We just celebrated the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday. King was, and is, a hero of mine. I dispute those who say that if King were alive today, he would embrace the Black Lives Matter movement. I mention this because a group of Philadelphia Public School teachers are celebrating and embracing the movement in their schools all next week.
King awakened the conscience of Americans that the treatment of African-Americans was a national disgrace. His message was that all lives must matter. The Caucus of Working Educators, sponsors of the upcoming week supporting Black Lives Matter, has anticipated this contrast.
On its website www.workingeducators.org, the group poses objections to this week's celebration by saying, what if people say that the schools already say they are already teaching that every person is to be valued?
Its answer is: "But this is not about respect and kindness. This is about unpacking your backpack of privilege with your students, which will help them understand their own identities and how that shapes our society. Relying on colorblind rhetoric around kindness and tolerance only perpetuates the issues at hand and does nothing to challenge structural racism and white supremacy."
So, I guess "I Have a Dream" is a quaint notion. I guess a group based on the lie that cops are routinely killing black people because of racism must be given center stage. This brings me to how the educators respond to questions about the police.
They pose this question: "As a teacher who is married to a police officer, I am not down with Black Lives Matter. Isn't this just about black rage at the police?" They answer, "The police are also victims of our society's push towards mass incarceration and under-funded schools and social services."
I don't think that BLM considers police to be victims and that the police only consider themselves victims of a system that won't let them enforce the law.
In fact, a recent Pew Research Center survey of 8,000 cops nationwide found 93 percent said they're more concerned about safety, 76 percent said that they're more reluctant to use force when appropriate, and 75 percent said interactions between police and blacks have become more tense. The conclusion that the so-called "Ferguson effect" — officers backing off policing out of fear that their actions will be questioned after the fact — is a reality. Black Lives Matter is the main group driving this result.
The Philadelphia School District has not approved of this week in which BLM will be celebrated. Its statement says: "We support all children and their academic success. We are fully invested in the lives of all of our students and we have regular forums and avenues throughout the district for students to express themselves and learn."
This is a classic failure to take a position.
I've debated the architects of this week on radio and TV, and their major defense is that their focus will be on the 13 guiding principles of the Black Lives Matter movement. They argue that they are not merely an anti-police outfit, but a group with an entire agenda that would be good for minority communities.
Some of the principles are commendable. They affirm gays and transgendered people and oppose ageism.
However, Roland C. Warren, an African-American man writing in the Washington Times, is critical of their goal of "disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure." He notes that, to a large degree, this has already happened to the black community. He notes that only 34 percent of black children — down from 67 percent in 1960 — are raised in homes with married mothers and fathers. This hardly seems like a guiding principle for students in Philadelphia Public Schools.
The mainstreaming of Black Lives Matter next week is a divisive move. Coming a week after Martin Luther King Day, BLM week is an example of dysfunction in the public schools. I'll be very interested in hearing what students learn from the week. My guess is it won't be very much.