You are reading

Op-Ed: The Time is Now: Reimagining the Student of Color Experience

Ebony Young and Family (Photo: Young For Queens)

Feb. 28, 2021 By Ebony Young

My history is rich, golden, and rooted in strong resilient people, and is a source of great pride.

Each February, the strength, tenacity, and dogged perseverance that is the history of African American people is recognized as a time of honor and inspiration around the world.

Yet this month encompasses more than just joy, especially to those of us who live black, wake up black, walk the streets black, and show up in corporate America black.

WE confront a different experience during this month of celebration.

While most only read to understand more about black history, those who have lived through times of devastation including ancestral trials, slavery, rape, molestation, maternal inequities, and so much more, WE see differently.

Much of the pain stems from the inability to be viewed as, and treated, equally. This is a pain that haunts us to this day.

Miseducation plays a major role in many of the inequities that persist. Many American public schools offer only sanitized versions of slavery and the Civil Rights movement, along with biographies of a handful of figures who Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called “palatable to white audiences.”

The American education system offers very little information about the long list of accomplishments of African American people.

If you are a parent who does not have black children, imagine your non-black child coming home with a handful of books that only show black people and their experiences alone. What kind of impact would that have on your non-black child?

Ebony Young (Photo: Young For Queens)

Imagine them not experiencing a world filled with the great accomplishments and successes of role models who looked just like them? What would those subliminal messages do to your child? Would that impact them as adults?

Black children are regularly exposed to an imbalanced representation of faces and people who look like them in their history, science, math, and English books. Thus, this traumatic experience subconsciously feeds their brains negative thoughts about themselves.

Now, imagine your child being educated in spaces in which 80 percent of the time, negative and painful representations are primarily reflected through images of people who look like them.

The school system is wrought with inequities that face our children of color. As a mother of two daughters in our public school system, I find this deeply concerning. An October 2020 article by Danielle Dreilinger of The Hechinger Report called “America’s gifted education programs have a problem. Can it be fixed?” brings light to one of the inequities against black students in education.

The article points out that “nearly 60 percent of students in gifted education are white, according to the most recent federal data, compared to 50 percent of public school enrollment overall. Black students, in contrast, made up 9 percent of students in gifted education, although they were 15 percent of the overall student population.”

Other inequities against students of color:

• zero or limited broad band access and internet bandwidth (made more prevalent during the
pandemic)
• a splintered pipeline to gain admittance to specialty high schools

These polarities have halted growth in the black community, and something must be done. The
disparities that currently sit at the core of our problems remain.

The time is now! Everybody must play a role in eradicating injustice by shifting the black American narrative to focus on economic empowerment, social equity, and community well-being. Education reform is imperative.

Updating the curriculum of public schools to reflect the advances and contributions of black people throughout American History by acknowledging visionaries like Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, a theoretical physicist, Marie Van Brittan Brown, inventor of the home security system, Otis Boykin, who improved the pacemaker, Charles Drew, a physician and medical researcher, Marian Croak, inventor of VoIP, Lisa Gelobter, a trailblazer in web animation who designed a program that was ultimately used in the creation of the GIF.

Our educational system should also trumpet economic advancement by training students on how to effectively build credit, the importance of investments and budgeting, and provide them with the skills to lead whole and balanced lives.

If elected as council member, I will go to city hall with the agenda of equality and access for all regardless of skin color.

Every child deserves the best education and experience possible so I would fight for:

• a better process for students to enter the gifted and talented programs such as measuring
disadvantaged kids against other kids like them,
• partnerships with corporations to decrease the digital divide,
• a better tracking method and pipeline to specialty high schools,
• curricula that tells the whole American story, including the contributions of people of color,
• coalitions to educate about and prevent hate crimes against our children of color, and
• more foreign language courses to be electives in our local schools.

We can all be involved in making a difference. Join me in taking action! BE the tutor, mentor, educator, planner, guardian, listener, and changemaker. BE The reason WHY our students desire to impact the world.

Our district is home to many non-profits and local organizations that would benefit from your help. Long Island City YMCA, Pursuit, LIC Relief, Sunnyside Community Services, The Black Entrepreneur Initiative, Urban Upbound, 696 Build-Queensbridge, and Culture Lab are just a few of the many organizations for you to explore and get involved with.

Let’s build TOGETHER!

Ebony Young is a candidate for City Council District 26, which covers the neighborhoods of Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City and parts of Astoria

email the author: [email protected]
No comments yet

Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News

Borough president hears from community members on budget needs throughout Queens

During a two-day public hearing on the mayor’s 2024 preliminary budget, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. listened to testimonies from 14 community board representatives, community stakeholders and members of the public on where the money should be spent in Queens. 

The public hearings were held both in-person and via Zoom on Monday, Jan. 30, and Tuesday, Jan. 31, at Queens Borough Hall. The testimonials will be used to develop the Queens Borough Board’s FY24 preliminary budget priorities in the coming weeks. 

‘He didn’t deserve to die’: Borough President Richards leads emotional candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards held a candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols outside Queens Borough Hall Monday, Jan. 30 after Nichols’ death at the hands of police officers in Memphis, Tenn., made national headlines for the brutality in which the officers beat him.

Almost immediately after news broke about Nichols’ death, the Memphis police officers who beat him to death were fired and charged with murder. The police department released the body cam footage of the fatal beating on Jan. 27, but many people, including some at the vigil, have refused to watch it due to its extremely graphic nature.

Op-Ed: This Year’s State Budget Must Prioritize Climate, Jobs, and Justice for New York

Op-Ed, Jan. 30, By Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas

In a time of rampant economic inequality and environmental injustice, it is easy to feel defeated.  Here in Queens and across New York State, however, communities are organizing for a better future. New Yorkers from different backgrounds and with different lived experiences are proving that we can build community, organize, and create a future that reflects our shared values.

BP launches new advisory panel for youth to become civically engaged in the future of Queens

In an effort to get more young people involved in civics, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards has created a new advisory panel known as the Youth and Young Adult Council to introduce the “youngest and fiercest” community advocates to both community service and organization.

Members of the advisory body will advocate concerns through means of community engagement by participating in one of two cohorts. The first will be made up of high school representatives between the ages of 13 and 17, while the second cohort will be comprised of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25.

Raga sworn in as first-ever Filipino American elected to the state Legislature

More than 300 community members attended the historic inauguration of Assemblyman Steven Raga as the first Filipino American elected to office in New York state.

Many who attended the swearing-in event at the Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows Corona Park wore traditional and cultural attire to the event at the building that once housed the General Assembly of the newly formed United Nations from 1946 to 1950 until its current home in Manhattan became available for the world body.