by Dr. Herukhuti
A lot of people liked, shared, and discussed yesterday’s article, Juneteenth: Lessons for My Brother’s Keeper. Of the criticisms of the article was the claim that I did not provide any specific alternative solutions. The last paragraph of the article offered a vision that some felt did not give them sufficient specificity in what I would advocate. I stated:
We can continue the work to uproot, dismantle and heal from the American nightmare that is imperialist white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy. That work will not come out of or be endorsed by the White House. It will not have corporate sponsorship. It will not get you a show on MSNBC or a job as a political commentator on CNN. But it will get you and everyone else a more just world.
With that critique in mind, I offer these alternative policy initiatives in the areas of education and economics for both the grassroots (i.e., what we can do for ourselves) and those folks who believe in State politics (e.g., government, electoral system, financial system, lobbying, etc.). I have deliberately limited my discussion to two areas in the interest of time/space and also because a more extended presentation of my ideas is forthcoming.
The public education system has contributed to our miseducation, indoctrination and addiction to imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist heteropatriarchy. Joel Spring has covered this history superbly in his works Deculturalization and the Struggle for Equality: A Brief History of the Education of Dominated Cultures in the United States and The American School, A Global Context: From the Puritans to the Obama Administration. Teachers unions and charter school advocates, oftentimes at odds, both have vested interests in maintaining these conditions. The following policy initiatives will help greatly in advancing the mission of tearing down the system we currently have and building one that is more socially just and ecologically healthy.
Until liberation is achieved and as a way to advance liberation, we should supplement the formal educational system with informal, grassroots systems in the tradition of the teach in and Freedom Schools, as well as create alternative formal educational systems in the tradition of Uhuru Sasa Shule. This is necessary work because in order to uproot and dismantle this system more people need to have the critical thinking skills to successfully analyze, critique, contextualize, synthesize information that helps them understand the system and envision alternatives that don’t replicate it.
We should also form strategic alliances with teachers unions to hold charter school advocates accountable to community needs for education and standards of excellence rather than corporate interests in having docile, uncritical workers to increase their profits. We should simultaneously form strategic alliances with charter school advocates to hold teacher unions accountable to weeding out teachers who neither come from our communities nor have an invested interest in the liberation of our communities.
Revamp the Common Core Standards Initiative to:
- Include critical thinking standards for students’ ability to analyze, critique, contextualize, and synthesize social reality and dynamics
- Include citizenship and social responsibility standards for students’ ability to organize for social change, mobilize community action, and work collaboratively toward a more socially just and ecologically healthy world
- Include standards in all curriculum areas for students’ knowledge of mathematics, social studies, science, arts, and the humanities (e.g., history, literature, language, etc.) that is multicultural and destabilizes Eurocentrism, heteropatriarchy, and neoliberal capitalism
In educational policy debates, discuss teacher union resistance to reforms in teacher accountability standards and teacher removal processes with a racial politics lens i.e., a teacher union system in which a mostly middle-class, European descent union leadership has, for decades, dominated the discussion of education and marginalized the voices of teachers of color and communities of color served by teachers. Discuss charter school and Teach for America with a racial lens, i.e., middle-class, people of European descent, with a missionary or savior complex, who feel they know what works best for communities of color imposing an agenda that supports the interests of corporations and the wealthy.
The United States has never been a democracy. You can not create a democracy and be a slave State. Slavery was an economic system that undermined the United States’ ability to develop democracy as its political system. The United States’ brand of capitalism continues to suffocate the democratic life out of the body politics of the nation. Oliver Cromwell Cox, in his book, Race: A Study in Social Dynamics and Sheldon Wolin, in his book, Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and Inverted Totalitarianism provide a clear picture of the breadth and depth of these dynamics.
Until liberation is achieved and as a way to advance liberation, we should supplement the formal economic system with community economic systems that provide sustainable sources of economic vitality, sustainability and resourcefulness in the tradition of sou-sous, bartering networks, and cooperatives. These methods of economic self-determination and resistance can be used at all levels of the class hierarchy. And we can use each of the various resources available to us in these methods including cash money, credit, knowledge, skills, social currency, goods, services, etc.
Pursue the study and implementation of reparations for the slave system, Jim Crow, and white supremacy. This would include an assessment of the damage, an accounting of those responsible and aggrieved, the development of a plan for remedies that are explicitly and specifically tied to the damage assessment, and an allocation of funds to implement the plan for remedies. This is a very different approach in contrast to the approaches of the Great Society programs, which did not take an assessment of the damage of the slave system, Jim Crow, and white supremacy. Without a clear understanding of the root causes of the problem, the Great Society Task Forces, modeling how not to solve problems as precursors to the current My Brother’s Keeper Task Force, created policy recommendations that addressed symptoms of the problems. If the work of State politics is to have the desired impact , the approach has to be grounded in a clear understanding of root causes and an accurate assessment of the damage. For more on the case for reparations and the Reparations Movement see the following: