A week that began with Memorial Day and ended with protests across the nation — now stretching across the world — laid bare the structural inequities within our society. For months, COVID-19 has wreaked havoc among our communities, specifically among Black and Brown people who are more likely to get sick, die, lose their jobs, or face eviction. For generations, Black people have been traumatized through slavery, discrimination, Jim Crow laws, mass incarceration, red-lining, and more, only to be murdered on video by police.
Today, there is no escaping these truths. Video after video shows the destruction of Black bodies. Updated death counts reveal the toll institutional racism has taken on Black and Brown communities. What we do in reaction to these truths will define us for another generation.
Within schools, centuries of inequity are extremely clear. Many students don’t have a device and can’t engage in school at all while they’re sheltering in place. Other students are sharing devices, and some students are sharing homes. Some families focus on getting the next meal on the table or how to keep the lights on, while others have the privilege of facilitating online learning and can revel in the extra time spent with family. Some of these often painful truths were hidden by the sanctuary of the school building; today they are plain for their teachers and classmates to see.
We are grateful to work in the space of education. Schools, teachers, administrators, and students are a vehicle to a better world. Collectively, we have an opportunity to influence a better path forward. Education is one of the few ways we can break down systemic oppression and shift perspectives, open our eyes, and cultivate empathy for others.
As we plan and consider what “back to normal” is like for schools, we cannot simply return to “normal.” If we rebuild places of learning that perpetuate hatred and racism in everyday human encounters, we will condemn another generation of Americans. Everyday stresses and pressures are increasingly burdensome and present during COVID-19, and the trauma inflicted on Black and Brown communities by systemic racism and an unjust criminal system causes a significant amount of pain that has been internalized over generations. If we don’t understand how the people around us are coping with climbing death tolls, videos of horrific murders and riots, we certainly can’t return to learning, much less rebuild our school communities in ways that break the cycle of abuse we are mired in.
In addition to thinking about our approach with schools, we are also reflecting on what Move This World can do better to support the needs of our school communities and families struggling at this time. There are many important conversations that bring up difficult emotions, and we all need space, time, and tools to handle them effectively. Existing self awareness, social awareness, and empathy-focused videos will now be made available for free with the hope to help make space for some of these conversations. We recognize that exercises of this nature are a helpful starting point for building community, but that is not nearly enough in addressing the systemic racism our communities are currently facing. At Move This World, we will continue to work with anti-racist and diversity, equity and inclusion consultants to improve our content and ensure trauma informed practices, acknowledging the trauma people of color face every day. We will continue to explore and identify ways that we can do better.
The bottom line is that we must build children and communities that lead with love and compassion, and are not stained by inequity. We are committed to listening deeply and to amplifying voices and visions that will lead to a more equitable world. We’ve compiled a list of resources and actions we are taking to educate ourselves and to support this effort and invite you to join us.
In solidarity with Black and Brown people everywhere,
Sara Potler LaHayne