This is my open letter. A letter to any and everyone who is willing to listen.
This is my cry. Crying out for a better future for my Black and Brown people in this nation. This is my plead. I’m pleading with those enacting racist acts against us to consider how much better our world would be if we treated each other as equals — stripping away the unspoken hierarchical constructs of superiority and inferiority.
This is my ask. I’m asking you, White allies and friends, to lend us your privilege, to sacrifice your power, and to stand up and demand corrective actions against systemic racism.
For two hours this morning our entire team spent time letting our emotions take full control. Providing a safe space to cry, share our anger and frustration, and discuss amongst ourselves what we would like to see differently.
As part of our ongoing internal racial equity work, we discuss literature and research naming inequities and injustices, best practices and frameworks in the spirit of brainstorming ways we, the Foundation for Tacoma Students, might leverage our influence to realize the change we seek. Today, we named that racism and Whiteness makes it hard for people of color to show up, particularly in the workspace, and continue with business as usual, and yet often that is the expectation. We named that we needed to lean on those with privilege and power and ask them to take the lead in this fight for a more equitable future because those of us of color are beyond exhausted in professing the systemic racism that persists in our nation.
While these things may not be easy to do in a work setting and may feel foreign or even forced, it is the necessary courageous conversation that needs to happen, especially among White groups. I’m thankful that Tacoma, WA is one of few places that feels like these conversations can happen at a whole community level. However, the changes we need are deeply rooted in our policies and in our systems. And while we are able to have these conversations, unless policies are corrected and new practices are applied, then these conversations are merely in discussion only.
Our staff started the day off hurt and traumatized, unsure how to contribute or respond. Feeling stuck and helpless and disempowered to do anything meaningful for the community in which we serve. However, it was through dedicated time and space this morning that got us through the pain and frustration and to a place of considering our future actions and the future of our role. Recognizing that we may not be able to demonstrate immediate actions for change in the long-standing history of systemic racism, we were able to acknowledge where levers of change exist and considered ways to activate those levers to advance equitable outcomes.
While I too hurt by what is happening and frankly am angry that we have to deal with yet another act of racism against Black and Brown people in America, I am completely challenged by the requirement I have as a parent to force my 10 year-old and 14 year-old sons to grow up, stripping away all of their innocence and rightful years of being a youth to understand fully, and consciously prepare themselves on how to exist in this country as a young Black man. That they are not able to live out their childhood or young adulthood in a way that is free from racism. That it has already been made up in some people’s mind that my two amazing, sweet, smart, giving, kind, thoughtful boys are a threat, a suspect, unworthy, and less-than. Personally, I’m unsure how to process being a professional in this position, because my innate reaction is to ensure I protect my children from harm, even if that means naming that we live in a world where it really feels as if it is ‘us’ against ‘them.’
The Foundation for Tacoma Students is unapologetically making clear today that our work will continue to support and improve the outcomes for students of color and those impacted by poverty and commits to becoming an anti-racist organization. We encourage our partners to deepen their commitment to the Graduate Tacoma Community Movement and make clear and explicit that you will put equity first and join us in becoming an anti-racist organization as well. Together, we can be the change we seek but it starts with bold and courageous leadership.
My heart goes out to all of those who have been physically impacted, emotionally scarred, and spiritually challenged by the accounts of racism in this last week.
George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery – we see you. May you rest in peace.
Tafona Ervin, Ed. D
Foundation for Tacoma Students