Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Black parent faces loss of Catholic school

Ever Strong at Christ Our Savior Catholic School in South Holland.

      Last week I got an email that begins with journalistic clarity I could never improve upon:
     “My name is Carolyn Strong and I am a parent at Christ Our Savior Catholic School in South Holland, Illinois. The archdiocese recently announced that they were closing four Catholic schools. What they failed to say was that all of these schools were located in either Black or Brown communities. What they also failed to acknowledge was that with the closing of Christ Our Savior and St. Ann located in South Holland and Lansing respectively, they have created a 25-mile dearth of Catholic education in the southeast suburbs.”
     That seemed worth a follow-up. I phoned Strong, who has a doctorate in education.
     “We have 146 students, all Black and Brown, 137 Black, nine Latino,” she said. “It is the only all-minority Catholic school outside of the city. There are no others. My decision to send her there: because I am an educator, there are certain things I’m looking for. Because we’re a two-educator household. Because I am raising Black children, what I’m looking for is a mixture of academic rigor and cultural responsibility and a chance for my child to see herself reflected in the day-to-day of the school. Representation is very important. I’ve learned from my own work, which centers around Black students, the impact of anti-racism on Black kids. Representation matters. When you’re ‘othered’cq from such a young age it has an impact moving forward; it’s not a good one. That was top of mind choosing a school.”
     She has two daughters. Eden, 18, in the middle of her COVID-constrained freshman year at Northwestern. And Ever, 5, in first grade at Christ Our Savior. That age gap is no accident, Strong said. Raising a gifted daughter requires undivided attention and determination.
     “There are people who believe you can’t be both Black and smart,” Strong said. “The things we went through with our older daughter. People doubting her. We came in with IQ scores. Came in with testing. None of that stuff mattered. All they saw was a Black child.”
       Christ Our Savior is different.

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  1. Amen to your closing line. Sometimes the answer is "both." Automatically accepting or dismissing the other side of an issue neglects reality. Is race an issue here? Definitely. Are logistics and finances justification? Of course. But of course defensiveness on both sides will probably result in things remaining as they are.

  2. Strong points out: "Go to Chicago Heights. Go to Midlothian. Go to these places 30, 40 miles out of your way"
    Of the merged schools, the diocese says: "They’re merging, the archdiocese says, because they’re a mile and a half apart. The closest school to Christ Our Savior is six miles away."
    So, six miles is too far for a merger, but not too far for Strong to send her kids?
    I smell a rat.

  3. Sorry but I have to vote with the diocese on this one. They've got the facts and numbers on their side. Catholic schools are closing all over the place and have been for decades. The one in my (lily-white) hometown, an institution where I went for piano lessons, shut down more than 20 years ago. There are just fewer kids to go around, and it's been that way a long time.

    That "every parent thinks their child is gifted" line gets used a lot, on parents of all races. It was used on my parents and on me when we tried to get my stepdaughter into gifted classes.

    I don't doubt that Ms. Strong and her children have been victimized by racism. It would be impossible to live in this country as a Black person without experiencing racism. I just don't see overwhelming evidence of it here, given the facts presented in this column.

  4. I took a moment to read the mission statement of the church and of catholic schools of chicago .

    The actions of the archdiocese in this circumstance seem to run counter to their mission and vision and strike me as hipocritical.

    The church while tax exempt is run like a corporation . For profit. Beholding to it's shareholders and the bottom line.

    The vast wealth of the church was accumulated by a patriarchal power structure. Very white and notoriously racist.

    I don't understand catholics. Their faith results in actions contrary to their self preservation.

    I don't know why people would choose to belong or send their kids to a Catholic institution no matter how well run , effective or prestigious. In the end the church will screw you and your kids for a buck. Of which they have billions.

    But that's just me.

    I feel sorry for Ms. Strong and her child . Affordable educational opportunities are scarce especially for people of color.

    It could be a " blessing" to be forced to find a different school . But very tough in the short term.

  5. Agree with Bitter Scribe that while Ms. Strong and her children no doubt face systematic racism on a regular basis, the "every parent thinks her child is gifted" line is thrown at just about every parent with a child seeking some enrichment for their child. When my kid was reading at a 6th grade level in Kindergarten and I asked if she could skip the basic phonic exercises that were boring her to tears I got that line. It's incredibly annoying and makes you feel like you did something wrong.

  6. It was nice of you to take up Ms. Strong's case and amplify it by presenting it in this column. And fair to present the archdiocese's side straightforwardly.

    "I’ll leave it to you to decide who’s right..." Fortunately, given that it's "possible they both are," I don't have to.


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