Institutional racism has been ingrained in the fabric of our nation since its very inception, and the pervasive culture of white supremacy that has existed unchecked for centuries in the United States has allowed that institutional racism to persist. Our failure to address institutional racism, structural racism and white privilege has resulted in generations of trauma and harm for black and brown individuals and communities, manifesting itself every single day in an unfathomable number of ways, often perpetuated by institutions of the state. We’ve seen the insidious effects of institutional racism during the COVID pandemic, as black and Latinx communities have been forced to bear a disproportionate number of COVID-related deaths and hospitalizations. We saw the result of unchecked white supremacy culture when Ahmaud Aubery was murdered at the hands of two white men for no other reason than the color of his skin, and his killers were allowed to walk free for months because of their ties to local law enforcement. And we watched, for nine agonizing minutes, as structural and institutional racism allowed the Minneapolis Police Department to murder George Floyd in broad daylight, surrounded by onlookers begging the police officer to remove his knee from George Floyd’s neck.
This is the result of our collective inaction, and it is why it is incumbent upon our community, our state and our nation to come together and fight not only to name but to dismantle the racist systems that have allowed this violence to take place. It is the fundamental duty of educators to uplift the oppressed, and for OEA and our 42,000 member educators that includes addressing the institutional racism that exists in our public schools and building a public education system that is rooted in equity rather than our current dominant culture mindset. The students for whom we care and nurture deserve a school system where they feel safe and where their unique identities are respected and valued.
As a predominantly white organization, it’s critical that white educators lean into uncomfortable conversations and situations and truly challenge themselves to listen and push themselves to embody true and meaningful allyship. Moreover, we must seek to take direct action aimed at uplifting our students who belong to communities that have been marginalized and attacked for too long. In the context of our public schools that means eliminating harmful policies like zero tolerance discipline plans and replacing them with well-resourced restorative practices initiatives, creating pathways for educators of color to enter and remain in the teaching profession so our schools better reflect the diversity of our communities, and it means pushing our schools to meaningfully incorporate race and racial equity into curriculum.
OEA stands in solidarity with those fighting against our country’s long history of racism and oppression, and we are committed to challenging the systemic problems that continue to allow violence and harm against people of color. We will continue to evaluate how our organization can use our power and our privilege to combat the systemic racism that continues to claim black and brown lives, and we will continue to say Black Lives Matter.
This statement is attributed to OEA President John Larson, delivered on June 1, 2020
“It is long past time that our nation undertakes an honest reflection of our contemporary policing practices, including the use of excessive and militarized force. Educators see everyday how these practices disproportionately harm Black and Brown students and families, and we strongly support this resolution calling for swift and substantial changes to policing in the United States.”John Larson, OEA President
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