What led Chicago to shutter dozens of majority-black schools? Racism | Eve Ewing
After Rahm Emanuel announced a wave of school closures in 2013, Chicagoans took to the streets in protest. But before we can understand whether the closings are racist, we must understand what racism is
Failing schools. Underprivileged schools. Just plain bad schools. The fodder of tsk-tsk, it’s so sad, and that’s why we send our kids to private school and we’re so lucky. They’re the stuff of legend, material for inspirational movies and shocking prime-time news exposés. In Chicago they were once famously called the worst in the nation by William Bennett, secretary of education under then president Ronald Reagan. More recently, Illinois governor Bruce Rauner called them “inadequate”, “woeful”, “just tragic” and “basically almost crumbling prisons”.
Chicago’s public schools have been positioned in the nation’s imagination as, at best, charity cases deserving our sympathy; at worst they are a malignant force to be ignored if you can or snuffed out altogether if you can come up with something better. In this sense Chicago is like many other urban school districts that primarily serve students of color, viewed with pity and contempt.