For my money, the second-most vapid and clueless phrase to come out of the 2016 election cycle, second only to “Make America Great Again,” was the liberal rejoinder that “America is Already Great.” (This will be the only time that I unironically use the hashtag #ThanksObama.) Even in a pre-President Trump world, the saying rang unbelievably tone-deaf in a nation that was experiencing near-record levels of inequality, the shattering of families via state-sanctioned violence and staggering rates of incarceration, the frontal assault on democracy by way of dark money and voter suppression, and so on.
In particular, I think about that annoying phrase every time I see a GoFundMe campaign to help fund someone’s basic medical care needs so that they don’t die. So of course I thought about it when I saw this GoFundMe campaign to help purchase space heaters, hats, gloves, and other winter gear for Baltimore City schools so that kids there can learn effectively or at least not get hypothermia.
Anaija Bishop, a 16-year-old freshman at Frederick Douglass High School, spent part of the school day Wednesday with a purple fleece blanket wrapped around her puffy coat. It was freezing cold inside her school, she said.
The school dismissed at 1 p.m. due to pipe and water issues, but Bishop said the first half of the day was wasted. It was impossible to learn in such conditions, she said.
“The district needs to think about how cold we are and how sick we can get,” she said.
It was the second day students at Douglass bundled up inside their classrooms.
Some students, parents and teachers across the city said they felt their only recourse was to take to social media. Some tweeted photos of children huddled in classrooms wearing thick winter coats. Others posted images of thermometers showing temperatures in the 30s and 40s inside open city school buildings.
Given the demographics of Baltimore City schools and the investment choices of the government, former Baltimore City teacher Janie Tankard Carnock is absolutely right that this is neither a new problem and is “systemic racism, laid bare.”
Yes, America truly is already great.
Aside: a reminder to support teachers unions, who in cities like Chicago and Baltimore are more often than not the most important advocates for students as well as teachers.