A message from Evanston/Skokie School District 65 President Suni Kartha

A message from Evanston/Skokie School District 65 President Suni Kartha in response to the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis last week.


Kartha made these remarks last night at the start of the school board meeting.

"Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. How many more names will we be adding to an already too long list? How many more hashtags must we create? It’s simply too much.


Black lives matter.


These are simple words that should be uncontroversial.


Black lives matter.


But we need to say it over and over again, because with everything that is going on in our country - the continued cruel and needless murders of black people at the hands of those claiming to be protectors of our community, the disproportionate rates of Covid-19 deaths in the black community, even the indignity of how social distancing rules are enforced differently in white and black neighborhoods - it is clear that the message has not stuck.


Black lives matter.


I continue to be dumbstruck by people who engage in mind-boggling acts of mental contortion to dismiss or minimize the role that race and racism plays in these acts of police brutality, or in the disparities in health treatment and outcomes, or in the ignorant and hateful words of our national leadership.


Black lives matter.


Let’s be clear, these are not problems that exist only in our national politics, or in rural communities, or in the vague 'out there.' Our community here in Evanston and in District 65 continues to struggle with the truth and urgency of these words. By now, most of us have probably seen or heard of the incident of an Evanston police officer accosting a young black man with what appears to be excessive and unnecessary force, simply for trying to bear witness. What does it say about our society that my first thought upon hearing of this incident was relief that the young man was not dead?


Black lives matter.


And it isn’t just our police and criminal justice systems. We have to confront how racism and white supremacy show up in our schools - in how we advocate for our children, in how we respond to efforts to change long-standing practices that our data shows to be detrimental to black and brown students, even in how we respond to data. Is the initial reaction to want to justify the disparities, or to suggest that income or some other factor is the issue and not race? Is the urge to ask for more data, even when the data continues to show us what we already know to be true? Are we more likely to criticize a tangential comment from a board member or administrator or educator, rather than reflect deeply and sit in the uncomfortable truth of what the data might be telling us? Is there a weariness that the discussion always centers on racial equity?


Black lives matter.


And the truth is that educational policies and practices that are racially inequitable and anti-black don’t just hurt black students. They hurt every single student in our schools. We often talk about how detrimental it is for our black students not to see themselves reflected in the curriculum. I don’t think we talk enough about how detrimental it is for our white students not to regularly see black excellence and the contributions of black innovation and expertise in our collective history - how that absence only hardens the biases already proven to be developing in our children.


Black lives matter.


It is important that we do better as a community. That we hold our police force and city representatives to high standards of accountability to address discriminatory behavior against our black and brown citizens. That we hold both of our school boards and administrations to high standards of accountability to eliminate the racial gap in student outcomes. And that we individually hold ourselves and each other to high standards of accountability to address our own participation in or resistance to anti-racist efforts to dismantle the policies and practices that our data shows us are daily harming our black and brown children and families.


And I want to personally offer a plea, as a brown woman of Indian origin, to fellow members of the South Asian and Asian-American communities. I have been hearing a lot from white leaders, speaking to white community members, about their role in dismantling institutional racism. I think I have a responsibility, as an Indian-American leader, to declare that our community also has a role and responsibility in dismantling institutional racism.


I often describe us as holding a sort of middle ground in racial politics in this country - many of us suffer racist attacks against us, particularly post-9/11 and what we are seeing now with respect to Covid-19, but we also often experience the benefits of whiteness and are held up by white America as the 'model minority,' mostly to further an anti-black agenda. We cannot keep falling for that; we cannot take the middle ground here. When we talk about anti-racism, we can either stand for perpetuating anti-black policy or we can stand for dismantling it. And I hope with all my heart that you will join me in standing for dismantling it.


And for all of us, it is important that we don’t stop saying it until it is reflected in the experience of black members of our society. Black lives matter."


Dr. Devon Horton, incoming D65 Superintendent wrote a statement as well. You can read it here.

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