Derrell Bradford of NYCAN has penned a piece in response to the recent ad by Families For Excellent Schools that juxtaposes two young boys from New York City, one white from a middle class zip code and one black from a lower income zip code. Bradford draws on his own experience as a New Yorker as well his knowledge of the facts as they pertain to education to assert that unpleasant and ugly as it may be, the ad depicts the truth.
That New York is segregated—by everything—is old news, which is why it’s so shocking to see the umbrage over a recent ad run by Families for Excellent Schools. The ad features two kids in New York: one white and wealthy, one black and low-income. It features a narrative about how their zip codes and their schooling will ultimately dictate the sort of life chances they have: one college, the other unknown. All of this is to say the commercial features that most important and terrible of elements: the truth.
The truth hurts and this one is a punch in the face. But instead of acknowledging it, folks want to call foul. Instead of accepting that the treatment and education of black children in New York is very much about the color of their skin—and acknowledging the expectations and circumstances that go along with that—people want to shoot the messenger. How can we not see—in the city that gave us Eric Garner and campaigns to dump policing polices people felt targeted black and brown males for the color of their skin—that there are similar racial dynamics at play in our schools?
Denial is a powerful analgesic but it can’t bring our boys back to life or take away the hurt our children and our communities feel when we relegate them to underperforming schools. And let’s be serious, if 400,000+ white children in New York were going to underperforming schools we would not be having a discussion about an ad. We’d be applauding a solution that had already been implemented.