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Moving Forward from Charlottesville

Blog: Love Trumps Hate: Building Inclusive, Equitable School Communities

We are all still reeling from the appalling events in Charlottesville last week, sparked by the white nationalist march that put bigotry on clear display. We at the Learning Policy Institute denounce the hatred that motivated those events, while we mourn for those engaged in peaceful protest who were hurt by the senseless violence and for Heather Heyer, who lost her life. And we remember with respect and deep gratitude the many others over hundreds of years who courageously stood and often gave their lives in the cause of civil rights and social justice.

As these marches spread to other cities, it is clear that Charlottesville was just the beginning of another historic arm wrestle between the forces of hatred and those that propel human progress. On the heels of the nearly continuous killings of black men and women by police, the widespread acts of anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic hatred, and the detentions and deportations of immigrants, we are experiencing a growing reign of terror, too often sanctioned and even perpetrated by those in authority.

As terrible as these displays of racism and discrimination are, equally terrible are the systemic practices hardwired into our society that aggressively neglect children of color and children in poverty, sending far too many of them into the school-to-prison pipeline instead of into a future where they can achieve their potential and contribute to our collective welfare.

As part of our mission to ensure empowering and equitable education for every child, we at the Learning Policy Institute work to dismantle these practices by, first, recognizing and documenting how they operate, and then working to create policies and knowledgeable practices at every level of government to level the playing field and create a genuine right to learn for each young person.

These systemic obstacles include lack of housing, health care, and food security for each child; inequitable school funding; continued incentives for segregation in housing and education; the failure to create strong, community-based public schools in each neighborhood; and the lack of access to a 21st century curriculum and a stable, well-prepared teaching force in many schools, especially those serving concentrations of children of color and those living in poverty.

It can feel overwhelming to contemplate how far we have to go before every child and adult can feel safe in our society and experience equal opportunities to achieve and succeed. We must remember that throughout history, every step of progress has been the result of the resilience of determined people who have overcome almost unimaginable adversity—threats, bombings, lynchings, and other attacks—and persisted in the face of setbacks, challenged but not defeated.

Each of us has a role to play in ensuring that the arc of the moral universe continues to bend toward justice. We can speak and act for justice individually and collectively as adults. We can also empower children and young people to understand and own their potential, power, and rights. We can support their parents in that same mission.

As we struggle to find pathways to peace and justice in these troubling times, we must seek to speak truth to power; we must keep faith in the necessity and ultimate triumph of this struggle for equality; and we must come together across all of the borders, sectors, and camps that too often artificially divide us.

Below are some resources that I hope you find useful in working with your students, colleagues, and communities in countering hate and fostering peace, justice, solidarity, and community. Our progress may feel slow, especially in these dark days, but together we can realize a society in which every child can prosper.