In February, we testified at a hearing for a bill that would provide options beyond failing schools for children in Nebraska, one of only three states in the country without a school choice program. We were nervous, but we were determined. Then, the beast of political hypocrisy reared its special-interest backed, white-privileged packed head when a member of the committee dismissed us, and numerous Nebraskan parents and students, with ridicule. State Sen. John McCollister, who accepted an endorsement from the Nebraska State Education Association teachers union to secure his seat of power, erroneously implied we would not be there unless we were being paid. It was the type of microaggression recognized instantly by some, and hopefully, more now. It must be called out.
McCollister resides in, and sent his children to, Westside Community Schools, a district birthed by redlining and white flight. His father was a member of Congress. It’s unlikely he, his parents, or his children could relate to the mom who must send her kids to a failing school each day, or a school where they don’t feel safe, or a school that refuses to recognize their potential.
That’s why McCollister’s recent tweets in support of the Black Lives Matter movement fall offensively flat. Did our lives not matter when we urged him to address the massive achievement gaps between black and white children in his state? Did our voices not matter when we testified about the transformative power of educational opportunity in our own lives? At what point do both black lives and black minds matter?