There was a meeting of the school board tonight that I was suddenly unable to attend, where I was going to read this statement; from what I can follow on Twitter it turned into a huge clusterfuck and so I’m sharing my statement here.
History is not just a series of winners and losers; it is also about power. It is about who holds the power to oppress and violate.
Confederate imagery is rooted in the explicit desire and ability of white people to subjugate, torture, murder, rape, and enchain black people. Confederate imagery only exists because of a system of white supremacy that was explicitly designed to deny humanity and citizenship to black Americans.
If the school system is designed to educate our children, then they need to be taught what white supremacy is, and the specific ways it has existed in this community; and then they also need to be taught that there is zero tolerance for it.
As part of the back to school packets that I received the other night at Open House, there was a statement from the school board about the family life curriculum, which is committed to abstinence. Leaving aside the question of the effectiveness and appropriateness of abstinence-only sex-ed, I was drawn to the sentence that says, “We wish to make it clear that this is our standard.”
I would hope that this board would be just as committed to an abstinence of white supremacist and racist imagery in the dress code.
The founders of the Confederacy were explicit in their commitment to both white supremacy and chattel slavery. Confederate imagery does not exist in isolation of these systems, and there needs to be an explicit ban on these images.
But there is a difference between oppression and resistance, and I hope when you ban symbols of hate, you keep that distinction in mind. The goal here is not merely to ban items that could be considered offensive. The goal is to ban racist symbols that were designed to oppress and dehumanize. The movement for black lives is just the modern-day face of a resistance that has been going on for centuries. It is only offensive to those who wish to erase the sins and consequences of 400 years of American white supremacy.
The Confederacy was a treasonous government that loved whiteness and did not value black life. The movement for black lives is about creating conditions that allow blackness to thrive. There are not fine people on both sides, and this is what our kids need to be taught, because it is the historical, political, and power-laden truth.
Since the Confederacy was a system of defense to keep whites in power over blacks, and since the system of chattel slavery was about letting white people not only own black people, but allowing them to beat, mutilate, torture, violate, starve, and kill them with impunity, then the question I have for you is, why do you want to allow these images in our schools?