Letter: We must stand together to repair historical wrongs

Graphic by Lori Deaton

[Regarding “Former Asheville Council Member Sues City, Asheville City Schools Foundation Over Scholarships,” Dec. 8, Xpress]: The lawsuit by Carl Mumpower and three families to block college scholarships for Black students is chilling. As white parents with children attending Asheville City Schools, we have wrestled with the moral imperative that comes from participating in a school system with the worst achievement gap in the state. This lawsuit highlights a critical question facing white parents in Asheville: What is our role to support the success of Black students within an educational system that has failed them?

We as white parents can choose to not hoard resources that advantage our children; listen to the priorities of Black students; support the school administration when policies shift that challenge our comfort but create more equity; and support increased educational opportunities for Black students.

We served on the board of the Asheville City Schools Foundation from 2019-21, when this scholarship was created. It was one of many initiatives to invest in opportunities for Black students. To prevent our community from continuing to fail our Black youths, white parents should demand that barriers to opportunities for Black youths are removed, and policies are implemented with an intentional focus on racial equity.

Passive approval of anti-racist efforts isn’t going to work against those who are increasingly organized to sue, elect and create fear to protect white supremacy culture and systems. Mr. Mumpower claims this is a “David versus Goliath” moment. We wonder who is the Goliath when undoing the legacy of white supremacy culture that sustains our educational system. Who is the Goliath protecting the status quo when two national conservative groups fund a legal battle for a small scholarship in Western North Carolina? We must stand loudly and visibly with our city, county, school system and nonprofits when they take action to repair historical wrongs.

— Rebecca Strimer and Kate Shem


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10 thoughts on “Letter: We must stand together to repair historical wrongs

  1. Mike R.

    If the authors are willing and able, I’d be interested in several specific examples that support the statement “to not hoard resources that advantage our (white) children”. And specifically examples that address the early years of schooling, which we all know is where the failure is occuring.
    Also, the same for the statement: “Black youths, white parents should demand that barriers to opportunities for Black youths are removed…..”. What are a couple of specifics regarding the barriers of which you are speaking. Again, in the early years of schooling.

    I have no doubt there is a huge achievement gap, not just in Asheville, but around the country. But I am equally convinced that school systems have more than leveled the playing field for black students. So again I’d be interested in where the author’s feel this is not the case and with specific examples.

    Thank you.

    • indy499

      Good luck. You’ll be waiting a long time. That piece is a just a regurgitation of nonsense from white libs guilty of something.

    • Kate Shem

      Thanks for your clarifying questions. We are assuming that by “the early years of schooling,” you are asking about elementary school.

      Here are a couple of examples that we’ve seen for hoarding resources:

      · The resource of time: When white parents have concerns/issues impacting their child, we can take up a LOT of time from school teachers and administrators – beyond what is reasonable to advocate for the supports of our own child. Rebecca has seen parents expect time/work from teachers and principals to give assignments while their families take vacations.

      · The resource of school budget allocations: The AIG program in Asheville City Schools is an example of this – it historically has overserved white students and also been over-funded relative to AIG programs across the state. This program starts in third grade.

      For examples for “barriers for black youth,” a few examples are:

      · Transportation: At Kate’s child’s school located in North Asheville, transportation is a huge barrier. Until this year, bussing was not provided in the ACS preschool locations beyond Asheville Primary. The preschool at Jones had available subsidized spots, but could not fill them because transportation was not being provided. Additionally, there is not a public transportation option that parents can take to get to the school – limiting parents’ access to participation. In Asheville this disproportionately impacts black residents.

      · Over-discipline of black children. Since the 2015-16 school year, “at least 66% of all Asheville City Schools students receiving short-term suspensions — lasting 10 days or less — have been Black, despite the district having a total Black population of about 20%.” (Citizen-Times, 6/28/21)

      Thanks for engaging in this conversation about how to support public education!

      Kate and Rebecca

      • Voirdire

        Thanks for your specific clarifications Kate and Rebecca…. and yeah, you’ve got some good points/suggestions here.

  2. Robert McGee

    To the writers: I wonder if you’ve also made attempts to educate white parents at your specific schools about how their self-absorbed entitled behavior robs others of time and resources.

  3. Mike R.

    Kate and Rebecca,

    Thank you for your response and for what I sense is your genuine concern for black youth.
    Unfortunately, many people look at the poor performance/achievement of black youth in our schools (national problem, not just Asheville) and assign the full cause to be racism. Decades back, I would have agreed with that assessment, but not today. I seem to be one of the few who believe that continuing failure of black youth in our schools is now a result of poor parenting, lack of parenting, lack of healthy family models and inadequate nurturing (emotional and educational) before these children even enter school. That is to say, the root of the problem now is not racism, but is in the black communities lack of ability to raise emotionally healthy educationally prepared children before entering school. Continuing to make racism the scapegoat, only provides excuses for what the black community needs to own up to and fix. I express these views with no malice or hatred or racism in my heart. I express these views in an attempt to identify the true cause of the problem so that it can be addressed and the responsibility not shirked.

    With regards to the last example listed, I would submit that the cited statistic (66% of short term suspensions were of black youth that compromise only 20% of the school population) can also be viewed to support my view above, if you believe as I do that those suspensions are not racially motivated. So a much higher percentage of black children are displaying disruptive and oppositional behavior; something that is not conducive to learning. They have to learn good behavior at home in their early years and before entering school for them to be successful in education, and frankly without that preparation, they will likely not succeed in spite of heroic attempts on the part of our teachers and school system.

    • Robert McGee

      Mike, you hit partly on what I was suggesting above when I asked the writers if they have tried to educate the white parents for their behavior (whether entitled or mindless or just sub-par parenting skills). I too agree that many issues are far too often generalized as racist. Racism is indeed a massive and perplexing problem in our nation and in our community, and we must continue to openly engage and work toward improvements. But even more horrifying: bad parenting in America, whether caused by those who are ill-equipped, impaired by socio-economic realities, mental disability, or, in the case of parents who drive their armed children to protests in neighboring states just plain Bad Parenting.

    • Voirdire

      I don’t know exactly what to say here other than placing the blame on the lack of nurturing parenting in the Black community is, well, beyond absurd, beyond the pale…. just flat out shocking to even think this notion is acceptable on any level, anywhere. What kind of white delusional Fox News bubble do you live in? And then to let us all know how in your heart of hearts that you don’t have a shred of racism in you… I’m sure you don’t… nor do have a shred of common sense left in that so far beyond reality it’s scary very white head of yours. I mean, this is just more of the absolute insanity we see every day in our country. You should be ashamed, honestly.

      • Mike R.

        I fully expected a response such as Voirdire above.

        Frankly, it takes a bit of courage to say what I’ve said. And it is based on direct and personal experience and (actual helping experience) with black families (mothers and children) over a period of a decade or so.
        Yes, I am clearly placing much of the cause on the black community (all levels) for their inability or unwillingness to recognize how detrimental raising these children in single mother households (or even by grandmother) struggling without a solid father (if not present in marriage at least willing to support financially). And often times multiple children by different fathers. These children are almost hopelessly ill prepared emotionally and educationally when entering school such that even herculean efforts by educators and community supporters can’t succeed. And yet people continue to blame the school system.

        I abhor Fox News. And my head is not white as some may have assumed.

        • Voirdire

          It takes “courage to say what you’ve said” ?? I rest my case.

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