We Want to Do More Than Survive

Title: We Want to Do More Than Survive

Author: Bettina Love

Overview: Part biography and part critique of the US educational system. This highlighted a lot of important and often overlooked aspects of life for BIPOC youth in America. She calls attention to points that seem “fair” on the surface but the end result of which is obviously biased to a significant degree. Well worth the read. Thank Kirsten Thornton for the recommendation.


  • Male doctors make about $20,000 more per year than female doctors.3 White male doctors make about $65,000 more than Black male doctors. Black female doctors make $25,000 less than White female doctors.4 White male, Black male, and White female doctors all make more than Black female doctors. Black female doctors are paid less because of their race and their gender. Their pay is not an indication of skill level or education; it is an example of the intersections of discrimination.
  • Black girls are suspended at a rate that is six times higher than that of their White female peers. In 2012, in New York City, fifty-three Black girls were expelled compared with zero White girls. In every state in America, Black girls are more than twice as likely to be suspended from school as White girls. And darker-skinned Black girls are suspended at a rate that is three times greater than those with lighter skin.
  • words of Michael Hames-García: “The very fact of freedom’s incompleteness (no one is free so long as others remain unfree) necessitates action directed at changing society. Freedom, therefore, is ultimately a practice, rather than a possession or a state of being.”
  • The four major testing companies—Pearson Education, Educational Testing Service, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and McGraw-Hill—make $2 billion a year in revenue while spending $20 million a year lobbying for more mandated student assessments.16 Prisons bring in $70 billion a year in revenue, and its industry spends $45 million a year lobbying to keep people incarcerated and for longer sentences.17
  • Abolitionist teaching is refusing to take part in zero-tolerance policies and the school-to-prison pipeline. Demanding restorative justice in our schools as the only schoolwide or districtwide approach to improving school culture. Refusing the idea that children do not need recess and insisting that all children need to play. Abolitionist teaching ensures that students feel safe in schools and that schools are not perpetrators of violence toward the very students they are supposed to protect. Abolitionist teaching is calling out your fellow teachers who degrade and diminish dark children and do not think dark children matter—we must demand that they leave the profession; we have to call them out. Abolitionist teaching stands in solidarity with parents and fellow teachers opposing standardized testing, English-only education, racist teachers, arming teachers with guns, and turning schools into prisons. Abolitionist teaching supports and teaches from the space that Black Lives Matter, all Black Lives Matter, and affirms Black folx’ humanity.
  • Teachers who say they are deeply concerned about social justice or that they “love all children” but cannot say the words “Black Lives Matter” have no real understanding of what social justice is and what it truly means to love, find joy, and appreciate their students and their students’ culture.
  • Charter school networks such as Success Academy and KIPP popularized aggressive, paternalistic, and racist ideological teaching practices on dark bodies. The boards of directors operating these charter schools are typically composed of wealthy philanthropists, corporate foundations, and Wall Street hedge fund managers who believe dark children need discipline, character education, rudimentary academic skills, and full submission to White economic demands.33 In his book Work Hard, Be Hard: Journeys Through “No Excuses” Teaching, Jim Horn documents in great detail the unrelenting pressure on students to meet education benchmarks—what some KIPP school officials called the “plan of attack”—and the resulting suffering that dark families experience at charter schools.
  • In March 2016, the Civil Rights Project at UCLA released data from one of the largest studies ever to research school discipline records, involving more than 5,250 charter schools.35 The study found that charter schools suspend Black students and students with disabilities at highly disproportionate rates compared with White and nondisabled students. For example, the study reported that five hundred charter schools suspended Black students at a rate of 10 percentage points higher than their White peers.
  • Too often in schools we learn and teach about oppression and injustice, but rarely are we taught or do we teach how ordinary people fought for justice.
  • 37 percent of female and 28 percent of male prisoners have monthly incomes of less than $600 before their arrest.
  • Ella Baker, though her work is rarely discussed. She worked from the premise that “strong people don’t need strong leaders.”
  • In the state of Georgia, the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement gives out an actual award to schools called “Beating the Odds.” The award is calculated by “compar[ing] schools’ ability to teach based on student characteristics that are ‘outside the school’s control.’ Race, ethnicity, disabilities, English fluency, economic ‘disadvantage’ and transience” are all considered.11 In Georgia, only 40 percent of schools beat the odds.12 So, the state acknowledges that there are barriers that hinder students’ educational growth, but instead of eliminating English-only testing or funding education fully, it tests dark children specifically against odds they and their families did not create, knowing they cannot win.
  • according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, research has shown that children who experience high levels of toxic stress display impaired social and emotional understanding, along with learning disabilities and potential early death.13 Researchers believe that, because toxic stress creates neurobiological transformation in children, it should be seen and treated as a national health crisis. Dark children, especially those who are experiencing or have experienced toxic stress, do not need their grit measured or their character examined by researchers or school officials. They need culturally relevant therapy that teaches age-appropriate stress-reduction practices and they need mentors who understand what being a critical mentor means
  • Ella Baker once said that the “reduction of injustice is not the same as freedom.”2 The ultimate goal of abolitionist teaching is freedom. Freedom to create your reality, where uplifting humanity is at the center of all decisions.
  • There is no one way to be an abolitionist teacher. Some teachers will create a homeplace for their students while teaching them with the highest expectations; some will protest in the streets; some will fight standardized testing; some will restore justice in their classrooms; some will create justice-centered curriculums and teaching approaches; some will stand with their students to end gun violence in schools; some will fight to end the prison-industrial complex in and outside of schools; some will fight in the effort so communities can peacefully govern themselves to control their children’s education, housing, healthcare, and ideas about peace, justice, and incarceration; and some will do a combination of all of these.
  • Freedom dreaming gives teachers a collective space to methodically tear down the educational survival complex and collectively rebuild a school system that truly loves all children and sees schools as children’s homeplaces, where students are encouraged to give this world hell. This is why deep study and personal reflection on the history of the US is so important to abolitionist teaching. When an educator deeply understands why meaningful, long-term, and sustainable change is so hard to achieve in education because of all the forces antithetical to justice, love, and equity—such as racism, sexism, housing discrimination, state-sanctioned violence toward dark people, police brutality, segregation, hate-filled immigration policies, Islamophobia, school closings, the school-to-prison pipeline, and the prison-industrial complex—that is when freedom dreaming begins.
  • Recognizing and acknowledging White privilege is cute, but what does it mean without action? Dismantling White privilege is giving something up so Black folx can win. If folx with privilege are not using their privilege to demand justice and advocate for dark folx and all their identities, then they are complicit in White rage or male rage and thus are condoning injustice, violence, and the educational survival complex. By winning, I mean White folx ensuring that people of color are being paid equally or more than their White peers. White teachers demanding that schools hire more teachers of color. Silencing your White voice so dark folx’ voices can be heard.
  • Our schools and our teaching practices do not need to be reimagined; they need to be torn down and replaced with our freedom dreams rooted in participatory democracy and intersectional justice.
  • Teachers go into the field with limited understanding of the children they are teaching and how schools fail students, not the other way around, and therefore they believe we need more testing and zero-tolerance approaches, and that the system is just.
  • This need is why E. Patrick Johnson coined the term “quare” studies. Johnson defines quare in part as —adj. 2. a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered person of color who loves other men or women, sexually or nonsexually, and appreciates black culture and community. —n. 3. one who thinks and feels and acts (and, sometimes, “acts up”); committed to struggle against all forms of oppression—racial, sexual, gender, class, religious, etc. —n. 4. one for whom sexual and gender identities always already intersect with racial subjectivity. —n. 5. quare is to queer as “reading” is to “throwing shade.”32 Resistance and loving Blackness are essential elements of quare studies. You do not have to be lesbian, or a gay person, or a bisexual individual, or identify as transgendered to use and/or be quare. Quare studies is interested in the ways dark people subvert spaces, identities, and resources to ensure our survival. We all need quare studies as a lens for liberation, freedom, and abolitionism.