Op-Ed: I pushed my kids to succeed academically to escape racism. But it doesn’t work that way.
By Paul D. Miller
As an editor at an American company for nearly forty years, I was able to push my children to succeed academically to escape racism.
What I didn’t know at the time was the extent to which I succeeded. My children, in fact, were among the black students who scored the highest in school. But it didn’t stop me from noticing a discrepancy in who did and did not get A’s, B’s or C’s. There were many children whose parents had been pushing them to do well in school for years. They weren’t as academically successful as their affluent friends.
The biggest problem was that many black children simply did not want to succeed. Their parents had sacrificed for them in order to help them succeed. They pushed. They sacrificed. They worked extra hours to achieve excellence. They didn’t want to give up the extra time or the extra effort. They didn’t want to compromise their ideals to get by. They said no to what their parents wanted. Their parents asked them to. They didn’t just say yes. They didn’t just do. They didn’t just succeed. They didn’t just work. They never felt that they were good enough.
Their parents had sacrificed so much to help them. They had sacrificed for them. They had pushed their kids into the system at an early age. They pushed them like crazy to help their children do so well in school. But they couldn’t make them do well. They were not as academically successful as their more privileged friends.
Some of it had to do with education being a system. Some of it had to do with the environment being hostile toward black children. Some of it had to do with parents being so overprotective. Some of it had to do with the black child being a good kid trying harder. I am still learning this and other stories from my children’s childhoods. It may come to me like a revelation someday.
I never pushed my kids to be successful despite all of the pressure to succeed that I experienced as a white man. In fact, I didn’t push my sons’ or daughters’ scores much higher than their peers at school. I certainly