After the recent deaths of two MORE black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, at the hands of police officers, and the sniper shootings of multiple Dallas police men, I am beyond saddened. I am sick to my stomach.
As a white middle class woman, I am more aware every day of the privileges I receive simply for the color of my skin. I have never been scared for my life when pulled over by a policeman (and it’s happened- I had quite the lead foot in my 20’s!). Never have I thought I was in danger living my day-to-day life. I always assumed I was safe and would be protected by safety officers. I grew up with this security. But so many people of color in America did not grow up with that same bubble of safety.
After reading this article about what white people can do to support the Black Lives Matter movement, I knew I was going to blog about my reflections. It’s time to stand up.
The advice in the article says that it is not the job of black people to educate white people about the issues, nor to convince them that Black Lives Matter. The people interviewed advised white people to step out of the shadows, literally and physically, to stand up to the police and the travesties that continue to plague the black community. This line, a quote from Robbie Clark an organizer with Black Lives Matter Bay Area, really resonated with me.
What we’re saying right now is that all lives will actually matter when black lives matter — and black lives don’t matter right now. So we need to say black lives matter to change that.
This week has been a devastation across our country. People are hurt, angry, scared, and lashing out. I’ve seen ugly comments on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram from all sides of the issue.
I am not against police. I am against police brutality.
I am against institutional racism. We need to acknowledge that this exists and impacts decisions made, especially in crisis situations.
I am a proponent of cultural proficiency, where we all recognize that we are different, with different experiences that make us who we are. My white middle class experiences have created my beliefs and my inherent feelings of security. The first thing I can do is acknowledge that the experiences of non-white, non-middle class Americans are vastly different than my own. When non-white people, especially black men, are in situations with cops, they are more likely to be shot and killed than I am.
As an educator and a leader, this week has hit me at another level as well. The Black Lives Matter movement could just as easily be applied to the statistics in education about black students being qualified for Special Education services or being suspended or expelled in disproportionate numbers across our country. It could refer to the persistent achievement gap seen in too many schools, where students of color and from poverty score at significantly lower levels than most white students.
Today I am speaking up to be clear: Black Lives Matter to Me. Students of Color and students born into poverty matter to me. LGBTQ students matter to me. Any marginalized population that is hurting in our society may also be hurting in our schools. I am speaking up as a human being, a citizen of this country, but I am also speaking up as an educational leader.
We can no longer deny that institutional racism affects students in schools every day. We must confront this issue. The first step is to speak up, to get the dialogue started. So I am starting it. Will you participate? Will you speak up? How will you show that black lives matter to you too?