Our Work Toward Anti-racism
In response to deadly racist acts and incidents of police brutality, followed by multiple protests across the country, CTA issued the following statement on social media:
As a union of 310,000 educators across California, we have an obligation to act. This is not a time for us to look away. We must grapple with the fact that our schools, our practices, policies and even our own union, are shaped by inequities, bias and institutional racism.
Our black students and educators experience schools, the police and this pandemic very differently than our white students and educators. Saying #BlackLivesMatter isn’t enough: we need to actively show it in our work toward anti-racism on a personal, structural and institutional level.
We are grieving and we are outraged. Together, we must continue the call for justice and to hold powerful people, organizations and each other, accountable. What are you doing to work toward anti-racism every day?
What members are saying in response
Marilyn Martinez I am a teacher protesting at pan pacific park in Los Angeles
Cindy Villalobos As educators it’s so important for us to take a stance. As a history teacher, I’ll keep addressing and discussing the history and presence of racism and inequity through my lessons.
Nicole Worthy Thank you for caring and speaking out. It’s easy to feel invisible when senseless tragedies such as this occur. It’s comforting to know African Americans are not in this fight alone. #WeAreNotOkay
Deirdre Selby-Gius As a white teacher choosing to teach in a community of black and brown students… these are my kids being killed! I love them! They are my babies!
ミラー・ アキーム As a black teacher, thank you for posting this. This was needed to be said and should be echoed throughout all walks of life but especially in education
Marisa Pierucci I’m having open discussions with my friends of all cultures and colors. I have a bunch of books on order to educate myself and help teach my own children.
Taunya Jaco As a Black teacher, THANK YOU 🙏🏽💙✊🏽. It means the world to be seen and supported.
Jacquella Payne Great to know that an organization that supports students & educators is taking a stand to ERACISM. Thank you!
Jessie Montano Racism is still here. I still suffer it. However, the saddest thing for me is that I have suffered it more [from] my peers
Sharena Reneé As a black teacher, thank you for posting this and showing your support.
Tina Sherree’ Chonis Embrace Hope for Change. 💔🖤🤎
Jennifer Todd-Andrew Feeling helpless. So sad to see the negative comments from the protest in my community today (La Mesa). I stand with the voices that have been unheard for far too long. In my lifetime, I’m so tired of injustice and those that abuse their power living without the consequences of their action. I am white, but I teach all children and love them all. Even when adults, those are MY kids being brutalized and MURDERED. They are mine, because they have been in my class and I love them. We should all be outraged by the continued injustice and lack of consequences for those in power. Shame on all who are not angry.
Arpi Cal Using cultural relevant material to celebrate the contributions of all the cultures represented in my class and helping students become self-aware of the role they play in ending racism…. I remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who reminded us that “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Katie Elizabeth As teachers we all know what it’s like to have a few abhorrent people make an entire group of public servants look bad. Violence is not the answer and serves to continue the divide and racial inequality by tearing down the community. Our message should be one of peace and justice.
Susan Chen I purposefully choose books that have Black and Hispanic characters. I point out the lack of diversity in magazines I read to my students and family and have emailed publishers about this. I have made mistakes in the past and have many more to come, but I’m trying to learn from them and continue fighting for human rights.
Susan Stratton We as educators can do much to shift perceptions in our society but it will take a committed and well thought out plan of action. Not just words.
Bobbie Chavez It’s so much more than teaching. It’s about truly believing and living what we preach. To understand that this is deeply integrated into our society, into our structures, into who we are as a society. Empathy and sympathy are two very different emotions, neither of which relates to the years of racial injustice and inequity. Empathy requires walking in someone else’s shoes, sympathy requires pity. Do not pity the person of color who has survived! The word that needs to be shouted is remorse. Remorse for ignoring, remorse for inaction, remorse for allowing. We as teachers are required to look deep into our own souls and model deep remorse.
Carola Perisho Teaching history like it should be taught. Staying away from whitewashed curriculum. Making sure that all my students are represented in our literature not only during all the different holidays or designated months but every day.
Jennifer Dilly I am using my title as Educator to speak out on my perspective so that I can be a part of movement towards a greater place for us all. I am also using my voice as a Caucasian woman to make it known that I do not agree to such atrocities and to show my resolve towards union and equality for all.
Elizabeth Rubenstein EVERY public school that employs “resource” and police officers should follow suit and end those contracts
Irene Dillon Project LIT, weneeddiversebooks.org, and NCTE have helped me grow and work through some of my feelings. Doing a book study this summer with colleagues on Push Out.
Alex Agramonte My elementary school was located in the Oakland hills. During the early 1980s slavery was brought into our 6-year-old minds. I feel the telling of slavery significantly harms self-worth and perpetuates psychological oppression against black people. I don’t know how that is told now, but we need to examine how stories of history elevate white privilege and harm people of color. School shooters are predominantly white and black people are constant targets of police brutality and systemic racism.
Meagan Townley Ordering some books for me and my kids. Change begins in our own hearts and homes. Then bring that love to the classroom and our reach is boundless. I no longer tell people I’m “not racist”-I am anti-racist. I’ve learned the difference. Know better, do better.
Nikole Kempi Scarlett When we are in professions of TRUST, such as teachers, police officers, and doctors, it is our responsibility to hold ourselves to high ethical standards. In every profession, there is that handful that tarnish our reputations. And in our profession, it is our responsibility to reflect on how well we are doing our job and to be willing to learn and improve our trade and relations with the public we serve. For educators, when there are reoccurring issues, like discipline or low academic achievement, it is our job with administrative leadership to address these to get better results, taking in consideration of the needs of the community we serve. Teachers must be prepared to acknowledge, respect and understand students with substantially different cultural histories and diverse backgrounds so to deliver curricula that reflects this and is accessible by all students.
Celia Harris Diverse Leadership is critically important in our institutions in order to combat injustice and inequality in them. Zaretta Hammond is a leader I look to for guidance on how to improve as a teacher and a person. Stay strong and continue to speak up – it’s what we tell our kids to do, so we need to live that and model it to build trust. We need community policing to build relationships in our communities and build trust and respect between all. We need policies that build capacity and opportunities for those communities where they do not exist. We need laws enforced equally with equitable sentencing, there is huge discrepancies in the justice system and all large institutions between treatment of wealthy and disadvantaged. So much to do, one step forward at a time, together!
What our leaders are saying
“We must continue the call for justice and to hold powerful people, and each other, accountable. We must come together to stop the chorus of hate and fear.”
— California Teachers Association President E. Toby Boyd
NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia:
“The National Education Association understands the deep racial history and trauma caused by the culture of white supremacy, and we believe that to achieve racial and social justice, we must acknowledge it as the primary root cause of institutional racism, structural racism, and white privilege. It is a privilege that manifests as white people weaponizing the police against black men and women going about their daily lives. During this pandemic, we have also seen police treating black and brown people differently than white people. The overarching sentiment about these cases for so many people—including many of our students and their families—is that the lives and the dignity of black people in the United States do not carry the same value or importance as others.
“Our grief and outrage over the recently released images of the murders of George Floyd, at the hands of Minneapolis police, and Ahmaud Aubery, at the hands of two white men with ties to the local police department, will never be enough. For Breonna Taylor, who was murdered by police while daring to sleep soundly in the safety of her home, our grief and outrage will never be enough. And for Christian Cooper, who endured a white woman weaponizing the police against him in Central Park, our grief and outrage will never be enough.
“We must examine how white supremacy culture impacts our biases, our practices and the policies in our own schools and communities….We must do better.”
— NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia
“This is no time for us to look away. Police violence against black people happens too often. The threat and real violence toward black people daring to exist in public spaces and even in their own homes is the direct result of how white supremacy culture is the air we breathe in America.
“As a union of 3 million educators, stretching across the country, to every community, we have an obligation to act. Together we will continue the call for justice and to hold powerful people to account.
“But in addition to that, there is more we must do. While our members don’t enforce the law, we are protectors of another public space wrought with inequities, bias, and institutional racism. While we have to stay engaged in elections all the way down the ballot in support of people committed to reforming the system and making change in local policing, we must also examine how white supremacy culture impacts our biases, our practices and the policies in our own schools and communities.
“NEA has started that process by examining how white supremacy culture impacts our own organization. We have to seek the truth. But information is just one step that can lead to meaningful action. If you stop at information, you have done nothing. We must act on what we know. And so, we say: Black Lives Matter… because All Lives have not Mattered. Racism takes black and brown lives. Explicit racism foments hate and aggression. But implicit bias grows unreasonable fear and suspicion, moving people to act unreasonably on their fear and suspicion. We must do better.”
Community College Association President Eric Kaljumägi:
We continue to see an appalling number of events where police harm the Black members of our society, and we share the outrage at the indifference to life and safety expressed by some of those sworn to serve and protect us.
Black lives matter. We cannot tolerate police actions that allow compressing the neck of an unarmed man in handcuffs, as we saw with George Floyd, or no-knock police raids in the middle of the night by plainclothes officers, which resulted in the death of Breonna Taylor. Better training will help, but our culture must no longer accept these barbaric practices. We cannot reach our ideal of freedom if we fear our police.
The institutional racism inherent in our society is tenacious, and as educators we have a responsibility to work to abolish it. While this will without doubt take time, we can act today to affect the culture of our homes and our campuses. Our students need to feel safe and respected, and though the worst offenses took place a thousand miles away, our alarm and disgust are present here and now.
“Through your actions and influence, we can be the model that shows others how to reduce racism and inequity in our communities. Let’s channel our personal grief and anger to do so.”
— Community College Association President Eric Kaljumägi
We call upon our members to enhance their discussions of equity and diversity in light of these continuing shocking events. Will your campus use a police force in dark, threatening uniforms, or an unarmed public safety team? Will there be a focus on control or on safety? Will their training guide them to de-escalate or criminalize behavior? Now is the time to press our campuses to be bastions of hope rather than simple reflections of society.
It is the responsibility of educators to teach all students, some of whom will become our future leaders. Together, teachers can affect change in a way that most other professions cannot. Through your actions and influence, we can be the model that shows others how to reduce racism and inequity in our communities. Let’s channel our personal grief and anger to do so.
“As long as Black men and women can’t breathe, we will not rest.”
— United Teachers Los Angeles
United Teachers Los Angeles:
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 men and women can’t breathe, we will not rest.
For additional leader responses, see this story.