To Le Monde families, parent-to-parent:
For four nights now I, as so many other parents of young black boys across the country, have watched as our country erupts in anti-racist protests, many of which have unfortunately turned into violent rioting. Last night this outrage over state-sanctioned violence against black and brown people – in particular black men – hit even closer to home as our city erupted in flames. This is a moment for parents and guardians of all children to be talking to the young people in their care about what it means to be anti-racist in the US today, the history of race riots in this country, and how to advocate for the public safety of all people. This is, at the very least, what you might call a “teachable moment,” this generation’s “Rodney King” riot, or those of ’67, ’68, and back and forward through time, to today. As parents, we shoulder the first responsibility to give children context through which to understand this present moment, and I write first and foremost as a fellow parent urging you to tackle this difficult task, reach out if you don’t know how, but please: don’t stay silent. Don’t disrespect your child’s intelligence with an insecure, or fearful, silence. None of us have the answers, yet all of us are responsible for teaching our children to be even more competent that we are today. So I am taking this moment to call you, fellow parents of the LM community, into the conversation. Can we support one another in holding the difficult conversations with our kids, conversations that we may not feel are rehearsed or even ready ? Conversations that perhaps our parents never had with us? This is exactly the point: Going farther than the last generation was able to. Trust the process.
I, as the other parents signing this message, have been so encouraged by Shouka’s email this evening, as well as Superintendent Guerrero’s earlier this week. Truly these are examples of what anti-racist school leadership looks like.
Yet still I write, as parent to other parents, because we cannot expect public leaders to be the only individuals to call for anti-racist action at this moment. We must also commit to stand up as anti-racist leaders of our families, especially given the context of remote learning environments. We must make time to sit down with our kids and explain to them what happened in Minneapolis last week, share feelings and concerns over the riots. Offer insight into the difference between peaceful protest and rageful revenge (or shameful opportunism, depending on your interpretation), and clarify for ourselves where our family’s values stand on that spectrum. We must take on the responsibility of supporting LM staff and leadership in the school’s mission to educate children on how to be global citizens. Educational leaders have a responsibilities to address the needs and concerns of the families they serve; parents of kids who are friends with kids of color have a responsibility to teach their kids what true friendship is. In the words of Commissioner Hardesty who quoted Dr. King this morning at the Mayor’s press release: ‘in the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.” The murder of George Floyd – and ensuing public outrage – is particularly frightening for families of children of color, in particular young black boys. This is a time when we are reminded just how fragile life is for our young sons, a future black man in America, and how helpless we may be – in a critical moment – to do anything about it. This is a time when we are reminded that no matter how much we love and lift up our young black boys, no matter how many resources we surround them with to reveal to themselves and those around them the true intricacies of their identity (the same intricacies of every other child), they are still seen as a black man in America. They are still branded, even by the person holding the highest seat of leadership in this country, as a “thug,” a state-sanctioned death sentence. Under every circumstance that a black man is killed in the custody of a white police officer, parents of young black men cringe. This moment is particular tho, in that the president of the United States seems to be endorsing if not encouraging additional violence against those calling for justice for George Floyd.
All of this to say, the families of color who are part of Le Monde are feeling vulnerable right now, looking for the comfort of allies and anti-racist ACTION. Looking for other parents, regardless of their family’s cultural make-up, to follow the anti-racist tone that school and district leadership have set.
I hope that, by posting this letter publicly, members of the wider school community can become better allies by knowing what is needed, what is being asked for, by some of the families of children of color AND families committed to raising children of all cultural backgrounds to be anti-racist. Le Monde does not exist in a bubble. It is a product of its environment. In that spirit we have compiled a list of some local organizations committed to bringing justice, equity, and diverse leadership to greater prominence in the Portland Metro region. Please connect to these organizations in whatever ways you feel drawn to, and by all means add to the list!
- Coalition of Communities of Color
- Portland African American Leadership Forum (PAALF)
- Portland NAACP
- Urban League of Portland
- Standing Up for Racial Justice
- Don’t Shoot Portland
- Black Lives Matter PDX
- Portland Parent Union
- Black United Fund
- Asian Pacific American Network Oregon
- Latino Network
- NAYA Native American Youth & Family Center
- OPAL PDX
- VERDE NW
Finally, the Diversity Equity and Inclusion committee at Le Monde – many members of which are signed below – is gaining new momentum, building on the fantastic foundation built by the Equity and Diversity Committee members since Le Monde started. All are welcome to contribute to this committee as we adapt various aspects of the above organizations to our specific school community. There will be more communication from this committee before the end of the school year. In the meantime please feel free to reach out, add resources, correct errors ask questions carry on ::
And most of all, stay safe.
Emma Rose Coburn
The Mbaye family