Amid the horror and sadness of the murder of unarmed Black people at the hands of police officers, we are seeing the coming together of people of all races, ethnicities, and socio-economic status. It is beautiful to see on social media and the news thousands of people exercising their First Amendment right to express themselves in a peaceful protest. I love to see the posts on social media of those speaking out and the signs expressing the disdain and disgust with the way that Black people have been treated in this country for the past 400+ years.
My favorite sign of the protest thus far was a little girl who held a sign that said, “You Messed (her sign expressed some colorful language) with the Wrong Generation for the Last Time.” My sentiments precisely young queen. This generation must be the one that finally gets us the justice and the rights we have been denied for so many years.
I love the fact that I see teachers and other educators engaging in the protests and joining the fight. Educators, both Black and white, are speaking up and taking a stand against the systemic racism and oppression that Black people are facing in our society. What is happening to Black people at the hands of police officers in this country is wrong; we all can agree it is wrong and should not be happening in a country. In a country where there is a promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for Blacks, this should not be the case. That is all it is, a promise and not a reality. Educators see that the lives of Black people are being taken in senseless acts of violence. We know that we are not offered the same liberties as our white brothers and sisters. How can we have happiness when just being Black can get you killed?
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said,
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
I believe Dr. King was referencing all things that matter. I see educators marching in protest and being vocal on social media. Still, those same educators are silent about the inequalities, racism, and oppression of Black children happening in the school where they teach. You should not yell and protest in the street and on social media and then sit silently at your school. At the same time, the school system where you work is part of participating in the educational malpractice of Black children which slowly sends them to their death figurately and often literally. Educators, we cannot be a shark in the streets but a hermit crab in the school.
Kelisa Wing said it best in her piece Teachers Must Hold Themselves Accountable for Dismantling Racial Oppression. “We must commit to teaching in a way that totally disrupts and dismantles the system of oppression.” That comes from speaking up and out about racial oppression happening in the school system. We have to be the voice. We can protest, march, and storm the statehouse for more pay. We can also protest, march, and storm the statehouse to ensure our students receive an education that is quality and is not attending a school that is there to oppress them more or make them feel unappreciated.
Speak up if your school has more or just as many police officers/security guards than counselors or social workers.
Speak up if your school serves predominately Black children, yet every book they read is by a white author about a white kid or a white story.
Speak up if your school has an entire unit about the Holocaust and nothing on the Civil Rights Movement.
Speak up if your school uses “To Kill A Mockingbird” to address race, and your students haven’t read Kindred.
Speak up if your school which serves predominately Black children does not have a statement or a plan for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
Speak up if your school predominantly serves Black children and has a predominately white staff, and you all do not do an implicit bias training.
Speak up if your school has a wide achievement gap between Black students and white students.
Speak up if your school has more polices around discipline than academic interventions.
Speak up if your school has not released a statement regarding the events taking place in our country.
If we remain silent about what is happening in our schools to Black children, we are as guilty as those three officers who watched and did nothing as George Floyd was being murdered and his cry for help, “I CAN’T BREATHE” went unheard. We cannot do the same and sit around while an oppressive and racist education system is killing our children. Open your ears and hear the cry from our children, “I AM NOT LEARNING,” and open your mouth and do something about it!