EDPL Department Statement of Solidarity
A Statement of Solidarity and Call to Action from the Department of Education Policy & Leadership at Marquette University
“It is your responsibility to change society if you think of yourself as an educated person.”
—James Baldwin, “A Talk to Teachers”
As scholars, we are acutely aware of the long history of structural racism and oppression in the US. Whiteness and white supremacy have been working for over 400 years to subjugate, criminalize, dehumanize, silence, and kill people of color, particularly Black people. George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade are some of its most recent victims, but they are not alone: according to the National Academy of Science, Black men are 2.5 times more likely and Black women are 1.4 times more likely to be killed by police than white men and women.
As members of the Milwaukee community, we are acutely aware of how racialized disparities and violence play out in the day-to-day life of our city, including our schools. Milwaukee is one of the most segregated cities in America and one of worst cities in America to be Black, as measured by educational outcomes, health outcomes, life expectancy, incarceration rates and more. The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of these inequalities, with infection and mortality rates far higher in our Black and Latinx communities. Yet Milwaukee also has a robust community of Black resistance, joy, and organizing, a community that has long been working against racism in our city.
As educators, we are most acutely aware of how schooling perpetuates this racialized violence. We perpetuate this violence in curricular silences, in white-dominant narratives, and in one-dimensional representations of people of color. We perpetuate this violence through zero-tolerance discipline, the disproportionate suspension of Black and Brown students starting in pre-school, and the school-to-prison pipeline. We perpetuate this violence when we leave narratives about ‘achievement gaps’ unquestioned without attending to education debts, when we over-identify Black students for special education, and when we refuse to engage students of color in intellectually meaningful learning experiences. We perpetuate this violence when we say nothing about systemic racism because ‘teachers shouldn’t be political’ or because ‘it’s inappropriate for children.’ We perpetuate this violence when we insist that all students assimilate to an impossible target of whiteness and when we refuse to let Black and Brown children be joyful, playful, thoughtful, complicated, and fully human.
We cannot be silent in the face of this deeply ingrained racism. As educators at a Catholic, Jesuit institution, it is our responsibility to actively teach anti-racism daily. Catholic social teaching tells us we must act in solidarity with the most vulnerable, and that we must affirm the dignity and divinity of every human, but especially those who are marginalized. This will not dismantle white supremacy on its own, but it is the heart of our work as Marquette educators. Therefore, EDPL commits to:
- Examining our teaching practices, in the same way we are calling on other educators to examine their practice, using the thirteen guiding principles of Black Lives Matter.
- Supporting students, educators, and staff of color. We are a predominantly white institution, preparing educators for a predominantly white profession. We must do better to recruit, support, and retain colleagues of color. We must leverage resources in support of our colleagues of color, speak out against a culture of racism on campus, and decenter whiteness in our curriculum.
- Building racial literacy with our students, who have likely experienced their own miseducation. Our courses must integrate racial literacy, cite scholars of color, and challenge dominant narratives.
- Cultivating anti-racist relationships, communities, and pedagogies. In K12 teacher education, specifically, we must dismantle ideas of ‘management’ and behavioral control that inflict violence on youth of color. We must pass the mic to abolitionist teachers who show us what freedom is.
- Working for anti-racism in education more broadly. We call for abolishing disciplinary and special education practices that perpetuate systems of racialized violence, building anti-racist partnerships with practitioners, and using our university-based privileges to advocate for racial justice.
- Working for intersectional anti-racism in our society more broadly. Education does not exist in a vacuum. We must work in partnership with community organizations, anti-racist leaders, and policy makers to root out white supremacy and racism in our communities beyond the school building.
- Celebrating joy, love, healing, and resilience with our Black and Brown students. We acknowledge that antiracist work too often focuses only on naming inequalities, injustices, and traumas. If that’s the entirety of our work, then our work is also dehumanizing. Instead, our classrooms must prioritize the beauty, resistance, resilience, and joy of communities of color.
These are our commitments. They will guide our work in the next academic year and beyond as we create tools of accountability and action steps for our department. We also invite you—particularly our students—to share feedback on the steps we need to take toward intersectional, anti-racist education.
However, we also call on you, our community of alumni, students, and practitioners, to take action. We especially urge this of our white community members. The teaching force in Wisconsin, like elsewhere in the US, is overwhelmingly made up of white women, many of whom consider themselves kind, well-meaning, and not racist. But this has never been enough to dismantle white supremacy, and this ‘not racist niceness’ masks our complicity in these systems. Without active and ongoing work to become anti-racist, we can too easily retreat into our otherwise invisible whiteness when convenient. Amy Cooper’s verbal assault on Christian Cooper in Central Park is a reminder to those of us who identify as white women that we are often the perpetrators of systemic, racialized violence.
Unlearning racism is also intersectional work. For those of us who are non-Black people of color, the work to be anti-racist will look different than it does for our white colleagues. While we may live and experience the systematic violence of white supremacy, we must still commit to the on-going work of combating anti-Blackness in our own families, communities, and educational spaces.
In this spirit of collective action, we offer the following lists of anti-racist resources. On their own, they are not enough to dismantle the ideological, internal, interpersonal, and institutional ways of white supremacy. We know this, but still: we offer them as a starting point and as a commitment to action. Words are important but not enough. We must act every day to ensure that #BlackLivesMatter.
The Faculty & Staff of the Department of Education Policy & Leadership
Marquette University College of Education
Other thoughtful and heartfelt statements on racial injustice have been provided by Marquette University President, Dr. Michael Lovell, and Vice-President for Inclusive Excellence, Dr. William Welburn. Both messages focus on the University’s responsibility to transcend words and exert impactful action. Marquette students have also taken a stance on this vital issue through their student government association. In addition, as an institution, our community came together recently both in person and remotely in a Mass for Healing and Reconciliation. It should be noted that statements are emerging from other academic units at the University like the Diederich College of Communication. In the collective, these declarations signal an earnest intentionality on the part of our University, in the Catholic, Jesuit spirit of magis, to do significantly more to eradicate racial inequality.
Dr. Bill Henk, Dean
College of Education
Anti-Racist Resources for Education
Anti-Racist Action Networks & Communities
Resources for Self-Care & Racial Healing
Resources for Talking & Teaching About Race & Racism
*Note that many, though not all, of these resources are written for white adults and children
Background Resources on Race Talk
We recommend buying your books from a Black-owned bookstore
- Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness (free PDF through Juneteenth)
- Tiffany Jewell, This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, & Do the Work
- Ibram X. Kendi & Jason Reynolds, Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism, and You
- Ibram X. Kendi, Anti-Racist Baby
- Jennifer Harvey, Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America
- Mica Pollock, Everyday Anti-racism: Getting Real About Race in School
- Cheryl Matias, Surviving Becky(s): Pedagogies for Deconstructing Whiteness & Gender
- Bettina Love, We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching & the Pursuit of Freedom
Resources for Building Racial Literacy
We recommend buying your books from a Black-owned bookstore
- Carol Anderson, White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide
- Austin Channing Brown, I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
- Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow
- Paul Ortiz, An African American and Latinx History of the United States
- Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Anti-Racist
- Charles Mills, The Racial Contract
- Ijeoma Oluo, So You Want To Talk About Race
- Brittney Cooper, Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower
- Ta-Naheisi Coates, Between the World & Me
- Craig Wilder, Ebony & Ivy: Race, Slavery, & the Troubled History of America’s University’s
- Cherríe Moraga & Gloria Anzaldúa, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings By Radical Women of Color
- Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
- Jennifer L. Eberhardt, Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do