Today, March 4th, NYC SJP joins Anakbayan NY in their call for an anti-imperialist youth contingent at the People’s March for Education Justice. We demand an education that reflects the needs and history of marginalized people here, especially at CUNY, a university that has the highest population of Black and Brown students in the United States. We memorialize the ongoing struggles to elevate decolonial curricula in CUNY and elsewhere, as ethnic studies programs are slashed in favor of whitewashed settler colonial history. Our role as Palestine organizers is one of unconditional support and participation in a movement to liberate CUNY for the people. We understand the historic demands of free tuition, open admissions, democratic governance, and a revolutionary curriculum which teaches oppressed nationality students their history, stemming from the 1969 Open Admissions Strike. We remember the lessons taught to us by Palestinian students who visited on the Right2Education campaign from Bir Zeit University and other universities in the West Bank. On one hand, U.S & Israeli coordinated military tactics are deployed in IDF raids on Palestinian universities. This serves as a barrier to education in Palestine, whether done to target specific political activity or for general intimidation. Students on their way to school may be routinely stopped, questioned, and detained. Israel intentionally stunts the accessibility of education for Palestinians, raiding the universities in the West Bank, bombing the schools in Gaza, and propagating naked cultural genocide on Palestinian students within 1948 historic Palestine.
Similarly, our schools in New York are under another sort of occupation: the New York Police Department. Beyond navigating the general criminalization of our communities, Black and Brown youth must also deal with the NYPigDepartment’s armed officers in schools, metal detectors in the hallways, truancy cops, and the ever-present threat of I.C.E. Oppressed nationality youth are thus doubly prevented from having a just and quality education: the intentional underfunding and neglect of public education in Black and Brown communities means only 14% of Black and Brown high school graduates are college-ready in New York City. In addition, Palestinian and other oppressed nationality students in many US public schools learn about their history from the viewpoint of the oppressor. As NYC SJP, we know what we are taught about Palestine and other colonized countries we come from has never been reflective of the lived experiences of the diaspora who are educated in them. Upholding Zionist narratives in school sends a message to these students that their whole identities or histories are not welcome in the classroom. The colonial assumption that “Columbus discovered America” and the erasure of the violence he unleashed on indigenous peoples of the Americas goes hand in hand with similar ideas about the role of Zionism taught in today’s schools. We recognize that the education given to us is not merely propaganda, but part of an apparatus designed to prepare us for exploitation under capitalist class society, and part of maintaining the ideological justification for empire. The U.S. empire would not be able to function if its education system did not indoctrinate us into believing that Puerto Rico is the U.S., Palestine is Israel, and in the crusty decayed corpse that is the American Dream. We stand in solidarity with all peoples unfairly unrepresented in their curriculum, all students with guns in their faces, and all those who must walk through a checkpoint to get to class, whether that is in Bethlehem or Parkchester. Thus progressive education policies should also include a call to social justice teaching, on the Palestinian struggle and beyond. Public education must be thought of as a collective project; the community will not be benefitted from the opportunity that a few individual students may have to “choose” to go to a charter school. We demand an education system that teaches us our real histories, that prepares us to organize for liberation, and most importantly, one that materially benefits our communities.
With the election of wannabe-Mussolini Donald Trump, Betsy DeVos – a billionaire advocate of charter schools and defunding of public education – has just been appointed the Secretary of Education. The destruction of accessible education has led to cities like New Orleans, where not a single public high school is left. Although DeVos is escalating the attacks on public education, teachers unions and scientific curriculum, she was not the first to do so, the previous approach to education under Obama and other presidents has assaulted the people’s right to education for as long as this country has existed. However, the urgency of fighting for accessible and just education has never been more apparent in recent history.
And as students, we cannot pretend that we will be students forever, or that we are somehow outside of our communities once we enter the university. Our organizing has led us to be attacked by everyone from City Council to the terrorist Jewish Defense League, but we acknowledge that all these attacks are meant to hamper the revolutionary potential of our communities and force them, through a myriad of ways, into an apolitical existence. The student movement should serve the community – and not limit itself to student-specific demands, else we risk rendering ourselves politically irrelevant in the long term. Build organizations and caucuses in your high schools, colleges, graduate associations and teachers unions. Divest from Israel and prisons, from the Dakota Access Pipeline and military industrial complex. Force ICE and ROTC off campus, throw professors like Petraeus out the door, demand a just contract for our educators, and go back to our communities and serve the people.
In solidarity with Anakbayan, we aim to Take Back Our Education – away from the politicians and private corporations, into the hands of the people of this city.
We call on all youth and students to participate in the March 4 Education TODAY at 9:30 AM in Columbus Circle and 2:00 PM at Hunter College!