Message to Madison’s Black CommunityNews Uncategorized April 6th, 2023
A message to Madison’s Black Community
April 6, 2023
One of the tenets of an educators’ union is that all workers deserve a say in leading and deciding what’s best for our education system. Whether it’s working conditions and pay or the curricula and goals of our schools, educators’ voices must be heard to move the work forward for all. It is also a pillar of our Union to commit to equity, anti-racism, and social justice in ourselves, our students, and our education system.
However, with that voice means we also bear a responsibility for our role in these systems. It is with that knowledge that we, as a Union, apologize for the harm we have caused, whether intended or not, to the entire Black community of past and present scholars, educators, families, and community leaders of Madison.
There are many ways racial harm manifests itself in our system. And not all the responsibility should be borne by the workers who have dedicated their lives to educate and support all of Madison’s children. Systemic racism’s ills are not the function of just one particular group or entity, but borne by all who participate in it. As we strive to work towards fighting racism in ourselves and our systems in all its forms, we cannot move forward together without acknowledging what we are moving from and our organization’s role in that struggle.
MTI proudly carries the legacy of the hundreds of thousands of those who preceded us. They fought for and won many hard-earned rights for not only workers, but scholars and families over the previous six decades of our Union’s existence. From protecting employees with uteruses when they had children and were subsequently fired due to sexism, to guaranteeing equal pay for all workers based on experience instead of gender, race, or other identities, to fighting for reasonable class sizes and working conditions to ensure that our focus stays on what’s best for our children and not appeasing the powers-that-be, we have a lot to stand on.
But as we learn as a collective of well-intended, but flawed, human beings, white supremacy can be sustained by both our actions and inaction. Inaction in maintaining curricula and behavioral systems built on unexamined biases. Action when it comes to fighting for systems that shut out marginalized groups’ voices when systemic change is necessary. Harm in intentional and unintentional acts over the years in devaluing and sometimes criminalizing Black children, families, and even staff. This has resulted in many Black children not getting the education and support they deserved. Look at literacy rates (themselves a racist and flawed metric) or look at quality of life and experience data in Madison, the proof is there and has been for decades. MTI must recognize its role in upholding a white supremacist power dynamic or simply looking the other way when Black educators, Union members, scholars, or families speak or act in ways that make us uncomfortable. Too often, Black voices have raised concerns and have been dismissed or unheard when there were opportunities for listening and inclusion. We must also recognize the broken trust that exists when conflicts, be it with scholars, families, or peers, lead to further harm and division. We see it in our Union. We see it in our district. We see it in our communities.
As a Union, we have collectively made strides in the work over the past few years. Because staff of color felt isolated or ignored by their Union in their work, we changed and developed our leadership structures within our Union to welcome more diverse voices. Because communities of color felt marginalized when engaging with MMSD and MTI leadership, we fund and support more Black leaders and organizations in Madison as they better our world. We will also continue to champion the “Community Schools” model that promotes shared leadership amongst all instead of a top-down approach. Because there have been interpersonal struggles between students, staff, and families, we will continue to expand our internal anti-racism work (like partnering with Nehemiah in the “Justified Anger” courses) so all educators can feel supported and affirmed in their paths to be anti-racist for our diversifying community. And we will work even harder to continue difficult conversations and actions about systemic racism instead of trying to shut them down.
But we will also continue to make mistakes and struggle. And that is because we are human beings, and we hope we can encounter patience from our colleagues, our children, and our community whenever we stumble. But that doesn’t excuse us from the work. If anything, this calls us in to not only examine and change the anti-Black aspects of our system but to expand our work with how it intersects with gender, LGBTQIA+, ableism, and other racial identities who have been crowded out of the conversation. No human being is exempt from this work, no matter our personal identities, histories, and heritages. But before we continue to heal, we must acknowledge the wounds first and how they got there. And we will always endeavor to do the work not by calling people out but by calling everyone in. Because if there’s anything we, as a Union, understand, is that the most powerful work is done when it’s done together.
MTI United Representative Council