So many changes in a week! I hope you’re all healthy and hanging in there on sanity (especially if you have young kiddos at home!). Please remember self-care and don’t underestimate its importance.
Our group has a particularly important role during this time — to advocate for and amplify the voices and needs of those most vulnerable in this crisis. This group has been working on educating ourselves about systemic racism and how dangerous bias can be. We have empowered ourselves to speak up. More and more people are waking up to systemic inequities in our community and we need to be calm, encouraging voices to push efforts to address these needs in the short term and also to push for systemic change in the long term.
I have been working on a couple of things this week: - focusing on creating a structure at home so my household doesn’t go nuts and so I can keep doing my work effectively; and, - focusing on collecting and learning about community-wide efforts to help everyone through this.
Related to the second one, some of you may have heard about this already, but there’s a neighborhood coordination effort taking shape in Arlington and I want to make sure you know about it. They’re trying to create a network of neighborhood captains to make sure no one slips through the cracks who needs help during this extended crisis. Feel free to reach out and get connected if you’re interested.
If you’re not interested in being a (co-)captain of a neighborhood, that’s fine. You can also get involved with volunteer efforts to help your neighbors as this gets rolled out. In the meantime, there’s also a FB group called Arlington Neighbors Helping Each Other Through COVID-19.
Everything is evolving so quickly and it looks like these efforts are doing a great job of coordinating with APS, County, and community organizations to pull everything together and create a really useful network that volunteers can tap into to get information and share information with each other, as well as taking safe actions to help each other. I’m also working on building a page on my blog to gather some of the resources most relevant to our group. Please feel free to share any you have come across with me.
Please reach out if you have any questions — it’s going to take a village to get through this! And if you’re interested in having a video call or texting with someone when things are challenging, please reach out!
Yep, I’m still here. My updates will continue each week as before. The challenges we face have not gone away and, I’m sure you know, are only going to become more and more obvious as this worldwide crisis develops.
I know you’re overwhelmed hearing all of the news and minute by minute developments. So I’m going to write about two tangential things: (1) self-care; and, (2) caring for others.
For the first, I have talked about self-care before. There’s a helpful article about how to prevent loneliness while social distancing, which has great ideas for self-care. Many of us are likely holding the role of “the calm in the storm.” This is a very important role. But you must also take time for yourself so your calm can last for the duration, a length of time we currently don’t know how to measure. Even if it’s five minutes to meditate before you kids wake up or a solo walk around the block, schedule it and stick to it. The new routines we teach ourselves will be our anchors and will contribute to our physical, emotional, and mental health. Do not underestimate this. This truly will be a marathon. Pace yourself.
Pause. Breathe. We’re not going to solve systemic inequalities right now. We’re shifting to short-term solutions for an emergency situation. We will learn a lot about how to address long-term issues in our efforts, so keep watching for those lessons and make note of what you learn. Keep learning and being open to seeing the truth about how these systems work and how they fail so many people. Notice the cracks in the systems of oppression so we can come back when this emergency is over and start to dismantle these systems more effectively.
The most important thing you can do is to take care of yourself and follow social distancing rules. Within those parameters, there are so many community efforts right now, so many people offering to help each other, so much collective goodwill and hope. There is power in this new focus on our communities as a whole. There are efforts developing to help us coordinate with each other, to create new systems to help our neighbors get through this. Stay alert, share your ideas, keep your chin up.
And if you’re finding yourself with lots of time on your hands, check out the Resource List and catch up on some self-education.
Please reach out anytime. I’m happy to connect with you. You are not alone.
Heads up — it’s soapbox time! Stick with me, please. I have some helpful data and lots of links to back up my thoughts. I really hope you’ll engage with me on this. And, this email does not discuss the current pandemic, so it’s a break from stressful news!
I want to highlight a recent story in the Washington Post by Donna St. George about a boundary analysis being undertaken by Montgomery County schools. Unlike Arlington County, which seems to adjust school boundaries every year, Montgomery hasn’t evaluated its boundaries since the 1980s and it is understandably segregated (so is Arlington, but we’ll get to that). Unsurprisingly, familiar arguments are being made by families with many perspectives — they want neighborhood schools to stay together, they don’t want kids on long bus rides, they should be thinking about all kids in the system, schools need to be integrated to benefit all students, schools far away from student homes will make it harder for parents to be involved, etc.
So, since Arlington will be embarking on another boundary process soon, and since these concerns aren’t going away (and seem to make people really, really angry), I thought I might provide some context and some suggestions for how we move forward to find consensus that will serve all of our students.
First, our communities are segregated by economic status and have been getting more stratified over time. The reason this is happening is rooted in systemic discrimination in housing practices (redlining), wealth-building, income opportunities, and education opportunities (to name a few). Systemic racism is in everything. This is not simply a problem of the past — these systemic problems are still in place today because no one has dismantled them.
School segregation is well established as a systemic problem in our country. This is why many people of color react when arguments are made for neighborhood schools by white families in white neighborhoods. While it might be based on the understandable convenience of being able to walk to school, to be more involved in the school community, to feel more connected to this very important part of our children’s lives, pushing for neighborhood schools can sound supportive of a segregationist, racist system. Remember my post about discomfort? Consider how your advocacy for your individual comfort impacts the lived experiences of your fellow community members.
A reminder — this doesn’t make you a bad person. You are part of a racist system — we all are. It means you need to educate yourself about the truths of our white supremacist society (which, if you are white, was created in a way to be invisible to you, so you’ll have to work to see it and to recognize it). It means that you have a role to play in changing this unfair system.
And perhaps most importantly, it means that each one of us has to consider the education and well-being of every single student in Arlington. Not just those most precious little people in our own homes.
Also, please don’t believe for a moment that Arlington is somehow a magical place that doesn’t have any of these racist systems. Have you visited the wall in the Halls Hill neighborhood? It was constructed to separate adjacent white and black neighborhoods from the 1930s to the 1960s and parts of it are still standing. Arlington County placed a historical marker in 2016 and you can read more about the dedication ceremony and the history at the John M. Langston Citizens Association website (Hall’s Hill/High View Park). This is a physical reminder of the insidious and well-rooted systems that we all function within, that systematically discriminate against some of our neighbors for the benefit of others. It’s true whether you know about it or not. It will remain true until enough of us are willing to see it and choose to reject that immoral privilege.
All of this means that when we discuss boundary changes in our schools, we must focus on the perspectives and needs of under-served populations rather than ourselves. Seek out the voices of families in your school who differ from you (income, language, race, ability, citizenship status, etc.). And if there aren’t any, or there are very few, consider why. Look outside of your school community to understand how different our schools are from each other:
Listen to that voice in your head as you look at this table. What has society taught you about “good” and “bad” schools? What assumptions do you make about the quality of education that students are receiving at each of these schools?
If you assume unfairly that quality of education is low at some Arlington schools (or, correctly, that access to opportunities is unequal among Arlington schools — see PTA Funding Disparities, for example), what justification can you tell yourself that allows you to let this kind of segregation in our community continue to stand? If your children deserve the best education and opportunities that Arlington can offer (and they do), so does every other child here, no matter their circumstances.
I know that many of us reading this post are already strong advocates for our school communities and for all of Arlington’s students. We need to build on our work. We need to raise awareness, to bring more families out of their bubbles of ignorance, to empower them to demand that Arlington do better for all of our children. We need to listen to our neighbors and be willing to believe their lived experiences. We need to amplify the voices of our under-served populations and support efforts at APS to address inequity in all of our schools. We need to follow the lead of community groups like Black Parents of Arlington and the NAACP who have been working and advocating for equal access to opportunity.
The culture is shifting. There are new opportunities every day for educational equity advocates to speak up, to talk to our fellow community members. Please continue to engage in this work and reach out to me and each other if you have ideas or need support in your efforts. And in the upcoming boundary process, please keep these priorities in mind. We just have to keep working to be the loudest voices in the room.
I’ve had an important week of self-reflection, so this is a short update. Thank you to those who reached out with interest in meeting and/or having a candidate forum. If you’re interested and haven’t said so yet, please let me know soon.
A friend shared Books for Littles, specifically “Captivating Kids Stories To Recognize Privilege.” Please read this and sit with it and notice your defensiveness when you read her passionate words. Let the defensiveness pass. Be grateful that she is willing to share so openly with the world her experiences and what she needs you to do to address systemic inequity. Find a way to validate her frustration and to find a way that you can make a change in your life so our children can be better anti-racists than we are.
Our society teaches us that success = comfort. So, that translates to discomfort = failure. This work will always be uncomfortable. Our socialization will undermine our choices to seek difficult conversations. Our surroundings will push us to quit, to seek something that feels safe and comfortable and stable. But change does not come through comfort. And those who do not have a choice will remain uncomfortable or worse. It is a privilege to avoid discomfort. In this context, invite discomfort and be willing to embrace it. Discomfort = motivation to be and do better.
As the coronavirus arrives in our region, as decisions are made about closing schools, please remember that there are many vulnerable families in our community who may be made more vulnerable by such systemic emergencies. I appreciate the latest School Talk message from APS that stated: “Depending on recommendations, APS will provide meals for students who receive Free or Reduced-Price Meals at designated locations. APS will communicate this information to families, if needed and available.” Many families depend on our schools for their students to consistently receive breakfast and lunch. These families sometimes also work hourly jobs and do not have paid sick leave and/or health insurance. The measure of our community will be the way in which we take care of each other, not from a place of pity but from a place of compassion. We are all in this together.