On Monday, May 25, an unarmed Black man, George Floyd, was murdered under custody by police officers. Since then, a deluge of sadness and anger has crashed upon our nation, our city, and our schools.
As educational leaders tasked with the safe keeping of our children, we proudly stand in love and solidarity with our students and families of color who are experiencing visceral, historical, generational pain. There are no words that can adequately express the emotional and physical trauma that has been and continues to be inflicted on the same communities of color to which our students belong. Every injustice, from microaggression to indignity to horrific brutality, is one too many.
As the Principals’ Association of Seattle Schools (PASS), representing principals and assistant principals at every Seattle Public school across the city, we want to send a message to our students and families of color: We love you. We see you. We hear you. And we assure you that our focus on racial equity has not wavered.
Providing distance learning to our communities during the global health crisis has emphasized and deepened the existing inequities built into the educational structures of our country. The brutal murder of George Floyd likewise underscored the systemic racism prevalent in all facets of American society—including education. We echo and triumph the cries of those who declare:
• Enough neglecting the brilliance of Black and Brown children.
• Enough beating, shooting, terrorizing, and murdering of Black and Brown people.
• Enough exploiting the labor of people of color and perpetuating the cycle of poverty.
• Enough disproportionate incarceration, remediation, and school discipline.
• Enough slow walking to equity while people of color die in the streets.
We are heartbroken that we cannot gather in our buildings and support our students and families during this difficult time. More than anything, we want to work with our teachers and staff to help our children understand the historical context of what is happening outside their windows. We want to provide a space for authentic and essential conversations about the blatant systemic racism that has stained every aspect of our lives and what our young people can do about it.
We are heartbroken that we cannot physically gather as a leadership corps and embrace our leaders of color who have lived with racism their entire lives and who we now look to for guidance as we continue the necessary journey toward a more just and equitable education system. We will continue to support and uplift each other toward our unified vision of an anti-racist organization that will do whatever possible to help and empower one another.
We are heartbroken at the silence from our local and national leaders. We are at a loss of words that might adequately explain to our students the conscious or unconscious silence or the outright utter contempt for the core tenets of our country’s beliefs about justice, equity, and humanity from those we call our role models, our representatives.
In this and other times of uncertainty, one conclusion has again been made absolutely clear: the time for action is long overdue. We must now plan, strategize, organize, and mobilize to build a district culture which values and systematizes the disruption and dismantling of systemic racism with racial equity at the center of all work. PASS is committed to making the necessary changes to ensure that those furthest from educational justice are made our top priority. As we emerge from pandemic and civil unrest, we must ensure that our Black and Brown scholars are no longer marginalized, silenced, discriminated against, and ignored by the very educational system which is supposed to nurture them. The recent trauma must remain in the forefront of all our minds as our city and our school district moves forward.
As a city, we must ask ourselves: where do we go from here?
To start, Seattle must recognize and invest in the future. White residents of the city must contextualize themselves in the history of our country, change their behaviors, acknowledge their privilege, and actively advocate with their Black and Brown neighbors for anti-racist policies and practices. PASS is committed to taking the first steps in the necessary changes we want for our children. We must be stalwart and fearless in our pursuit of a system that will cultivate the bright futures of our students of color while also teaching our white students how to be effective allies.
Without a serious commitment to racial equality, we will continue to perpetuate racism and racist practices and our children of color will continue to be kept at arm’s length from real and true equity. As the leaders of your Seattle Public Schools, members of PASS make the following commitment to our school communities, the City of Seattle, the nation, and the world:
We will not waver; we will not relent. We believe in our students and we will continue to teach them to confront racism, wherever it exists. We do not have all the answers, but in collaboration with you, the citizens of Seattle, we can lead the way in moving forward with purposeful action to dismantle racism in education.
We now call on our communities to embrace the hope offered by Ibram X. Kendi in How to Be an Anti-Racist: “Believe in the possibility that we can transform our societies to be antiracist from this day forward. Racist power is not godly. Racist policies are not indestructible. Racial inequities are not inevitable. Racist ideas are not natural to the human mind.”
We ask that you join us in building a better, stronger and more inclusive community. We are with you, Seattle.