Monday, September 19, 2016

PUBLIC SCHOOL INTEGRATION IS NOW PUBLIC SCHOOL GENTRIFICATION

A post I put up here: http://www.yophillyed.org/real-stories/public-school-integration-is-now-public-school-gentrification/

I was on a Twitter Chat the other day in light of the backlash from the article in the Inquirer written by Kristen Graham. The post received much reaction to what was supposed to be a feel good story. A lot of the reaction was disappointment, anger, and a feeling of neglect. Ms. Graham wrote an article detailing the experience of a white couple who chose a traditional district school over a charter school. While this may seem harmless as you read this, it’s important to note that this couple is white and they moved into a predominately Black neighborhood, which is why this appears to be a feel good story. Long story short, the article and couple were hammered on social media because there was a lack of regard for race and economics in the article. It was very neglectful and some felt it was disrespectful to the families that live in this community in Southwest Philadelphia.
I joined in on the moderated chat which I’m sure left out some very strong opinions and voices on the matter. In the course of this chat, the wife, Jill Scott, kept responding to me and others with this tone of integration. She said people can choose to attend a district school to help with integration. I proceeded to roll my eyes every time I felt she used that word because I don’t think she even understands what that word means in low-income Black neighborhoods. She mentioned how it is better for the community and for schools. I don’t think she really understand that integration is now White people’s word for gentrification.
Now this may come off as harsh but let’s really unpack this. When we look back in history there were many attempts at integration of people of color into predominately White neighborhoods and White people ran for the hills (suburbs). This is called White Flight. It never fails. However, conversely, when white people begin to “integrate” into poor Black neighborhoods, there is no Black Flight. There is systematic Black Eviction. Whether on purpose or by happenstance, this is what happens. We have seen this before in cities like Chicago with the Cabrini Green housing project and here in the Northern Liberties located in North Philadelphia.
So when I hear Mrs. Scott say that integration is best for the schools, while that may be true, she just does not get it. If integration was best, there would never have existed the idea of White Flight. But that isn’t the case. Most white people are not moving into poor areas of Philadelphia to be martyrs for someone else’s child, at the risk of their own child not being where they need to be in their educational journey. Integration, in this day, intentional or not, is gentrification.
Systematically, it gets more and more difficult for poor people to remain in their neighborhoods when white people begin to move there. The schools, which may have been low-performing, may begin to take shape and become better schools for all who live in the neighborhood. More resources become available and stores in the neighborhood become more costly than what residents before were used to. In turn, because of the “upgrades”, longtime residents become displaced because they can no longer afford to live in the communities they grew up in.
And is there a plan of true integration to make sure that this doesn’t happen? Not really. While these families are advocating and securing better things for the neighborhood and schools, they do it on behalf of themselves and not so much the community. It’s almost an air of “be happy you have this now.” It’s unspoken but the message is passing through the community. These newcomers aren’t talking to the families who presently live in these neighborhoods when the advocacy ideas are in formation. They aren’t inviting the current residents of these communities to sit at the organizing table. So changes begin to take shape in spite of the longtime residents instead of for them. So again I say, “Integration is now White people’s word for gentrification”.