As school districts across the country grapple with deepening segregation, Afrocentric schools in Brooklyn, N.Y., are drawing more interest from parents and educators alike.
In a story published by the New York Times last week, reporter Eliza Shapiro spoke to the teachers, administrators, and parents of students enrolled in the “half-dozen or so” city schools with Afrocentric curriculums.
Currently, those schools enroll about 2,300 students and include private and charter schools, as well as public high schools. As Shapiro writes, any principal can adopt a black-centric curriculum “with black teachers, and a focus on black culture in literature, history and art classes” provided it’s approved by the city and meets state educational standards.
As Lurie Daniel Favors, whose son attends a predominantly black middle school, told Shapiro, integration in a lot of school systems—New York City included—has fallen short of delivering quality, equitable educations to black students.
“Even if integrated education worked perfectly—and our society spent the past 60-plus years trying—it’s still not giving black children the kind of education necessary to create the solutions our communities need,” she said.
New York City Schools in particular are among the most racially and economically segregated school systems in the country, despite also being one of the most diverse. And plans to address the deep inequality in the school system—where impoverished and high-need students are concentrated in schools that are poorly resourced—have put parents, educators, and administrators at odds with each other (among the most notable examples: a contentious meeting between affluent Upper West Side parents fighting back against a proposed plan to reserve a percentage of seats for low-income students).
But even in integrated, high-performing schools, concerns have arisen among black parents across the country about the impact majority-white environments and curriculums could have on their children. These concerns—covering everything from microaggressions and hate speech to black children being over-punished and over-policed—have helped spur an increase in the number of black parents homeschooling their children.
As Favors told the Times, her son was previously enrolled in a racially diverse school:
Things began to go awry in third grade, when, she said, a white child called her son a “slave” and took issue with his comment that the ancient Greeks were inspired by ancient Egyptian innovations.
The white student told his parents that Ms. Favors’s son was calling him racist. The white student’s parents called the school, Ms. Favors said, and the school demanded that her son apologize to his classmate.
City Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza said he supports Afrocentric schools, which reinforce positive notions of blackness and black pride and tend to have higher numbers of teachers of color:
“Often when you talk about integration, it’s about taking black kids out of their schools and sending them into white schools,” he said in an interview. “Rarely is it about, ‘How do you have other kids come into traditionally black schools and find value?’
“If there’s a school that says that’s what we want to focus on,” he said, referring to Afrocentric schools, “I think we should be very supportive of that.”
But some education advocates caution against abandoning integration altogether. Andre Perry, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, warned that relying too heavily on separating students could be dangerous.
“Segregation leads to inequality,” he said. “If you’re going to ignore this issue, it will come back to haunt you.”