Public School Closures Are An Attack On Arkansans Of Color

Dr. Anika T. Whitfield

The Little Rock School District is not as much under attack as are the innocent children that represent the majority of students that are currently attending schools in our district: black and brown children who come from predominantly low-income homes.

Like many major metropolitan cities in the United States, Little Rock is experiencing the evils of unfounded and manufactured fear about black and brown children that translates beyond white flight (as we experienced soon after the Brown vs. Board of Education in Topeka, Kansas ruling in 1954) and into a calculated systemic effort by U.S. billionaires, like the Walton Family ― who are natives of Arkansas ― to create a new form of discrimination: charter (private-public) schools and voucher systems. And, as they have been successful in doing so in many vulnerable cities like Detroit, Chicago, New Orleans and Philadelphia, they have also been successful in increasing their prison industrial system to meet the demands of their calculated systems of racism and classism. Together, these systems have been intentionally created to fester more criminal activity in the very neighborhoods and communities that are now absent of public schools.

In Little Rock, there is no coincidence that as the LRSD administration decided to close public schools, they have primarily closed schools that are in predominantly black and predominantly low-income communities. As a result, one can draw contiguous lines between public, neighborhood school closures and the increase in crimes, arrests, food deserts and a significant decrease in economic development, property value and access to healthy recreation, which further weakens and marginalizes those remaining in these communities.

Innocent black and brown children in our city are being violated by state laws that protect the interest of the billionaires.

There likely would have been no “Gangbanging in Little Rock,” had there been support from LRSD administrators, the city of Little Rock, and business community members to prevent the closure of Ish Elementary School (1980s) and Garland Elementary School (1990s). Innocent black and brown children in our city are being violated by state laws that protect the interest of the billionaires in our state and country that see the most vulnerable children in our communities as cash cows (property rather than human beings).

We cannot continue to allow this to happen. I will continue with others not only to resist but to educate and to organize more active support for reclaiming our public schools, our neighborhoods and communities. Until we ensure that all of our public school systems are working to educate all children, then democracy is a word without meaning in the United States of America. 

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.