I understand that part of Black Lives Matter means White Privilege Matters. Which is to say that justice requires white people to face our fears about giving up institutionalized advantages. If you are white and you’re not scared then you have no idea how much has to change the U.S. to function like black lives really matter. Maybe you’ve read one of those lists of things white people can do to be an ally of black people. But alliances won’t matter unless we make fundamental changes. Here are three things that need to change:
Defund police and channel money to community groups.
Philip V. McHarris and Thenjiwe McHarris wrote an op-ed titled No More Money for the Police. Mr. McHarris is a doctoral candidate focusing on race, housing, and policing. Ms. McHarris is a strategist with the Movement for Black Lives. I am their fangirl. This recent op-ed says that instead of trying to abolish the police we can redirect city police budgets to underfunded city programs like housing, healthcare, and job training.
The police are likely to kill a black person no matter what sort of emergency response they are making. We have tried re-education, body cameras, community outreach, nothing changes the fact that police kill black people.
In the proposed scenario, police respond to calls that are already violent. I envision the police sitting at the desks all day long, waiting for an emergency call no one in the community is willing to attend to without a gun. Meanwhile, cities will redirect police funding to social workers and community groups who don’t carry guns. And instead of arguing for gun control, it’s an argument for controlling the amount we rely on people who carry guns.
Improve healthcare services by studying black culture, behavior, and personal beliefs.
The medical field has already implemented similar tactics. In the 1990s, Dr. William Cunningham pioneered community-based models to treat disparities in medical care between white people and people of color. For example, his research found that after hundreds of years of white doctors purposefully harming black patients, many black people trust their pastor more than their doctor. Black women die from pregnancy-related issues three times more often than white women. Cunningham found that black women want medical information rooted in values. And he convinced Congress to redirect medical spending to black community groups.
By the time Cunningham died in 2019, he had established that what works for white people should not be the default. The medical community has a long way to go to close racial disparities, but Cunningham showed us that to address disparities in health outcomes we need explore culture, traditions and personal beliefs that contribute to black people’s experience with health care.
Turn schools into social services centers and turn white privilege on its head.
Like healthcare services, public schools are built on research that excludes black children. And like the field of medicine, you can account for education and income, and still, white kids come out on top. Recently the Brookings Institute showed that disparities among test scores between black and white kids are from culture rather than income or intelligence. So teaching black kids to take white tests is never going to work.
Schools are obsessed with teaching kids self-control because of the Stanford marshmallow experiment in 1960: If the kid refrains from eating a marshmallow in order to get something better later then the kid will do better in school and career than the kid who eats the marshmallow. The test is has been reproduced many times with white kids and has found to be true regardless of income, intelligence, etc.
However recently Columbia University psychology professor Tyler Watts replicated the marshmallow test with a diverse group of children and he found benefits for some kids to eat the marshmallow. That is a revolutionary finding that should be completely shaking up this country. It means that schools focus on teaching kids self-control when it is actually only proven to be great for the children of Stanford professors in 1960.
Additionally, when black kids don’t do what teachers want, black kids receive more harsh discipline than white kids. We know it’s impossible to train police or doctors to stop acting on racism — even if it’s inadvertent. And the same is true in education. Teachers discriminate against black kids even when the teachers don’t mean to.
So it occurred to me that the elegant proposal for defunding police would also work for schools. Like policing with guns, educating with schools is mostly unnecessary. Kids teach themselves to read when they are ready. Kids learn fundamental math on their own. Kids don’t need school to learn to write. Kids don’t need teachers they need parents. Homeschoolers have a higher acceptance rate to the Ivy League. School is unnecessary for black kids and for all kids.
But when it comes to what is good for black kids, the one thing we do know is that the type of learning that makes the biggest difference is learning you cannot get from school: Self-directed, project-based learning is the only kind of education that gives economic mobility to black kids. And, most importantly, hundreds of studies show that more funding to schools does not help black kids, but more funding for black families and black communities does.
So we should have school teachers educate only the most difficult children: if a parent says they need help, the schools should give help. But otherwise, we should provide families with enough money to ensure one parent stays home with children, and we should turn schools into social services organizations for anyone who needs them.
This is the sort of radical thinking that is going to change the plight of black people in the US. If black lives matter then institutions aimed to prop up white children must be defunded by local, city governments or national government. And each of us needs to do our part to make that happen.