Education has always been the key to unlocking freedom. This is why slaves were denied the opportunity to get an education. This is why African Americans weren’t always given the same resources in school as white students received.
Even now, people of color are not provided with the same tools for success as their white counterparts. Minority students have higher rates of suspensions and expulsions than non-minority students. African Americans are more likely to be incarcerated for the same crime as someone who is not a minority. I have seen this inequality mirrored in schools that are close to home, for example, the huge gap in literacy rates in St. Paul Public Schools where 72% of white students are reading at grade level compared to only 25% of students of color.
Personally, as a black woman in America, I know how difficult it is for me and other people of color to get equal opportunities to be successful in this country, but education gives me a fighting chance. Through my years of schooling, I have learned skills that have allowed me to get more involved in my community and make new connections with people. These skills include, but are not limited to, public speaking, reading, and writing. These seem like simple skills to have, but without them, I wouldn’t have been able to communicate with others and make those connections, which is essential to any career. I’m grateful that I have been taught many useful skills and ideas in school, from learning more complex subjects, like government and the rights I have, to learning more basic things, like how to manage my time better. My education has given me freedom.
Education has also helped me become aware of the systematic racism that is ingrained within our nation’s school system. I’ve learned that I, and other minority students, have to work a lot harder to get the same results as white students. This makes me even more passionate about continuing to learn. I love to learn about science, art, and our nation’s history, and the fact that I can learn about what I want, when I want, at a university that offers a great education, feels like freedom to me. After I graduate, I’ll be able to do what I want, get the job I want, and live how I want. I’ll be able to provide for myself and for my family in the future. This is what freedom means to me.
There are still many areas in life where I won't have as much freedom because of the color of my skin, but these disparities make me believe that getting an education is the first step in gaining freedom and creating the kind of change I want to see in the future. I want to see equity among students of color and white students in this country. I want to see more minorities becoming successful in school and in their futures. This is why I fight for education justice.