Yet Fields-Smith made a point of noting the respect black families had for the people running and teaching in neighborhood schools. What these families objected to is the institutional racism that underpins those schools—the tendency to discipline children of color at higher rates than their black peers, for example, and the residential segregation that determines the educational quality and demographic composition of a given campus.
In other words, in opting to homeschool, the parents weren’t necessarily seeking to shelter their children from a learning environment they believed deliberately disenfranchised black kids. They had simply accepted what they see as the unfortunate reality of the country’s public-education system: one comprising well-intended schools that are crippled by America’s racist legacy. To liberate their children from this trap, they were performing an act of extreme self-reliance—taking it upon themselves to provide them an education that was more personal, more engaging, and more anchored in black self-discovery. “Nobody [in my study] bashed public schools as an institution,” Fields-Smith said. But “how long do you try to stay in there … before you realize time is wasting [and] you’ve got to make a change?”
Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at www.MatthewAndMaggie.org