I recently was a part of a presentation to parents from the district around what St. Louis Park racial equity work is and why it matters. The group of equity coaches introduced some tools for talking about race and walked participants through personalizing racial equity. My colleagues are amazing and shared powerful testimonies of their work and learning. However, I wanted to share out some of what I heard our leaders say. Towards the beginning of the evening, each principal and our superintendent shared briefly on what racial equity work looks like to them and in their buildings. Here are some of the highlights. (Please note, that while I look careful notes, these are not direct quotes.)
This work is about making mistakes and leaning in to hear other perspectives. We’ve done work around racial autobiographies, and it’s been emotional at times, ask our building equity coach—I’ve gotten emotional, but it’s been powerful.
I’ve come to terms with the privileges I’ve been afforded and how I’ve been looked at as a white male and the positive assumptions made about my capabilities based purely on that.
Racial equity is about humanizing ourselves and others—let’s find out who you are, and who I am. We owe this to our children, especially as we work in education and we’re forming futures.
The overwhelming majority of our white students are on their way to colleges, ninety percent. But only a quarter of our black students are. I’ve been reading more and more about what’s going on that contributes to this and learning from our building equity coach. This is life and death for our students. We need to dedicate ourselves to this until it’s 90-90.
I’ve learned that it’s okay to question things, and that we must continually ask questions. To look at policies and ask–who is it benefiting? Why are we doing this? This is about our parents of color expressing that they realized they have a voice in the race conversation and our white students having healthy racial identities.
This work is about valuing process over outcomes. In creating a space and protocol to talk about race, before there is an issue, there is a dedicated space to have the conversation.
We owe our students the best. This is work that needs to happen.
I’m new at this. As a leader, my focus has been being the leading learner. To model to my teachers, what it looks like to engage in this work. I’ve always loved x’s and o’s, but this is work about beliefs. And no x’s or o’s matter until there is that belief that ALL kids can learn.
This work has become personal to me. I started with a belief that we did equity work for our students of color, but it has become personal to me. My humanity is involved.
As a white person, in the past when I went home I was able to walk away from the conversations around equity. But recently, I have learned what it means to work against the norm of white privilege and to walk against the flow of racism. I look at conversations where previously I would have stopped because of fears and ask myself, why am I being silent?
I question how does my race affect the learning? We have 90% white employees and 45% students of color – what’s the impact? This work is blending best practices and racial equity reflection for the best for all our of students. We need to examine questioned elements of the institution and build racial consciousness. This if for our white students too. That they might be equipped to navigate the world and have healthy racial identities.
I am so grateful for the leadership and support our district is committed to in this work. We are truly in this together. – JE