Racism and Homeschooling: A Personal Story

The murder of George Floyd has sparked an American uprising and global protests. It has also sparked conversations about racial injustice and the use of lethal force by law enforcement, especially against unarmed Black American males.

How is it that African Americans, who represent approximately 13 percent of the U.S. population, are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of Whites (naacp.org)? And how is it that Black Americans are 2.5 times more likely than White Americans to be killed by police (statista.com)? In Minneapolis, where George Floyd was denied the right to breathe, less than 20 percent of the population is Black, yet police use force against Black people at 7 times the rate of Whites (nytimes.com). But, why? 

The answers to these questions stem from centuries of legalized oppression—and systems and stereotypes that perpetuate the oppression. The “why” or the root of racial injustice against Black Americans must continue to be studied and exposed. However, for there to be change, every American must be accountable for his or her contribution to the problem. It is not enough to say, “This is not my problem. I am not a racist.” Kendi X. Ibram, author of How to be an Antiracist, defines a “racist” as “one who is supporting a racist policy through their actions or inaction or expressing a racist idea.” Inaction (or silence) is agreement. In other words, if you are not speaking out against racism, you are a racist. 

What can you do to break the silence? What can you do to actively fight against racist policies? 

One of the most effective ways to fight against racism is to expose it and speak out against it within your circles of influence—your family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, club members, etc. 

As a homeschool mom, it is my duty to expose and speak out against racism within the homeschool community. 

Homeschooling’s Racist Past 

“The level of public school integration reached its peak for most regions in the 1980s—the same time period that most states (29 of them) enacted homeschooling laws. Because the overwhelming majority of homeschooling families are White, it is conceivable that homeschooling began to flourish in the 1980s in reaction to increased school integration. Thus, the increased number of homeschooled families might have compelled many states to pass homeschooling laws (Homeschooling and Racism by Tal Levy).”  

But homeschooling due to hatred and racism had been occurring long before the 1980s. In 1960, a federal court ordered Louisiana to desegregate its public schools. Six-year-old Ruby Bridges was the first African-American to desegregate an all-white elementary school in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Ruby Bridges (Photo by Paul Slade/Paris Match via Getty Images)

Bridges described the scene of being greeted by an angry mob as she entered the school: “…There was a large crowd of people outside of the school. They were throwing things and shouting…”  Every morning, one woman would threaten to poison her, another held up a Black baby doll in a coffin, while others chanted, “Two, four, six, eight, we don’t want to integrate.” 

Barbara Henry—a White teacher from Boston, Massachusetts, and a supporter of school integration—was the only teacher willing to teach Bridges. For an entire school year, they were the only ones present in the classroom. Hundreds of parents had removed their children from the school, choosing to homeschool or flee to all-white suburban areas rather than have them sit beside Ruby, a six-year-old who enjoyed playing jump rope, softball, and climbing trees. 

Barbara Henry (2014)

Throughout the years of legally desegregating public schools, most parents who chose to homeschool were identified as white conservative Christians, Christian fundamentalists, or evangelical Christians. Rousas John Rushdoony, a minister who inspired the “Christian” homeschool movement was an overt racist. He referred to slavery as “benevolent,” saying that“some people are by nature slaves;” he believed interracial marriage was “unequal yoking” and should be illegal; and he denied the atrocities of the Holocaust. 

Homeschooling and Racism Today 

The number of homeschools has grown exponentially since the 1980s and 1990s. Today, U.S. homeschool families represent a variety of races, ethnicities, and religions. Many of them have chosen to homeschool for reasons other than separating their children from a particular race of people. For example, I give my children a home education because I truly believe that nobody cares more about my Black children’s future than me and my husband. Although homeschooling has become more diverse, most homeschool families identify themselves as white Christians, and a large number of them perpetuate racist practices and ideologies under the mask of “Christianity.” 

Racism and Homeschooling: My Experience 

My journey as a homeschool mom spans four states and five cities. Yes, my family has moved around quite a bit! And each time we landed in a new city, I was eager to check out the homeschool scene, specifically the Christian homeschool scene. I consider myself a Christ-follower, and I had often looked for opportunities to connect my children with homeschool groups who share our core values: having the heart of Christ and excellence in education. 

This year, my oldest son will be the first to graduate from our homeschool. He’s had a successful journey and will attend one of our nation’s top-ranked colleges, but most of his homeschool education has been independent of homeschool groups or co-ops. 

Most of the years, we lived in mostly-White cities, and my attempts to connect with like-minded homeschool families were overall unsuccessful. I struggled to ignore racial microaggressions from predominately-White Christian homeschool groups who struggled to see past the color of my skin. 

I’ve been bombarded with questions from homeschool moms who were more concerned with “how can a Black family afford to homeschool” rather than being concerned with my curriculum choices or just welcoming me and my family. The questions were asked in a covert manner: Where do you live? Which side of the interstate do you live on? Or you renting or buying? Where does your husband work? What does your husband do? 

My children have been gawked at by White homeschool kids who watched their every move as if they had stepped off a spaceship instead of a minivan. 

I’ve walked into rooms filled with White homeschool moms who avoided eye contact with me or refused to respond when I greeted them with a loud and jubilant “Good morning, everyone!”  

I’ve had long, seemingly-cordial conversations with White homeschool moms about their families and faith; yet, they failed to invite me to their churches. And a day after talking with me, some of them treated me as if I were invisible—not willing to acknowledge their new Black acquaintance in front of their White friends. 

I’ve witnessed a White Christian homeschool mom teach a Bible-based class that was less about promoting the principles of Christianity and more about promoting her political views—demonizing Barack Obama and Americans who kneel-in-protest during the singing of the national anthem. 

I’ve also found a popular Christian homeschool textbook to be racially biased and racially inaccurate. 

Nowadays, I focus a lot less on making sure my children are connected with Christian homeschool groups. Being part of a group hasn’t brought about any friendships for me or my children. Instead, my greatest focus is ensuring my children are connected with Christ—following his examples of love, forgiveness, and service.  

My Message to Racist Homeschool Parents 

If you aren’t having discussions with your children about racial injustice, you are the problem. If hearing “Black Lives Matter” or seeing peaceful protests makes you uncomfortable, you are the problem. If you are more concerned with murdering George Floyd’s character more than you are concerned with the way he was murdered, you are the problem.  If brown skin makes you feel even the slightest discomfort, you are the problem.

And if you are a homeschool parent but aren’t weeping with those who are weeping (Romans 12:15); seeking justice and defending the oppressed (Isaiah 1:17); and treating every person with equal value (Galatians 3:28), please remove “Christian” from your label. 

My Message to All Homeschool Parents 

I challenge you to speak out against all forms of racism within your circles of influence because, literally speaking, there won’t be another George Floyd. But without change within every circle, there will be another Black man—someone else’s father, son, husband, or brother. I’m speaking out because I don’t want to be that “someone else.” 

Take the challenge: Have you experienced racism? Share your story. #exposeracismchallenge

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