Washington—NEA President Lily Eskelsen García issued the following statement about the tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers:
“The National Education Association understands the deep racial history and trauma caused by the culture of white supremacy, and we believe that to achieve racial and social justice, we must acknowledge it as the primary root cause of institutional racism, structural racism, and white privilege. It is a privilege that manifests as white people weaponizing the police against black men and women going about their daily lives. During this pandemic, we have also seen police treating black and brown people differently than white people. The overarching sentiment about these cases for so many people—including many of our students and their families—is that the lives and the dignity of black people in the United States do not carry the same value or importance as others.
“Our grief and outrage over the recently released images of the murders of George Floyd, at the hands of Minneapolis police, and Amaud Aubrey, at the hands of two white men with ties to the local police department, will never be enough. For Breonna Taylor, who was murdered by police while daring to sleep soundly in the safety of her home, our grief and outrage will never be enough. And for Christian Cooper, who endured a white woman weaponizing the police against him in Central Park, our grief and outrage will never be enough.
“This is no time for us to look away. Police violence against black people happens too often. The threat and real violence toward black people daring to exist in public spaces and even in their own homes is the direct result of how white supremacy culture is the air we breathe in America.
“As a union of 3 million educators, stretching across the country, to every community, we have an obligation to act. Together we will continue the call for justice and to hold powerful people to account.
“But in addition to that, there is more we must do. While our members don’t enforce the law, we are protectors of another public space wrought with inequities, bias, and institutional racism. While we have to stay engaged in elections all the way down the ballot in support of people committed to reforming the system and making change in local policing, we must also examine how white supremacy culture impacts our biases, our practices and the policies in our own schools and communities.
“NEA has started that process by examining how white supremacy culture impacts our own organization. We have to seek the truth. But information is just one step that can lead to meaningful action. If you stop at information, you have done nothing. We must act on what we know. And so, we say: Black Lives Matter… because All Lives have not Mattered. Racism takes black and brown lives. Explicit racism foments hate and aggression. But implicit bias grows unreasonable fear and suspicion, moving people to act unreasonably on their fear and suspicion. We must do better.”