Overt Racism in the Street and Hidden

Racism in Privatization

At writing, the summer of 2020 has become the summer of “public” witness to the enduring problem of racism by the police force against African Americans, violence that has led to the murder of an African American man, George Floyd and the paralysis of another. The actions and statements of President Trump have fueled this and further violence including the death of two individuals protesting against racism by a white 17-year-old Trump supporter among others.

The problem of racism and the problem of capitalism generally and educational privatization are deeply entwined. The relationship between what Irbram X Kendi (2019) termed “the conjoined twins” manifest when Betsy DeVos makes a plug for COVID 19 resources to flow to schools (private) that are overwhelmingly white. They manifest when state legislatures across the country and Federal policymakers fail to take meaningful action against racial injustices in the school to prison pipeline, and specifically the privately held and operated youth jails that receive public money to educate youth, but still deny incarcerated youth that basic right (Burch, forthcoming). The practice of creating niche markets specifically aimed at low-income students may be framed as a progressive agenda (addressing the achievement gap). In reality, companies that niche market and sell shabby education services to high poverty school communities, are racist privatization practices.

There is quiet racism in the steadfast denial privately held charter schools do or do not contribute to racial segregation they do. Racist privatization is at play when parents form learning pods of predominately white students to supplement a form of education—that they can tolerate for black and brown majority in their public schools, but not for their own white children. The list goes on.

In recent weeks, major corporations have issued statements vowing to stand against anti-racist behavior. Most recently, major sports leagues have refused to “play” in communities where police brutality has hit hardest, in solidarity with communities. Leading corporations, such as Pearson and K-12 selling in the public education market place have come out with public facing statements of against racism and to lesser or greater degree articulated action plans to bring these principles into corporate culture and through new incentives and programs that include among other things, building a more diverse pipeline of authors and content contributors to their online content, reviewing course materials for implicit biases, creating scholarship programs for African American students for online private school programs. K-12 Inc. announced a similar action plan.

It remains to be seen whether stated principles on the part of these corporations translate in meaningful changes, and become a kind of transformative orientation for an education business sector that has up to this point, done very little to bring anti-racist practices into its business model. Politicians and scholars of privatization (including myself) have been varying degrees of complicit in the agenda, by detaching principle of anti-racism with anti-privatization, by talking about privatizating trends without explicit attention to racism toward black-owned businesses in this space, to hint at but not fully address the theft and exploitation ofblack communities by companies who price gouge (see Chapter 5). We also have been complicit in the agenda by espousing policies and practices to end the harmful effects of privatization but that are geared implicitly toward the white middle class. This means as Kendi and others have argued realizing that enforcement of rules (e.g., regulation of the market) is not enough, particularly when these rules primarily benefit white privilege, a point I return to in the final chapter.

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