Kelley Williams-Bolar served only one day of her 10 sentence and I guess that is something we should feel good about. The coverage she received in the blogosphere and the independent media (she received little national mainstream media coverage) I am sure helped to secure her early release. However, she is still a felon in jeopardy of not getting the teaching degree she worked long and hard for to do what we say low income folks should do: lift themselves up by their bootstraps. And why is she a felon? She didn’t rob a bank, cross state line with drugs or abuse her kids. She did something far worse in the eyes of the state of Ohio, she put them in a public school in the “wrong” part of town.
And the biggest travesty? Most of you reading this may not even know her name.
I am angry and this anger has been permeating my soul for the last three days since I became aware of this story by way of Twitter. I am angry at a system in which there is now win. In a supposed “post-racial” (whatever that means) society that still somehow finds the arrogance and audaciousness to continue to utilize the criminal justice to keep us in place. And while there has been much dialogue in Black America about the criminalization of Black Men this system is deliberately rigged against poor, single Black mothers and much of the scathing commentary about poor single black mothers have come from our own community. But I digress.
I know there are some eye rollers. There will be the detractors of all colors who will say “it’s not race, it’s about class”, I say you miss the point. In a heterogynous country like ours, with a long history of racial driven oppression, classism is merely a tool used to facilitate racism. You are living on another planet if you think otherwise.
But back to Ms. Bolar, who stands convicted of “defrauding” the public school system. She had the audacity to use her ex-husband’s address to enroll her children in a school in his county, in the suburbs and where she felt her children had a better chance at a more well rounded education.
I hope the ludicrousness is making your blood boil.
It is reported that she was “warned” and was offered the option to keep her kids in the school and pay $800 in tuition (because as a single mother that should be fairly easy). She refused and then found herself being arrested.
The racism and classism is blatant.
What is most concerning to me is why this is not a national example of the pitiful education system of this country?
Why did this woman feel the need to do something illegal (the fact it is illegal is a whole a completely different story and post) to get what should be a basic civil right for every child – a decent education?
This is nothing more than post de facto segregation and the response by the state of Ohio to this was a throwback to the civil rights era.
Yet there was not a civil rights response from our folks.
There were no protests (at least none that got coverage), no pundits sounding off on either the left or right and no real organized response. Yes there were tweets, sharing on Facebook and a petition on change.org that has already received nearly 35,000 signatures but where is the in-person activism? Every mother despite race, creed or class should be offended by a mother being jailed who was forced to put their child in another school because the one in her own county/neighborhood was sub par.
President Obama gave a State of the Union address that was filled with rhetoric about quality education and innovation yet I was disappointed that a highly educated black man was also unable to articulate the systemic racism and classism that has been a constant roadblock to quality education that has most likely been one of the largest factors responsible in the continued marginalization and cycle of poverty in our communities.
And this is where we need to step up. Many of us have felt that because we now have access to more consumer wealth that we are somehow free yet continually the water, food, air and education are so subpar that it is not a far reach to call them civil & human rights violation. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad we can organize and activate through Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr but we also need to make sure we are taking it to the streets because I can’t understand how anybody can feel good about having a Black president when Black mothers are being jailed for educating their children.