Op-ed by Howard Eagle
Multiple (back to back), blatant instances of the most hideous forms of racism within the Rochester City School District (RCSD), which by many measures have the “worst [schools] in the nation”, has once again propelled the RCSD into national, and even international headlines.
The chronic SILENCE of (not only white “educators”), but MOST RCSD “educators” __ regarding ongoing, rampant, pervasive, individual and institutional racism, is DEAFENING.
There are teachers in every RCSD school building who can point out the hard-core racists that they work with daily, as well as those who are not quite as bad as the hard-core ones, but are still problematic (not necessarily because of any fault of their own, at least not exclusively), but rather because of their socialization / indoctrination processes __ usually in lily-white-suburban-or-rural-land (from the crib up). This is nothing new. It has ALWAYS been the case, especially and particularly since 1954.
YET (AFTER ALL THIS TIME), THERE IS STILL NO COMPREHENSIVE, SYSTEMIC, RESPONSE, AND THERE NEVER HAS BEEN ONE. SO, TO SAY THAT WILL IS LACKING, IS A GROSS UNDER-STATEMENT.
In fact, with regard to these ongoing, dastardly, egregious, vile, vitriolic, hateful incidents, the responses seem ALWAYS to be the same, e.g., Administration: ‘they have been placed on leave,’ usually with pay (kind of like a paid vacation for abusing Black students and parents); Teachers Union: ‘everyone deserves due process’ (no matter how much damage they have done to children), the investigation is ongoing.’ Have y’all ever wondered why we NEVER learn the outcomes of the so-called “ongoing investigations”? Board of Education: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AamJFpALjM.
I digress, let’s talk about solutions.
Those of us who are dead-serious about addressing the historic and ongoing, pervasive tripartite beast and Illness of individual, institutional, and structural racism (which are thoroughly bound up together, completely intertwined, and totally inseparable from one another, i.e.,.
There can be no continued institutional, and/or structural racism without continued individual racists __ in this particular case, by the thousands in the RCSD).
We have continued (literally for years) to urge administration after administration, and Board after Board (as we know there have been many) __ to get serious about authentic, ongoing, anti-racist education, which would definitely reveal hundreds, if not thousands of racists, many of whom are hardcore, as well as some very, very confused Black, and I imagine others of color, who are apologists, defenders, and protectionists of racist, white teachers.
It’s the damnedest thing that I have ever seen. I guess that’s par for the course (here in modern-day-slave town U.S.A.), which, very importantly, points to the fact that, as we strive to recruit more teachers of color, it’s not merely about Black faces. On the contrary, we have always advocated either finding and/or producing race and class-conscious teachers, including Black ones.
The task at hand is to TEACH ALL OF THEM about the historic and ongoing, contemporary functioning and impact of individual, institutional, and structural racism within the institution in which they make their livings. Once they have been taught, if they behave in blatant ways that are contrary to the teachings, they are out __ period.
Like most changes that are needed in order to help the Black community, this is not likely to happen unless and until we get organized, and demand it, in an ongoing, consistent, deadly-serious fashion.
Howard Eagle is a longtime educator and local anti-racism advocate, known for his campaigns for the Rochester school board and prolific political and social commentary. Eagle taught social studies in the RCSD for 23 years, before retiring in 2010, and taught as an adjunct professor in the Department of African American Studies at SUNY Brockport for 20 years, before retiring in 2020.