Provide Equity AND Fight Racism
Updated: Oct 3, 2019
Not many people in our community are aware that Eastern Carver County School district has had equity on their radar for some 12 years. Most assume this work is only a response to the mounting racist incidents that occurred last school year. Indeed, a commitment to equity became more pressing for the district—especially due to pressure from Residents Organizing Against Racism.
Equity is based on the premise that each child should be given the tools necessary to achieve academic success. Equity can address and influence how students are perceived and treated, based on such factors as income, disability, gender or sexual orientation. Of course racial equity is included and can often intersect other components. While each is important and worth supporting, racial equity is at the forefront of our school’s problems right now.
In fact, racist incidents have been occurring for years in many different schools and at different grade levels throughout the district. Our society can define racism in many ways. One definition, by scholar and author Ibram X. Kendi, maintains that racism results from "any idea that there is something inherently better or worse about any racial group." This can be experienced in such ways as personal behavior and policies of large systems or organizations. (You can learn more about the different types of racism at Racial Equity Tools.) The district is working to combat and better respond to individual acts of racism among students, as well as institutional racism that has, among other things, created gaps in achievement and discipline between white students and students of color, and a significant underrepresentation of teachers of color.
We support the district’s work toward equity because we believe fighting racism falls under the banner of equity, but not all equity work consists of fighting racism. The district’s Equity Definition, Vision and Beliefs promote diversity and inclusion, but nowhere does it explicitly condemn racism (or for that matter any form of discrimination).
As the district suspected long before the equity audit confirmed, our school system suffers from implicit bias and policies that harm people of color. This discrimination can fly quite low under the radar and become so standard to seem normal. Which is why some people don’t see the need for racial equity, or might bristle at the possibility the district has a need to rewrite racist policies, or that the racist problems that have become so public are anything more than isolated incidents.
It’s easier and more comfortable for us to talk about and focus on the positive, but we can’t dismantle systemic racism without addressing the racist behaviors that continue to steal time and energy from that work, which aims to prevent those behaviors in the first place. You can’t fireproof a house before you put out the fire first.
We fully support the district’s commitment to equity, but our students in every grade need to know our district “has their back” every time they walk into their school. We would like to see Eastern Carver County Schools take their commitment one step further with a bold, unified message that condemns racism, and by developing a district-wide anti-racism policy with clear paths for reporting racist incidents, access to trauma support, and a clear discipline policy for racist incidents for both students and staff.