“There are a lot of feelings that are going on. This isn’t something new; it’s America.”
This statement, by one of our Black Youth Advisors, was her reflection on the police killing of George Floyd and the history and culture of white oppression and violence against Black Americans.
Racism and the violence it fuels are not, and have never been, something new – not in this country or around the globe. They are embedded in our public systems, permeating the very institutions that are charged with safeguarding the lives of our young people: not just in police practices but in schools; and not just harming Black men and boys, but also harming Black women and girls on a multitude of levels. Racism is the core cause of the unconscionably high rates of suspensions and expulsions of Black girls and boys; it drives the dangerous interactions between school resource officers and students of color; and it fans the flames of violence and injustice across all systems and into all corners of life in this country.
We, the Black and the white women leaders of the Trauma-Informed Schools Learning Network for Girls of Color, stand together in demanding change in this country, where Black and Brown girls and other youth of color must be valued, held sacred, and loved, both in and outside of school. Where girls of color like Niya Kenny, Kaia Rolle, Salecia Johnson, and Jaisha Akins are no longer handcuffed for preschool tantrums or arrested for using cellphones in class. Where laws against “disturbing school” no longer result in Black girls facing criminal charges at far higher rates than their white peers for violations that are subject to biased interpretations.
Schools, above all, must serve as havens of equity, health, safety, and connection, in which the brilliance, strength, and resilience of students of color are acknowledged and uplifted; they must reject the punitive practice of placing police within school walls. They must provide, instead, a trauma-informed lens of understanding, support, and justice for all students.
The brutal incidents we’ve recently witnessed have reinforced the truth that the arc of the moral universe will not inevitably or inexorably bend toward justice. It is our duty to bend that arc ourselves, and we must do that together. In recognition of that collective duty, we issue a call to action to our members, and to all Americans, to help guide the trajectory toward justice by listening to our youth, creating equitable alliances, and taking needed steps in unity to eliminate racism and violence — and become the country that we believe can exist.