By Vanessa Longacre-Wilcox, Advocacy Chair (firstname.lastname@example.org)
In 1946, a parent advocate and PTA representative named Ruth Benedict wrote an article for the National Parent-Teacher magazine addressing tolerance and racism entitled, “Let’s get Rid of Prejudice.” I have only seen quotes of this article but what I have seen was bold (for the time). I think of that article, and the decision Ms. Benedict made in writing it, and how 73 years later, I feel the same urgency to find ways for our community to come together to deal with racism and biases that are still present today.
Intellectually I have known that it would be impossible for our school community to be immune to prejudices. Yet, I was still taken by surprise and dismayed hearing reports of students testing out racist language, making culturally insensitive remarks, exchanging homophobic language, and behaviors that were alienating students of color at Alki.
When I heard about this, I felt pangs of anger and sadness. I remembered distinctly how painful it was hearing homophobic slurs when I was in elementary school and how hurt and confused I felt on behalf of my father, who is gay. I don’t want my kids feeling the same fear, anger, and powerlessness for their LGBTQA+ family and their friends of color. I want my children to have tools and support at school that I didn’t have. We immediately had frank, open, and age appropriate conversations with our kids.
This is a crisis within our community (and our world). Light needs to be shed on it. It needs our focus. Our kids need our help in creating a learning environment that challenges them to be their best selves, to treat others with respect, to embrace differences, to advocate for others, to be open to learning, self-reflective and responsible for their actions.
Already you may have seen many of our amazing teachers directly making efforts to address these topics with our kids. Our administration has been reaching out to organizations for structured support. The PTA is looking at ways we can bring financial support for programs to address bias and racism.
If we are going to get rid of prejudice, it is not going to be by being silent. It is going to be by pulling together to face this, supporting our kids and teachers, and doing the work at home as well. So that 73 years from now, we aren’t having to write this article again.
…more to come about how Alki is taking steps to address this issue.