"My blood is boiling about DeVos. It's deeply personal. Story time.
In 3rd grade, my single mother moved us from Alabama to Houston. Because she's a sneaky badass, she took advantage of the fact that Houston has no zoning laws & always found the cheapest tear-down apartment for us to rent, squished between beautiful, million dollar homes. She did this so I could attend good local public magnet schools. This made it possible for me to have access to outstanding arts programs in public schools for almost my entire education.
Sure, there were some disadvantages. It was hard for me to assimilate to the culture of upper-middle-class whiteness, I was bullied because of difference, moms called me a "bad influence" on their children or told me that my mother should be raising me better.
But the benefits outweighed all of this. From a young age, I was told by teachers that I was gifted, and smart, and artistically talented. I was given the validation to see myself as creative, as someone who can build a life on an artistic practice. And all the while, I was learning the cultural practices of whiteness, learning to speak the language spoken by wealthy people. And I don't want to participate in that world anymore, but it's a choice I made. But if I wanted to succeed in it, I know the language. I could.
I'm forever grateful for my experience at The High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Here's the beauty of HSPVA, a public magnet school. It didn't matter where you lived, the only way you could get in was by an talent-based audition. White, black, undocumented, lower class, upper middle class -- it didn't matter who you were. All that mattered is that every single parent wanted their artistic child to be at HSPVA, and there was no amount of bribing that any parent could do to get their child in. Admission was based on talent alone.
This means that in high school, I was surrounded by people from extremely different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. But every single one of us was told that we were valuable, and worthy, and talented enough to make it as an artist if we put in enough work and learned how to be professional.
Learning professionalism at HSPVA is how I nailed the interview for the Terry Scholarship, which gave me a free college education. Sure, I was faced with the reality of class difference when I realized that I couldn't afford to go to private liberal arts school like some of of my friends. But I also got a debt-free degree that even paid for me travel the world, twice. And now I'm living and working at an arts institution. And then I'm moving to Brooklyn, because I believe that I can be a successful contributing member of a competitive arts community, even if everyone around me has more money. Because I'm not intimidated by Brooklyn. It's what magnet schools have trained me for. It's what I've learned how to do my whole life.
Here's what would happen to me and all of the people I went to a public magnet school with if we lived under DeVos as education secretary:
The white, wealthy kids who taught me how to infiltrate their world would go to religious private schools. They would be forced to learn Christianity. They would only know how to interact with other rich, white people. There would be a decline in white liberalism. Some of the best white allies who I know and love are people who went to my high school, kids who care about the lives of brown and black folks because they were surrounded by their magic for four years in high school.
The white liberals of today, people who are working slowly but surely to create more opportunities for QPOC in the institutions they run, would go to private schools and learn about Christianity and never have to come in contact with a person of color. They would learn to perpetuate white supremacy.
People like me, middle class kids, would go to charter schools. I would be able to go to a charter school because my mom would be able to drive me there. I would not learn about art, or learn how to speak the language of wealthy whiteness to my advantage, or be valued as significantly gifted in any way. I would get an okay education, but decidedly not an education that's better than any other public school. Maybe I would go to college, maybe not. I would work a low wage administration job, and never have the opportunity to consider myself valuable enough to be a writer or an artist in any serious way. It's not a tragedy, but it's not my best life.
The people less privileged than me in high school would find themselves living without public schools in an educational desert. They wouldn't go to charter schools, because charter schools aren't required to provide meals or transportation to students. The students who silently survived on free lunches would have no more guaranteed meals every day. The students who rely on school busses to get them to school would simply be unable to go to school. Charter schools are going to create educational deserts that specifically target low income black and brown students, point blank. Students who are already struggling in the public school system are simply not going to be able to attend school anymore.
And it's going to make class mobility nonexistent. People in the upper and middle classes will continue to be fine and have jobs, though everyone will have less ability to live their best lives or have the freedom to figure out what they want to do based on their passions.
But for low income black and brown students, this is the nail in the coffin for the American Dream. It's fucking urgent and terrifying and heartbreaking and it affects all of my friends that I've ever had throughout the years, people who are black and brown and undocumented, people who are building incredible artistic careers right now.
I don't know what happens next, but I'm sure as fuck going to fight for public education. I'm going to fight for magnet schools. I'm going to say Fuck You to charters or vouchers or any other privatized scheme that DeVos has up her sleeves."