A petition is making the rounds—’Free The Children of Kiarre Harris.’
Kiarre Harris, a mother of two, residing in Buffalo, N.Y., was arrested late last month for obstruction. Child Protective Services (CPS) rolled on her, demanding she turn over her children due to educational neglect. Kiarre was like, “Nah.” The strong arm of the law was like—”Yeah or it’s going down.” It went down.
The incident stems from the mother’s decision (and constitutional right) to homeschool. November of last year, she discharged her children from their failing school, believing she could teach them better. Despite their release, the Buffalo Public Schools District contacted CPS when the children were absent from the classroom a number of consecutive days. Kiarre maintains she removed her children from the system, following all protocol and procedure. She got receipts. However, CPS and the court pressed on. After her arrest and a failed attempt to hide her children’s whereabouts, Kiarre relented. Her children were taken into child protective custody and placed temporarily into the foster care system.It doesn't matter if her kids eat rack of lamb or Ramen noodles: Kiarre Harris is woke. Click To Tweet
Details surrounding Kiarre’s case get messy. A shitstorm of accusations painting her as an unfit parent have since piled against her. All this leaves me unsure of authorities intentions (they have yet to show their receipts). After careful research, I’ve concluded that Kiarre’s failure to appear at a CPS hearing (she says she was busy) led to court action, which ultimately led to her arrest, which ultimately led to this current petition. I’m not here for the judgement, nor to get all up in her personal business, but rather to call bullshit when it comes to Blackness and Bureaucracy. The two go together like oil and breast milk.
Blackness—particularly Blackness that thrives at the poverty line and beneath dominant culture’s gaze—takes a hit when it attempts betterment in spaces reserved for the “upwardly mobile.” In this case, it is homeschooling.
Recently, homeschooling has become increasingly visible and socially accepted across diverse populations, but it is certainly not the new wave. Seven years ago, an estimated 2 million students in grades K-12 were home-schooled in the U.S., and per the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), that number reached 2.3 million in 2016 and is growing incrementally between two percent to eight percent yearly. Of those numbers, Blacks make up 10 percent.
Homeschooling ain’t no buzzword. Numbers don’t lie. History proves that homeschooling precedes public, institutionalized education by many moons. The concept of mandated education in the U.S. dates back to 1647 and really, you don’t need to understand rocket science to know that at-home is where a child’s fundamental learning begins.
Now, let’s sprinkle a little color on this narrative, because we cannot truly discuss American education without focusing people of color (née Black folks). Period. As recent as 1830, people of color (aka African immigrants who came to this country and worked really hard, according to our new Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson) were legally excluded from learning for the obvious reason: slavery. Post-slavery, lack of education for a majority of people of color was due to a lack of access and opportunity, plus sheer will to survive. Those who did see the inside of schools received education under slack conditions; some of them nearly lost their lives for their troubles. A few key moments of note: Brown vs. Board of Education, No Child Left Behind, and School-to-Prison pipeline, covertly created by big business and big government, to secure African American disenfranchise.
There should be no wonder as to why Kiarre Harris would remove her children from the grips of inferiority. It doesn’t matter if her kids eat rack of lamb or Ramen noodles: she’s woke. The case against Kiarre stinks for the foulest reason. The more I scrutinize the situation, the more it seems like bureaucratic bullies are overzealous with controlling Black lives. They are less concerned with the children’s welfare and more concerned with keeping Blackness in its rightful place—and according to Americaness, it’s at the very bottom. The bottom of slaveships. The bottom of socio-economics. The bottom of educational achievement.Black #homeschoolers stand on the front lines defending our right to participate. To be free. Click To Tweet
Kiarre Harris and countless others ride against that. Their resilience and resistance aims at proving that notion wrong. Without pointing fingers and seeking blame, we should at least salute them. For they stand on the front lines defending our right to participate. To be free. To be Black.
Free The Children of Kiarre Harris.
Sign the petition ‘Free The Children of Kiarre Harris’ here.
Ida Harris is a journalist and cultural critic covering a range of topics that intersect with Blackness, including art, activism, pop culture, parenting and womanhood. Ida is especially known for her critical writing on sexual assault against Black women and girls. Her work is featured in ELLE , DAME , Blavity, Teen Vogue , and USA Today.