end up in life. So we are fighting to make sure that despite any circumstances that you're born into, you have access to a great education. And we know that education is a great equalizer. So you, if you are able to access high quality education, then you're able to change the life for yourself and for your family. So tell me how this became a passion for you.
2 (5m 7s):
Like how you personally got into this work. And essentially you're like dedicated anger, all those working hours to making this happen. So I grew up in a small rural village in Jamaica, where there was 98% of literacy. And my mother actually started a school because she, I was homeschooled for a few years. And I think I drove my mother crazy. She was like, she needs to have friends to play with. And she also recognized the need that in this community, young kids at three years old were traveling three miles.
2 (5m 41s):
And this is before I was, this is before cars were everywhere in Jamaica. So they're walking and, you know, parents had to be able to walk their small kids to school. If they had older siblings and many people in the community only went to fifth grade. Maybe a couple of people had graduated from ninth grade, but no one went to high school. So she recognized that need. So she founded the school. And then I think before me, there were a couple of older kids who had gone to high school, graduated from high school first in the community. And I graduated from high school and my mother decided that I needed to go to the United States for college.
2 (6m 17s):
And so then I went to, I always say a widest place on earth. One of the tightest schools on earth. I went to Bates college in Maine, which was a wonderful experience, but you also went to me, it wasn't just white. It was cold and cold and quickly. I mean, other than the fact that very few kids at Bates look like me, the kids who were there had come from pretty privileged situations had either gone to boarding school.
2 (6m 49s):
Their families were diplomats and they came in from Africa, or it was very few kids in that school had gone to what I would call a traditional neighborhood school. They were either coming from charter schools or magnets, or they had gone to boarding school. And that was like my first glimpse at educational inequity in the United States. And then graduated from Bates and did a whole bunch of things. And then started working at the legislature, I think in 2010 and the Connecticut Connecticut legislature in 2010, and just like heard about the back then we used to call it the achievement gap and just started doing my research and then recognize that, you know, a lot of what's happened in Connecticut has deeply roots that are deeply rooted in segregation and racism and kind of housing and equity, and really looking at why is Connecticut, the way that it is.
2 (7m 42s):
And in college, I have a friend from st. Louis who used to tell me, she's like, I'm used to my Southern racist, they're racist to your face. And she would say, she's like, you guys, you're racist in how you deal with me. And that has, I remember that. And I always will continue to, because when we think about what's happening in Connecticut, it's not over, it's not in your face, but the minute you peel back by one layer, you can see where if you look at how we fund schools, if you look at where neighborhoods are, if you know what kids are going to, what schools in the cities, even in the cities, the schools are very segregated.
2 (8m 18s):
There will be cities in, there will be schools in cities like new Haven. That's almost all white, similar in Bridgeport. There are schools within Bridgeport that have lots of kids from the parents who have means. So it's, so that's got me started in this work and what's kept me here is as the mother of a two small black kids. I believe that every child needs to have the same opportunity that they do. I want their family, their friends, their neighbors, to have the same opportunities and be able to go to of college. They want to, or whatever career they choose to go in after high school.
2 (8m 52s):
Because I do think education is changing and directly to college might not be the path for lots of young people right now, as you kind of education. So you, I want to make sure because one of the sets of terms that I see or hear a lot is this difference between equality and equity. And I imagine that's going to be helpful in making sure we're talking in the same terms in this conversation and that listeners know what we're talking about. Can you explain the difference between equality and equity?
2 (9m 22s):
Cause they kind of sound like they're the same thing, but they're not quite the same thing. So could you talk about that and how it pertains to education? Yeah. So equality is essentially giving everyone the same thing. So for example, if let's say, you know, we funded schools at the same level would be, you know, every child got the same amount of money as ignited to them to go to school. Equity is actually giving people what they need to be successful. So for example, the way there's this really cool graph picture that depicts it, where at equalities you give everyone the same block, the standby, but equity is if a person is shorter, they would get a little bit of a tire block, the stand on.
2 (10m 5s):
So they could see over the fence. And in terms of education, what that means is we have to think about what impacts kids and learning. For example, students who have special ed needs, it is not. If we think about it in a space of equity, they have different needs and their needs should uniquely be met a student who's coming in with English, language learning. They have different needs and their needs need to be uniquely met a child. Who's coming into school with trauma. They have unique needs and their needs need to be uniquely met. And in an set situation that has equity, every child is given what they need to be successful.
2 (10m 41s):
And to put it in terms of when we're thinking about distance learning, I was in a call on Monday with a mom of a child who had different learning differences. And she said there was an expectation that my child was going to take the computer home and type. She said, my son had never typed a day in his life because his learning differences had made it where he'd never, he just thought he wasn't capable. It was not a part of his learning plan. So how do you have an impact and how do you make sure that child gets what their needs?
2 (11m 14s):
It's by creating a situation where there's a one-on-one with her, with a paraprofessional or an educator, who's helping them meet their unique needs and not handing them a laptop like you handed to every other child in the class and said go forward and do distance learning. So that's kind of, I think a one-on-one example specifically about the difference between equality, equality is everyone got a laptop to go home. Equity is he has unique needs and needs. It may not be something very, it may just need to be, it doesn't need to be more expensive.
2 (11m 45s):
It just needs to be different to fit the needs that he has. And so if I'm hearing you correctly, we would want equality is almost like a baseline cause we would, I mean, in the state of Connecticut, at least we don't have equality in the sense of like for that example, not every kid was sent home with a laptop in March when, you know, things shut down, but we also have this additional concern and different concern as far as equity. But even if everybody did have the same funding and the same teacher quality and the same textbook quality and et cetera, you still have an equity problem as far as actually ensuring the kids get what they need in order to succeed.
2 (12m 25s):
So it sounds like to me, there's actually a, both, and rather than an either or going in talking about those things, that's helpful. Thank you. Well, I want to give a little context to listeners for this episode, because in this season of the podcast, we're talking through my book, white picket fences and in chapter five of white picket fences, I tell a story when I was 10 years old, moving from this small functionally segregated town in North Carolina to Riverside, Connecticut, which is a part of Fairfield County and is predominantly white, more than predominantly, very, very white place.
2 (12m 59s):
And so I was going into sixth grade and I attended my neighborhood public school, walked to public school down the street. And I got a lot of comments, even just as a 10 year old in sixth grade about the racism from the place where I had come from the racism I must've encountered in North Carolina. And I knew that there was a lot of truth to those comments. I didn't think that people were wrong. I wasn't trying to defend that at the same time. I knew that where I lived now, there were very few African American people or even people of color living in my town.
2 (13m 33s):
And truly as a kid, I was very aware of the only time I saw people with Brown skin was when we went to McDonald's and they were working behind the counter. So I was aware that there was a different inequity going on than where I had come from. And so I just saw white people all the time. And I knew there was something wrong with characterizing my town in North Carolina as racist and not thinking about this new context, at least with some sort of lens that had to do with race.
2 (14m 5s):
So I knew that living in a <inaudible> community was problematic in its own ways, but I wasn't, I, you know, of course I was in middle school. I wasn't sure what to make of all that. And so, you know, the demographics of North Carolina and Connecticut are different as every part of the United States are, but there is a history here in Connecticut that has led of policies that have led to some of the segregation that we functionally experience in terms of these white communities and communities of color.
2 (14m 35s):
And I just wonder if you can speak to that history, like why did I find myself in an all white school, in a town that thought of itself as not racist? So we can go back to the 1930s and think about redlining and the decisions that Congress made. So there were decisions and it's interesting, I'm, I'm doing a lot of research on this topic right now because I'm very interested in kind of how school zones and like how lines were drawn to determine who goes to what school.
2 (15m 7s):
And so neighborhoods were, you know, literally a map was taken in a red line, was drawn around certain neighborhoods and it said, this is where white people live. And this is where, and that time had been an African American. This is where they live. And if you live within a certain neighborhood, the federal government will not insure mortgages in those neighborhoods. It made where, you know, and so the neighborhoods where white people live, you were able to buy a home neighborhoods where black people, they were not able to buy a home unless you were independently wealthy as a black person, that didn't need a mortgage, which there's probably very few of those in the 19 years.
2 (15m 42s):
And essentially those lines that were drawn in the 1930s neighborhoods in Connecticut today look almost the same as they did when those lines were drawn. So by default, if you think about, so the main way of accumulating wealth in the United States is my home owning a home. So if you think about generational poverty, if your family was able to own a home in the 1930s, it was a part of the GI bill for people coming back from war, you would be able to make an investment for your family and have, and build some sort of a wealth as a springboard to move on to, you know, whatever else you decided to do in the black neighborhoods where you couldn't get homes.
2 (16m 23s):
That was not the case. So those schools, the individuals living in those cities and specifically about that, it was in the cities. They were not able to build wealth. They were working and they didn't have that kind of investment. So the schools in those neighborhoods didn't have the same kind of investments because specifically Connecticut schools are funded based on property taxes. So if you think about the investments that were made in the suburban, you know, became suburban America, or even in some cases more rural, but it's not exactly the same for a rural community.
2 (16m 55s):
Some of those rural communities, they wouldn't have the same luxuries as suburban communities. So schools were invested in based on the property tax values. So in the urban areas where people of color live, there was not the property tax value for investment in schools. And so the lines were drawn in those segregated times where white kids went to this school, black kids went to this school and it was, you know, separate, but on equal back then. So kids would go to schools in their own neighborhoods and that those lines were never crossed. And we have not done the work here in Connecticut or in many other places to get rid of those lines, to think about shared resources, to think about when people talk about regionalism in Connecticut, it's kind of a bad word.
2 (17m 40s):
And, you know, everyone wants to keep what they have. And they don't recognize that what they have was made possible by government policies, gave them a leg up and took away the opportunity from other communities. So that's why, you know, Riverside ended up being all white. And then if you probably look right across the border in another town, it didn't even go right up the street to Bridgeport. That's where live even closer. Absolutely. Between old Greenwich and Stanford.
2 (18m 11s):
I mean, it's a, it's a market, you know, you cross the street and you're in a different neighborhood. So what, when you look at that history and you say, okay, this is true now because of things that were decided a hundred years ago, and we have not done the work to undo much less to repair, right? What does that, what are you advocating for? Right? Like how, how does that work begin to actually happen? How do we rethink and reimagine and undo the damage that happened in the past?
2 (18m 42s):
So the way we, I see it and the way we look at it at con candidates, you have to think of what exactly a whole family needs to be successful. So I think specifically around education, it's investing in students and thinking about what they need. So when we look at, if you think about school finance, we look at it and you invest in the need of a student and not in what was a formula that was created that, you know, said, you know, each child should get a specific base amount and then you add value to what the needs are. So that student, I think I've mentioned the especially learning differences.
2 (19m 14s):
You would add an additional investment for that. If there is a elevated level of poverty in that community at a different, you add another amount for that. And therefore, so when you get to a point where you're looking at how you're investing in that child, it is giving them the resources that they need to put them on a level playing field as their neighbor who lives a few towns over that may already have those investments because of how the wealth within that community. And I also think it's important that communities that are not all part people of color and white communities also understand that they have a level of privilege in their own communities and think about how they could reach out, think about how they can invest in communities that don't look like theirs.
2 (19m 58s):
I always think about a SIM, something as simple as a swimming pool, you take, if you move to a high resource community in Connecticut, you take a swimming pool for granted. The Y has like every, there's lots of public places that have swimming pools in cities. There's a line outside the door to get to the public pools. If we thought about that as just a shared resource, however, because of how we do things in Connecticut, the racism that's built into that, the minute 10 black kids show up at a swimming pool in an all white community, someone is going to call the cops and say, those kids don't belong in that community.
2 (20m 35s):
So we really need to train our kids to be anti-racist in their own being and the communities, the think of, well, these kids aren't vandalizing. They're not coming in for anything. They would just like the, to have a pool on demand like your community does. So we think about things in that way and really encourage people to stretch and think beyond their own boundaries and think about what does it mean to actually be an antiracist? What does it mean to encourage your own kids to look beyond and think about having friends that don't look like theirs, think about taking your kids to communities that don't look like you as in having them feel comfortable.
2 (21m 15s):
I think one of the things I really do with my kids, I want you to feel comfortable everywhere that you go. I don't want you to feel like an outsider in an all white community. And I don't want, if you have a friend that doesn't look like you, when they come to our community, I want you to make them feel accepted and feel at home and not like an outsider. So I think those are just some things that we can do as parents and that we can just do as a society if we really, truly want to be anti racist. Yeah. We have sporadically done that as a family. We've got friends who live down in Richmond, Virginia, and our friends are highly educated, white and Brown people, not actually black, but I'm from India and Sri Lanka.
2 (21m 55s):
They moved into a predominantly black neighborhood. And for a couple of summers, when our kids were little, we went down and just spent a week in their community. And it was a fascinating, the questions that came up because I mean, literally the why does everybody have black skin not a negative? Just so I don't, I haven't seen this before. And that's what questions that had to do with living in a city, which is also just a different context for my children. Why are all the cars parked on the street? You know, the things like that. And then more recently we have been intentionally just driving into Waterbury.
2 (22m 26s):
And similarly, it's a city, you know, this is what, 30 minutes from my home where there's a much more racially diverse population. And what's been fascinating for us to see is in ourselves, but also in our kids is the sense of freedom that comes actually from being in a diverse community. I mean, we went in for a prayer gathering, so that was familiar on the one hand to my kids because they've grown up in the church. But on the other hand, there was more expressive prayer going on than is happening in our all white church.
2 (22m 57s):
And they felt really welcomed. And I think just free by being there. But at the same time, we living in a predominantly white community really have to think about how are we going to do this intentionally for ourselves and for our kids. So one question I have for you on like the structural level is like, should the lions be redrawn? Because obviously there's the one question of shared resources and a welcoming and kind of a posture of welcome cross the lines.
2 (23m 29s):
And maybe that's where it has to start, but ultimately, should there be, are, I don't know, is it that neighborhoods should be changing? Is it that neighborhood schools are not the right model? Is it just a funding question? I mean, and there might not be one answer here, but I'm just curious. Cause I know we've also talked about just the significance of relationships. Relationships are not the answer, but if they're not there aren't relationships that span some of what we see as our dividing lines. I don't think we then have the, Hey I'd love for you to come use our pool or that I think of as mine.
2 (24m 5s):
Right. So do I think the line should be redrawn? Absolutely. Do I think in the way that people hold community, was that possible? No. Like I don't think, I think the way we think of community is directly connected to where we live and I think people define themselves in their communities based on the characteristics of the communities that they live in. And I think there would be riots in the streets if we tried to do, I think that should be what we do.
2 (24m 41s):
Absolutely. If we know that these lines were drawn at a time where it was based on segregation and racism. Yes, we should absolutely redraw the right. But short of that, I do think, you know, we have to think about relationships and we have to think about like, what is important for communities and what are the core values of your community? And if you think that, I don't know if you've seen, there's a lot of communities around Connecticut. That's saying racism is a public health. That's at like a public health emergency.
2 (25m 13s):
So you as a community, believe that racism is a public health emergency. What are you doing to change the trajectory of the communities of color around you? If you're an all white community, what are you doing to make other people feel more welcome in your own community? Many places in Connecticut don't allow multifamily homes by having that zoning law, you are essentially affirming a racist policy because you don't think that anyone who doesn't add, if you think about the acreage covenances is that exist as well.
2 (25m 47s):
You are not able to buy a small plot of land and build a little teeny tiny home, right? You need to buy a certain lot size. So you're essentially affirming a history of racism by not changing the ways things happen in your town. I think when it comes to education, I really believe in open choice. I really believe that families should not have to go to a specific school because all the kids in that school look like them. I think the family should have the option to decide where their kids should go.
2 (26m 20s):
But I say that, and then I also don't believe in bossing kids to different communities where they're going to feel like an outsider. So if you have an open choice policy, it needs to actually be truly open choice, not where kids are airlifted in. And then they feel like outsiders in that community. And they're not able to play sports with those kids. Those kids aren't really their friends. They're living two completely separate lives. I think we should affirm policies that allow for affordable housing and more higher resource communities, but also invest in cities.
2 (26m 50s):
So families don't feel like they need to go to a different community to have a better opportunity, but if they could go to a different community because they want to, and they would like a different experience. So I think it's a little bit different from right now. We're open choice exists with like, if I go to school outside of my community, I will then have a better opportunity. I think I liked that choice for someone who says I want a different experience. So then I would like to go to school in a different community. I also think that, you know, really investing in high quality schools, I think there's a big conversations that happen in Connecticut around charter schools saying that they are really segregated.
2 (27m 25s):
That to me shouldn't necessarily be a problem if we're not having conversations about white schools being segregated. So at the same time, there are many school districts. I remember we were looking to buy a house. We kept looking at different communities, different committees, and my threshold for what my decision would be is what's the percentage of people in that town. And I looked at many towns where the percentage was under 1% and people of color. And I would just say, no, there's absolutely.
2 (27m 55s):
That meant that my son who school is my daughter isn't yet, but my two kids would probably be the only black child in their classroom for a really long time in their community. And I refused, I just didn't want to do that to them. So content is a lot of work around teacher diversity. And we believe in this because we also believe that having authority figures that either look like you or don't look like you is incredibly important. And in all communities, exactly all white communities, kids having to respect a teacher who doesn't look like them is really important.
2 (28m 29s):
And it would affirm anti racist belief systems in that, you know, despite what you see around you or some, for some people in their homes, I don't know how, like what conversations are being had, but you are able to see an authority figure that doesn't look like you and you respect that person. And you recognize that way. Okay. A person of color can become a teacher because I think lots of stereotypes are believed in as kids. And I think a lot of adults reaffirmed those stereotypes by the behavior that they exhibit. So I know you've talked to me about this before, but I think you have these statistics at the ready as far as teachers in Connecticut, most kids, whether they currently, if I'm wrong, most kids in Connecticut, no matter what the population demographically of the student body is, are being taught by white teachers is that percent of teachers in Connecticut are white, 90% are white.
2 (29m 22s):
And how about students in Connecticut? So we are close to 50%. I think we're hovering around 48% of kids are students of color. So yeah, very vast difference there. And the state has done a lot of work to advance this, however, municipalities on the other side have not, they haven't done the investments and doing the training of being anti-biased and hiring for municipalities or for their boards of ed or their superintendent's office. So there is a, the superintendent or assistant superintendent in Connecticut tells a story about interviewing for.
2 (29m 56s):
So having his PhD and interviewing for superintendent positions or assistant superintendent positions, and despite having all the credentials kept being told, he wasn't the right fit. And it's just an interesting situation. It's like, so, and then he would watch his peers interview for the same position, not being as heavily credentialed as he was being overlooked and being given the opportunity to take time, to get the certificate. That was a requirement to be a superintendent.
2 (30m 29s):
And he kept being turned down and saying he wasn't the right fit. That's because I think in hiring, there's a lot of research around Anthony bias, hiring and training practices, but we haven't done that work in education. I think when we talk about minority teacher recruitment and retention, there's a lot of recently I heard at a board of ed meeting. They said, well, we've been going to career fairs to find people of color, to hire and the risk. And I was sitting there. I was like, I'm three to five years old. I've never been to a career fair to find a job. So if you think that's how you're going to be recruiting new teachers of color in 2019, that I think that premise is just false.
2 (31m 4s):
And so therefore another community said, well, we emailed 500 people and no one responded. And it was just like also once again, there's no intentionality and you were farming that you want to just of color. You emailed 500 people and no one responded. So that's just, you know, we're not municipalities have not been doing the work.
1 (31m 22s):
Right. And like building the networks and the trust in order for that to really start to happen. I want it. So I'm going to, I want to go back to your story for a minute because it strikes me that people could look in at your life and say, Oh, come on, you grew up in a village with 2% literacy and went on to Bates college. And you're an executive director of an organization. All it takes is hard, work on an individual level and like, yay, Samira, you did it. Right. Like, and I'm sure all those things are true that you worked really hard and that your mom was awesome.
1 (31m 57s):
And you know, you had opportunities, but at the same time, I think that narrative of what often I think gets the pushback of some of these conversations is really kids just need to work hard, take individual responsibility. What would the hardships that come their way? Because everybody has hardships and the exceptional cases will rise to where they're supposed to be. Right. So I'm curious how you take your own story and map it in that context of individuals within a system, especially for what we're talking about is histories, networks, systems of trust, systems of advancement or oppression, right.
1 (32m 39s):
That prevent people
2 (32m 40s):
From having opportunity. It's not just, yeah. I'd love to hear your response to that pushback. So interesting. So I always say that and I was like, but the caveat there is my mother has her CPA and was the CFO for Wyndham hotels and like made a choice to buy a farm in a rural community that had a 2% literacy rate. Right. So I, and I always say, like, I grew up with a level of privilege in that community that most people didn't like, this was her off the grid experience.
2 (33m 12s):
My mother had me later in life. She was 40 when she had me. And she was like, I'm going to spend time raising my child because I've spent my whole entire life working in corporate. She grew up in the United States and corporate America, and then she was sent back to Jamaica. So I also recognize that my mother, like I grew up with immense privilege compared to a lot of people around me, but still also events privilege compared to a lot of people like in the United States and in Connecticut, we're in urban centers. So I challenge that premise because if my mother did not have the experience that she had, she would have been in survival mode.
2 (33m 49s):
When she had me, she was not in survival mode when she had my father had a prominent business, a dry cleaning business. So she was able to homeschool me. It was not a situation of where my mother was working two and three jobs and then tried to find the time to make sure that I had what I needed for my educational experience. So I also recognize that. And I say like, did I not work hard? Yes. But I also, I was not climbing that mountain with a 50 pound sack on my back.
2 (34m 19s):
And that is what I say to people like the false notion that hard work gets you success. There is something for another conversation, the opportunity myth. If you look at accountability, the expectations of kids in urban centers, there are a few grade levels behind what they are of their peers. So if you look at even content and curriculum and what's being taught in our under resource communities, it cannot compare it to what's being taught in our high resource communities. So the idea you have many people who will tell you, I graduated from high school in say, for example, as news, Waterbury, as an example, cause this is where I live.
2 (34m 54s):
And I went to college and I was an a student and I had to take remedial courses. That just goes to show you that. And if you take remedial courses, that statistics show you are more likely to not graduate from college because you're spending time and energy on classes that are not going to count towards credit for your graduation. So if you think about that, so you did everything, right? You worked really hard, you graduated, you got accepted to college. And then now you have this other hurdle that you have to go through.
2 (35m 25s):
And this other obstacle, which is then you have to take remedial courses because you weren't prepared and you're not ready for college. So then you go through and then you fight that battle and you jump through those hurdles. And then, so you graduate from college in five years when you're done with college. And then you're going to walk into the workplace. You then have to deal with all the discrimination that comes to be a person of color applying for a job in a field that might. So for example, you want to say, you want to be a teacher. Connecticut has a drastic teaching shortage. There are many teachers of color who are certified, who cannot get a job in the cities.
2 (35m 60s):
There are classrooms that have longterm sobs in the classroom, and there are teachers of color who are certified, who are not, and just not being hired, like what's that about not being hired. Okay. All right. So let's think about it. You've done everything you did, all the work you needed to do, you know, despite the circumstances, not having the best high quality education, not, and going and going and going, and then you're done you're at the end and still it's like, well, you're just not a good fit for the role that we're hiring for what we will pay a longterm sub to be in the classroom and not have you sit in that seat.
2 (36m 34s):
There's so many problems. And I do think it sometimes gets to feeling overwhelming when they, you know, they're all interlocking, we've talked about neighborhoods, we've talked about teachers, we've talked about obviously the attitudes or lack of relationships and there's poverty that comes into the mix there, all of these things. So I'm curious if people are hearing all this and start feeling like I care, and I do want things to be different. And I'm thinking, especially of white listeners who might not live in a diverse community and whose kids do not attend to diverse schools.
2 (37m 9s):
And yet we were saying, yeah, this rings true. This is a problem. I want it to be different. Like, what would you say to that person? Just that kind of solo individual who says, you know, this is where I live and what, what would be first steps to advocating for equity in education. So I think the first step is to know what's happening in your own community, right? I think a lot of times we live in a bubble and we say, well, this is how it is because this is how it is.
2 (37m 41s):
So I think the first step is knowing, going and finding out, do you have any policies that are from hiring educators of color? Is there anything that your district does when there's a vacancy to actually reach out to candidates of color or figure out how to recruit those high quality candidates and have them be a part of your community? The other thing is when you look at policies, not just in your own community, but in your surrounding communities, how much, how different are they from the policies within your community?
2 (38m 15s):
Is there a covenant that says you can't have multifamily in your community? If so, reach out to the zoning board, reach out to the person who was in charge and say, why is it that we have, we only, we don't allow multifamily housing in our communities and then ask about the opportunities to change that we should be having these conversations. And we should be talking about how as a community, we can affirm anti racist policies. I think you first have to look inside and then also think about yourself and like, what are you doing in your daily rituals and practices to ensure that you're living an antiracist life?
2 (38m 50s):
Because I think before you can even look out, you have to look inward. When I started doing research on this topic, and I have realized that for a long time, I have lived the life that affirm white supremacy because of all the, like the definitions that I have of success. I mean, I told, I told you, I went to a very white school is based upon the premise of a white normative society. And that's the definition of success. So you're driven by certain different benchmarks that you hit. And that is what successful, because that is kind of essentially what I've seen and how I, you know, and I always had my mom kind of roped in the United States, very similar system.
2 (39m 28s):
So what she defined as success for me was closely aligned with white supremacy. I'm like a white normative society. So even, and I think being a person of color doesn't necessarily mean that you're an anti racist, right? You have to really look inward and think about the work that you're doing and how can you make sure that you're positively reaffirming the things that are, that will eventually change your country, where people will not say, for example, you know, I'm color blind. Like, no, you're not like you do see a color. You may not initially, or in your own, you may not think that you ascribe certain attributes to a person based on the color of your skin, but you do have certain biases that are built in that society has just put upon us.
2 (40m 10s):
And I think there's a lot of work to be done, but I do think the first step is just looking inward and making sure that you're doing what you need and then looking at the policies in the place that you live and asking why is my community all white? Yeah. That's a great, that's a great question. And we'll yeah, I'm sure there's so much more we could talk about on all of this, but I think that's a good place to leave things in terms of asking the questions, starting with your own self and then extending to your local community, both in terms of why, if it is, why is it all white, but also I think it's so helpful to connect policies to demographics because it's easy to tell yourself a story of, well, this is just the families that settled here a long time ago, or, well, my grandmother grew up here or my friend invited me that the social networks do contribute to those things, but so do zoning laws and who knew, I mean, that's not something that I grew up being aware of that zoning laws affect who lives in a town.
2 (41m 11s):
And I think, especially in Connecticut, right now, you're seeing a lot of towns that are predominantly white with black lives matter signs in their lawns and, you know, protests that happened after George Floyd was killed. And the question is, what does it take for those communities to actually put their activism into action in those communities and, and seeing
1 (41m 35s):
The common good, not just that, Oh, wouldn't it be nice if we welcomed those, you know, poor kids from the across the line, but what would it be if we both were able to benefit from being in this state together and more of a sense of mutuality and the common good that we're all gonna experience. If we actually start to have relationships and start to have connections and start to have schools that are equipped for kids to learn and grow and work and live together.
1 (42m 6s):
So thank you for the work that you're doing. Thank you for the time that you gave us today. And I hope yes. Looking forward to chatting again soon. All right. Thanks to Vera. I'm so grateful for the practical advice she offers to any of us who want to participate in anti-racism work in our towns, in our communities, in our States, especially as it comes to advocating for kids to get the education that they deserve.
1 (42m 36s):
Thank you as always, for listening to love is stronger than fear. Today. We were talking about chapter five of white picket fences, and I'd love to hear what's going on in your towns and communities when it comes to the zoning laws that we're talking about and neighborhoods as well as the demographics of your public school systems and all the opportunities that are available through education in your state or town. If you enjoyed this conversation as always, please share it with friends rate and review it wherever you get your podcasts and tune in next week for another great conversation.
1 (43m 11s):
Thanks so much for being here.
3 (43m 13s):