While the City of Baltimore withstood freezing temperatures this week, its schools decided that the Black children who populate it should be forced to attend school in the withering and blistering cold weather. If anyone needed any extra convincing that the public school system does not work in the benefit of Black children, this should certainly be the last straw. As Janie Tankard Carnock writes in an Op-Ed that has since been republished by CNN:

There are many, structural layers shaping unequal educational opportunity in this country — disparate access to technology, high-quality curriculum and teachers, small class sizes, advanced coursework, summer enrichment opportunities, and more. But the recent reports from Baltimore highlight something more visceral and basic: the neglect of rock-bottom, foundational needs of human beings.

And this problem isn’t unique to winter. The opposite issue emerges in the summer when students face scorching temperatures with unreliable or nonexistent air conditioning. A city of students go without running drinking water because of concerns of lead poisoning. (Administrators later replaced the running water with water bottles.) Cockroaches and rodents scurry across classroom floors.

Others echoed his sentiments:

Jones’ own words follow a popular narrative that is proven not only in Baltimore, but in scholastic institutions that house the learning of Black children the entire country over. America only values its rich and white students, especially in states that stipulate funding is to go towards the schools that perform well on various state tests, which only serves to recreate the conditions that allow for the well-funded schools to be majority white or located in the suburbs. This signals to children in majority Black and Brown neighborhoods that they are not valued.

The latent racism in allowing Black students and students of color to attend schools where they can see their condensing breath in hallways and shudder in cold classrooms allows us to see that these schools and administrative officials do not see them as human or worthy of protection. Even though the school officials attempted to respond to pointed criticisms, their responses do not answer the question of why these inequalities are allowed to fester in a learning environment supposed to ensure that children receive an adequate and comfortable education.

The conditions of the Baltimore schools might look like a pre-Brown vs The Board of Education world, but a world where schools do not have to pretend to value Black students has always been here. A world of separate but unequal was not only understood to be the rule of the Jim Crow South but it is in all the ways we reinforce the idea that Black people and Black students are inferior and not worth as much as their white counterparts.

These kinds of conditions should be unthinkable, but those who have been following the way that school funding tends to function are not taken aback by the inequality which even now shapes the way that Black children are forced to learn in American schools. Put plainly, this is merely the latest in a long and storied tradition of American inequality setting forth and spelling out the national agenda and cultural understanding of Blackness in America.