Last night, I stood up in a room of over 150 adults, mostly white, and spoke up. My heart raced. My phone registered four instances of my heart rate going over 110 when I was not doing anything physically active.
I was at the local school board meeting.
I have lived in two school district areas, been a constituent, paid taxes, send three children to learn in these schools and, yet, yesterday was my first time at a school board meeting. I stood in line with many people. I was curious. I was there because I had heard from acquaintances that school board meetings had become battlegrounds where Critical Race Theory and Diversity Equity Inclusion initiatives were being hotly debated.
My first thought was “… what is there to debate? Inclusion and more diversity are good for our family…”
Yesterday was an eye-opening experience, to say the least. Person upon person came up and spoke about how Critical Race Theory and Diversity Equity Inclusion initiatives were sowing division and hatred in children. Some comments I heard yesterday were:
“My children will tolerate…”
“My white child does not need to feel guilty…”
“Should my children feel ashamed of their ancestors…”
“Children should be learning about cats, dogs, and seasons not protests and activism…”
As I sat there, my heart raced. My brown and white children did not have the luxury of not talking about race. It is a living, breathing entity in our home. As someone who has been on both sides of the aisle so to speak – a descendant of an oppressor and now, the oppressed, I thought about what I wanted my children to know about our shared history and heritage.
“Was I worried my children would be ashamed of their brahminical heritage?
“Was I worried that my children would feel divided and lost?”
The answer was a resounding no. The whole point of parenting is to learn from the mistakes we make and not to repeat the mistakes we know about. I want my children to know about all the problematic parts of our heritage so they do not carry it forward into the future.
Circling back to diversity, equity, and inclusion, the reason I felt so strongly about these topics was that I was living the experience with children who needed support at school, with a child who has been asked to play “servant” because she is brown. My children will be resilient because we talk about the ground reality. They will stand up for themselves because we have these problematic conversations.
Every person who stood up to speak against diversity, equity, and inclusion was white, white-passing, or white adjacent.
Every person who stood up and spoke for diversity, inclusion, and equity was a person of color, a person from a marginalized community, or had children who needed supports of some kind from the school. Their lived experiences made them advocates.
So, here comes the big question as this issue is being debated in school board meetings across the country. What can YOU do? What should YOU do?
- If you are a taxpayer with BIPOC children in a school district, look up your school board members. Ask them about their position on DEI. Look up to see if your school has literature or plans on making DEI part of the curriculum. If not, ask why. There are many ways in which you can do this. You can handwrite and mail a letter to your school board members. You can send an email. The best though is to find out when your next school board meeting is and show up in person and make a comment during the public general comment period by sharing personal anecdotes and making a case for why DEI is important for you and your family.Here is a sample of what you can speak about.
- If there are school board members whose views on DEI are not resonant with yours, check to see if they are up for re-election. If they are representing your region, show up at the polls and vote. Even better, mobilize and take your like minded friends along and help them vote. If the board member in question is not representing your region, support their campaign monetarily. If donating money for political campaign is not your thing, text bank, phone bank or write cards to get out the vote. If that is not your thing, speak up and amplify the cause that is dear to your heart.
- If you and your children are white but you feel Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are dear to your heart, do what is outlined above. If you do not have children in the school district but you pay taxes, you can still do all of the above. Actions like these make allyship more than performative.
School board elections are the basic step to being involved in things that personally affect you. When you have a board that looks and feels the way you do, the decisions they make help your children at school. Today, locally, we have a board supportive of DEI in our schools. That will not be the case if the board composition changes.
YOU can help by doing your bit. Will you?
PS: I rarely ask that you share my content. But, for this post, I do ask you to share if what I say resonates with you.