Want to overcome poverty and racial injustice? Change the educational system. Evangelicals, Justice, and Race #20

Want to overcome poverty and racial injustice? Change the educational system. Evangelicals, Justice, and Race #20 December 5, 2022

In July-December of 2021, I made a series of 19 posts on the issue of race and injustice. Much of the research for those posts had extended over the previous several years.

NB: I have included a number of links in this post to previous posts of mine addressing various issues. I would strongly encourage you to take the time to read the relevant posts.

I must say that it was a troublesome few years for me.

After all, as I noted in my post from Oct 5, 2021,

  • I had never heard of peonage or convict-leasing.
  • I did not know what Jim Crow laws were.
  • I had no understanding of how segregation adversely affected people of color.
  • I had never heard of “sunset/sundown towns.”[1]
  • I did not know what Juneteenth was.
  • I had no idea that the “war on drugs” was racially driven.
  • I was unaware of voter disenfranchisement.
  • I had never heard of “the talk,” which all Black parents must give their children.[2]

As a result of my research, I learned that I have been one of the beneficiaries of our system of racial injustice. As I noted in my post from July 27, 2021, “I have begun to learn that much of my dream has come about from the nightmare of others.”

In my post from Oct 5, 2021, I also commented, “I do not deny my own complicity in this. I recognize that I am responsible.” Then I asked, “How could it be that a person who was reared in the American public school system and has a bachelor’s degree in history from a state university never knew any of this?”

I should note that I honestly began the research not knowing whether or not the claims of systemic racial injustices were legitimate.

Of course, I came out of the research convinced that systemic racial injustice not only exists but that things are far worse than I could ever have imagined.

Present effects of our past systemic racial injustice

For those who do not believe that systemic racial injustice exists any longer, I noted in my post of Sept 28, 2021, that even if systemic racial injustice was not a present reality, the past injustices have been so great that it is equivalent to a 100-meter race in which many of the participants get a 50-meter head start.

In all honesty, I now look back and I am not sure that this was an appropriate analogy. I think today I would say that some people have a 99-meter head start, while others are not allowed to eat or drink ahead of the race, the track they have to run on is not paved, and they have no shoes.

Inequities in the educational system

The problem, which I didn’t know until I began my research for these posts, is that the educational system in the US is not equitable. I thought the US was well ahead of most countries in the world because it provides free education to every child.

It was then that I came to learn, as I noted in my post on Sept 14, 2021, that the primary source of funding for our schools is property taxes.

This is systemic racism. There is no way around it. How so? White communities are almost without exception more affluent and, therefore, their schools are better funded!

Note this article in the Atlantic: The Data Are Damning: How Race Influences School Funding.

The article notes that there is some state funding for public schools but even this money is doled out based on race. Some states, like Pennsylvania, have even made cuts to public education funding. As a result, schools in poor areas have had to cut the number of teachers, administrators, and school nurses, and some have had to close.

The Atlantic article adds, “White flight has left low-income, minority students in failing urban public schools. The compounding issue of low-income neighborhoods and scarce (or biased) funding leaves such schools with little money or resources to educate their students, and thus little hope of breaking the poverty cycle.”

Why am I revisiting this topic?

I am addressing this topic again because a new Freddie Mac report has become available that confirms that systemic racism with regard to home values is still prevalent.

Again, we must understand that home values are critical, at least the way the system is currently set up, for determining the amount of funding that public schools receive.

NB: this is to say nothing at this point with regard to the advantages of a community that has increased home values.

As I said in my post on Sept 14, 2021, “If we want to address the question of whether or not systemic racism is a factor in the US one need look no further than the educational system. Persons of color, who disproportionately constitute the students in urban schools, are disadvantaged from the start simply because of where they live. If education is one of the primary means to overcoming poverty and economic injustices, it seems as though persons of color are seriously disadvantaged.

NB: When I use “people of color” in this post I am primarily referring to Blacks and Latinos. I will address injustices against Asians and other such groups in future posts. I have also addressed gender injustice in a series of 14 posts beginning Mar 30, 2021, through July 5, 2021.

My concern is that many may not see the gravity of the problem. After all, we might surmise, “is this not where people of color have chosen to live? The answer is “nope.”

Most people of color did not choose to live in poor neighborhoods or urban ghettos. We put them there!

As I wrote in my post on Sept 28, 2021, the US housing industry has a history of blatant racism. That is right: local, state, and federal laws were set up that virtually prohibited people of color from purchasing homes in more prosperous communities.

In other words, the reason people of color predominately live in ghettos, inner cities, and depressed suburban areas, is because we made sure they didn’t live outside them!

[NB: For a detailed discussion of this topic, I highly recommend Richard Rothstein’s, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, which provides significant details on how government policies segregated every major city in the US and the disastrous effects this had on persons of color]

Freddie Mac report on racial bias in housing appraisals from 2016-2020

Recently Freddie Mac launched an investigation into racial bias in housing appraisals. They reviewed 12 million home appraisals from 2016-2020. Their conclusion: when compared to the contract price of a home Black and Latino homeowners routinely receive lower appraisal values for their homes than Whites.

The report states Freddie Mac reported, “Appraisers’ opinions of value are more likely to fall below the contract price in Black and Latino census tracts, and the extent of the gap increases as the percentage of Black or Latino people in the tract increases.”

In other words, as of 2016-2020, the color of the homeowners and the residents in the neighborhood affects the valuation of their home. Note that this valuation was based on the contract price of the home.

The report went on to say, “Black and Latino applicants receive lower appraisal values than the contract price more often than White applicants.”

The report concluded, “Our preliminary modeling results suggest that even when taking structural and neighborhood characteristics into consideration, a property is more likely to receive an appraisal lower than the contract price if it is in a minority tract.”

What is the significance of this? A CBS report, citing the Brookings Institute senior fellow Andre Perry, stated, “What you have is arguably the most data-rich organization issuing a scathing report about appraisers. [Freddie Mac is] the utmost authority on housing, and they’re basically saying there’s appraiser bias that’s robbing people of wealth.”

So how do we change this system?

First, and this is something that can be done, we need to change the educational system in the US. We need to provide all children with the same educational opportunities. There is no question that education is a primary means of overcoming poverty.

NB: it is also a major means of overcoming crime.

What can we do? We live in a country in which your voice counts. So use it.

  • First, continue to learn.
    1. Talk with administrators and educators in inner city and poorer school districts.
    2. Ask how you can help.
    3. Do a google search on ways you can get involved to help equal the playing field when it comes to education.
    4. Then prayerfully discern how you should use your time and resources.
  • Tell others. Engage others in the conversation. Have them read this post, other links, podcasts, or group discussions. Our democratic system only works when there are enough voices.
  • Volunteer, serve. we can help offset the inequities of resources by being a resource in the present.
  • Help teachers in your local communities provide paper and pencils, textbooks, computers, and other such resources that they need so they can do their job well. Or give them a gift card for a free dinner to reward them for their sacrifice.

 

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[1] While researching, I stumbled upon this article in the Atlantic, “The Roots of Route 66: America’s favorite highway usually evokes nostalgia. But for Black Americans, the Mother Road’s lonely expanses were rife with danger.” https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/11/the-roots-of-route-66/506255/. Last accessed 9-22-20.

[2] I good film one might consider watching is The Hate You Give.

About Rob Dalrymple
Rob Dalrymple is married to his wife Toni and is the father of four fabulous children, and two grandchildren. He has been teaching and pastoring for over 33 years at colleges, seminaries, and the local church. He has a PhD in biblical interpretation. He is the author of four books (including Follow the Lamb: A Guide to Reading, Understanding, and Applying the Book of Revelation & Understanding the New Testament and the End Times: Why it Matters) as well as numerous articles and other publications. He is currently completing a commentary on the book of Revelation titled, “Revelation: a Love story” (Cascade Books, pending 2024). You can read more about the author here.

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