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Education is a Big Part of the Solution

6/24/2020, noon | Updated on 6/24/2020, noon
The pain of George Floyd’s murder has sent shockwaves through our nation, including right here in Chicago. It was vicious ...
Bernard Clay Executive director, Introspect Youth Services Member, Counting on Chicago Coalition

Education is a Big Part of the Solution

By Bernard Clay, Executive Director, Introspect Youth Services

Member, Counting on Chicago Coalition

The pain of George Floyd’s murder has sent shockwaves through our nation, including right here in Chicago. It was vicious and shocking but, sadly, not surprising.

We are right to worry that the events of the last week will too easily pigeonhole the sweeping tragedy of racism in America into merely a matter of police conduct, as critically important an issue that is. The murder of young black men at the hands of police is one of the many terrible consequences of systematic and non-systematic racism that exists in America. But police brutality is not the problem itself; it’s a horrifying and agonizing symptom. We must all push back on any implication that if we were to somehow solve police misconduct that the issue of black disenfranchisement will be solved.

Black Lives Matter, absolutely. But Black Well-Being Matters too. Black Economic Enfranchisement Matters. Black Health Care Matters. Black Education Matters.

I’ve worked my whole life encouraging black youth on Chicago’s Westside to pursue post-secondary education as the first step to claiming what is rightfully theirs: economic opportunity in this, the wealthiest nation on earth.

It is hard work. It starts by inspiring our youth to broaden their imagination of what their future can hold and setting aside their understandable intuition that the deck is stacked impossibly against them. It requires navigating a complicated testing, applications and admissions process. It requires swimming upstream against a post-secondary education landscape that favors the financially well-off.

But success is not only possible, we see it every day at Introspect Youth Services, We have placed more than 40,000 young people into colleges and professional training programs since 1977. We’ve done a lot but there is so much more we should do as a society.

This is an important moment in the long conversation over racial justice. We must use this energy and passion to address abject violence against African Americans. But, we also must use this moment to fortify our efforts to bring opportunity to black youth and to answer the call of the Counting on Chicago Coalition and complete the census, and, to ensure we get the funding we need for education in our communities.