10 Reasons to Skip ‘Black Lives Matter Week’ in Philadelphia



Christopher Paslay

If you’re thinking of joining BLM’s Action Week in Philadelphia, you should reconsider.  

My name is Christopher Paslay, a 20-year veteran of the Philadelphia School District, and I’m officially skipping the Black Lives Matter “Week of Action” planned for Philadelphia public schools. For two decades I’ve been a dedicated English teacher, mentor, and coach, and have written hundreds of articles demanding respect, equality, and justice for our children, communities, and schools.

But I won’t be wearing a BLM button or t-shirt next week, or implementing any BLM curriculum in my English classes (even though I have an M.Ed. in Multicultural Education).

Here are 10 reasons why:

1. Students shouldn’t be shunned for supporting Trump or being Republican. Ironically, although “Diversity” is the first of BLM’s 13 “Guiding Principles,” which states they are committed to “acknowledging, respecting and celebrating differences and commonalities” which include race, religion, age, gender identity, sexual identity, economic status, and immigration status, nowhere in BLM’s 13 Guiding Principles do they acknowledge accepting differing political ideologies. In other words, it doesn’t appear that conservatives and/or Republicans are welcomed by this group.

Perhaps I’m misinterpreting BLM’s website and mission, and if I am, I apologize. However, after reading BLM’s calendar of events for their planned “Week of Action” in Philadelphia, it becomes quite clear that they have no tolerance for political diversity.

In a “kick off event” titled “Courage for Racial Justice in the Era of Trump,” which was scheduled for Friday, January 13, BLM’s discrimination is quite clear. The event description reads, In this time of mass incarceration, mass deportation, anti-Muslim sentiment, profound economic inequality, and the election of Trump, all of our social justice movements are coming together to build powerful resistance to the death culture. Additionally, people of all backgrounds are becoming active for the first time and looking for direction, as many are horrified by what the election of Trump means for our country.

 The death culture? Strong words. So it’s obvious this “Week of Action” does not include any Philadelphia teacher, student, parent, or community member that voted for or supports Trump. This is quite interesting, because 105,418 people voted for Trump in the City of Philadelphia. 105,418. And apparently none of these Philadelphians are being made to feel welcome.

2. Students shouldn’t be taught to obsess over race, religion, gender, and sexuality. Sure, teens must be taught not to discriminate (consciously or unconsciously), but BLM’s fixation on race, religion, gender and sexuality is excessive and counterproductive. Teens should be taught to see people as people, and judge them by their character—not by their gender, skin color, etc. Viewing the world through the lens of various isms is unnatural and unhealthy.

For example, the BLM curriculum for Wednesday, 1/25, deals with the themes of “Queer Affirming” and “Trans Affirming,” and aims to teach teens to free themselves “from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking,” and to combat “trans-antagonistic violence.” Seriously? Instead of allowing our teens to naturally interact with one another and develop relationships organically, we’re going to burden them with such intellectual concepts as trans-antagonistic violence?

3. Students don’t need more lessons in rebellion and resistance. One of the central tactics of BLM is resistance and civil disobedience, as is documented by their disruptive (and sometimes destructive) past. Although there is value in learning about political activism, Philadelphia youth should master the skills of teamwork and collaboration before being exposed to the thrills of shutting down a highway via a protest rally or march. Interestingly, BLM’s city-wide MLK march scheduled for Monday, 1/16, calls for a day of “action” and “resistance”.

4. Students shouldn’t be taught to oppose Two-parent families. One of BLM’s 13 Guiding Principles, titled “Black Villages,” states, We are committed to disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, and especially “our” children to the degree that mothers, parents and children are comfortable.

Why would BLM want to commit to disrupting the nuclear family when 40 years of educational research proves that children raised in two-parent families have higher academic achievement, better emotional health, and fewer behavioral problems than children born out of wedlock or raised “collectively” in alternative situations? I’m not sure. All I know is that BLM’s curriculum for Thursday, 1/26, addresses their “Black Village” theme which indeed calls for the disruption of nuclear families.

5. Students shouldn’t be taught to demonize those with opposing views. It’s clear that the 105,418 people who voted for Trump in Philadelphia are not accepted by BLM (or by the Caucus of Working Educators, who are co-hosting the “Week of Action”). The same goes for any Philadelphia teacher, student, parent, or community member who voted for Trump or supports him for any number of reasons. But it’s not enough that these Trump supporters and/or Republicans are rejected and ostracized, no; the various policies that they believe in and voted for must be defined as hateful.

“Join us in the necessary work to oppose policies based in hate,” states the itinerary for BLM’s city-wide MLK Day march.

6. Students shouldn’t be taught to glorify repressive dictators who violate humans rights. It’s no secret BLM glorifies Fidel Castro. According to Human Rights Watch, “During Castro’s rule, thousands of Cubans were incarcerated in abysmal prisons, thousands more were harassed and intimidated, and entire generations were denied basic political freedoms. . . . Many of the abusive tactics developed during his time in power – including surveillance, beatings, arbitrary detention, and public acts of repudiation – are still used by the Cuban government.”

What does BLM say about Castro’s recent death? “We are feeling many things as we awaken to a world without Fidel Castro. There is an overwhelming sense of loss, complicated by fear and anxiety. Although no leader is without their flaws, we must push back against the rhetoric of the right and come to the defense of El Comandante,” BLM posted on the internet after his death.

7. Students shouldn’t be taught to value some black lives more than others. BLM’s selective morality is troubling. What are our youth to think when young black lives are taken on a daily basis—mostly by other young black people—and BLM remains silent? When Philly youth die at the hands of gangbangers or drug dealers, and BLM are nowhere to be found? No marches. No rallies. No nothing. Day in, and day out. What are our students to think? That these black lives don’t count? In 2015 alone, nearly 6,000 blacks were killed by other blacks in the United States, and BLM didn’t say a word.

8. Students shouldn’t be taught by a group that was built and perpetuated on false narratives. BLM came to national attention when Michael Brown was reportedly shot and killed in cold blood—kneeling on the ground with his hands up—by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. I say reportedly because after the case was properly investigated, it was discovered that Brown was actually shot after punching Wilson in the face, and trying to take his gun. The Washington Post called the “hands up, don’t shoot” meme one of the biggest lies of 2015.

 Another false narrative is the Trayvon Martin killing. After an investigation at the local, state, and federal level—and after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder did all he could to nail Zimmerman on Civil Rights violations—it was discovered that George Zimmerman indeed shot Martin in self-defense . . . after, according to multiple witnesses, Martin knocked Zimmerman to the ground and was pounding his head on the cement. This doesn’t stop BLM from still propagating the myth that Martin was killed in cold blood by an angry white racist, who, by the way, isn’t white but Hispanic. According to the Caucus of Working Educators website which is promoting BLM’s Week of Action, “In 2012, Trayvon Martin was gunned down by George Zimmerman and the victim was posthumously placed on trial for his own murder.”

9. Students shouldn’t be taught by a group that celebrates JoAnn Chesimard, a convicted cop killer. Black Lives Matter co-founders Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi publically praise convicted cop killer JoAnn Chesimard, a.k.a. Assata Shakur, who is currently living in exile in Cuba and wanted by the FBI for the murder of a New Jersey state trooper. Words from a letter Shakur wrote, titled “To My People,” have been recited at BLM meetings. Mumia Abu Jamal, H. Rap Brown, and George and Jonathan Jackson are also convicted cop killers that BLM activists have praised.

10. Students shouldn’t be used as political pawns. What is BLM’s “Week of Action” really about? Growing their organization by indoctrinating our city’s children with their “social justice” curriculum. Curriculum which, at the time of this writing, still doesn’t exist. I’ve looked for it on the internet far and wide—I’ve even clicked on the links provided by the Caucus of Working Educators—but it’s not there.

Perhaps it will be posted soon, so educators have adequate time to vet it. Either way, I won’t be teaching it. Nor will I be wearing the BLM buttons or shirts. I’m going to pass on BLM’s “Action Week,” and if I were a parent of a Philadelphia school student, I’d demand that my child’s teachers and principals pass on it, too.

6 thoughts on “10 Reasons to Skip ‘Black Lives Matter Week’ in Philadelphia

  1. So sad to see this as being presented on School time. Wondering if a better use of school time could be used for teaching respect, importance of education, anger management, civic rights what to do and not do when stopped by police and lastly let the numbers be known for black on black crimes of all types.

  2. It would be very useful if you explain to your readers why you voted for Trump, particularly because DeVos will be coming after your salary, benefits and right to union representation.

    My wife teaches an an Independent School just outside of Philadelphia. She is very involved in equity issues, yet has been punished for a facebook re-post concerning racism at Trump rallies. A Trump-supporting colleague polled other teachers about this post and ultimately reported her to the school administration. Keep in mind that the post had nothing to do with the school in any way. Rather, it was well within the mainstream political discourse that was occurring at the time. Forget that the Trump supporter went out of her way to cast aspersions on a fellow teacher’s character. There is no union, and my wife was removed from facilitating a “Critical Conversations” group that she founded.

    The obvious irony is that you cannot be professionally punished for expressing your political views. PFT would fight for you, even though you voted agains that interests of all public educators.

  3. You are demonstrating true courage and I fervently hope and pray that the jackals don’t come for you. There is no tolerance for “diversity” in the SDP, unless the “diversity” conforms to the mass view of the narrow minded. And it’s troubling to me that no one sees it. Bravo!

    • It doesn’t take any courage to publish what amounts to a mainstream assessment of BLM and/or Trump. Fox News, Republicans and Breitbart express these views all the time. Mr. Paslay also knows that the union will protect him in the event that he is unfairly harassed. He may have to worry if DeVos has her way and all unions are destroyed.

      Rather than complain about about a BLM curriculum that has been designed by highly motivated and hardworking teachers, Trump supporters should show initiative by designing and implementing a Make America Great Again curriculum. Just as the BLM curriculum is aligned with current standards, you could do the same thing, but from a different perspective. You would be able to explain when America was greater than it is now, and students would probably learn a lot.

  4. Christopher,

    I saw your Commentary on this in Philly News. A few comments for you:

    When educators stand up for equity, justice, liberty, and love, they are exercising their professional imperative to take care of students and colleagues. I’ve seen no evidence that president-elect Trump stands for equity, justice, liberty, or love. He stands for and riles up anger as a way to manipulate and control people.

    And yet anger is a natural and understandable part of what it means to be human. If that comes through as part of what Black Lives Matter (BLM) educators are experiencing, then it’s a healthy response to an absurd political culture (and President-elect) that prioritizes profit and social division over prosperity and inclusion.

    I am familiar with your intellect, and I wish that you would temper your passion with reason. Mangling selective data to manipulate dialogue is neither scholarly nor authentic. For example, you say that “In 2015 alone, nearly 6,000 blacks were killed by other blacks in the United States….” Yet data from the FBI and the U.S. Census show that “African Americans, however, account for 24 percent of those fatally shot and killed by the police despite being just 13 percent of the U.S. 

    BLM educators are affirming the idea that people have a right to live safe, democratic, and fulfilling lives. This is the American promise, and there’s a place for you in that future, even if aspects of that 
future don’t perfectly address your insecurities or anxieties.

    I think you feel insecure and anxious — why else would you intimate that you are somehow excluded or marginalized. Yet insecurity and anxiety are natural feelings in an unstable climate. Please consider what a beautiful world looks like, and work towards that. There’s nothing in your post about what you actually want. It’s all about how horrible the BLM educators are, merely for acting to honor civic stewardship of the profession and of democracy.

    I appreciate your oppositional tone. There’s lots to be oppositional to. What are you FOR?

    Consider the experiences of oppressed and liberated groups over thousands of years, and how does that overlap with the experiences of African Americans? How do we create a better world?

    What do we need so that black lives matter so much that they have equitable life expectancy, health outcomes, educational attainment, and access to equal housing and employment. How can the transition to such equity incorporate a sustainable economy that conserves energy and water (yep – we’re running out), and promotes wellness?

  5. I agree with the general premise of your comments: BLM are wrong to focus their struggle on racial identity, which prevents them (and their critics!) from looking at the deeper issues of economic inequality, which underlie the current sad state of affairs. I would like to point out, though, that your comments suffer from such approach as much, if not more, since you clearly promote the views of a white conservative bent on blaming the “black culture” for the mess our city is in. You promote your own set of ideologically driven and hypocritical “false narratives”, not very well grounded in reality.
    I suggest that you, as a person, who is, clearly, educated and caring, take a hard look at yourself and find out where you can meet BLM half way, and maybe start a dialogue. This would be a much better approach than the one currently taken by both sides of the argument: shouting past each other.

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