A recent Daily News article entitled “Why Won’t the United Federation of Teachers Sign Onto Black Lives Matter?” reports that,
Last week, the union representing the teachers of nearly 300,000 black students rejected a resolution supporting Black Lives Matter in education, making it the only local teachers union to do so among the 10 cities where it has been proposed. New York City parents are alarmed and deeply disappointed that the United Federation of Teachers cannot confidently and proudly say that Black Lives Matter — in other words, that their students’ lives matter.
What a slap in the face to every Black child and Black educator within New York City. What’s the problem with supporting a movement that speaks to the realities of the students and teachers that you propose to educate and advocate for daily? Is this too political? C’mon, who are we fooling? Certainly not me! Education IS political. That’s why “the haves” and “the have nots” exist within the educational realm of New York City. That’s why the line between those two groups is drawn along racial lines. That’s why there is a severe shortage of Black teachers — particularly Black male teachers.
The NYC chapter of the teachers’ union puts out initiatives and talks a good talk around the mayoral voting season, but now when the opportunity arises to publicly declare that the largest school system in the nation values and affirms the lives of Black folk, they are silent? That’s a revoltingly loud and exclusionary position to take on such a sensitive topic. I am disappointed.
Naively, the proud New Yorker in me expected better.
According to the same article,
The union’s rejection of this resolution – which called for more black teachers in schools, an end to discriminatory discipline policies and more diversity in the curriculum — only impedes the school system’s progress towards racial justice. It was publicly reported that the union leadership’s justification for their inaction was to avoid controversy.
Avoid controversy, huh? I’ve been facing my own internal controversy, in case you didn’t know. I’ve been feeling disconnected from the bureaucratic quagmire that pushes the system of education along in NY. I moved from reading about the modern face of segregation, racism, classism, and disparity within the public schools to working right in the thick of it. My eyes are wide open and my heart is breaking every day by the daily evidence I encounter of all I learned about the systematic destruction of Black children whilst becoming a teacher — and more.
The union of which I’m a part just made it clear, in no uncertain terms that, to them, Black Lives Don’t Matter. How do I reconcile that within myself and carry on with my calling of educating Black and Brown children? To say I’m outraged is an understatement. Even worse is that I’m not even really all that shocked by this “playing it safe” stance that the union has taken in this matter. The powers that be are not willing to stand up for Black children. Good thing I am and a slew of other educators are, too. Black students who are educated in the NYC DOE must know that they matter before they go out into a world that won’t affirm their worth.
So to my Black and Brown students, please know and always remember that you are somebody. Somebody great! You are the descendants of Kings and Queens. You are the hope and dream of the slaves. You are Martin, Malcolm, Mahalia, Medgar, Michelle, Malala, Myles, Mtumba, Mahatma, and so many more. Despite the negative narrative written about you and about us, your lives do matter. Our lives do matter.
Black Lives Matter.