By Mica Pollock, Emilie Homan Brady, Benjamin C. Kennedy, Samantha Prado, Ramon Stephens, Abdul Issa, Chenoa Musillo, and the #USvsHate team
We at #USvsHate condemn with rage the massacre of human beings in Buffalo by an openly white supremacist teen. We grieve the losses of Roberta A. Drury, Margus D. Morrison, Andre Mackniel, Aaron Salter, Geraldine Talley, Celestine Chaney, Heyward Patterson, Katherine Massey, Pearl Young, and Ruth Whitfield, and injuries to Zaire Goodman, Jennifer Warrington, and Christopher Braden. We extend our most heartfelt condolences to the loved ones of each and every one of these individuals. We also want to recognize, share in, and bear witness to the grief, pain, and fear that is being experienced in Black communities and communities of color across the country targeted by racist violence.
We redouble our commitment to working daily to support youth and teachers to refuse white supremacy in all its forms.
We pause, and describe our commitments below this line.
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This massacre was fueled by white supremacy, a philosophy that is centuries old and core to racism itself. Refusing white supremacy takes ongoing work from all of us. In the image below, designed for K12 environments, we together refuse this core ideology. We refuse and reject any situation that treats people of color as less worthy than white people. We refuse and reject racist harm, harassment, and racially unequal opportunity in education. And we continue to work every day to support young people to recognize and undo everyday versions of white supremacy and other common forms of injustice, bias, discrimination, and unequal opportunity that hurt Black people, other people of color, and all of us.
In the wake of this heinous massacre, we also condemn politicians who have been stoking hatred and misinformation while attempting to restrict children and youth‘s ability to learn about issues of race, racism and diversity in schools. Hateful theories about people of color dangerously “replacing” whites in communities and the electorate drove the white supremacist murderer. These theories have been repeated not only in the Charlottesville Unite the Right white supremacist demonstration and online, but on Fox News and by politicians themselves.
And simultaneously — and similarly unacceptably — since January 2021, politicians have filed over 180 bills in 40 states to restrict students’ right to learn in school about issues of race, racism and diversity. Since July 2021, politicians and parents inflamed by them have tried to ban 1,500 individual books on race and diversity — often books about racism, with protagonists of color, or with LGBTQ characters — from libraries or classrooms serving children across 26 states.
This is unacceptable. Politicians and even parents should not try to limit youths’ rights to learn in school about their country and one another. This effort to restrict learning is especially outrageous while youth are learning hate from politicians and media figures themselves.
Instead, all people of conscience must persist in antiracist education in K12 schools. We need accurate and inclusive K12 education if we are to grow a nation of young people who can take care of one another — and lead a future country that works for everybody.
Youth learn to be antiracist through learning history and analyzing current events; through direct discussion and unity activities; through reading literature offering diverse experiences; and through authentic relationships in schools where everyone is treated like they belong. Youth also learn through raising their own voices to articulate their own experiences with and viewpoints against hate, bias, racism, and injustice. Book bans and educational gag orders chilling discussion of racism and erasing diverse viewpoints and accurate history fundamentally restrict students’ right to learn to take our nation forward — forward into a future without racist violence and harm.
Young people can handle conversations about racism that arise from accurate history teaching, from authentic friendship and dialogue, and from exploration of the world’s great literature. And to disrupt the cycle of hate-born violence, they must learn. We all must learn.
We say in shared grief and resolve,
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We invite critique of/input on this message, which we are trying to shape for everyday school walls. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We also share in closing this message by a fifth grader, who submitted to #USvsHate anonymously. Other antiracist messages can be found on usvshate.org. All can be downloaded for classrooms.