Fighting for Lasting Change

It has been a brutal week as, once again, the cruelty and violence that our black and brown brothers and sisters experience every day have been made visible to all. It is difficult to find words after watching the videos of the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Just as words escaped me following the killings of Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Sandra Bland - and the list could go on and on.

Then came the shootings of police officers in Dallas, exposing all of the crazy violence of a society that is committed to assault weapons, that refuses to take action to end racism and that does not provide for those among us struggling with mental illness and trauma.

I was at the NEA RA as much of this was happening. There, the delegates were reflecting on the actions taken by the NEA in the past year to confront institutional racism. We reviewed and supported a new policy statement calling for an end to the school-to-prison pipeline and vowing to seek to bring restorative justice practices to our schools.

This occurred during a time when two of our MTA delegates, women of color, were directed to use the back entrance as they arrived to attend an MTA-sponsored event at a hotel in Washington, D.C. And it came on the heels of the racial profiling of an MTA staff member at one of our offices.

It is a painful irony that these events occurred during the first NEA RA in 10 years in which the MTA met its goal for ethnic minority delegates.

While I continue to struggle for words, I will share these thoughts.

MTA leaders - and I count myself in this group - must be relentless in welcoming people of color into our union to participate and lead.

As educators, we must name the racism that structures the lives and experiences of our students of color - from underfunding, to police harassment, to the use of standardized testing designed to "prove" their failure, to charter schools that aim to re-create a separate and unequal education system, to curricula that do not speak to their lives.

And, central to this work, those of us who are white must listen when our black and brown sisters and brothers speak - really listen and seek to understand - and then join with them to fight for lasting change.

In solidarity,

Barbara