October 3, 2019

As a New Father, Minnesota’s Failure to Support and Educate Black Children is Front and Center

By Reggie Evans

When a child comes into your life, it can feel like chaos comes with them. You may have a child that insists on wearing the same skirt/shirt/hat every day, no matter the occasion. Your child may decide—for no particular reason—that they will only eat French fries, even if there’s a perfectly good chicken tender right in front of them. It can feel like almost every part of raising a child is unpredictable. However, there is one thing that has become painfully predictable: Minnesota’s failure to support and educate black children.

Whether we’re talking about discipline disparities for three and four-year-olds or the achievement of black high schoolers compared to white ones, Minnesota has a not-so-nice history of letting black children down. What is it like to have to worry if your child will receive a less than adequate education simply because of their skin color? Unfortunately, a lot of Minnesota parents, including myself, don’t have to imagine too hard.

About a month ago, my first child was born … And ever since his arrival, I’ve been doing whatever I can to make sure he has the best possible future. In a few years, he’ll enter the education system, and I’ll have to grapple with some heavy questions.

About a month ago, my first child was born. He came early, because children are unpredictable, of course. And ever since his arrival, I’ve been doing whatever I can to make sure he has the best possible future. In a few years, he’ll enter the education system, and I’ll have to grapple with some heavy questions. Will school staff see my child as a “problem” because he’s not adequately engaged? Will he be given the same opportunities as other students? Will his school have the same offerings as other schools?

Becoming a father isn’t the first time I’ve pondered these questions—and more. I may be a new parent, but for quite some time, parents have come to me to seeking help in finding the right schools for their children. Mostly every parent I know wants a school that is culturally relevant to their child but also has high achievement.

My parents grappled with that reality. As a child, my parents decided to move and put my siblings and me into a suburban school district. They wanted us to have a better educational future. Their decision to move came down to acceptance vs. achievement. Were their kids going to be at a school where they felt a part of the community, or were they going to get taught well? They chose achievement. Because of their choice, my siblings and I got a pretty good education. We also endured exclusion, racism, and constant feelings of otherness. In the majority of our K-12 experience, my siblings and I were often one of a few black families in the entire school.

Being a parent is unpredictable. Yet, for many black parents, Minnesota’s failure to support and educate black children is a time-tested certainty. So, what will we do to change that? What will we do to make sure every child in Minnesota has a chance to succeed? When will the political will be strong enough to force real change?

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