Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Every Good Mom Deserves Jail Time

So a mom in Ohio just got five days of jail time for doing the exact same thing a lot of good moms I know here in L.A. do all the time: lie about where their kids live so they can get them into a decent school. Why did she go to jail? Because she is black. No fast calls were made to her friend, the attorney, to get her out of trouble (unlike us white moms in the San Fernando Valley – our friend, the attorney, would be all over this, making all sorts of trouble for the school district and the state).

One disgusting reality of our public education system is that it forces good moms to lie. Since all good moms, no matter what color they are, or what their life situations are, will do anything for their children, they will lie about where they live to escape having to send them to their failing neighborhood school, if they have to. What’s more disgusting than having to lie, is that when white moms do it, they’re regarded as just being good moms. Ohio mother of two, Kelly Williams-Bolar, isn’t a good mom for lying, she’s a criminal.

Fifty seven years after the Supreme Court declared that the states could no longer segregate schools based on race (Brown v. Board of Education), things aren’t as equal for children of color as they should be. The evidence of this can be found in every failing school district across the nation, or in today’s news, with the Kelly Williams-Bolar story. She did the same thing many moms do, but she has to go to jail. I am outraged.

Why? Why should I care so much about this? My kids are fine. Why should I care about this mom and her family, or any other mothers’ kids for that matter? Why should I care about the many children of immigrants in my community? Plenty of people have turned a blind eye to them, or even blamed them for the deterioration of public education in our city……innocent kids - the scapegoats of a national epidemic. Why am I so worked up about this? Why do I feel guilty? Why can’t I just enjoy my good fortune, like so many others, and mind my own business?

Because I am acutely aware of the fact that my “good fortune” has nothing to do with anything that I have earned. My good fortune is that I happened to be born white.

Even though I live in Los Angeles, a large, international city rich in diversity and culture, racial and class inequities do exist. Just last week, 400 cops closed down a portion of the west end of the valley where I live to hunt down someone who had shot at a school police officer (off campus). Nine thousand kids in various schools were put on lock down all day. Every news station televised the hunt. Public speeches by city officials were made. Cops get shot at all the time in the poorer areas of the city. Sometimes the news doesn’t even cover those stories. The all day lock down and hunt in the valley was quite a spectacle, and they didn’t even catch the guy. Meanwhile, at the same time, a youth was shot a block away from another high school, but in a poor neighborhood. Only a few cops showed up (and it’s not because they were all busy in the west valley).

The only difference between Kelly and I is circumstance. Judging anybody on the color of their skin is absurd and ignorant, but to jail any mother of color for doing the exact same thing that lots of white moms all over the country do is criminal!

Have I ever lied about where my kids live so I could sneak them into a good school? No. But I would if I had to. I’d do anything to make sure my kids were safe, well fed, educated, and healthy, including sneaking them into another country to escape poverty, political or religious persecution, or sickness. Any good mother would. Inequities in public education are not as black and white as people would like to think (pun intended). There are many variables as to why our education system is such an abysmal failure. To understand how this all happened, we need to first educate ourselves, and stop blaming and scapegoating others. Today I say, “Give all the good moms of every color and creed, and their kids, a break!”