Philadelphia Educational Leaders Fail to Condemn Violence, Push Anti-White Curriculum

by Christopher Paslay

Philadelphia educational leaders have yet to adequately condemn the widespread violence destroying Philadelphia.  Instead, they have insulted hardworking white teachers with outlandish racial demagoguery.

For the past five days, violence and rioting have gripped the city of Philadelphia.  Late Saturday night, a Philadelphia police officer was hit by a car in Center City, while 12 other officers suffered injuries “while attempting to control crowds, make arrests, prevent property breaches, and other acts of vandalism,” according to Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw.  

Police cars have been smashed and set on fire, and scores of businesses and stores have been looted and vandalized.  Several black-owned businesses have been destroyed, like Elliott Broaster’s Smoke N Things shop on Cecil B Moore.  Broaster, a Temple grad, watched what took years to build get destroyed in a matter of minutes. “When I got home alone I shed a few tears,” Broaster said.  “I saw my business down and it hurt me a lot and especially for my own community to do it to my business, that’s what really (hurt).”

The new anarchist phrase “people over property” is what his fellow community members might say if asked why they destroyed his life’s work, a mantra that has given rioters a license to wreck people’s lives and property — all in the name of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by a reckless and negligent white cop for trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill.  

After the National Guard was deployed and a curfew issued, Philadelphia’s educational leaders decided it was time to weigh in on the situation.  Over the past several days, Philadelphia School District officials have sent multiple emails to teachers and staff condemning the death of Floyd and America’s white racist society, but no call for calm or to end the pointless looting and violence.  Resources were given to teachers to start conversations about anti-racism (an educational framework that teaches ALL whites have a privilege and are complicit in systemic racism), but no material to spark a dialogue about why violence is wrong, or why looting and rioting are not only disrespecting the memory of George Floyd, but also go against the teaching of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers soon followed suit with several memos to its membership, commenting on the “criminalization of blackness” by white society, and of the supposed unwarranted tear-gassing of protesters.  No mention of the cop cars being smashed and burned, or of the police being assaulted with bricks and bottles, or of stores — some of which were owned and operated by African Americans — being looted and vandalized.  This violence somehow didn’t exist, and if it did, it was written off as a “protest,” or perhaps legitimized by the mantra “people over property.”

According to Philadelphia’s educational leaders, there is only one lesson to be learned from the chaos descending on Philadelphia over the past five days: America is a racist society, where privileged whites oppress disadvantaged people of color.  According to the PFT’s Racial Justice Petition, racism “permeates every facet of our society,” and “the criminalization of blackness is an ever-present scourge on our nation.”  Likewise, the “school-to-prison pipeline is real and it threatens the futures and the lives of black and brown children every single day.”  In other words, whites are oppressing and criminalizing people of color around every corner and at every turn, especially white teachers and administrators of schools, who, despite dedicating their entire lives to mentoring and educating their students of color, are in actuality setting them up for a life of crime and incarceration.

These are the things the PFT is telling its dues-paying members.  That we must take actionable steps “to dismantle a violent system of white supremacy that has jeopardized the very humanity of the students in our classrooms, their families, and our communities.”  And how do we end this system?  Through anti-racism, as both Philadelphia School District officials and union leaders have stated.  

Addressing racism as a system of unequal power between whites and people of color, anti-racism emerged as dissatisfaction grew with multicultural education, which only superficially dealt with the issue of systemic racism. As University of South Dakota sociologist Jack Niemonen wrote in his paper after doing an exhaustive analysis of 160 peer-reviewed journal articles on the subject:

Generally, anti-racist education is understood as a set of pedagogical, curricular, and organizational strategies that hope to promote racial equality by identifying, then eliminating, white privilege. . . . One of its strengths, it is claimed, is the ability to move beyond prejudice and discrimination as a problem to be corrected in individuals in order to examine critically how institutional structures support racist practices economically, politically, and culturally.

Anti-racism’s mission to eliminate white privilege is notable, in that it operates from a zero-sum mentality, and associates Whiteness with oppression and structural racism. By redefining “racism” to mean inherent white privilege and oppression, all whites become guilty by default, even those whites who are caring people free from discrimination.  However, addressing systemic injustice starts with personal accountability and action, as anti-racists call on American educators to self-reflect and personally adopt anti-racist ideologies in their lives and classrooms. Therefore, “Whiteness” solely as a systemic, non-individual entity with its own existence is a logical fallacy (see here), and when anti-racists speak of Whiteness, they can only be referring to the cultures, behaviors, and attitudes of those who identify as “white.”

The PFT has acknowledged they are committed to ongoing professional development on anti-racist practices, as has the Philadelphia School District.  Loose translation: they are stereotyping all whites as racists, and are claiming their cultures, behaviors, and attitudes are the reason why people of color suffer.  In reality, anti-racism is anti-white.

The advancement of one group should not depend on the disruption, de-centering, or dismantling of another, either individually, culturally, or systemically. Bringing positive change is a two-way street between whites and people of color, and involves cooperation and synergy; approaches which divide learning communities into political identity groups, and separate teachers and students into “oppressors” and “oppressed,” are misguided and counterproductive.  As educators, we should focus on unity over division, and refrain from stereotyping entire groups of people.

5 thoughts on “Philadelphia Educational Leaders Fail to Condemn Violence, Push Anti-White Curriculum

  1. All sane and responsible people abhor looting. Not you. The man you worship gamed bankruptcy laws on the way to becoming a billionaire. He bilked countless of contractors along the way. Additionally, he ran a fraudulent “university” and had to pay an enormous fine when his corruption was exposed. Likewise, Mitch McConnell is worth at least $22 million even though Kentucky is the 6th poorest state in the US. Trump and McConnell are the real looters.

    Your claim that anti-racism is anti-white is rather remarkable. You clearly have never studied the history of slavery, reconstruction, Jim Crowe, civil rights and mass incarceration. Furthermore, you ignore the fact that MLK was a democratic-socialist and was viewed unfavorably by 75% of white people at the time of his assassination. You are obviously unaware of redlining practices that hindered African-Americans’ ability to accumulate generational wealth. Finally, you fail to acknowledge the legacy of republican-led voter-suppression policies that continue to disenfranchise people of color. This has less to do with white people than it does with the white supremacist Christian nationalism that fuels Trump’s base. In other words, white people like you.

    After all, you worship a white supremacist, self-confessed sexual predator who has declared war against the American people. After all, you proudly proclaim that you have a masters in multiculturalism, yet repeatedly deny the validity of this discipline. You repeatedly make silly attempts to channel MLK, yet condemn Kaepernick for exercising his 1st amendment right to peaceful protest. You spent years calling for a colorblind society, but love publicizing every African-American who supports Trump. You claim to be an advocate for youth, but wrote several articles dancing on Trayvon Martin’s grave. You claim to be lack any racism or prejudice, yet pen an article that attempts to erase 400+ years of racism and oppression, while claiming that racial harmony is a two-way street.

    The civil rights movement led by African-Americans taught us more about communal love than any other demographic. They employed their faith in the service of justice and equality.Their children were murdered in churches and attacked by police dogs in the streets. Meanwhile,Trump cowers in his bunker and threatens peaceful protesters with gas and the “most vicious dogs.” The white Christian nationalists that help fuel Trump’s agenda, instead, devote themselves to colonizing the female body, dehumanizing the LGBTQ/Trans communities, and supporting credibly accused pedophiles such as Roy Moore.

    When you talk about #MAGA and #KAGA, you are hearkening back to the days before Brown v. Board of Education. You hearken back to the White Citizens Councils that helped create a climate that led to the lynching of Emmitt Till and the acquittal of his murderers. You hearken back to the days when white power was absolute, and anti-racist activism was met with violence and death.

    Your fundamental lack of empathy is something to behold. Your ability to make yourself the victim reflects a serious lack of self-esteem. Those of us who study history openly and honestly are not threatened by calls to end white supremacy. We do not run from the reality of white privilege. Rather, we choose to stand with all of our students and show our love by listening to their stories, celebrating the lives and cultures and working with the toward a more just society.

    • Hey Geoffrey,

      I was wondering if I was going to hear from you. It’s probably been two years since you’ve come at me with your propaganda and Trump hatred. Yeah, I get it: I support a “white nationalist racist,” etc. You’ve already said these things to me over the years, don’t you remember? Or are you forgetting yourself now like Joe Biden?

      Sorry, I don’t subscribe to identity politics, and I never will. But I admire your persistence to indoctrinate me into this cult.

  2. Hi, Chris. I write as a former classmate in our M.Ed. program, where we both took classes together and worked on a project or 2 together, and a former PFT member. I’ve read and enjoyed your book The Village Proposal, and I’ve been following your blog for about 8-9 years. Based on your analysis, it seems like the PFT does not quite understand what antiracism actually is. You draw heavily on Robin DiAngelo and critiques of critical whiteness studies, but I’m wondering if you’ve read what authors, scholars, activists of color have to say about this? I’ve found those authors tend to talk less about white people and whiteness and more about racial equity from a policy perspective. In fact, some argue that Black people can also be racist if they are in positions of power and promoting policies that have a negative, disparate impact on Black people. And, they would agree with you: that stereotyping any racial group is not the goal, and that reversing the racial hierarchy is not the point. I’d be happy to work with you in proposing a revision to PFT’s curricular mandates that do not conflate anti-racism with anti-white.

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