Guest column: White educators pledge to address systemic racism

  • Philonise Floyd, a brother of George Floyd, gives an opening statement during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on proposed changes to police practices and accountability on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, June 10, 2020, in Washington. Michael Reynolds/Pool via AP

Thursday, June 18, 2020

As white educators devoted to building racial equity and a more just and compassionate world — and as community members, parents, partners, and neighbors, our hearts are heavy because of the continued immoral treatment of black people, brown people and all people of color in our nation.

We remember Mr. George Floyd’s mother — knowing the loss of one’s son is most heartbreaking. We send our condolences to his mother, Ms. Washington, his children, his family and his community. We are edgy and unconsolable knowing Mr. Floyd’s murder was done by a police officer. However, we know this is not the first time this has happened, but rather a pattern of systemic racism within law enforcement and society at large.

We know that all people of color in our country feel the impacts of racism every day. Racism is manifested in multiple ways, and it has culminated in unconscionable ways at this time: disproportionate numbers of COVID-19 cases, deaths and long-term physical ailments due to the disease; underlying health issues, insufficient or no health care, mistreatment by health personnel, unemployment, non-living wages, limited or no access to learning during this distant learning time, underfunded schools, no wealth legacy, racial profiling, increased use of force by police and more arrests and incarcerations. This list is incomplete because it’s significantly long.

The daily struggles due to racism are affecting our families and our community of color. Unfortunately and statistically, black people encounter racism in larger numbers.

We know that our students of color feel the impacts of racism. We acknowledge that while students of color in our schools, as a whole, have lower MCAS scores in comparison to white students, they are brilliant young people affected by systemic racism, and we as educators have failed to make the system work for them.

We also acknowledge that our schools, like those across our nation, discipline students of color at a higher rate than their white peers. We know this isn’t because students of color act out more or aren’t as smart as white students. We know this is because we need to continue to make changes in our teaching practices and school policies to create new ways of educating through promotion of racial equity.

Our commitment is to address and work to change our institutional policies and individual practices that uphold systemic racism and white supremacy in our schools. Knowing that good intentions can create actions and choices that are biased, and that our educational institutions are built on centuries of white students fairing better, we understand the process of change won’t occur overnight. However, we are dedicated to the mission of racially equitable practices.

We will do this because we recognize that students of color are capable of and deserve to reach academic excellence. We will do this because students of color deserve to learn in a school culture that respects all students. We will do this because we need to change how we do school and this will benefit us all.

This column was signed by members of the Fort River White Educators for Racial Justice, which includes educators, administrators and staff members who identify as white and desire to create racial equity practices and policies at their school.