Letter from Co-Principal Dr. Abdullahi Ahmed to the Deering High School community:
The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others exposed the racist structures, systems and policies which exist in our society. As educators of color, community educational leaders, and parents of black children, we are angry, frustrated, and fearful for our students, our community, and for our children. We are fearful they will be walking down the street and be targeted by remarks of others or get hurt because of the color of their skin. This is a very scary situation.
This is the time white educators need to use their privilege and stand up alongside their students and colleagues of color. “All Lives Matter” is NOT a response to “Black Lives Matter.” The correct response is: “Black Lives Matter.” Period. The district has created this set of resources for families, students, and educators: Black Lives Matter to Portland Public Schools: June 2020 Resources. At Deering we expect our teachers and staff to commit to the following:
Commit to Being Allies: Our students of color and their families are hurt and demand to see more from their schools and educators. They need commitment from their white teachers to educate themselves and unlearn harmful biases to become active allies. Contact your students and reassure them about your commitment and support. Pledge to them that you are part of the solution.
Educate Ourselves: We must recognize that as predominantly white educators, we need to educate ourselves about implicit bias and systemic racism. This goes beyond George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. White educators need to understand the difficulties and the challenges people of color are facing every day in all aspects of their lives. Although black people make only 1.6% of the population in the State, they make up more than 22% of the people who got COVID-19. Unfortunately, these percentages in Maine are not isolated cases. Similar trends of underrepresentation in all positive live measures, and over representation in all negative measures are in all aspects of their lives. Here is just a start.
Create an Inclusive Curriculum: A curriculum that marginalizes and caricatures people of color is a pedagogical system of oppression that we collectively perpetuate and reinforce every day as educators. Recognize and listen to young people of color and learn together how to overcome this oppressive pedagogical system.
Reform the Discipline System: Work actively to dissolve the racial inequities in our school discipline system. We need to work together to find a way to educate all educators, students, and families that all people are created equal, and they deserve the same basic human rights as those who do not look like the majority.
Understanding Equal vs. Equitable vs. Just: Remote learning due to the COVID-19 has exposed the vast differences in resources and supports our learners have as they attempt to learn at home. Many of us have children who need constant support. What we see now is that some households can provide that support and some cannot. We need to provide a curriculum that reaches students regardless of these circumstances and does not place blame on students or families. Instead, as educators, we must take on the challenge of creating pathways for every student.
In conclusion, the cry and the voices of our black students and their families should not reach defiant and/or closed ears. It is the time for action. BLACK LIVES MATTER!
Dr. Abdullahi Ahmed
Deering High School