The Word On The Street Is That You Can't Say The Words On The Street

The Word On The Street Is That You Can't Say The Words On The Street

Y’all. In the past 2 weeks alone, we have experienced these questions:

  1. Can you do equity work without talking about antiracism?
  2. Can you conduct an equity audit but not call it an equity audit?
  3. Can you remove all references to equity and insert ‘cultural competence’ instead?
  4. Can you talk more about belonging and less about race?

No. No. No. And, you guessed it, no.

Let’s just situate ourselves in this moment. Almost 40,000 lives taken, mostly women and children, in Gaza, while the land itself is decimated in a genocide we are witnessing in real time. Rampant attacks persist on the brave folx willing to name what is happening and stand on the side of the preservation of innocent human life. A white law school professor assaulted a Palestinian student protester outside her home. Book bans abound. The US House has shuttered its Diversity and Inclusion office. DEI is blamed for bridge collapses and even earthquakes. Multiple states have made DEI work in K12 and higher education illegal. Trans & gender expansive athletes lose protections more and more everyday and healthcare becomes increasingly preserved for cis bodies. The Supreme Court is antagonistic to any attempts at preserving equity and justice. Politicians increasingly model harmful, stereotyping behavior. Dexter Reed becomes another young Black man, age 26, executed by police officers, where 96 bullets were fired on his body from 5 plainclothes tactical officers who stopped him in an unmarked car because he allegedly had no seat belt on. Excessive force? 100%. The force of this world and the forces of white supremacy within it, are excessive. I could go on, but the message is the world is unwell. We are tired of unprecedented times. 

How, in this moment, then, are we asked the questions above? How are we asked to tone it down, to be less radical? To be less clear? After the execution of George Floyd, promises were made. Jobs were created. Budgets were funded. Equity and justice were propelled to the forefront. Now, how easily the house of cards collapses under pressure.

I refuse to accept this systematic unraveling. I refuse to accept the invitation to water down our work. You will find me digging my heels in, shouting louder than ever, and hopefully, you will join me.

I pledge to be the most declarative voice in rooms to advance an agenda for justice wherever possible. I will continue to be informed and to inform others. I will be accountable in my/our own practices and how we move in relationship. I will persist. I will be unrelenting. I decline invitations to center the comfort of the privileged and those who benefit from unraveling racial equity and justice efforts. I pledge to ensure that George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many other Black folx are never forgotten amidst the weak and cowardly efforts to rewrite the history of their executions. I pledge to fight for our schools to teach real and true histories and to counter attempted book bans and whitewashing of curriculum.

In this moment we must RE-commit. We must double down. We must coalition build. In the coming weeks, we at RE-Center will be sharing a public pledge like the one above for y’all to sign on and share and uphold.

Natalie is a white Puerto Rican, cis hetero non-disabled educator, advocate, non-profit leader, & mami with significant class privilege. Natalie is a settler on Wappinger, Pequonnock, Paugussett, and Schaghticoke land.