I’m reading W.E. DuBois right now. I was led there through West and Asante. I blame them for raising my curiosity enough to want to buy and read some very old, very intense, very amazing writing from a long way back. While I wouldn’t recommend The Souls of Black Folk to most readers, it is some stunning work and paints such an incredibly detailed picture of a world in the south one hundred plus years ago.
I’m working on some redistricting problems for the City of Oakland
’s process and struggling to consider all the important aspects of building cohesive council districts that meet all the ideal requirements, it’s not easy. Contiguous districts, not breaking neighborhoods nor cracking the vote of communities of interest and much, much more needs to be understood.
For a simple exercise in “let’s just see if we can make a single, hills-bound council district in Oakland” I attempted to include only hills neighborhoods and those above the 580- the usual poverty split standard. When you do that you realize that you can get to a maximum population of perhaps 44,000 – we need to be closer to 55,000 in order to not have large variation- unless you can justify why that variation must exist. I had been looking at the data on the black voting population to see if this idea would break or include diverse communities and when I was done I panned down to look at areas to pull in population from the lower Rockridge areas and was stunned to see something that I’ve honestly seen hundreds of times on maps- Oakland’s Color Line running strong down Telegraph Ave.
The redder tones indicate high proportions of black voting age population in the population of citizens only.
Dubois refers to this concept as a Color Line that he observed in Georgia initially where communities of whites were completely distinct and segregated. Seeing this data in Oakland in 2013 was a stark reminder as to how far we have not come from those early days of emancipation.
And that hills only district? Even including the entire hills, down to upper Rockridge still doesn’t give close to an even district population around 55,000….
Dr Royal talked about the history of this phrase and the clear and present meaning conveyed when it is used most commonly to describe the performance difference between white kids and kids of color in our public schools (and mostly just for black and brown students). This paragraph states the reality quite well:
Because of America’s racial history and legacy, the cross-racial comparison that holds up white student achievement as the universally standard goal is problematic. Further, the term “achievement gap” is inaccurate because it blames the historically marginalized, under-served victims of poor schooling and holds whiteness and wealth as models of excellence. And, as with all misnomers, the thinking that undergirds the achievement gap only speaks of academic outcomes, not the conditions that led to those outcomes, nor does it acknowledge that the outcomes are a consequence of those conditions.
At the Council we worked heavily in partnership with OUSD in setting up the African American Male Achievement initiative in Oakland last year, and there was a huge focus on the achievement gap that we pushed back on with all the goal indicators- the assumption that our black and brown boys must be achieving to the same level as white boys just did not make any sense- if the bar is set low then reaching the goal is a BS waste of time. There were some instances where white males had great outcomes, and in those cases the District chose to keep them as the benchmark…
When we look at California school districts like Oakland, the outcomes for white males are not GOOD, so why would we seek this for our most disenfranchised students? We instead pushed for a quality standard that required all students to improve outcomes. It lead us to develop a new Equity Framework at the Council- we’re talking now about how equity requires a measure of quality before there is measurable, meaningful equality.
We also use language that communicates the disparities between ethnic groups- we want people to understand there are differences that are not healthy, but it is not as you say correctly just about those student’s performance- they don’t exist in a bubble, they exist in neighborhoods with unequal conditions and have historical issues to face. In the end, putting it all on those kids as being under-achievers does in fact diminish the wider scope of responsibility that we conveniently ignore as a system and a society.
Check out our equity framework concept here http://urbanstrategies.org/equity/
To get an idea of how place and other factors impact out kids take a look at the map of suspension rates for African American males in Oakland.