I am speaking on behalf of the Piedmont Racial Equity Campaign (PREC), an organization formed in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder to galvanize the Piedmont community to support racial justice and equity in the areas of education, housing, policing, and city and community leadership.
We are here tonight to share a few thoughts:
First, we have engaged with the district over the last year on diversity and inclusion initiatives and we support its commitment to racial equity and anti-racism work, which we know can be hard and messy. While we know there will be inevitable areas of growth, we support the district’s investment in resources that will mitigate future unforced errors or unnecessary pain.
Second, many students and families were rightfully concerned about how the affinity groups were introduced and named. In practice, providing space for different identity groups to do the work, so that we can come together better, is important and a common DEI practice. This is in part to avoid the burden and pain that Black, Indigenous and POC often carry in these conversations. However, this incident is an example of why having resources for planning, communication, training and increased awareness, as well as thoughtful rollouts are necessary to do this work effectively. Moreover, a continued effort to be open and transparent with the broader community will be key.
Third, this situation wasn’t the first, and is going to be one of many, difficult incidents we’ll go through as we work together to create this community. Mistakes and blind spots will happen, but how we work through them together as a community matters more than any individual misstep. We cannot let a misstep divide us or make us afraid and shy away from the common goal we have: a just, equitable, and diverse community in which all our kids can learn and thrive.
We see the recent issues as an opportunity to engage more deeply, listen and learn around the questions some in our community might have around the situation: Why might Black, Indigenous and other People of Color need their own space? How will white people learn if they aren’t in spaces with BIPOC? These are great questions. We should engage in them. But also: What are each of our schools doing to improve equity and justice? As a parent, what’s my role? What conversations should I be having with my kids and my community?
I’ll end by saying that we will continue to engage and work with the District, as we have over the last year, to support them in realizing the goals they’ve committed to in their Racial Equity Policy that passed last June. We believe they are committed to real change in our schools that will benefit all students and our broader community. We know that if we can harness the strength of the broader school community – district and school staff, parents, students, community groups – we can build, or rebuild, the necessary trust needed for the betterment of all our students – and our hearts and schedules are open to help.