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black lives matter: confronting racism today

June 9, 2020

Black Lives Matter: Supporting Students and Communities in A Time of Pain

AFT President Randi Weingarten pens a blog on the importance of confronting racism today and how we can support our students and communities.

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Confronting Racism Today: Supporting Students, Colleagues and Friends

I am haunted by the video of a police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd as he cried out, “I can’t breathe,” just as I am haunted by the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Amadou Diallo, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin and Breonna Taylor.

Since George Floyd was murdered, there have been overwhelmingly peaceful protests in all 50 states and across the globe. These protests, like the ones I have attended in New York, while they’ve been intergenerational and multiracial, have been led by our students. They are teaching us. America’s teachers and school staff must support our students as they demand justice for George Floyd and for real, honest policing reforms.

That’s why National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García and I have written a message to our students, which we hope many of you will consider signing.

You can read the full letter and add your name, whether you are an educator, school staff member, healthcare worker or ally. Our students who are fighting for justice deserve to know we support them.

As educators, we have a responsibility to address racism today head-on. We cannot remain silent. We owe it to our students—and ourselves—to teach anti-racism and to stand up in support of our Black students, colleagues and friends. 

If you are looking for resources to support your students, our team at AFT’s Share My Lesson has curated preK-12 lesson plans, activities and resources to help students and communities to teach anti-racism, social justice issues and cultural competencies. Later this summer, we will be holding a series of Black Lives Matter webinars as part of our Summer of Learning professional development series. 

We hope you will join us online in learning how we can support our students now and in the future. 

Randi Weingarten

RANDI WEINGARTEN is president of the 1.7 million-member American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, which represents teachers; paraprofessionals and school-related personnel; higher education faculty and staff; nurses and other healthcare professionals; local, state and federal government employees; and early childhood educators. The AFT champions fairness; democracy; economic opportunity; and high-quality public education, healthcare and public services for students, their families and communities. The AFT and its members advance these principles through community engagement, organizing, collective bargaining and political activism, and especially through members’ work.

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