Asheville’s Reparations Plan Must Prioritize Educational Justice
The initiative is off to a great start, but we must address the educational gap to ensure success and understanding for Black children
Co-authored by Agya Boakye-Boaten
On July 14, 2020, Asheville City Council unanimously passed a reparations resolution. The resolution contained an apology for Asheville’s role in slavery and a promise to invest in Asheville’s Black communities to address inequities in housing, urban development, health, and education. But we as educators and parents of two school-age Black boys in Asheville City Schools recognize that community reparations for Black Asheville must earnestly prioritize educational justice.
We made Asheville our home 10 years ago when we accepted positions at the University of North Carolina, Asheville. When we arrived, we were told that Asheville lacked a Black middle class, that Blacks experienced multigenerational poverty. Many mentioned this without direct reference to the fact that Black Ashevillians were intentionally pushed to the margins, disenfranchised, subjugated, segregated. It is due to White racial domination, White supremacism, and inequities entangled with racism, such as Jim Crow, redlining, urban renewal, and gentrification, but they were not mentioned. But they are part of the narrative; why were they omitted? As parents, we realized the school system was not adequately meeting the needs of Black children. Race clearly was a factor, and the majority of Black children were not thriving in school according to academic performance indicators.
In 2019, Asheville City Schools were known for profound and pervasive inequities in education, with the largest racial academic performance gap between Black and White students in the state of North Carolina and the fifth largest in the nation. Black lives matter in schools, and the exacerbation of the opportunity gap is inhumane and unjust — the education system cannot continue to operate as usual. Systemic, institutional, and structural inequities have deflated the power and promise of education for social mobility for Black Asheville.
Ironically, Black Asheville provided the pivotal vote necessary in 1887 for the…