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We're Not Even At Equality Yet

by Kim Grant about a year ago in opinion
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Derek Chauvin was found guilty by his "peers" on all murder charges

Derek Chauvin was found guilty by his "peers" on all murder charges: unintentional murder, third-degree killing, and second degree manslaughter. Millions of people reacted to the conviction on their streets, in their homes, and on social media. Some even reacted in their own company, while others were there. Many people reacted to the charges being read by the judge with excitement. However, those in my circle reacted with relief and exasperation. George Floyd isn’t coming back, so we won’t get justice. But accountability was vital here. This trial and conviction would surely send a message to the world about the need for accountability for the agents of the state when they served as judges, jurors, or executioners on someone's life.

We found out that Ma'Khia Bryant was killed by a police officer 800 miles from the time of her conviction.

This is the fundamental and personal aspect of the conversation that America needs to continue having. Many of us think that changing the faces or phenotypes is enough to change the social contract. We don't see the trick. My heart believes that a lot of the work that we need to do to create a better world is done collectively, regardless of differences. I believe that we need to have a deeper conversation about the lies and obfuscation that we are seeing unfold in front of our eyes. Words like "equity", "woke" and "anti-racist", have been reduced, but not to obsolescence. However, sometimes I wonder if this is a sign of weakness.

The current dialogue is asking us to "rethink" how struggle might look. The language has been taken up by school administrators, who ask us to "reimagine what school looks like." Were our imaginations and thoughts what brought us here? Who is being asked? What is the context of this new set?

The New York State budget now includes as a way to fully fund public schools. This is a victory that has been fought for three decades by a wide coalition of parents and educators, lawyers, activists, and other stakeholders. Even after the court case was won, legislators, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, resisted the call for fiscal equity in funding public schools. , a new, similar coalition, has demanded more equality than just equality. They want a redistribution in power through initiatives such as police-free schools or true integration. The New York State legislature took 30 years to provide funding for public schools in the state for three consecutive years. Nothing was guaranteed after that time. What time will it take for us to meet our demands on such simple issues as safety, mental and taxation of the wealthy?

We are not yet at equality, and even less at equity. No matter how many people from oppressed groups become famous or wealthy, we don't have the same idea of what it would be like to be completely free.

What messages will we pass on to the future generations if education is an integral part of society? To get any semblance accountability, we must stage racial rebellions for decades. We need to mobilize thousands of citizens, parents, educators, students and others to overthrow a whole legislative branch, and force our governments into doing the right thing. The small bandages of language and other items we offered were not enough to counter the cultural and structural forces that continue to enforce unequal and separate processes, regardless of what the country's founding documents say.

Because it is the only way to continue this American experiment, I believe that hope is a motivator. However, hope without grounded theory is just floundering in the winds and waves of society, often pushed along by the powerful and those who profit from the status-quo.

Being from the projects (Lower East Side and Ave, if I may be so), I am equally skeptical that governments and those in power will do what they promise. Technically, I am in the business to pick bricks out of buildings and make meaning from them. But I also care about finding out what buildings were set on fire and how they looked after the ashes. We see both progress that propels people forward and evil ways that slow down that progress. It is important that we expect our governments to be accountable even when justice is not served.

As a teacher, I have learned to meet people right where they are. It's not just "We have a long road to go". It's also about the resistance to making concrete commitments towards forward movement. It's not just "change is slow." It is that urgent and necessary change.

This work is mandatory for all of us. Each of us has a role to play. Some more than others. I grant myself permission to hold these multitudes until we see this level of change. Please.


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Kim Grant

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