Open Letter: No More Sidelines: Educators of Color Speak out on Police Violence

Dear Social Justice Seekers,

The work we all do of realizing a better tomorrow and helping our communities thrive is social justice work. As people who are social justice warriors, we know that this work is not a spectator sport.

Our hearts go out to the families who have lost loved ones to violence over the past few days in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, San Jose, Dallas and countless communities across the nation. We feel especially deeply for the children who experience trauma as a result of these events.

The events of the past week make it clearer than ever that the sidelines have disappeared; that we need all of us to use every bit of access and privilege we have to make clear to the children and families we serve that we believe their lives matter. Because we believe the work we do to educate Black and Brown children across the country is in service of a more just and equitable tomorrow, that means our work must extend beyond the school building.

As people of color who work in education and who have grown up in the communities like those at the center of these events, we know firsthand the ways in which the intersections of race and class impact our children and communities. And, yes, we still believe that giving kids the very best education in the kinds of schools we would want for all children is paramount. But we must acknowledge and ultimately address the various effects of poverty and how they prevent kids from learning. We will not fully realize the missions of our organizations if we do not acknowledge the environments permeated with fear and violence in which many of our children come of age. We must work to provide healthy outlets for our children to process what is happening in the world around them.

We encourage each of you charged with the leadership and care of children and adults to provide safe spaces for them to process their emotions and feelings surrounding recent events. Our students will not be prepared to learn if we don’t address their social and emotional needs. Being afraid to drive, walk down the street or even hang out with your friends for fear of losing your life takes a toll on the mind and the spirit.

Take care of our babies: let them speak, and more importantly, listen.

Layla & Sharhonda