Bradford: For Black Families Focused on Education, the NAACP Just Committed ‘the Worst Kind of Betrayal’
Baltimore, a city affectionately known as Charm City, holds a special place in my heart as my hometown. During my childhood, Mayor Kurt Schmoke emphasized the importance of education in his inaugural address, stating that his ultimate goal was for Baltimore to be recognized as a city of avid readers.
However, the past three decades have been marked by turmoil and inadequate education, leading many, including myself, to bestow a different, and unfortunately indelible, nickname upon Baltimore: "The City That Burned."
Given this context, it is almost surreal to witness the NAACP, an organization known for fighting for black rights and opportunities, issuing a set of stringent restrictions on charter schools during their national convention in Charm City. This city has become a symbol for the struggle for black progress, making the irony difficult to overlook.
Just a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to participate in a debate on the NAACP’s moratorium on charter schools, hosted by the NYC Bar Association. One of the board members, a former executive of Goldman Sachs, represented the organization during the discussion and seemed reasonable. In the midst of our exchange, I allowed myself to entertain the hope that the NAACP had listened to the voices of black parents, children, advocates, and educators who have championed the benefits of charter schools. These voices all attest to the fact that charters provide valuable opportunities, and the NAACP, historically committed to advancing such opportunities, should not stand in their way.
Unfortunately, it appears that the NAACP’s leadership forgot about these voices when they assembled their recent polemical report on charter schools, which reads more like a manifesto. Their initial statement on charters may have had some elements worth deliberating, but the current report is devoid of any such merits.
However, the issue at hand extends beyond that. Black individuals in America are all too familiar with the disheartening experience of engaging with those in power, individuals who possess wealth, influence, and connections. We have grown accustomed to waiting for change, only to have our requests for equality dismissed or ignored by the "appropriate" authorities.
We understand all too well the mixed messages of potential progress and subsequent rejection that often accompany attempts to alter the way our government perceives and interacts with us. Disappointment has become an integral part of the black experience, but it is particularly distressing when the group causing this disappointment and hindering progress is led by individuals who look like us.
In the case of charter schools, where some of our nation’s best public schools are educating black children who face significant disadvantages, the NAACP’s disingenuous stance is nothing short of a betrayal.
In one of my favorite movies, The Matrix, Morpheus explains that there is a distinction between knowing the path and actually walking it. If the NAACP insists on taking this path against charter schools, I want no part in it, and many others undoubtedly share this sentiment.
In a city that once aspired for every black person to be well-read, the NAACP has chosen an agenda that prioritizes adults and union leaders over the well-being of black students attending charter schools. This decision is deeply disheartening and undermines the organization’s credibility.