“The heartbeat of racism is denial.” A Statement from the National Black Lives Matter at School Steering Committee
“The heartbeat of racism is denial.” — Ibram X. Kendi
This is the time to no longer be silent or blind to systemic injustice that not only exists in our education systems but also where and how it manifests in our neighborhoods.
Melinda D. Anderson’s article from the NYTimes asks us: What can we learn from a Black child who would rather attend school online than return to a brick and mortar building where racial trauma assaults her ability to learn? How do we support a Black mother struggling to ensure her children receive the best education during a global pandemic, but hesitant to send them back to an institution that historically provides them with an inferior education?
Many of us can empathize with these stories because they resonate with our own experiences as learners in Black bodies navigating an inherently racist institution. As educators, we work to create environments that affirm Black humanity and center Black joy and mattering. As parents, we cloak our children in the Black love needed to sustain their developing identities and call upon the ancestors to guide them through a threatening and dangerous world. As co-conspirators, we listen to the lived experiences of others, learn from their struggles, follow their lead, and use our privilege to dismantle systems of oppression. We form a village to protect this child and support this mother.
The village is needed now more than ever. Instead of empathizing and offering support, others chose to deny, demean, and threaten this child and mother. They worry more about tarnishing the image of the school than addressing the racist environment of this child and many who look like her experience daily. They accuse the mother of exploiting her child instead of asking their own children how they treat Black children at school. Or examine the racialized structure of the school system and how it oppresses BIPOC students. And they suggest posting their address on social media so others can harass and harm them because they dared to speak their truths. These parents of children in this school district, make it clear through their vile and hateful responses, that this child is right to be wary of returning to this toxic environment. They insist there is no racism in their school district, but quickly turn to racist attacks to respond to an article about the racism they refuse to acknowledge. And the district insists that their “social justice” curriculum and commitment to a safe learning environment is more than enough to deny this child’s reality. This collective denial is another form of racism that reinforces the need for the village.
The Black Lives Matter at School National Steering Committee strives to be the village that protects all Black lives from oppressive and racist institutions of learning. We work to enact a space where Black youth are educated in guiding principles rooted in Black liberation. We demand practices that honor the brilliance of Black youth, Black educators, and Black history and culture. We put forth a vision for loving Blackness all year long. We refuse to allow white denial of anti-Black racism to interfere with our purpose and we refuse to stop until Black thriving in educational spaces is the norm. Period.