Brown paper wrappings

November 3, 2010

Do you remember creating brown paper book covers for your new school books at the beginning of each school year?  You make the folds, crease them, and fit the book into the newly made cover.  I recall the excitement of receiving a new book. At the national Race & Pedagogy conference last weekend, I heard a different and disturbing memory.

One of the plenary speakers, Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, President of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, had a different experience. He told how the books he received at the beginning of school were already tightly bound in brown paper wrapping .  His teacher admonished the students to be careful and not tear or disturb the brown paper covers when using the books.  Being an inquisitive child, he began tearing back the paper to see what was underneath.  It quickly became apparent that the “new” book was not new at all as it was stamped with the name of the White school across town. Freeman’s class, at the “colored” school,  was receiving the cast off books that had been used by the white children.

A myriad of emotions ran through him at that moment. Dr. Hrabowski went on to note that “you don’t know the ways and means of degradation.”

Now this story may be from a long time ago and yet I have no doubt that the ways and means of degradation continue to scar many young people of color in our educational systems.  I continue to ask myself what are we covering up with brown paper wrappings so that the truth about how we are serving youth of color remains hidden and prettied up.

One comment

  1. Sounds like Separate and Hand-Down education

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