Sandwich Expert David Brooks Weighs In On the Education of Black and Brown Children
“Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must shut the fuck up.”
The push to “re-open” schools, a cause recently taken up by none other than asshole David Brooks, is a disingenuous, dangerous, and fascist crock of shit. Writing for the New York Times, Brooks demonizes teachers, framing us as stupid and lazy cowards whose frivolous desire to stay alive comes at this supposed high cost — the well-being of “Black and brown kids who live in cities with progressive mayors and powerful unions.”
Pendejo, PLEASE, cállate el hociquito, or, as Wittgenstein once wrote, “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must shut the fuck up.”
Between Brooks’ get-back-to-work-ya-lazy-bums! editorial and the taunt class clown Dinesh D’Souza predictably hurled at a middle school teacher for being more knowledgeable than his goofy ass, we find ourselves in the midst of a teacher-trolling marathon.
Brooks’ little screed asserts four “facts,” and so, in keeping with his pseudo-structure, I’ll assert four theses in defense of teachers. Before making my points, I’d like to stress that unlike Brooks, a noted sandwich expert, I have some expertise on matters of public education. Both of my parents are retired bilingual schoolteachers who taught Black and Brown kids. Following their lead, I obtained a teaching credential and have taught Black and Brown kids who live in cities with progressive mayors and powerful unions for close to twenty years.
1. Schools are already open.
I repeat SCHOOLS ARE ALREADY OPEN.
ONE CANNOT RE-OPEN SOMETHING THAT EXISTS IN A STATE OF OPENNESS.
By arguing that schools ought to “re-open,” Brooks engages in a rhetorical sleight of hand, one that delegitimates the educational services offered by districts that have shifted to digital platforms. Students in these districts are attending school. It just looks different, really different, and the quality of the online education kids in these districts are receiving could be improved enormously through increased funding. The resources exist for this budgetary re-allocation with local police departments holding billions of dollars hostage.
What the “re-openers” are really pushing for is to have children re-warehoused. They argue in favor of stuffing kids back into congregate facilities that were poorly ventilated and overcrowded pre-COVID-19. My former classroom, for example, sat above the school cafeteria and as you may or may not have learned in school, heat rises. My room also experienced harsh sun exposure and lacked air-conditioning. As a consequence of these factors, my classroom temperature sometimes exceeded 100 degrees.
This classroom heat didn’t last a day, it lasted WEEKS, and when I asked administration for relief, I was told to “teach out by the tree.” When I complained a second time, administrators sent me an email which invited me to their air-conditioned office to enjoy a popsicle.
2. The Black and Brown families of whom Brooks appointed himself paternalistic ambassador are not the community members agitating for “re-opening” in the areas he describes. That effort is being led by members of the far-right.
When Jon Valant, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, analyzed demographic and political data related to campus re-openings, he found that school districts in counties that supported Trump in the 2016 election were much likelier to have announced plans for face-to-face instruction: “In reality, there is no relationship—visually or statistically—between school districts’ reopening decisions and their county’s new COVID-19 cases per capita. In contrast, there is a strong relationship—visually and statistically—between districts’ reopening decisions and the county-level support for Trump in the 2016 election.”
One Long Beach proponent of school re-warehousing is Mike Gallo, a former major league baseball pitcher who now spends his days shit-posting on Facebook. Gallo and other white parents of students enrolled in Long Beach Unified School District, a district with a student population that is 15.2 percent white, want schools to begin re-warehousing now. Meanwhile, COVID cases continue to soar in Los Angeles County, the county to which Long Beach belongs. Long Beach is a predominantly Latinx community, and the Los Angeles Times reports that COVID has “hit Latinos in disproportionate ways…people get sick on the job and then spread the virus to family members at home.” Long Beach Unified School District is the largest employer in Long Beach and while Latinx COVID-19 deaths are up 1000%, Long Beach’s re-warehousers appear unconcerned by these statistics. They also seem unbothered by the fact that “the majority of children, teens and young adults who die from COVID-19 are Hispanic, Black or Native American.”
3. Some assholes who are jumping on the “re-open” bandwagon are also (surprise, surprise) anti-union!
The Long Beach Post reported that “former Long Beach Unified superintendent [Carl Cohn] is pushing a potentially controversial idea for the state to speed up school re-openings by taking control of labor negotiations between local districts and their employees.” In an editorial published by EdSource, Cohn calls for Governor Gavin Newsom to temporarily suspend the local collective bargaining rights of teachers, thus arguing that the state should be able to compel teachers back into brick-and-mortar classrooms.
Cohn’s argument brings to mind a conservative phenomenon known as ausnahmezustand, the state of exception, which was fetishized by another Carl, Carl Schmitt, a political theorist and Nazi. About him, Lawfare’s Managing Editor, Quinta Jurecic, has written, “Schmitt is most well-known for his theory of the ‘state of exception,’ under whose aegis the sovereign power can choose to act outside the structure of law. As [Schmitt] wrote presciently in 1922, the ‘sovereign is he who decides on the exception.’” Putting this theory into practice paves the way for dictatorship and the comfort with which Cohn proposed his fashy “re-opening” solution indicates that Trumpism isn’t restricted to the federal government.
It thrives at the state and local level too.
4. The push to re-warehouse kids on school campuses demonstrates capitalism’s bloodthirst.
Capitalism requires inequality, suffering and death and by re-warehousing Black and Brown students on shoddy campuses, places where COVID-19 is likely to spread, the acceptable cost to “re-openers” comes into focus. Racial capitalism, which is all of capitalism, relies on those of us deemed “not white” to carry those deemed white and if we die in the process, we needn’t worry. Headlines will refer to us as a heroes.
We have a chance to re-make schools by employing what scholar Ruth Wilson Gilmore has called non-reformist reforms, changes that don’t simply tweak but which seek to transform existing circumstances in radical ways. This pandemic has snatched the hat off the head of public education in the United States, revealing that our current system amounts to a glaring bald spot that no comb over can fix. Sending people back to school campuses without addressing how austerity starved public schools into the ineffective husks they are today will benefit the sort of folks for whom sandwiches matter more than communities of color.
Myriam Gurba is the editor-in-chief of Tasteful Rude. She is also the author of the memoir Mean, a New York Times editors’ choice. O, the Oprah Magazine, ranked Mean as one of the best LGBTQ books of all time and Publishers’ Weekly describes Gurba as having a voice like no other. Her essays and criticism have appeared in the Paris Review, TIME.com, and the Believer. Gurba has been known to call shitty writers pendejas and has no qualms about it. Along with Roberto Lovato and David Bowles, she co-founded Dignidad Literaria, a grassroots literary organization that seeks to revolutionize publishing.