More than six years ago, my platform for my school board election consisted of the call for new mariachi uniforms, adequate football equipment, and improved parent engagement. Notice that none of the three was about student achievement, but my campaign message spoke volumes to a community tired of feeling neglected. It got me elected in a community that could not articulate the concept of equity but could feel every bit of inequality and injustice in their neighborhood schools. Equity work ought to be rooted in being honest about the inequities built into our country and, for educational leaders, an acknowledgement of inequities built into our educational system.
CUBE just hosted its 52nd conference in September in Miami, Florida. Our content was focused on the need for a continued dialogue on racial/ethnic equity. Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Kent P. Scribner often states, “The demographics aren’t changing; they have changed.” The need for a clear understanding of what racial equity truly means is overdue as well as a commitment to keep it on the table because equality is not (yet) a reality.
Equity implies that resources must be distributed differently based on need, not convenience. In many communities, academic achievement is still predictable by skin color, ZIP codes, gender, income, and other reasons.
My colleague, Shawn Lassiter, describes learning about race as similar to strengthening a muscle. School board members can strengthen their “muscle” on race and equity through anti-racist professional development. Race isn’t rocket science; it’s harder than rocket science.
Jacinto Ramos Jr. with civil rights activist Delores Huerta and Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Kent P. Scribner
There is a reason we don’t teach about the social construct of race in our PK-12 school systems. Too many educational leaders are not doing the work to ingrain it in their system. It could be that equity is a tough topic for educational leaders both with internal and external stakeholders. School board members can lose their seats and superintendents can lose their jobs for doing equity work. No one said #WokeWork was easy work. We must move from safe spaces to brave spaces in order to get to compassionate spaces.
Martin Luther King Jr. defined power as the ability to achieve purpose. As school board members, we have the power to analyze, evaluate, and push our systems to recalibrate to the changed demographics through policy. We have the power to have an impact from the boardroom to the classroom so children can achieve their purpose.
You might want to consider a racial and ethnic policy if: your data is predictable by skin color; if children of color in your system cannot name five people of color (not actors or musicians) that look like them, who contributed to our society, and helped make our country what it is; if you cannot distinguish between race and ethnicity; if your schools still celebrate Columbus Day; and if your school system does not honor people such as Dolores Huerta, Yuri Kochiyama, and Ida B. Wells.
A racial/ethnic equity policy can be what the doctor ordered to create the space for authentic solidarity.