by David Ruff
Amidst the courageous efforts of students, families, and educators to continue learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, structural racism continues to thrive in the U.S. It surfaces as inequity in student attainment, as disparity in health and economic outcomes resulting from the pandemic, and as continued police violence—all perpetuated on the basis of race. While we should be pulling closer together, racism continues unabated, dividing our country and denying justice to our students, friends, family members, and colleagues of color.
The racism experienced by Black people is not limited to the impacts of COVID-19 or police violence. The problem has existed in our country since its birth. Our very system of education—despite many efforts by local educators, leaders, and activists—remains woefully inadequate and unjust for Black students and their families, exemplifying the longstanding injustice. Data collected through our Common Data Project reveals that Black students graduate from high school, enroll in college, and earn college degrees at significantly lower rates than white students. Overall, if 100 Black students enter ninth grade, on average, only 16 of them will earn a college degree of some sort within ten years.
All of us at the Great Schools Partnership are deeply disturbed and angry about how racism in the U.S. has unjustly heightened the impact of the pandemic on and continues to spur violence against families and communities of color. We are also passionate about and deeply committed to educational equity. It seems only rational that all students and families would want an equitable, rigorous, and personalized education system that prepares every student for college, careers, and global citizenship. It seems only rational that our efforts must ensure just outcomes for each student, raise marginalized voices, and challenge the imbalance of power and privilege.
Justice is not a favor paid, but a debt owed to people of color. Unfortunately, justice doesn’t rule the day in our country. It is past time for white people to admit the benefits of white supremacy and to become allies in the fight for change. We need to, as Bryan Stevenson would urge us, get proximate in this struggle. We need to support the efforts of our colleagues of color as leaders. We need to work to understand the realities faced by people of color in the U.S. We need to take a deliberate antiracist stand. I am committed to undertaking this work and urge my white colleagues to join with our colleagues of color to listen, learn, and change our world.