When my daughter became school age, we lived in Oakland. Like New York, Oakland has school choice. Every year, there are school tours, like in this podcast. Parents fill out a form with their top 5 choices, and hope for the best. As it turns out, we got our first choice school, but it wasn’t in our neighborhood.
Now, what happened in this episode of Nice White Parents felt so familiar, except our school “diversified” because a new building was built, doubling the capacity of the student population. Beginning with kindergarten the year we entered, a new class or two was added each year to a new grade, allowing it to grow over 5 years into the largest elementary school in the district, and the most diverse.
At our orientation in kindergarten, the PTA president suggested that everyone use that first month of not having to pay for preschool, to donate to the school. That year was the first year the school had both socioeconomic and ethnic diversity, but it was still a school made up of predominantly wealthy white families. At the school auction/gala, a family paid $10,000 for a parking spot.
The story told in the first episode left me feeling very annoyed. The fact that in the history of the school, white parents had come and gone, wreaking the same havoc many times over its history just speaks to the privilege of whiteness. The fact that the parent fundraiser realizes later that he may have made a few mistakes, is maddening. The false narrative that the newcomer white students were spreading just fits into the white savior trope so common in movies. The disrespect towards the already existing prominent bilingual student body...ugh.
I heard from a staff member who works at a school in Area 3 (22 years), and has seen that over the years, the families who live in the neighborhood, no longer attend that school, choosing instead to go to private schools, charter schools, or another school in the district. Likely for many of the same reasons the families in this episode weren’t attending SIS until they decided to go en masse (26% is the threshold research shows it takes for white families to send their children to predominately non-white schools) and start the French bilingual program.
I don’t know if the story continues in episode 2. I want to know if these white families have stayed. I want to know if there are still separate PTA and fundraising committees. I want to know if they’ve added other language programs. So many unanswered questions! I loved the podcast, even though it made me mad.
Listen to Nice White Parents here: https://podcasts.google.com/?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly9yc3MuYXJ0MTkuY29tL25pY2Utd2hpdGUtcGFyZW50cw&ep=14