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Learn and Act: We Can Do Both

By Alysa Perreras
Learn and Act: We Can Do Both

In the wake of the murders of Breena Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, and countless others, voices are rising up around the globe to rightfully protest the oppression and injustice faced by the Black community.

While this conversation currently has mainstream momentum, the injustices faced by the Black community have been a reality for more than 400+ years, not only in the United States, but globally.

Systems of oppression, such as white supremacy, are not happenstance or coincidence. They are the result of historic and intentional design. While these systems can harm and kill swiftly and without warning, in the case of George Floyd and many others, these systems are also designed to be embedded deeply into everyday life and practice.

James Baldwin, in his essay "A Talk to Teachers" talks about this intentional design. He tells his audience, “the crucial paradox which confronts us here is that the whole process of education occurs within a social framework and is designed to perpetuate the aims of society.” Baldwin wrote these words in 1963. It is 2020 and abundantly clear that the design of white supremacy is still alive and well in society.

As educators, if we seek to be true accomplices in the work of dismantling injustice, our commitment must be intentional, urgent and unapologetic. In the case of dismantling antiblackness and other forms of racism within our schools, curriculums and classrooms, there is no time to waste. The designs of white supremacy have a 400+ year head start.

The work is complex, uncomfortable and nuanced. For example, I have to recognize that as a brown woman of color who is the child of immigrants to the USA, yes, I can experience racism as a result of white supremacy, and I am complicit in the oppression and injustice faced by the Black community. Uncomfortable, complex and nuanced.

Sure, it is hard work, but I am asking us all to do this hard work. If we as non-black people seek to be true accomplices in the work of justice and dismantling antiblackness, it is crucial we keep the nuance of yes/and in mind.

Yes, we can be learning and we can act in tangible ways and we can take responsibility when we make mistakes. As this conversation continues, we cannot be defensive when asked how we are doing more than just reading, sharing posts, liking instagram pages or talking about it. To stay intellectualizing the work, to only learn the terms and language of white supremacy, all while the Black community globally are still trying to survive the system of white supremacy set up to destroy them is dangerous and performative.

Yes, educate yourself. Read books; follow (and financially support) black educators and activists on socials; amplify their voices by using your platform; unlearn the white supremist version of history we’ve all been sold.

AND act. Challenge your friends and family in their antiblackness and racism, research local organizations and donate, evaluate your hiring practices, protest and spend your privilege protecting oppressed communities if you are able, pledge monthly donations to continue your commitment beyond these weeks.

Learn and act: we can do both.

In our commitment as educators in international schools, we must also recognize our responsibility to not colonize this work by ignoring the local scholars and front line workers of justice in the regions we inhabit. If you simply take the time to research and investigate, I promise you will find local partners in the work of justice. Building that local partnership is a clear and tangible way to both learn and act simultaneously towards the cause of justice.

Ultimately, when our communities look back at this moment, our commitment to take our learning and turn it into definitive action will define if our response was about a retweet or about the revolution. I sincerely hope it is the latter.

Alysa Perreras is a multilingual educator and facilitator focused on listening, learning and engaging in the work of interrogating and dismantling injustice in hopes of radical liberation for all.

[email protected]

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