White Folks Facing Race: Let’s Get Back to Work

[This is part of my White Folks Facing Race series, originally written on January 3, 2020 to an email group created for community members in the Washington, DC area.]

Hi Friends!

Happy New Year! Let’s get back to work.

Congratulations to Arron Gregory as the APS Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer! Our role will be in supporting his work and efforts and pushing APS to fully embrace the culture change that is needed to address disparities in our schools. Our students are depending on the success of his work and the community needs to stand behind them and advocate for all of our students. I’m looking forward to meeting him at some point and to understanding in more detail how our community can promote anti-racism (and anti-discrimination in general) in APS.

Related to this, first I want to call attention to an amazing Anti-Racism Policy out of Albemarle County, Virginia. It comes complete with a checklist. Why do localities insist on reinventing the wheel when other jurisdictions have created successful guides, policies, and procedures to address issues of systemic discrimination? Arlington is not so unique that we cannot use an existing policy like this and adjust it to fit our community. Insisting on writing our own from scratch means it will take longer and leans in the direction of dragging our feet on the road to equality. This is long term work, but we don’t need to make it take even longer!

Here’s a second example. Portland Public Schools commissioned research on “Best Practices in District Rezoning,” which includes key takeaways including, “Districts must be aware of how student assignment mechanisms and redistricting may have a disproportionate effect on disadvantaged students. High-performing schools are often unequally distributed throughout districts or may not be numerous enough to meet existing demand. Many school assignment processes have the potential to exacerbate inequality because low-income or at-risk students tend to choose or be zoned for low-performing schools close to their homes. Districts such as Washington, D.C. and Boston have attempted to address equity issues by enabling students to access schools outside their neighborhoods, such as by allocating a certain number of seats at high-performing schools to at-risk, non-neighborhood students or by creating assignment algorithms that include high-performing schools as potential choices for all students. Districts should also strive to improve school quality throughout the system to better serve all students.” APS needs to learn from this study and focus on implementing it effectively.

Related to PTA funding inequities, this article in The Atlantic by Suzanne Cope from November 2019 is really inspiring me to push on addressing this issue more strongly in Arlington.

Please note that there will be a presentation on Restorative Justice on Saturday, January 11 from 2–3 pm in Arlington.

StayRVA is a Richmond, VA organization committed to supporting all students in Richmond Public Schools, and is explicit about the role systemic racism plays in educational disparities:
“- We recognize that racism plays a powerful part in locking black and brown children out of opportunity in our current education system and through building relationships in our communities and in our schools we can begin to dismantle that system of racism.
“- If a school is not “good enough” for my child then it is not good enough for anyone’s child and we are going to work to make sure that ALL schools are great for ALL of our kids.”
What would it take to do something like this in Arlington?

I highly recommend the following opportunity:
The UU Church of Arlington in partnership with Service Never Sleeps (https://www.serviceneversleeps.org/) is offering a one-day Allyship workshop, to help you reflect on the causes of racial injustice, how to be an effective ally for communities of color, and how to actively influence and educate others to combat white supremacy.
The training will be held at UUCA (4444 Arlington Blvd) from 10:00–5:00 on Saturday, January 18, 2020. It will be facilitated by Whitney Parnell.
Register here: https://forms.gle/ribsqY36Xx9xEzKK8

- Laura Meckler and Kate Rabinowitz write a series called “Integration’s New Frontier,” about “The lines that divide: School district boundaries often stymie integration” and “America’s schools are more diverse than ever. But the teachers are still mostly white.
- Laura Newberry in the Lost Angeles Times writes about “Boys, girls and genders in-between: A classroom lesson for modern third-graders
- Drew Harwell writes about how a “Federal study confirms racial bias of many facial-recognition systems, casts doubt on their expanding use.”
- Hannah Natanson writes about efforts “At a Northern Virginia school, parents of different backgrounds speak the same language.”
- Rebecca Tan writes about how “In a wealthy Md. suburb, overall health gains obscure growing racial inequities.”
- Richard Florida writes about “How Valuing Productivity, Not Profession, Could Reduce U.S. Inequality
- Janice Gassam writes about how “Your Unconscious Bias Trainings Keep Failing Because You’re Not Addressing Systemic Bias

Also, to follow up on Courtney Mykytyn’s recent passing, I found a few tributes to her that I thought are worth sharing:
- Garret Bucks at The White Pages
- A message from Roman Mykytyn, Courtney’s husband

All we can do is make the most of today and do the best we can. There are no guarantees. Every effort we make matters.

Listen. Amplify. Follow.

Mom, Activist, Community Organizer