Greetings, OPRF High School and community,
It has been just a few weeks since the announcement of the verdict in the Breonna Taylor case. In these instances of racialized social injustice, historically an event happens, we react, and then move on with life.
This outcome, however, is another teachable moment in which we can all learn a bit more about ourselves and society in order to make us better. Upon hearing the Jefferson County grand jury announcement, I could not help but think about the notion of liberty and justice for all. We all know this espoused value is at the foundation of America’s promise but far too often, America falls short on the delivery of this promise at multiple levels.
When it comes to the Black American experience, relative to the relationship with policing and the legal system in our country, justice has historically been an inaccessible luxury. Global anti-Blackness as the social norm, particularly in America, is what creates the space for stark racial disparities to flourish. As we can see with the Breonna Taylor case and countless others, the racialized disparities in experiences with police interactions can hold life or death implications for Black Americans.
In thinking about justice, it is most certainly aligned with equity, as they are both outward expressions of fairness. At this time, our system has not held anyone accountable for the death of Breonna Taylor. This lack of accountability is a clear communication on the value of Black American life in the U.S, as the one indictment in this case is not related to Breonna’s death in any way. Our legal system, in this situation, has failed to offer the quality of fairness that justice and equity require.
This outcome has positioned us to ask ourselves “Do all Americans have equal protection under the law?”
As the conversation around police brutality, protests, and the value of Black American life continues in our country (and in our classrooms), it is important to consider the detrimental impact these lived experiences have on all of us. For people of color, the very real trauma and pain associated with these events maintain hostile academic and social environments for them to navigate. As for White Americans, messaging around the dehumanizing treatment of Black American people via social imagery, media, etc., perpetuates the lack of compassion and empathy that impedes progress toward authentic racial healing.
The Breonna Taylor case is yet another heartbreaking example of why we need to continue the fight for racial equity in all of our social institutions. Here are some questions to ask ourselves every day as we strive to create a more just school and society for the students and people that we love. In answering these questions, I encourage you to think deeply about your answers and push beyond your initial reactions. Also, feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have.
How have I contributed to the racial trauma that creates hostile environments for people of color?
Am I having authentic conversations with people that challenge my belief system relative to race relations in America?
How do my relationships and practices with people of color compare to my relationships and practices with people who are white?
Listed below are some resources to assist you in critically thinking about the impact of race on the lived experiences of people of color in America:
Article: “This is the Casual Racism That I Faced at My Elite High School”
Resource: Racial Healing
Resource: Anti-Racist Reading List
Article: “Ahmaud Arbery Could Have Been Me”
LeVar Ammons, Ed.D, is executive director of Equity and Student Success at OPRF High School. This first ran on the OPRF website, oprfhs.org.