Nothing to lose, everything to gain

“Legislators, the governor’s office, and education officials have neglected Providence schools for years. Anyone who doesn’t live under a rock could tell you that. But now all of a sudden they want to keep the schools open amidst a pandemic under the guise that they care about the students…”

Rhode Island News: Nothing to lose, everything to gain

November 20, 2020, 9:00 am

By Missak Manouchian

The unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the contradictions that undergird American society to a boil; and this holds true in Rhode Island perhaps more than anywhere else. After months of bipartisan inaction in Washington, uprisings against white supremacy, and an ongoing Constitutional coup by the right wing, Rhode Island finds itself with Covid cases rising exponentially. But for the sake of time, let’s focus on Covid and the public schools in Providence.

Back in March, all of the schools were closed and moved to remote/distance learning. Yet for reasons that are still unclear, schools were rushed open in early September at the insistence of the governor and although social gatherings are supposed to be limited to five as of this writing, school classrooms are well over that number. As someone who attended public schools in Providence I can’t say I’m surprised at the incompetent manner in which RIDE [Rhode Island Department of Education] and the governor have handled the situation, but we need to assess what WE, regular people, not politicians or bureaucrats, need to be doing to make sure our communities can survive the pandemic. Because as of right now it doesn’t look like COVID-19 is what’s actually going to kill us, it’s the State!

Finding a soul overnight

When Governor Raimondo and RIDE were confronted with the reluctance on the part of the public to open schools they responded with a litany of responses, relying on the well-being of students and their families to bolster their arguments: “How will they eat? How will their parents take care of them while they are at work? Students need education!” Politicians are usually dishonest but for them to so brazenly lie about their concern for students in Providence is quite shocking. Legislators, the governor’s office, and education officials have neglected Providence schools for years. Anyone who doesn’t live under a rock could tell you that. But now all of a sudden they want to keep the schools open amidst a pandemic under the guise that they care about the students.

For years students in Providence have had to deal with racist teachers, racist principals, and a racist curriculum. For years we’ve had to deal with a severe shortage of resources for English-Language Learners, discriminatory policies of punishment and policing in schools, and decaying buildings filled with mold. Students and parents have been anything BUT quiet about these issues and they’ve been ignored, continually. As an example of just how tone deaf the state really is, they even hired out-of-state “experts” from Johns Hopkins and paid them a hefty chunk of change to tell us that our school system is failing the students like we didn’t already know. But now, when the country faces an unprecedented crisis, we’re supposed to believe the government when they say they are worried about our students? Give me a break.

I’m not the brightest star in the sky, nor am I a public health expert, but it boggles my mind that the Rhode Island state government actually believed that sending students back to schools (which were already overcrowded), in the middle of a raging pandemic, wouldn’t lead to a surge in cases. The ONLY reason Raimondo and the wolves in the education department are so insistent that schools stay open is because they won’t do a damn thing to actually support working families. The state knows that if they close schools they’ll have to admit that people must stay home, and subsequently that they’d have to provide people with economic aid. And that right there is the government’s worst nightmare: actually HELPING people using tax money instead of policing them or bailing out corporations. That’s too much to ask for right?

Instead we’re supposed to march on acting as if everything is fine and dandy. I never have and never will hold any faith in a politician to do the right thing to support the people, but the very least the Governr can do is wear a mask during public appearances. How is the average person supposed to take it when they see you prancing around on TV without a mask, urging the rest of us to do it or suffer the consequences? How many tests do you and your staff get each week? 

An Appeal to Revolt

I want to make an appeal to everyone who reads this. Don’t expect Biden or any newly elected local “progressives” to suddenly alter the fate of us ordinary people. ALL of us, children, students, adults, workers, the unemployed, and so forth need to get organized and TAKE what we need. If you sit around waiting for the government to do something to help you, you may as well write your own obituary with all that extra time. The ONLY way we are going to get concessions from Capital and the State is by struggling, without compromise, and taking what we need. Students, I ask you to refuse to attend schools and even refuse to attend online classes until you are all supplied with the resources you need. We ALL must work towards a general strike in the state of Rhode Island to force them into conceding these demands:

  • The IMMEDIATE cancellation of all rent and mortgage payments, as well as all forms of debt.
  • Economic relief and aid to the most affected zip codes and communities in Providence.