Q&A with L’Heureux Lewis-McCoy
On Tuesday, October 28th at 7pm, scholar-activist L’Heureux Lewis-McCoy will give a reading and discussion of his new book, Inequality in the Promised Land: Race, Resources, and Suburban Schooling.
Lewis-McCoy’s book examines the premise that suburban public schools have superior resources than their inner-city peers and are known from their extracurricular offerings and college preparatory programs. He argues that despite the glowing opportunities that many families associate with suburban schooling, accessing a district’s resources is not always straightforward, particularly for black and poorer families. Moving beyond class- and race-based explanations, Inequality in the Promised Land focuses on the everyday interactions between parents, students, teachers, and school administrators in order to understand why resources seldom trickle down to a school district’s racial and economic minorities.
We had the opportunity to ask Lewis-McCoy a few questions about the inspiration of Inequality in the Promised Land, his personal reading, and an upcoming project:
How did you come to write Inequality in the Promised Land?
I have always been interested in education, because it should be the engine of social change. However, the more I dug into education, particularly work on educational opportunity, I realized a great deal of writing talked about how much was spent on schools, what test scores resulted, but too little of it talked about what was happening in schools. Also, when I looked further into education that looked at the experiences of Black families and low-income families these books were almost exclusively in high-poverty urban areas. I was raised in working and middle class areas and schools and realized that the experiences of people like myself were missing from books shelves. I wondered, “Where are all the Black middle class families? Where are the poor White families? Where are the families in the suburbs?” The more I asked these questions, the more I realized we’ve assumed for too long suburban schools are doing well and that they’re not diverse. The more I researched I realized neither of those assumptions were correct. Instead, today’s suburban schools are diverse, but even though they’re racially and economically diverse, they’re still deeply unequal. In the end, I wrote Inequality in the Promised Land because it tells my story and the story of so many families seeking better opportunities who have been overlooked by researchers, policy makers, and everyday people.
What are you currently reading?
Right now I’m reading a number of things. In terms of the researcher side, I’m digging into On Intellectual Activism by Patricia Hill Collins, This Is Not a Test by Jose Vilson, and online I like to read the blog Racism Review by Jessie Daniels and Joe Feagin. For pleasure I’m reading This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz and preparing to dig into Long Division by Kiese Laymon.
Do you have a personal favorite book of all time? If so, can you share it and tell us why?
My favorite book of all time is the Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley. The Autobiography was one of the first books I read that helped me make sense of my identity as a Black male in America. I keep going back to it because there are so many layers to it and at each phase of my life, I find new jewels about politics, love, and history.
Is there anything you are particularly looking forward to the publication of?
I’m looking forward to Daniel Black’s forthcoming book The Coming. I got my hands on an excerpt of an earlier draft and it’s literally some of the most breathtaking writing I’ve ever read. Also, I’m patiently awaiting Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book. I don’t even know the title or if it has one but once I heard he was writing it, I’ve just been waiting on it.
What’s next? Any upcoming book projects in the works that you can tell us about?
Right now, I am working on a co-authored a book with Marc Lamont Hill on educational myths. This moment is particularly exciting in the world of education because there are more people interested in educational reform than ever before. This means there are new initiatives and experimental schools and inspired entrepreneurs, but between all these moving parts, good information often gets lost. Our book seeks to translate some of the more complex research and agendas into accessible ways, so that a caring parent who wants the best for their child can better navigate the system and make the best decisions for them.
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