Message to the ETHS Community about Being a Brave Antiracist
The following information was distributed to ETHS students, families, and staff on June 2, 2020.
Dear ETHS Family,
Mr. George Floyd. A Black man. Murdered. Never forget this.
Frustration. Hurt. Deep pain. Fear. Anger. Rage. Our emotions are boiling over.
Systemic racism. Racial inequity. Racial injustice. Never ignore or accept this.
Bigotry. Racial discrimination. Devaluing human lives. Never fail to act when you witness this.
We are traumatized by Mr. Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. We are traumatized by the deaths of Mr. Ahmaud Arbery and Ms. Breonna Taylor. We are traumatized because these deaths are inhumane and incomprehensible. We are traumatized because we know that these are not isolated tragedies. We are traumatized because this illustrates the cruelty and damage perpetuated by racism. This is the racial history of this country, repeated again and again, generation after generation. Racism and endless racial discrimination are woven into the very fabric of this nation.
The message to our students and our community today is this: take action. Do something. Don’t just see racism as abhorrent, do something to stop it.
What’s the problem with being “not racist”? It is a claim that signifies neutrality: “I am not a racist, but neither am I aggressively against racism.” But there is no neutrality in the racism struggle. The opposite of “racist” isn’t “not racist.” It is “antiracist.”
― Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist
Public protests are important. Marches for justice and peace matter. We need to publically take a stand. Yet, showing our public support for racial justice can only be part of our individual journeys. These past days and weeks remind us individually and collectively why ETHS must continue to acknowledge our past and remain undaunted in our work to fight racism and its effects on our educational system.
Understand that racism damages all human beings. Racism produces inequities and disparities in every sector of private and public life. Identify the inequities. White people: Confront your own deep down beliefs and behaviors. Take action to eliminate inequities by championing antiracist ideas and policies. Support groups, organizations and institutions that are advocating for and changing practices and policies to eliminate inequities. Vote only for candidates who fight against beliefs, policies and practices that perpetuate inequity. Don’t espouse your opposition to racism but then stand on the sidelines letting others do the hard work. Stand shoulder to shoulder with those who are taking action. Stand with antiracists. Dedicate your life, dedicate your actions to combating racism. Take antiracist action in your own personal life. Today, tomorrow and every day for the rest of your life.
We could tell you two stories in just the last three days about racism on social media involving teenagers in Evanston. We could tell you stories about people who tell us they live here because of our diversity at ETHS and then say things about our school “catering” to “those” people, or “lowering expectations,” stories that would make you cringe. Those comments cannot be allowed to stand. Being offended is not sufficient. Doing something about it is required. We must all do that. White people, are you listening? This isn’t a part-time job. This must be a full-time responsibility. We’re either all in or we’re not antiracist.
Not being a racist in Evanston is insufficient. We cannot live in a bubble. We must eradicate racism in our schools, institutions and community. We must eradicate it in this region which is replete with evidence of racism, and we must eradicate racism in this nation and vote out racist elected officials. Combating racism is our personal responsibility. When you witness a microaggression, a racial injustice or overt racism, speak up and confront it. When you see inequity and discrimination, do something about that.
Mr. George Floyd. A Black man. Murdered. Devote your life to action. Be strong. Be a brave antiracist.
Eric Witherspoon, Ph.D.
Marcus A. Campbell, Ed.D.
ETHS Assistant Superintendent & Principal
(NOTE: During the summer, students and families can contact the Student Services Department if they need support and help connecting to community resources by calling 847-424-7575 or emailing Summer_Counseling@eths.k12.il.us.)