A Message from MTA President Merrie Najimy and Vice President Max Page
As part of the MTA’s commitment to racial, social and economic justice, we have supported MTA members of color in establishing local and statewide ALANA Educator networks. ALANA – the letters stand for African, Latino, Asian and Native American – welcomes educators who identify as BIPOC and seeks to help organize them, engage them in direct action, and encourage them to take on leadership roles. It is an MTA rank-and-file-led movement.
The Statewide ALANA network has been very active around the issues at the intersection of COVID-19, a safe return to learning, and Black Lives Matter. ALANA Educators are deeply committed to fighting for racial, social and economic justice, as well as helping White educators develop as accomplices and co-conspirators to make our schools and our society truly become places where Black Lives Matter through policy, pedagogy, practice and curriculum.
They have written the statement below – which is grounded in their personal experiences and deep pain as people of color, as educators and as unionists – to you, who are also unionists and educators.
Educators of color who want to join ALANA, please email Statewidealana@gmail.com.
In solidarity,Merrie and Max
Dear White Educators,
We are all aware of the health and economic crises our country is facing, but there is another crisis weighing heavily on many of us that cannot be ignored. The repeated trauma of inexcusable and unjust acts of violence inflicted upon Black and Brown people should weigh heavily on people of all races. This generational trauma continues to unfold, affecting our daily lives and furthering the ever present pain of our people.
Black and Brown people are perpetually frustrated because we never begin the healing process, nor are the perpetrators punished for murder. These heinous acts of violence are ever recurring and are on a constant loop in the media, including the recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Rayshard Brooks and Deon Kay, and the shooting of Jacob Blake. As we see another Black person's life disregarded and tossed aside, we close our eyes and instead see the faces of our loved ones, knowing that no matter what we do, one day it may be their body lying in the street.
As we start the new school year, we want more White people to be aware of how we, as educators of color, feel. Pay attention to the pain, fear, anger and trauma we shoulder. Students of color, no matter how old, have these same feelings as well. We, educators of color, urge you to keep in mind the dehumanization we’ve all witnessed and experienced as you work with our Black and Brown students and families. Keep in mind that our students cannot escape the reality of disproportionate aggression and penal injustices as evidenced by the published images of the murders of people who look just like them at the hands of White people.
Give our students room to express themselves as needed. If their expression does not look like yours, be loving toward them anyway. Hold space for and find value in their protest and their pursuit of racial justice, even if it makes you uncomfortable. Be patient and culturally sensitive with our students. Be mindful of the messages you send with the language you use, the lessons you teach, and the books you read with students.
It is our responsibility as educators to teach the whole pupil and recognize the humanity of every student. All educators have an obligation to address the racial trauma and injustice our people face. There are deliberate actions we must take to help every student and colleague move toward healing and justice.
One such immediate action is to acknowledge the existence of systemic and institutional racism, including how it is deeply embedded in the foundation of public education. Our curriculum, dress codes, behavior policies, teaching strategies, and family engagement policies are all rooted in White, Eurocentric ideals. Some schools and districts have begun to look at these policies and practices in an effort to make them more inclusive, but there is so much left to be done. Step outside of your comfort zone. Self-reflect, talk with your students, and resist remaining silently complicit when you witness members of your school community say or do unjust things.
We are especially responsible for teaching a more inclusive curriculum that acknowledges the contributions and greatness of Black and Brown people and how they have shaped this country. Despite the prominent limitations of our state curriculum, we know that Black and Brown people are more than the history of slavery, oppression or civil rights activism.
Above all, we as educators must ensure that our actions allow every student to feel safe and be seen, protected, and empowered. The humanity of Black and Brown people must be acknowledged and valued by every aspect of the educational system. All Black and Brown people are needed, are beloved and are worthy. Black lives matter.