Uppity white mother, shut your mouth

Kristen Hartke
Washington, DC

I have been a DC public school parent for 14 years, and my daughter is about to graduate from high school. She has always attended schools that were at least 80% African-American with about 30% of the students in the free lunch program. I have been a longtime volunteer, working particularly hard on fundraising efforts, often to meet the most basic classroom needs. However, I have also experienced consistent discrimination from some teachers and administrators – including racial slurs – when I have asked even the simplest questions (like “Will there be any books assigned for reading in class?”). It has meant that I have finally become completely disengaged in my daughter’s senior year – I am simply exhausted from so many years of having to defend myself for wanting the schools to be, at the very least, adequate. I do not know a white parent who has not felt they had to be extraordinarily careful in asking any questions for fear of being labeled a “crazy white parent”, nor a black parent asking similar questions who was not labeled as “acting like a white parent”. I fear that DCP, and many school systems, will never be able to provide excellence in education if there is no willingness to treat parents of all races with real respect and engage them in the life of the school. It is parents who can make the difference by bringing their enthusiasm and support to school with their children.

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