“Black Education Matters”

As part of MLK week, Bellevue College hosted a talk on Thursday, Jan. 21 by Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade, who talked about the state of the schooling system in America as well as the difference between schooling and education. Schooling, Duncan-Andrade said, is “the process of institutionalizing people to accept the conditions that they’re faced with in their life,” while education teaches an “understanding that you have a responsibility to change those conditions.” He then went on to show why he believes that the U.S. schooling system is unfair to people who are not privileged and white.

Duncan-Andrade started off with an example from history. He talked about the last Incan king, Tupac Amaru, who was king when the conquistadors first came to the Americas. They killed him in a way that demonstrated their military might in order to nullify his power over his people. Despite their success, Amaru’s influence lasted long enough for one of the conquistadors to write about him in his final will. From this will, Duncan-Andrade quoted a description of the Incan empire prior to the Spanish invasion, which said that Amaru governed his people so well that there was no crime in the kingdom. The conquistador then went on to write that he felt guilty about destroying the Incan empire. The idea that the Incans and Native Americans were “savages,” as early colonials called them, was not even believed by one of the men who helped destroy the Incan Empire.

Duncan-Andrade then related this to schooling, saying that as well as not being more violent, black people are also just as smart as white people. Geometry, he said, is originally from Africa and South America. “So how is it possible,” he asked, “That black and [Native American] children fail at math?” Cultural studies on education conducted at University of California, Berkeley, where Duncan-Andrade received his education, state that white, rich people “see school as a good thing” while poor people are “culturally deficient. We sag our pants, wear our hats sideways.” Duncan-Andrade, however, argued against this viewpoint. He said that rich, white kids do all of the same things that everyone else does. They don’t act different, Duncan-Andrade said, they’re just seen as different. An example he gave was that poor kids get locked up if they are caught doing drugs, but rich white kids get counseling. “They get support,” he said. “They get statements like ‘you just have teen angst.’” According to Duncan-Andrade, this is the reason black, poor people fail more often than whites. “Same actions, different responses from society,” he said.

These people who are seen differently typically come from communities of poverty, and according to Duncan-Andrade, it is a fight against the people from rich, white communities to get into colleges. There are many people in those poor communities who do make it to college and get a successful job, but then they don’t come back, said Duncan-Andrade. “You become a part of a community,” he said, “that did not invest in you, but is more than happy to take the resources that you bring.” These resources, Duncan-Andrade said, are taken from a community that could really use them, and are put into a community that has a fair amount of resources already. What he suggests is bringing these resources back to the community that did invest in that individual and using them to make the next generation’s battle more fair.

Duncan-Andrade ended with a call to “stand up for your family. Stand up for your community,” and urged his audience to “fight to end unjust suffering in your community and in society.”