For months, we have struggled with the impact of COVID-19. Physical distancing, social isolation, and changes in daily life and past freedoms are direct consequences of a global pandemic. Black Americans have been subjected to another pandemic that impacts their lives every day. We have experienced the shared trauma of George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer last week. This tragedy shines the light on the differences in experiences between people of color and whites in America. The continuation of attitudes and actions directed at people of color are unacceptable. So is allowing our thinking about race and racism to go unchallenged. We cannot miss this opportunity to learn and grow, and to confront the status quo.
As an ESD, we are committed to asking ourselves the hard questions and exploring and changing the implicit biases we all carry. We will hold ourselves and our communities accountable for creating systems of social justice and work to dismantle systemic and historic structures that promote racism, bigotry, and hate. If we fail to do so, we contribute to perpetuate harm to the lives of all people of color.
Our motto, “We are ESD 113,” is about community. We strive to be in relationship with one another. We are on personal and professional journeys of antiracism. We clearly have much farther to go. Right now, I feel emotions, from discouragement to outrage. We also feel discomfort in having the conversations that ultimately lead to healing. We need to stop avoiding the hard work and dodging crucial conversations about race and inequality.
Reach out and authentically ask how your friends and coworkers are doing. Give grace, knowing this can be a deeply personal and painful time. Consider borrowing a copy of Dr. DiAngelo’s book White Fragility and read for better understanding. If you prefer a video, watch Verna Myers’ talk on the danger of white biases. Talk to your friends, family, and coworkers about what you are learning and feeling. Explore how you can use your relational power to interrupt and speak out against racism.
For our friends and co-workers of color, give yourselves grace, too. You need to grieve the remembered hurts and the reinforced sense of hopelessness. Take time to mourn, and please, do not feel you need to explain or apologize. You are a critical and vital part of our community. We may not know what to say, or how you truly feel, but we want to be present for you. We are ESD 113!
For parents or staff working with children or youth, make space for crucial conversations. Here’s a guide on how to talk to children about protests and racism. In general, ask them questions about how they are feeling, provide reassurance about their safety, and explore what they understand about the history and harm of racism in America. Pouring our best into the lives of our youth is likely the only way we can overcome the fear and hate that has held us in bondage for too long.
Dr. Dana Anderson