To our RAFT Community:
As we all know, these are unprecedented times: a pandemic crisis infecting millions and killing hundreds of thousands, a collapsing economy and unemployment not seen since the Great Depression, and now a new wave of social unrest resulting from another in a long line of senseless killings of Black Americans.
This did not start with George Floyd: tragically his injustice is just the latest to come to the attention of the public, joining Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, Walter Scott, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant and so many others. Many have tried to bring awareness to the issue of systemic racism and discrimination in our country (which we witnessed first-hand here in the Bay Area with Colin Kaepernick), trying to prevent exactly what society is experiencing now. Sadly, too many in our government and society not only dismissed them, but instead (and much worse) criticized and attacked them for their peaceful and nonviolent protests.
There is not a single or simple solution to systemic discrimination. It existed before our country was even founded, has been ingrained in our society ever since and has very deep roots. Our country has made progress over the centuries and recent decades, but it has been slow and inconsistent. While there have been steps forward, there have been too many steps backward, such as what we have witnessed in the past few months and years. We know the solution will not come overnight, and it will not come from a single person or group – it will come from society as a whole working together. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue – this is an issue of human decency, dignity, equality and respect.
However, certain dynamics have to exist for there to be meaningful institutional fixes. Those in power must be civil; they must listen; they must be empathetic; and, they must value equality. We need our leaders to be inclusive, to display compassion and to value the greater good more than their own personal gain, and they must have both the honesty and integrity to acknowledge when serious problems exist – no matter how difficult or uncomfortable they may be. Those who do not see and/or refuse to acknowledge issues are unable to be a part of the solution and, instead, frequently enable the problem. It is not enough to not be part of the problem; we must all strive to be part of the solution: to challenge and fix systems of injustice. To achieve social justice and equality, we need collaboration not domination, we need olive branches and dialog not threats and insults; we need to build bridges between all segments of our society, not walls.
I am so proud to be a member of the educational and RAFT community. To all of those in the education community, we commend you for being a part of the solution in spite of all the challenges you face. To all the teachers, administrators, support staff, parents and volunteers committed to educating our students – we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Continue to instill the values of equality, respect, inclusion, compassion, and empathy in the next generations. Continue to encourage students to respect learning and each other, to model the right behavior, and to build the next generation of enlightened leaders who can bring people together to solve problems. We at RAFT recognize that our organization, our community, our nation and our society are stronger with inclusion, diversity and equality.
One of my favorite Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes, and one I’ve heard others at RAFT reference in the past, is “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter,” which is clearly as relevant as ever. Black Lives Matter. Recognizing and standing up to systemic discrimination and injustice matters. We must see and hear the issues facing our entire society. We must see and hear the pain, the fear, the frustration – it is real, and it must not be ignored or dismissed. We cannot turn a blind eye to racism, sexism and discrimination in our society. We know that United We Stand and Divided We Fall. We must stand in solidarity; we must be a voice for positive change, and we must make a difference – for this generation and generations to come.
RAFT CEO and the RAFT TEAM