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Joint Statement on #BlackLivesMatter

In the streets… #BlackLivesMatter

In our schools… #BlackLivesMatter

In our homes… #BlackLivesMatter


This is a chant we have been leading and echoing in the streets at every rally, protest and event we have had over the last several years. We have been growing our antiracist collective long and hard together. None of this is new to any of us who have been paying attention. Our schools and communities were in crisis before George Floyd was murdered and before COVID-19. They are most certainly in crisis today, and the disproportionate impact is, once again, falling on Black people in our communities. The weight of this racism and economic inequality has become so familiar that many of us who work in public schools can forget the multiplicity of ways we have named the problem year after year. The list feels endless: racial disparity in discipline practices

  • deteriorating buildings and infrastructure

  • huge class sizes with insufficient, and often racist, materials

  • lack of nurses, counselors, and school social workers

  • continued overtesting despite demonstrated racial bias

  • evaluation of students, educators, and administrators based on standardized testing despite demonstrated racial bias

  • the school to prison pipeline

  • the failure to invest in educators of color to improve their underrepresentation as classroom teachers

  • the overrepresentation of educators of color in hourly positions that don’t even pay a $15/hour minimum wage

  • the failure to provide across the board healthcare for all NC public school employees

Given what we know about our status as role models in the community, educators must consistently step up to name and address these conditions, especially in moments of crisis for our students and their families. Anyone who works with children knows how quickly they spot inconsistencies in the words and deeds of adults. We gain or lose their trust through our actions more than our words. We know that our working conditions are our students' learning conditions, and that our students face institutionalized racial and economic injustices every day. We know many of these problems have roots in chronically racist federal policies that we cannot defeat at the state or county level alone. However, we can do a much better job of naming those policies and presenting them to our students as an object of study.

It’s our job to listen. It’s our job to draw connections. It’s our job to demand better. However, those demands are unlikely to be met unless we build our union so that we have the power to make change. Therefore, we would like to extend an invitation to our coworkers and communities to engage in the deep and too often slow work of collective action.

Collective action must come to terms with the conscious, deliberate, and strategic way in which White Supremacy was built and constructed to carry out genocide and slavery on this land since the early 1600s. The issues we face with policing are related to a long history of economic exploitation, which has been foundational to our economic system. Our calls to end the school to prison pipeline and the over-policing of Black communities aim to keep our Black students out of another system of control and exploitation. The work of abolition is not done, and our students and co-workers need to understand the connection between chattel slavery, chain gangs and convict leasing under Jim Crow, and the modern system of mass incarceration’s cruel exploitation of prison labor. We must teach about how these systems were built in order to teach how they were, and can be, abolished.

We call on our school districts to go beyond addressing these issues during Black History Month alone as if they were a separate topic from American or White history. We call on our colleagues to move beyond the trap of framing past victories of anti-racist struggle as the isolated achievements of heroic individuals. Our students need to be empowered, not in awe. They need to be taught that famous Civil Rights leaders grew out of, and were nurtured by, movements that studied and practiced the art of organizing. They need to learn about role models who are practicing that art today, many of whom are out on the streets right now. We need to train teachers to teach the history and tactics of organizing to them, so they can be prepared to organize and advocate for themselves both now and in the future.

Educators can teach all of this by example by joining our locals. We can show how this is done by taking on the work of building a union based on racial and social justice principles, right before our students’ eyes. The more members we have, the more power we will have to win real gains in healing the long list of wounds that our learning communities bear from systemic racism and economic exploitation. We have already seen the results of our work to shift power through the election of school boards, county commissions, city councils, Districts Attorney, judges, and sheriffs. We have also already seen the impact of our anti-racist leadership development, welcoming all who wish to participate- caregivers, parents, families, and school workers alike, because we know that defending and transforming schools can only happen with the leadership of all stakeholders. Our union, nationally--statewide--locally--has been leading the fight for racial, economic, and social justice for decades . We honor the strong foundation on which we stand, commit ourselves to winning this fight for our students and our co-workers, and invite you to join our union and take action. We are in this together, and it is our duty to win. .

As we near the four year anniversary of the police murder of Philando Castile, a school cafeteria manager and union brother, we conclude our statement by listing the names of other beloved Black people that should be with us today----Emmett Till. Jimmie Lee Jackson. Amadou Diallo. Sean Bell. Oscar Grant. Aiyana Jones. Trayvon Martin. Rekia Boyd. Renisha McBride. Dontre Hamilton. Jonathan Ferrell. Eric Garner. John Crawford III. Mike Brown. Ezell Ford. Laquan McDonald. Akai Gurley. Tamir Rice. Walter Scott. Freddie Gray. Jamar Clark. Meagan Hockaday. Sam DuBose. Sandra Bland. Jonathan Sanders. Abdullahi Omar Mohamed. Jeremy McDole. Akiel Denkins. Philando Castile. Alton Sterling. Joseph Mann. Sylville Smith. Keith Lamont Scott. Alfred Olango. Deborah Danner. Korryn Gaines. Terrance Crutcher. Stephon Clark. Marcus Deon Smith. Botham Jean. Atiatana Jefferson. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Tony McDade. We love you and all of the others whose names we do not know because their deaths at the hands of police or white vigilantes were not recorded.

In the streets… #BlackLivesMatter. In our schools… #BlackLivesMatter. In our homes… #BlackLivesMatter. EVERYWHERE… #BLACKLIVESMATTER

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