‘As Long as Black People Can’t Breathe, We Won’t Rest.’

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UTLA Statement

Educators Have a Critical Role to Play in Dismantling Racism in Our Communities. 
 
To all Black educators, Black school employees, Black students, Black parents and guardians, and Black members of our communities: Your lives matter. Your pain matters. Your struggle matters. 

The senseless murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade are only the latest outrages of the systemic racism that infects every element of our society. This is a time of reckoning. While we believe all four officers should be criminally charged with the murder of George Floyd, we know racial injustice goes beyond the justice system. 
 
In Los Angeles and in cities across the country, Black students are more likely to attend under-resourced schools and face higher rates of expulsion and discipline. Black students are more likely to lack access to healthcare, live in foster care, be housing insecure, or have a parent who is incarcerated because of racial inequality in the justice system. These realities reflect the dehumanizing institutional racism that must be dismantled.
 
We need to have courageous conversations with each other and acknowledge that our public schools have not met the needs of Black students for generations. 
 
Too often our schools are spaces where Black students and families have not felt safe and supported because of “random” search policies, the use of pepper spray, and the presence of police. We must do better for our traumatized students. We must take a look at how our schools are being policed. We must decriminalize our schools.
 
Our role as public educators uniquely positions us to create and enhance services and programs that center the needs of those who are most marginalized, including inclusive curriculum and restorative disciplinary practices. 
 
Educators, every one of us, need to look at ourselves — not just at cataclysmic moments like now but every day going forward, every time we plan a lesson, pick a textbook, engage with a student, colleague, or parent of color. To be an educator in 2020 must mean being committed to the fight for racial and social justice. This will take bold conversations and actions as union members and colleagues. We will not get it right every time, but we will strive to support each other. 
 
More than any time in history, this moment shows we must invest in our most vulnerable students, including expanded mental health supports and robust ethnic studies programs to empower Black students with the potency of their own stories. We need to look hard at school policing — what is truly needed to keep schools safe versus what is a dangerous extension of an oppressive police presence in our communities. 
 
We will be engaging our members and developing trainings and resources for UTLA members and staff on how we remove implicit biases and create pathways for racial justice and support for our Black colleagues, Black students, Black parents and guardians, and Black members of our communities.
 
We support Black Lives Matter and the fight for Black lives because there is a specific and systematic attack on Black people embedded within a history of anti-Black racism.
 
No one is born a racist. Racism is learned. It is a social and political construct that can be manipulated when convenient by those who wish to dominate others in our society.
 
We have to believe that we can remove these constructs and biases. At our core, educators believe that people can change and that institutions can change. Amid the grief and rage, there are signs of progress: Nearly every corner of the nation has been touched by peaceful protests, with tens of thousands of people taking to the streets to demand an end to the killing of Black people. Police chiefs in multiple cities have decried the death of George Floyd, a sea change from reactions to past law enforcement violence. And a wider swath of white Americans are grappling with white privilege and are looking inward, at how they have benefited from institutional racism. 
 
Black people paid for this progress with their blood. We honor their sacrifice with everything we do moving forward to build a more just, anti-racist society.
 
As long as Black people can’t breathe, we will not rest. 
 
In Solidarity,
 
Alex Caputo-Pearl, UTLA President and UTLA NEA Vice President-Elect
Cecily Myart-Cruz, UTLA NEA Vice President and UTLA President-Elect
Juan Ramirez, UTLA AFT Vice President
Gloria Martinez, UTLA Elementary Vice President
Daniel Barnhart, UTLA Secondary Vice President
Alex Orozco, UTLA Treasurer
Arlene Inouye, UTLA Secretary
Julie Van Winkle, UTLA Secondary Vice President-Elect

 
RESOURCES ON RACIAL JUSTICE. We will update this page regularly for educators, parents, and students:
https://www.utla.net/campaigns-issues/issues/racial-justice