KASB President’s Perspective: Let’s walk kindly together as we respond to today’s traumas

As I start this journey as your President of KASB, our country is thrashing about into a mosh pit filled with frenzied citizens. Some are waving their hands peacefully in union with humankind to express solidarity and others are raging with fists pumped ready to fight anyone that gets in their way; filled with anger that cannot be calmed with reason, a mass of humanity, thrown together without a common song. The melody of these voices crying out for justice, peace and equality bring me great sadness and stir my soul into action. I feel compelled to move away from the wall swayed by the song and dance to move shoulder to shoulder with my colleagues, friends and family. 

At times, I also feel like my voice is muted and unmeaningful. I have spent the last few weeks reading to seek an understanding that will never be felt like my biracial niece and her Black father, an understanding that my coworkers live with every day, an understanding that will teach the next generation a way to acknowledge our roots and find a way forward. That is the obligation I feel which is most important, finding a way forward, together. And it’s not just the systemic racism that we’ll need to address. We are still dealing with a pandemic and how to proceed in the uncertain months ahead. 

When I applied to fill the role of President of KASB, I was focused on delivering a voice focused on trauma-responsive cultures in our buildings. Little did I know that these practices will be what every student, staff member and parent will need upon return to school. Because what we have just lived through has been traumatic. Every student, staff member and parent experienced nine weeks of loss due to a pandemic, the loss of routine school and all it includes, the academics, the activities and the accolades that come with the end of a school year. And then came the international response to systemic racism. 

My mind has been the mosh pit referenced above, my conscience trying to make sense of it all and just what my role in the response should be. I am not a racist, but I have absolutely benefited from my white, middle class experiences that are not universal. I am seeking answers by listening to national and local leaders taking the risk to share their own stories and lifting others’ who are too afraid of the repercussions. I am reading books like Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility” and August Channing Brown’s “I’m Still Here: Being Black in a World of Whiteness.”  I am watching videos like Tyler Merritt’s “Before You Call the Cops” and the 2019 movie “Just Mercy.”  We all can learn and as local education leaders, we must have the tough conversations and bring those whose perspectives are different than our own to the decision-making table. In our classrooms, we must acknowledge inequality and teach our history, even when it’s ugly. 

While a pandemic and racial riots are not related, our response as educators should be. We must work to form relationships of trust and once that has been established, we can get somewhere. I hope we can all walk kindly with one another and practice sitting in uncomfortable spaces listening to each other with compassion and grace. When we hear each other’s lyrics of life, we can write a new song that resolves the dissonance into harmonies our grandchildren can dance to in the future together. 

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