As people were quarantined this year, many sought entertainment to while away the time. Podcasts were begun, while some were finalized and made their way to the public for the first time. Children were not the only ones learning online as everyone sought to learn history, especially after the racial uprisings this summer. One of the most popular podcasts was “Nice White Parents,” produced by the New York Times and based on education in New York, New York, supposedly one of the “progressive” cities. As a Texan who has discussed my own experiences in public education, it was refreshing to see that the entitlement to a “good education” was not unique to my city.
In the podcast, few White parents recognized that even though non-White parents were frustrated, most would internalize their frustration rather than confront White parents, due to the racial paradigm in this country. Racial behavior is learned, and the local parents had been raised to understand that White involvement could mean punishment and displacement. That premise made it difficult to develop trust, and sadly, the White parents did little to assuage that insecurity by developing programs that were exclusive and hierarchical. Self blame prevents effective communication, but it would have been more helpful if the White parents had seemed receptive to altering their behavior rather than taking over the non-White schools.
Throughout the podcast, it was apparent that integration was defined differently by all involved. To Black and brown parents, integration was supposedly a tool to gain access to resources and build a level playing field. To the New York Board of Education, “integration” seemed to be defined as a virtue to make White people feel good about engaging with inferiors. All in all, too many people from all perspectives believed that integration should happen on White terms, while Black and brown parents adapted to the change. Therefore, even gifted non-White children felt uncomfortable taking advantage of new resources.
Most prevalent among the behaviors of the parents in the school was entitlement. There was simply no understanding about how certain behaviors were alienating, and made the students of color not just afraid of the parents, but afraid of how their children would behave. Racial healing will never occur as long as all predominantly non-White spaces are viewed as “leaderless” and “in need of White control.” Children and adolescents are remarkably capable of sorting themselves out without parental interference, but unfortunately, the underlying message that these parents projected was that if their children mistreated non-White children, the White children would be supported and protected at all costs.
2020 could have been a gift in the form of a well-needed break from the educational paradigm. All students need to be reminded that they are not behind, nor will they “miss out” on proper childhoods. This podcast made it clear that there are too many invasive factors in child development, and childhood needs to be more protected from manipulative forces. As the world moves into a new calendar year, it is crucial for everyone to be open to the possibilities of granting children more autonomy over their lives. While adults are still in charge, it is never too early to allow children to become their own people, instead of retracing their parents’ footsteps.