I hope you all weathered the first week of virtual learning without too many tears or loss of hair. We knew it would be challenging and the systemic disparities many of our students will be experiencing are going to take direct and sustained action to address.
Significant advocacy is taking place in Arlington County and the surrounding area, friends. We each have a role to play.
The Washington Post asked readers to tell them “how they’re dealing with school reopenings.” I was particularly struck by the responses from Braden Bell and Caitlin Rogers. Braden pointed out, “Whenever society has a problem and those in charge can’t resolve it, the problem gets punted to the schools, which simply must deal with it as best they can.” Caitlin heartbreakingly said, “As my colleagues and I continue to navigate the reopening of our schools, I am forced to wrestle with two opposing messages: One suggests that my work is invaluable; the other suggests that my life is dispensable.” There is a serious disconnect between the way we depend on schools not only for educating our children, but for food, social services, childcare, safety, and health, and the way we fund our education system. Teachers are both undervalued and imagined to be super heroes. Until schools and our education system are recognized for the fundamental role they play in our society and economy (as we’re painfully finding out during this pandemic) and fully funded to perform their many roles, our society will be failing our children, a burden that will fall disproportionately to our most vulnerable. This is systemic racism.
- The Arlington County Council of PTAs (CCPTA) released an “Informational Statement for Families Regarding Privacy During Virtual Learning” raising concerns about live video and audio feeds in students’ homes, the status of teachers as mandatory reporters, and sensitivity to disparate economic circumstances and living environments of students.
- The Arlington Education Matters (AEM) Facebook group released its survey responses from the three School Board candidates (there are two open seats) regarding many questions of relevance to this group. You have to scroll down from that link to see the results. I have already spoken to the group administrator about changing the AEM logo.
- Hannah Natanson writes “High school students are demanding schools teach more Black history, include more Black authors” (Washington Post, 8/17/20). Curriculum content nationally (including in Arlington) centers the white (usually male) experience. Parents and students have power in asking for this to change, but only if we choose to use it.
- Cheryl Crazy Bull and Sara Goldrick-Rab write “OPINION: Tribal colleges, lifeline to rural and disenfranchised Native communities, need our help more than ever” (The Hechinger Report, 9/3/20)
- The Learning Policy Institute issued a brief called “The Federal Role in Advancing Education Equity and Excellence” (8/28/20)
HEALTH AND FOOD INSECURITY:
- Arlington County, APS, and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management have partnered to bring COVID-19 services to communities disproportionately impacted by the virus through a new Health Equity Program. While masks, PPE, testing, and information are vital to address the spread of the pandemic, I wonder what further systemic steps will be taken to address the underlying causes of these health disparities and disproportionate impacts. What lasting structural changes are the County, APS, and the state of Virginia prepared to take?
- Lylla Younes and Sara Sneath write “New Research Shows Disproportionate Rate of Coronavirus Deaths in Polluted Areas” (ProPublica, 9/11/20)
- Will Parrish writes about “An Activist Stands Accused of Firing a Gun at Standing Rock. It Belonged to Her Lover — an FBI Informant” (The Intercept, 12/11/17). Red Fawn Fallis was imprisoned for 57 months and was just recently released.
- The Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney released its first issue of The Justice Digest, outlining the changes Ms. Dehghani-Tafti is implementing and why, outlining the barriers she is facing, and spotlighting progress.
- Keith L. Alexander writes “32 Black federal prosecutors in Washington have a plan to make the criminal justice system more fair” (Washington Post, 9/5/20)
- Arlington for Justice shared a short film from Justice Forward Virginia called “The Problem With Pretextual Policing” (8/17/20)
- The Virginia Coalition for Transforming Policing formed in June and has released a “Re-Imagine Police Package” and lots of resources about how to take action.
- Black Parents of Arlington (BPA) released a statement calling for the removal of SROs in APS.
- Robert Benincasa writes “Political Divisions Drive Police Brutality Lawsuit Settlements” (NPR, 9/9/20)
- Haisten Willis writes “Building bans and affordable housing: A construction conundrum” (Washington Post, 9/3/20)
- Kyle Swenson writes “‘The clock is ticking’: Eviction crisis still looms without federal rent relief, advocates and local authorities say” (Washington Post, 9/3/20)
- Kriston Capps writes “With Rule Changes, Trump Launches ‘an Attack on Fair Housing From All Sides’” (CityLab, 9/9/20)
DISABILITY AND ABLEISM:
Ableism is another example of privilege. When we identify our points of privilege, we identify the places where we have power. How will you choose to use that power?
- Theresa Vargas writes “Chadwick Boseman’s death is fueling important conversation about disabilities, and what’s happening on the screen and behind the scenes” (Washington Post, 9/2/20).
- The Transgender Law Center houses “The Disability Project”
- SURJ NOVA hosted a conversation about “Understanding How Racism and Sexism Intersect with Ableism” (video recording, 8/19/20)
- SURJ writes “From Disability Rights to Disability Justice: a Reflection on Crip Camp and 30 Years of the ADA” (Medium, 8/5/20)
- Amanda Stahl at SURJ writes “White People with Disabilities — We Must Show Up for Black Lives” (Medium, 6/18/20)
- George Mason University’s Center for Digital Media has a list of resources to discuss racism geared towards conversations with kids.
- Netflix Bookmarks has videos celebrating black voices and children’s books, organized by age range.
- Theresa Vargas writes “They were names on headstones until the pandemic. Then they became reminders that ‘Georgetown was Black.’” (Washington Post, 9/12/20)
- Donna F. Edwards and Gwen McKinney write “We are Black women. Stop calling us ‘women of color.’” (Washington Post, 9/14/20)
- Challenging Racism’s September newsletter is full of wonderful resources, books and films, and actions you can take.
- Patrisse Cullors writes “Seven Years of Growth: BLM’s Co-Founder and incoming Executive Director reflects on the movement” (Medium, 9/11/20)
- Arlington for Justice is hosting a “Ride for Black Lives” on September 26.
- White Awake is hosting “Roots Deeper Than Whiteness” training starting October 4.
- The Alliance for Housing Solutions is hosting two community conversations: “History of Race and Housing in Arlington” on September 29 and “Forming an Anti-Racist Housing Policy Agenda” on October 29.
- SURJ has put together an Election Defender program.
Find ways to bring these issues into your conversations with people. Establish yourself as an anti-racist person in your community by making it normal to discuss racial and economic disparities, even when that’s not what the conversation is focused on. Normalize anti-racism by showing that you’re not too uncomfortable to call attention to systemic disparities and racism and that you’re not afraid to take action to address it.
Listen. Amplify. Follow.
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