The recent national events, including the killing of George Floyd, have left my whole body, mind and soul trembling with anger, sadness and dejection. As a child I lived through the 1977 blackout riots in New York City, where a rolling blackout that darkened the city gave rise to looting and riots by a community of people that struggled with hunger, poverty, the urban drug war, joblessness and, yes, racial profiling that taught us that survival meant you kept quiet. A constant knee, foot, fist on the heads, necks and backs of people who prayerfully try not to lose hope is a long, constant and painful history for targeted communities, and there are countless heartbreaking stories to share if someone will listen.
And so here we find ourselves again, asking the question: Why does a life have to be lost to reopen the hard conversations about institutional racism, classism, poverty, equality and basic human worth?
I ask us to unify to break the systemic cycle of racism, intolerance and discrimination. This will take boldness and patience with one another, but also a locking of arms to say: No more. Not again. Not on our watch. Each of us within our own sphere of influence can make decisions about who has access to decision-making tables, who has voice, and how equity is made a core assumption of our practice.
It is our kuleana to educate the next generation on the importance of equity and understanding within an informed, empowered civil discourse where we respect and honor voice. This is not because we represent public education, democracy, Hawai‘i, aloha ... No, it is simply because we stand on the value of each human being.
Public education is the great equalizer, and we serve one of the most diverse student bodies in the world. We have the unique opportunity to be an example of the change we are seeking.
Join us as we double down our efforts to create schools where our culture, language, family, history and contributions are given respect, dignity and the recognition they deserve. Together, we must continue to make bold changes on behalf of our students, our communities, our world.
Dr. Christina M. Kishimoto
This time it was George Floyd. Last time it was Ahmaud Aubery. Before that, Breonna Taylor and so many others. Different names. Different cities. But in every case, the underlying racism and ugliness are the same and will remain the same without dramatic changes to our institutions that address the conditions that allowed this killing to happen.
This time it was the police who were caught in the crosshairs of public attention. But that sickening cell phone footage only captured a small piece of a larger picture, a vignette in the ongoing story of injustice and racism that is our nation’s history and our current reality. Mortality statistics under COVID-19 remind us that the same patterns of injustice and inequity extend to health care. And housing. And to us in education.
As we rise to meet the challenges of the current health crisis—to teach children remotely, feed our families, provide internet access, address the mental health of our youth, and fight budget cuts—let us, the leaders of our nation’s urban public schools, amplify our efforts to meet this challenge, too—this enduring, defining challenge of our time. Let us ensure that our schools are safe havens where all children are respected and nurtured, where all children can achieve and grow, and where all children are guaranteed equity and justice.
The nation’s urban public schools offer our full-throated condemnation of this killing and the racism behind it. And we vow to redouble our efforts to ensure racial justice is at the center of everything we do.