Rashad Turner was training to become a police officer when he became so distressed by the process that he became an activist. Little did he know exactly what he was jumping into.
In 2015, he founded a chapter of Black Lives Matter and came to prominence as a local activist. And then, in 2016, he quit, saying the movement had been “hijacked.”
Turner didn’t stop being an activist, though. He’s now the executive director of the Minnesota Parent Union, a movement that supports both educational excellence and family involvement. In a viral video he made about why he left Black Lives Matter, he said the “ugly truth” about the group is that it works to “create barriers to a better education for black children.”
In the video, posted by black conservative group TakeCharge Minnesota last week, Turner talked about how education allowed him to beat the odds.
“My mother wasn’t able to take care of me, so I was raised by my grandparents. They told me that if I was going to change my life for the better, education was the answer,” Turner said.
“So, I worked hard in school. I got into Hamline University, and earned a college degree, the first in my family. Then I went on to earn a master’s in education from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota. I am living proof that no matter your start in life, quality education is a pathway to success.”
According to a 2016 profile of Turner by NPR, he then went on to train as a police officer. However, when he was presented with a scenario during an oral examination where he said the board of examiners “wanted me to say I would kill” an individual who kept walking toward him and refused to comply with orders to stop or put their hands up, he decided law enforcement wasn’t for him.
Instead, he went the opposite direction. After 24-year-old Jamar Clark was shot by police in Minneapolis in 2015, he founded the chapter of Black Lives Matter in nearby St. Paul.
“I believed the organization stood for exactly what the name implies, black lives do matter,” Turner said in the video. “However, after a year on the inside, I learned they have little concern for rebuilding black families, and they cared even less about improving the quality of education for students in Minneapolis.
“That was made clear when they publicly denounced charter schools, alongside the teachers union. I was an insider in Black Lives Matter, and I learned the ugly truth — the moratorium on charter schools does not support rebuilding the black family, but it does create barriers to a better education for black children.”
As TakeCharge Minnesota pointed out in the video, the original Black Lives Matter charter made it clear that “[w]e disrupt the nuclear family structure.” They wouldn’t disrupt the same education system that had failed its students for years — especially with remote learning in 2020 — and stood with the ossified teachers unions that were part of the problem.
Turner announced his break with the movement in 2016, saying it had been “co-opted” and “hijacked,” particularly on education.
“For me, it was a question of integrity,” Turner said, according to education website The 74. “Being that I am all for charter schools and ed reform, and as someone who is seeking educational justice for students and families, I could no longer be under that banner of Black Lives Matter.
“Stepping outside of that banner personally meant that I needed to step down from a leadership role and any affiliation with Black Lives Matter if I’m going to do a great job in education and fighting for educational justice.”
In a separate interview with The 74 shortly after his departure, Turner said he “was very surprised that the NAACP or BLM would call for a moratorium on new charter schools but not call for a moratorium on the overrepresentation of black students in special education, or the school-to-prison pipeline, or [the kinds of] curriculum that do not meet the needs of all students.
“Our public education system has people who are sometimes literally dying for the lack of educational opportunity. And when I think of charter schools in my community here in St. Paul and their benefit to students of color — low-income students — to call for a moratorium or an end to charter schools just lets me know that something funny is going on. I’ve kind of had feelings of trickery or different things going on that didn’t align with my beliefs or value system.”
That’s a very “ugly truth” to confront about Black Lives Matter. It’s one that’s stuck with Turner — who’s still an activist, just of a different sort.
“I didn’t quit working to improve black lives, and access to a great education,” he said in the video. “Today, I serve as the president and executive director of Minnesota Parent Union. We’re dedicated to helping parents move their children from failing schools to successful schools.”
One group Rashad Turner founded is part of a movement that loudly claims black lives matter. Another one ensures those black lives don’t languish in dysfunctional public school systems.
Funny which one gets celebrated by the media, though.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.