Black Lives Matter Philadelphia made a good bit of news recently because its invitation for its April 15 strategy meeting stated, “Please note that BLM Philly is a Black only space.” They followed up by tweeting out: “If you identify as a person of the African Diaspora You can attend our meetings and become a member. If not you can support us in other ways.”
The conservative website The Daily Caller headlined, “Black Lives Matter Philly Bans White People from Its Meetings.” Breitbart detailed the same issue and talked about how many people on Twitter said Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would never sanction such a policy. BLM Philly countered on Twitter: “He made that choice and we have made ours. White people can support us but they cannot attend our meetings.”
Writing in the Philly Daily News, Jenice Armstrong wrote a brilliant piece that featured Asa Khalif, leader of Black Lives Matter Pennsylvania, and his 80-year-old grandmother, who is white. Khalif conceded that his grandmother would be welcome but that the overall banning of whites policy is not new. Khalif said, “It’s a space particularly for black people to heal, cry, to vent, to organize, to be empowered, to be uplifted.”
I know Asa and, even though I think this policy is misguided, I think he and his colleagues can certainly pursue it. I don’t, however, think they can legally pursue it in taxpayer-funded spaces. Nashville Public Library officials agree with me. They rejected the request of the Nashville chapter of Black Lives Matter to meet in a library because library policy specifies that all meetings at their facilities must be open to the public.
My first thought when I heard about all this was this meeting in this discriminatory form can’t happen in a taxpayer-funded site. The meeting is supposed to be held at the Mastery Charter School-Shoemaker Campus in West Philly. I contacted Scott Gordon, who runs all the Mastery Charter schools. I’m a big fan of what Scott has accomplished for kids in his schools, and I would be surprised if he sanctioned this meeting.
I was right. Gordon was unaware of this meeting. He checked into it and then he emailed me: “Thanks for bringing the matter to my attention. We are following up to ensure all organizations using our facilities abide by our policy. Below is a statement regarding the policy.”
The statement said: “Mastery charter schools are public schools. As such, community groups may reserve space for meetings and events in our facilities. Events must follow our facility use policy, which does not allow any organization using our facilities to bar participation by any members of the public based on race, religion, or gender.”
My instinct was to say that BLM Philly is out of step with where Americans are and what is settled policy. Isn’t it curious that Philadelphia City Councilwoman Helen Gym and other major critics of charter schools are silent on this? Do they believe in some BLM Philly loophole that allows them to discriminate?
In fact, the Black Lives Matter coalition has clearly been an opponent of charter schools. In fact, Lance Izumi, senior director of the Center for Education at the Pacific Research Institute, writing at Philly.com says BLM “talks about an international education privatization.” He further says this echoes the National Education Association tweeting, “Privatization is a global threat to public education.” He talks about an NEA resolution that supports BLM. He also says Herm Rivera, one of the authors of the BLM document opposing charter schools, is executive director of the Philadelphia Student Union, which has received funding from the American Federation of Teachers.
I guess BLM Philly, which I feel blocks opportunity for minority students by trying to block charter schools, sees this charter school as an opportune spot for them. I hope people of good will see through this and oppose their use of a taxpayer-funded facility. I have faith in Gordon and people who honor King’s memory and wisdom.
Dom Giordano is a talk-show host and a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News.