Yesterday I was in Memphis presenting Gentrify Your Own Self! on a panel with other Education Philosophers. I guess by now two questions are forming: 1. Did I really entitle an academic paper Gentrify Your Own Self? The short answer is no I didn’t. The proper title of my paper is *ahem* Educational Success in Under Resourced Neighborhoods through Self-Gentrification. 2. How is this about education philosophy? Well the answer to this question is a little more lengthy: So in every class I have taken, in every faculty meeting, in every educational video, in every ghetto, every city , and suburban place I’ve been (see what I did there?) there is always a conversation about the achievement gap between Black and White students. The brilliant solutions are to let go of teachers and administrators who actually care about students, make educational standards really difficult, and let’s test them to death so that Black students really don’t want to attend and do well in school. Effective huh? The problem is that the issues in schools are societal. Simply put, when Black people headed for the suburbs and the stainless steel appliances, granite counter tops, humongous master bed and bath, and two-story foyer (sorry, still smarting over that last over-the-top House Hunters episode), they left behind some rich historical areas. The city and Low Country alike are all up for grabs. And we Black folks aren’t grabbing. We’re selling. We’re fleeing. We’re forgetting. And the culture established in these communities left with the people, and now you can’t play your acoustic guitar as loud as you want to because there’s a noise ordinance. I also include the culture of school success in the list of disappearances from the Black Community. I believe if Black communities are fixed, it’s a solution to solving our achievement gap problem. And the way to fix our communities is to Gentrify Your Own Self!
So I presented this theory at this conference. I figured that either my ideas would be met with applause or they’ll chase me out of the city. I got the polite applause. But I rubbed someone the wrong way. And that’s ok. When presenting a philosophical paper, it is expected that it will be met with some criticism. The key is being able to stand by the work. My critic said that she had a problem with my calling for the Black community to gentrify themselves puts onus on the Black Community to solve problems that they didn’t cause in the first place. My answer: Yes it does. And it should. Now the question that I have is what is wrong with being proactive and making a situation that will never change work for us? Gentrification will never go away, not as long as people see value and opportunities in places where we do not. So instead of being caught up in righteous anger, we need to see the value and start making moves to control our own destiny. What do you think?