DATA stands for anti-racism and stands with the protesters to bring awareness and change to our communities. We too, need to be aware and bring change to ensure our practices support, encourage and provide equal access for all students so they can reach their potential. There are barriers to overcome, learning for our faculty and staff to do, and community voices we need to listen to. Together, we can create a learning environment that appreciates different points of view, requires self-reflection, and allows our students to express their true selves.
The collective outcry in response to George Floyd’s death reminds us that “justice will not be served until all those unaffected are as outraged as those who are,” Benjamin Franklin. And like some of our colleagues at schools around the country, we struggle to find the right words and actions to confront our country’s legacy of racial injustice. We at DATA know that we have much work to do, and we will strive, as individuals and as a school, to build an anti-racist organization and help shape a more optimistic future.
I have done a great deal of reading over that past few weeks about what other schools are sharing with their communities. The two paragraphs below are part of a statement from the Asian Pacific Islander American Educational Leaders and offers a perspective that I believe is important to acknowledge.
Black communities are exhausted, heartbroken, and outraged from police brutality, the disproportionate harm of COVID-19, and 400 years of institutionalized racism that systemically plays out in every facet of our society. We believe that now and moving forward, we need to center Black voices, and none of us can be silent or complicit. We will act against anti-Blackness everywhere as part of the collective struggle for life and liberation.
As educational leaders, we must work together to ensure our schools are places of safety, inclusion, joy, excellence, and learning for our Black and other marginalized students. Our goal is to leverage our power and privilege as leaders to dismantle white supremacy culture and disrupt systemic racism in our own communities and in public education. We hold the responsibility to confront and combat racism and anti-Blackness in all facets of our personal and professional lives.
As educators, we seek not only understanding, but action. How do we become better at serving all students in our care? I reached out to one of our former students. An exceptional student, athlete, and incredibly strong woman, Iyahna Calton responded with eloquence, insight, and honesty. Below, with her permission, is her response.
“Personally when it comes to being a white ally it’s important that you acknowledge no matter how hard you try to understand experiences your students of color face, it will, for the most part, be something you’ll never know, however that doesn’t mean you can’t use your white privilege to let them have those moments and not dismiss them. Use your position to speak racism into existence where others like yourself are so easy to dismiss it. I was telling a friend, me being pro black insinuates that I genuinely believe black lives matter despite political belief. However, when someone is pro-white (like confederate flag white) that leads us to believe that person thinks white lives and white lives only matter, no one else. That’s how separate our histories are, and is unfortunately something we’ve carried into the future as well. The confederate flag was FINALLY banned in the military only how long after the civil war? Don’t let people believe racism is over just because they don’t personally experience it. This country was built on racist notions, so it’s hard to just accept all of that is over, especially for people or color. Modern police departments began from “labor control” during times of slavery, and we all know what that means. So I’d say don’t let people move into the denial phase of racism, because that’s the biggest insult to people like me. Remind them that Ruby Bridges is still alive, and so is institutionalized hate. That doesn’t mean we can’t use our energy and education to end it.’
We must, together, make the diversity and richness of DATA important, seen, and valued. We need to engage in, what may be, difficult conversations, examine our daily actions and words, and our interactions with one another. No matter what the situation, our voices, individual and collective, can change the direction of what we want our community to be, now, and for generations to come.
DATA has established an Equity Council committed to reflect upon and address any inequities we find through our rigorous self-assessment process. This Equity Council is working closely with DATA’s leaders, administration, and teachers to address these inequities, implicit (unconscious) bias, and systemic racism inherent in all of our school systems. We know at times these conversations will be uncomfortable, difficult and painful, but we are committed to making our school, and our world, a better place for all. If you would like to receive updates about how to get involved, or have feedback for the Equity Council, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, we will be posting resources on our website in the coming weeks.