Message from Principal Wood

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Message from Principal Wood

 

Message from Principal Wood

(6-8-20)

 

Dear Families,

The past two weeks have been incredibly hard for our nation and our community. I have found myself waking in tears and anger, wondering how I can help to dismantle the systems that keep allowing senseless murders like George Floyd's, Breonna Taylor’s, and Ahmaud Arbery’s. The list of lives torn apart solely because of the color of their skin spans over 400 years. It is 2020, and this is still happening. Couple that with the modern day incarceration rates for black men (which equates to modern day slavery, in my opinion) and the disproportionality of black students who don't graduate from high school or college, and we are still living inside a crisis.

As a school of predominantly white educators, it can be easy for us to ignore. Over the past six years, I’ve facilitated many conversations with my staff about the fact that we are all victims of a system that was created before we were born and is perpetuated by a lack of education, understanding, and action. In August 2018, we spent 12 hours exploring race and privilege with the following goals in mind:


  • We will deepen and broaden our understanding of history, culture, power, and economics as propagating white identity formation and spreading the reinforcement of white culture as superior.
  • We will learn to recognize systemic and structural racism.
  • We will analyze our own race stories.
  • We will analyze Marshall’s academic and discipline data to identify gaps.
  • We will create personal action plans that define next steps.


I asked my staff to delve into the reality of racial discrimination in housing, banking, schooling, employment, healthcare and virtually every other public institution in this country. We looked at the practices that continue to perpetuate it. We watched Race: The Power of an Illusion together (which I highly recommend for everyone and is available for free using your child’s MyTRL account access to the database: Kanopy), and we read articles about White Privilege and White Fragility. We talked - and at times it was very uncomfortable - about why this needs to be a conversation focused on race and not solely on poverty. (It is much easier for White people to talk about poverty). We had some deep, honest seminars, and many of us started to "Wake Up." That journey continued when our school adopted Restorative Justice practices in the fall of 2019 in order to dismantle traditional disciplinary practices that disproportionately target our students of color and Black students unfairly. Many of our students and staff were also an integral part of the OSD’s creation of our new student outcomes, one of which explicitly focuses on having, “The skills, knowledge and courage to identify and confront personal, systemic and societal bias.”


But it’s not enough. We need to band together as a community to have difficult, scary, real conversations about racial equity. I believe in the power of our community to come together during this time (and always) to support our students, families, neighbors, and friends. Our students look to their teachers and parents for guidance and leadership, and it is important, critical even, that we don't stand in silence. We must talk to them about what is happening. Process with them. Listen to them. I know it is uncomfortable, and you might feel like you don't have enough knowledge or understanding to lead discussions. You might make a mistake. That is true, but it's better to make a mistake and apologize and learn from it than to do nothing at all. We must model open dialogue, our willingness to take risks, to be vulnerable with each other... that's the only way that they too will be willing to do that essential work. And it's the ONLY way this will change. Racism is taught and learned and breeds in silence. Therefore, we must teach equity.


I know many of you are wondering, “So what can we do?” Click HERE for a list of annotated resources for students, families, and educators to have meaningful conversations at home, in the classroom, at work, with your neighbors, with your friends, and with the world. This list also celebrates voices, authors, sites, and resources from authentic Black, Indigenous, People of Color. I am definitely not suggesting that I am an expert. This is a lifelong journey for me. But I have committed the last 15 years of my life - since receiving my Masters Degree in Multicultural Education from the University of Washington studying under the great James Banks and Geneva Gay - to learn as much as I can about systemic institutionalized racism, and I can share some powerful resources that have helped “raise the curtain” for me on this journey as well as new resources about how to talk to kids about race. If you have resources that you think should be added to this list, please email our Teacher-Librarian, Cassie White, at cwhite@osd.wednet.edu or myself and we will update this resource list as a living, breathing, ever-growing document of change.



We can do better. We MUST do better.

To our Black families, we LOVE you. We SEE you. We HEAR you.

Thurgood Marshall Middle School’s support of BLACK LIVES MATTER does not diminish our love and support of all our school community, but it recognizes that we NEED to do better for our Black students and families.



Sincerely,
Condee Wood, Principal

 


 

Works Cited in this Letter:

 

DiAngelo, R. (2018). White Fragility: Why It's So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism. Boston: Beacon Press.

 

Irving, Debbie (2015). Waking up white and finding myself in the story of race. Elephant Room Press. 

 

McIntosh, P. (2003). White privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack. In S. Plous (Ed.), Understanding prejudice and discrimination (p. 191–196). McGraw-Hill. 

 

Medville, Lillian (2018). Your privilege is showing. TEDxBeaconStreet.

 

Muhammad, Anthony (2015). Overcoming the achievement gap trap: Liberating mindsets to effect change. Solution Tree Press.

 

Olson, R.A. (1992). Eliminating White privilege in schools: An awesome challenge for White parents and educators. Available from: SDS (Supporting Diversity in Schools through Family and Community Involvement) 1120 Northwest Center, St. Paul, MN 55101. 

 

Steele, C. (2010). Whistling Vivaldi: How stereotypes affect us and what we can do. New York :W.W. Norton & Company.

 

Strain, L.S., and Claudio, R. (2003).  Race: The power of an illusion. San Francisco, Calif: California Newsreel.

 

Everyone Belongs; Everyone Learns; Everyone Grows