“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
Perhaps the most momentous phrase ever uttered, these words serve as an aide-mémoire of this nation’s commitment to a just and equal society. However, there are several areas of concern within our present society that would suggest we have strayed from the pathway of liberty and justice for all. The history of race relations within this country has been one full of tumult to say the least. People of color have been oppressed, stigmatized, and disenfranchised across nearly every facet of society. The wounds caused by this systematic dehumanization are deep and conspicuous.
The 1954 Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education assured that the children of this nation, irrespective of their skin color, would receive equal education. In many places across America, and certainly in the city of Atlanta, this has not played out. In the Atlanta Public Schools, students who identified as Black or Hispanic account for nearly 85% of the student population. Given this, the trends occurring within this school district are certainly an area of concern. Although white students account for less than 12% of the student population, they represent over 40% of students enrolled in gifted programs. This is certainly an overrepresentation. Meanwhile, Black and Hispanic students are overrepresented in a much different statistic. These two groups of students account for 99% of all expulsions, 97% of all out-of-school suspensions, and 98% of all school related arrests. These numbers are not only frightening, they are consequential. In this country, education is the primary vehicle for upward social mobility. If a child is denied quality education, they are implicitly placed on a path towards degradation. Even though, the 1954 Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education desegregated the school system throughout the country, it is crucial to acknowledge that it did not dictate the extermination of inequality in education between races. The minority communities are still underrepresented in classrooms and are limited by the insufficient funds to their local school systems. Furthermore, the Georgia Board of Regents is depriving the State of Georgia of an estimated of $10 million per year to state and local coffer by denying DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and undocumented students the opportunity to pay in-state tuition at any public institutions in Georgia. The outcome of this economic deprivation is the prohibition of many students of color to become more skilled and provide a higher earning workforce to the state of Georgia.
Although far off, there is hope that this country will someday live out an authentic rendition of social justice. Testament to America’s ability to grow and accept change, albeit slow and painful, can be observed throughout history. When one considered the unspeakable treatment of minority groups such as Blacks, Asians, and Latinos when they first arrived to this country, in comparison to their treatment now, the positive improvement in undeniable. This is sufficient evidence that this is a struggle worth enduring. This nation is entrenched with prejudice and deep-rooted hatred, but we can move past that. It will take a complete upheaval of our present value system and, in all likelihood, our undying commitment to the present social hierarchy will likely have to be sacrificed. But, just as such system were constructed, they can be torn down. Just as racially charges policies such as the War on Drugs were enacted, they can be repealed. Just as the dark sentiments of the past have produced unfortunate racial tension, we can redirect those feelings now so that in the future this country will be more committed to authentic liberty and justice for all.
Thank you for taking the time to read, “Education” by Xavier Henderson. If you enjoyed this article or it has moved you in any way, please consider supporting the Joseph and Evelyn Lowery Institute for Justice & Human Rights at www.loweryinstitute.org. Let us be the change!