[Blackstudies-l] Nikole Hannah- Jones’ speech Thursday night

Maria Lima lima at geneseo.edu
Sat Oct 28 09:03:05 EDT 2017


Democrat and Chronicle
10/28/2017 - Page A04



During investigative journalist Nikole Hannah- Jones’ speech Thursday night
at Third Presbyterian Church on the topic of school segregation, one slide
stayed up on the projector for an especially long time. Or maybe it just
felt that way.

She was talking about her decision to send her own 5-year-old daughter to
the deeply segregated elementary school closest to her home in New York
City. She wrote about it for the New York Times Magazine,

where she works. Many people emailed to chastise her, she said, for
"sacrificing her daughter."

That’s when the slide went up, and stayed there:! "Whose children should be
sacrificed?"

Anyone could answer that. We already know whose children we’re talking
about.

It’s the same children who don’t get to live in neighborhoods where they
can safely play outside, or houses where the paint won’t poison them. The
children whose parents struggle to access prenatal care and affordable
child care, not to mention jobs or homeownership.

Harvard University political scientist Robert Putnam wrote a compelling
book several years ago called Our Kids, about how poor children have seen
their opportunities snatched away as more well-to-do families have adopted
more effective strategies for consolidating privilege.

Putnam posited, and ! Hannah-Jones would agree, that we don’t talk about
"our kids! " anymore, if we ever did. When the question arises of whose
children should be sacrificed, the answer, as always, is: those kids. "How
can we look ourselves in the mirror and say a school isn’t good enough for
my child, but it’s good enough for someone else’s child?" she asked. "That
is as separate and unequal as one can get."

Hannah-Jones, who recently won a MacArthur "Genius" Grant for her writing
on segregation, was invited to Rochester by Great Schools For All, an
organization working toward creating racially and socioeconomically
integrated schools in the Rochester area. Her job was to stir people of
good will out of their complacence when it comes to 'those kids.'

That is no easy task. My experience as an education journalist, writing r!
egularly about the very gravest ills in our community, is that we guard our
complacence jealously.

Here are the headlines of some stories I’ve written in the last two months:
"Homelessness in RCSD up 46 percent in since 2011." "Teachers of color
lacking in NY schools."

"Charter school teacher knocks out 6-yearold’s teeth, mom says."

"RCSD stumbles with special education changes."

"Troubled RCSD program has no permanent principal." "Pre-schoolers caught
up in special ed crisis."

There are some true scandals there. Needless to say! , laying those stories
out for all to see did not lead to any concrete community action, as far as
I can tell. And that’s just since September.

Hannah-Jones’ work contains an incredible wealth of information about the
historical underpinnings of school segregation, in the South as well as the
North. There, it was Jim Crow laws; here, redlining and exclusionary zoning
codes.

She’s not optimistic that children of color will ever get an equal shot at
a good education. There’s nothing in American history to suggest it, she
says. She makes a convincing case.

But: Third Presbyterian Church, where she spoke Thursday, was just about at
capacity. It holds 650 people.

Hannah-Jones took a picture from the stage just before she began speaking
and posted it on Twitter with the caption: "Full house in Rochester tonight
fo! r my talk on school segregation. This many people can change a city, if
y’all choose."

How can one make that choice? Great Schools For All has a specific idea
about a pragmatic path toward desegregation, but its leaders — faith-based
and unpaid for their efforts — are interested above all in fostering a
discussion we’ve always been afraid to have. Their website is www.gs4a.org,
and they’re having a public meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 6 at the Rundel
Memorial Building at South Avenue and Broad Street.

That’s one way. There are others. As Great Schools For All co-organizer
Lynette Sparks put it Thursday: "Many paths, one destination."

One destination, and one question that deserves to be considered anew:
whose children should be sacrificed?

JMURPHY7@ Gannett.com


Nikole Hannah-Jones JOHN D. AND CATHERINE T. MACARTHUR FOUNDATION


JUSTIN MURPHY

COLUMNIST

"Full house in Rochester tonight for my talk on school segregation. This
many people can change a city, if y’all choose."

NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES

ON TWITTER AFTER SPEAKING AT THIRD PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

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