NEW YORK, N.Y. (June 2, 2020)— Education Reform Now (ERN) National President Shavar Jeffries released the following statement in response to the murder of George Floyd and the imperative of racial justice:
“The banality of George Floyd’s murder signals the long road ahead for this country to overcome its history of racial oppression. His murder was ordinary: he was unarmed, he was Black, and the murder of Black people in these circumstances, sadly, is not uncommon. George Floyd now joins the litany of blameless Black men and women killed by the state for no discernible reason other than their race.
The racism that killed Floyd and so many others is the same racism that denies equity to Black people in virtually every domain of American life, from economic opportunity to healthcare access to the cause to which I’ve devoted most of my professional life: educational equity. The racism that infects policing and criminal-punishment is the same racism that causes too many educators to doubt the capacity of talented Black children, too many principals to doubt the capacity of talented Black teachers, too many superintendents to doubt the capacity of talented Black principals and too many mayors and school boards to doubt the capacity of talented Black superintendents.
It is true, at the same time, that this nation has made progress on racial matters. Slavery was one of the great scourges on the record of humanity. It has ended. Jim Crow regulated the movements of Black people in virtually every aspect of public life. Those laws have come down. So while we still have so much work to do—and it is plain that racial oppression has modernized and is embedded systematically in institutional authority throughout our country—we also should acknowledge that we’re not where we used to be.
That gives me hope that our country will reject the forces of division and unite around the common humanity in us all. At ERN, we fight tirelessly to eradicate the stain of racism in our public-education system. One of the first tactics used by slaveholders to maintain racial oppression was to make it a crime to teach Black people how to read. Racists have long recognized the inextricable link between ignorance and oppression. We advocate for policies that will ensure that Black students—as well as other students facing educational inequity—have access to the quality schools that will support them in enacting their own liberation.
We are clear about the ongoing practice of white supremacy and so we are not surprised by the murder of George Floyd. But we are also clear about our mission, and we are more determined than ever to do all that we can to reverse the educational inequities that too many Black children face in this country. ”