“I can’t breathe.”
Perhaps it’s because this isn’t the first time we have heard those words as a dying declaration of a Black man as his life was extinguished at the hands of police. Maybe the collective exhaustion of a nation, hit first by a pandemic and then the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and far too many others has caused this eruption of emotion - grief, anger, and frustration.
Like so many of you, the team at Educators for Excellence - Connecticut is reflecting on the systemic racism that has brought our country to this moment, but more importantly, what we can do to make a change. It is a question I have asked myself countless times, and it drives my work in education.
My first realization that my Blackness could impact my education came as a kindergartner, when my parents made the decision to take me out of the public school I would have attended. As my mother went to register me, a white student boldly stated that he didn’t know the school let people who looked like us “in there.” I was fortunate in that my parents had the means to send me to a different school. Decades later, I did not have those same means, but was just as determined to make sure my daughter had an education that would affirm not hinder her.
Most of you work in classrooms where students have had to confront the entrenched systems that put their very lives at risk. Regardless of their ages, they are feeling the heaviness that is hanging over our state and country. Moreover, like us, they will be trying to manage this trauma without the benefit of close connection to their peers and families. Our children - particularly our Black children - need our grace, our empathy, and our love. They need us to tell them their lives matter, that they are valued, and that we are committed to making sure they learn and live, by speaking truth to power, demanding policies that honor their right to a quality education, and ensuring that you and other educators, who bravely show up for our children, continue to be the change our nation so desperately needs.
We stand with you. We are here to lift your voices. And we will continue to lock arms with you and others who are peacefully protesting and standing up for the rights of our society’s most vulnerable.
Below are some resources to support you and your students in this moment. Please don’t hesitate to reach out should you have questions, or need additional information.
- Everyday Bias: Identifying and Navigating Unconscious Judgments in Our Daily Lives
- Teaching About Race, Racism and Police Violence (Teaching Tolerance): Lessons and teaching materials
- RaceForward Organization (Materials on understanding systematic racism)
- The Power to Change the World: A Teaching Unit on Student Activism in History Today (New York Times)
- Death of George Floyd Current Events Lesson Plan (SharemyLesson)
- Teaching the Value of Protest (Teaching Tolerance - for all grade levels)
- What White Colleagues Need to Understand (Teaching Tolerance) article
- Teaching tolerance approved - Building Anti-Racist White Educators (Teaching Tolerance)