Originally published in the June/July 2020 issue of AC&E/Equity & Access
The next generation of AESA outlines the bold steps we, as an association, will take towards equity and opportunity for all. Our organizational values state, among other things, that we believe that courageous leadership inspires bold solutions to current and future complex challenges and that systemic change requires boundary-spanning leadership. We are committed to achieving equity in learning by actively working to eliminate disparities and inequities. We have talked the talk, but are we walking the talk?
Our country and our association can do better. Due to recent events, our country is mourning. We find broken glass and smoldering wreckage in our communities as protests have turned violent in cities across America over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man by a now-fired Minneapolis police officer.
These communities are places where we work to provide exceptional education for all children. They are also, the places where we live, shop, and raise our families. We became educators because we wanted to make a difference in the lives of children and careers are dedicated to improving their lives.
Today, those communities are calling each of us to stand up. No longer can we avert our eyes or shy away from the reality of racism and injustice that is prevalent in our communities, especially as it impacts black Americans and other communities of color.
We must confront the truth that our country has been on a journey of anger and frustration over systemic racism throughout its history. The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. said that riots are the language of the unheard. It is unnerving when peaceful protests turn violent and are tarnished by looting and vandalism. Even as violence should never be condoned and is, in fact, not a solution, we should all be listening.
These are complicated issues full of emotion for many. There are no easy answers. However, Educational Service Agencies (ESAs) are communities of listeners and problem solvers. We have what it takes to have a collective impact on racism. We must all ask ourselves how can each of us, ensure we build trust in our communities? How can we create communities where there is mutual respect and equal opportunity afforded to everyone? You can make a difference, and so can I, but not if we remain silent.
As educational leaders we must address racial inequalities once and for all. We all need to do the work, to identify, challenging and changing the values, structures and behaviors that perpetuate systemic racism. We cannot be frozen because of feelings of intense anxiety, fear, hopelessness, and despair. AESA advocates for justice and equity as an organization and for those we serve. My hope is that we, as ESAs, will confront the uncomfortable realities in our communities, create safe spaces for true collaboration and be active embracers of a better tomorrow that is equitable for all.