Reflections on The Insurrection at the Capitol
A Letter to a School Community from their Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Originally sent on Thursday, January 7, 2021
Dear School Community,
I don't really have the right words to describe the last 48 hours or so. I am also hyper aware that the last time I addressed our full community denouncing racism, I was harassed anonymously by a racist or two. And still, I will use my voice.
I have been very intentional in taking time and space to process what is happening in DC. Many of you know that I am a Washingtonian as a result of my great-grandparents leaving Georgia to escape racial violence and to make a better life for themselves. Early Wednesday, I witnessed Georgia select its First Black Senator and the youngest Senator, a Jewish man who was mentored by John Lewis. I could feel the pride of my ancestors in that moment. I sang and danced to Nina Simone's "Feeling Good"!
I also, like many of you, witnessed the Capitol being overtaken by white supremacists on Wednesday. Later that evening I prayed over my husband, a Black man, as he was called into 12-hour mandatory police shifts to protect and serve a nation that refuses to protect him, his children or other Black and Brown people. We talked about real patriotism before he left for work. We wondered together how violent white people can be before they are declared terrorists and dangerous. We reflected on how our ancestors have always stood up and fought for Justice, Freedom and demanded a better America. I draw strength from them today and always.
I won't pretend to have all the answers. I simply do not. Here's what I do know for sure:
What we saw yesterday was the result of white supremacy. White privilege, white supremacy, white silence and white rage are relatives and are dangerous to all people.
Our children deserve to inherit a better nation and an education based in truth and justice.
BIPOC people have BEEN telling us that their communities are over-policed, that they are seen as a threat, and that policing in this country was built to uphold white supremacy. This is old news.
Donald Trump is NOT the only problem, he is a symptom of the illness this country was founded upon and refuses to vaccinate. White Supremacy and its effects will not end on Inauguration Day. If we get stuck here, we are not prepared to create a better society for ourselves or our children.
Going back to normal or the good ole days only means going back to the status quo, the "regular" racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, islamophobia. For many, there were no real good ole days.
The men and women that we saw yesterday aren't strangers. They're family, friends and colleagues. Their training didn't start during the election, but it started when they were in grade school and even earlier. They were indoctrinated into white supremacy within families, a society, classrooms, and policies that gave them white privilege and reinforced isms. THIS IS FAMILIAR.
Equity and Justice are achievable.
Our students are watching. They are curious, tired, afraid, confused, empowered, frustrated, angry, hopeful and more. We must continue to make space for their well-being during these troubling times, not just one day. We must teach for truth, justice, and empathy. We must be courageous and denounce white supremacy in every form especially within us. If you identify as white, call a white relative and/or friend and have conversations about complicity in white supremacy and ways to dismantle it. If you identify as BIPOC, carve out time to rest this and next week. Over the next two weeks, myself along with some of our courageous colleagues are planning a few opportunities for faculty and staff to process and to unpack resources to support you and your students.
It's fitting to close with words from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelly Fuller Jr. "The problem of race and color prejudice remains America's greatest moral dilemma. When one considers the impact it has upon our nation, internally and externally, its resolution might well determine our destiny.... The price that America must pay for the continued oppression of the Negro is the price of its own destruction." -Dr.King