As educators, we’re taught to begin with the end in mind. To be successful, we need to know our intended outcome so we can backward plan how we will get there. I know that many educators looked toward 2020 as a year of change, a year of hope, and a year of clarity—“20/20 vision.” I, too, began the year thinking about what I wanted to see accomplished by the year’s end: social and emotional justice, an end to the school-to-prison pipeline, a closing of the belief gap, and maybe a few trips. However, no one could have predicted that a global pandemic was on the horizon.
In February 2020, we learned exactly what we were up against. Reflecting on the year now, it is unfathomable that we’ve lost more than 300,000 beautiful souls to this disease and, even worse, that inaction by the current administration is largely the cause of the unnecessary loss of life.
COVID-19 Isn’t the Only Pandemic
This year also brought a reckoning of the injustices that have plagued our country since its inception. The brutal lynching of Ahmaud Arbery reminded us of the words of Joseph Lowery, everything has changed and nothing has changed. We saw Breonna Taylor senselessly lose her life only to receive no justice in the end. By the time May was upon us, watching the death of George Floyd was like receiving one bolo punch after another and another.
These moments reminded me of the demands and the noise we’ve been making in education about ending the racial predictability in our schools, dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline and providing students with equitable access to a high-quality education. But the data shows that the masses are not changing, listening or making progress for marginalized students.
It is exhausting knowing that after all these years, the issues surrounding underserved students have not been resolved. And the little progress made to eradicate racial discrimination in our schools was dismantled, not only because of an ill-qualified secretary of education, but also—and ultimately—because the system of racism is so deeply and inherently ingrained in the very fabric of our society that there is a fear of those who have been “othered” progressing by those in the majority.
After all the marching and protesting—the largest movement in history—this summer, the outcome was an awakening to the issue of racism in 2020. If our goal was to make people aware, then we accomplished that goal. However, the end goal is to create an anti-racist society, and without a clear plan, we will not have moved the needle.
So many people have grown tired and weary. Tired is an understatement for me. We are tired of watching the inaction to the coronavirus, and as the year ends, thanks to our scientists and dedicated healthcare workforce, it is truly promising to know that a vaccine has been approved and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. But we are also tired of seeing racism at play in our schools, workplaces, laws, leaders, and unlike the virus, without action, there is no end in sight.
Last Friday in Columbus, Ohio, Casey Goodson, Jr. was misidentified, had a Subway sandwich mistaken for a gun, and was shot three times in his back—murdered in front of his Grandmother and two young sons, as he attempted to enter his residence.
Everything has changed and nothing has changed.
As we move into the last days of this year, I hope that in your advocacy work you will plan with the end in mind, asking yourself: What is the change that I seek? And I hope you will be determined to attack the system and NOT the symptom—we must move from talking about it and actually DOING SOMETHING about the issues our students face and the injustices that marginalized people face each and every day!
Bernice King said,
Kindness matters, but kindness does not equal justice. Civility counts, but calling for civility is not the humane response to injustice. Justice is. Love is essential, but love is not a passive, weeping bystander. Love puts in work.
In 2021, I hope we remember that if we fail to plan, we can plan to fail. Let’s keep working, keep loving, keep leading, keep fighting, keep dismantling, and keep breaking down systems of oppression so that EVERYTHING can change.