The following is a column submitted by Mendocino County Superintendent of Schools Michelle Hutchins, published here as a letter-to-the-editor:
MENDOCINO Co., 6/3/20 — Since late March, our county has come together to focus on health and safety issues related to pandemic guidelines and interventions. However, the troubling events surrounding the death of George Floyd also demand our attention and thoughtful response as a community. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond responded to the death of Mr. Floyd by calling on communities across the state and nation to take action to dismantle institutional racism and inequities in public schools.
We each have a role to play to combat police brutality and the responses to it that lead to more violence and tragedy, like those in Minnesota and Georgia. This is a call to action to educate friends, neighbors, colleagues, and children, to voice our outrage regarding injustice and to demand respect for every human being, regardless of race, ethnicity, or economic status.
In Mendocino County, those of us in education and law enforcement participate in ongoing cultural competency trainings to identify and understand the structures that support racial profiling and to hold ourselves to a higher standard through anti-bias training to promote respectful, inclusive, and equitable practices. Thousands of individuals in Mendocino County have been trained to recognize bias in themselves and in others, and to work toward eliminating bias with their voices. It is time for us to use these tools to act.
Now is the time for us all to join together to do our part. Peaceful protests showing solidarity in our commitment to “be the change” are critical. There is no room for the violent and destructive behavior currently occurring across the United States.
The first step we can take is to educate our children and to raise our voices on their behalf. As adults, we are horrified to see the violent and unnecessary media footage. Imagine how the children are feeling. It is our job to model a unified America and to teach our children to embrace the task of making equity a human right.
Here are some concrete ways to curtail racism and injustice. For links to specific resources, visit www.mcoe.us and click on About MCOE. Then click on the Superintendent’s Blog.
- Talk to your children with compassion about the pent-up frustration of the protesters so they can better understand that the actions they are witnessing are a direct result of historical injustices. Visit www.tolerance.org/topics/race-ethnicity for resources to have a good conversation.
- Read books together as a family to support conversations on race, racism, and resistance. Visit www.todaysparent.com and search for the April 18, 2020 post titled, “27 Books to help you talk to your kids about racism.”
- Speak up when you witness an injustice or some form of racism. Silence only serves to support and promote deplorable acts.
- Volunteer in diverse settings. This can help build a cultural competency and a more inclusive society. Consider local opportunities that can build relationships and support people in need.
- North Coast Opportunities Schools of Hope
- Your local food bank
- Your local senior center
- Your local animal shelter
- Your local Red Cross
- A house of worship you don’t belong to
- Educate yourself through the eyes of those most impacted. Start here: www.raceconscious.org
Please continue this conversation and take action. Contact the Mendocino County Office of Education with your questions, recommendations, and actions for our community.