Across the country, racial equity work in our public schools is under attack. Right wing groups such as “Parents Defending Education,” the Freedom Foundation, and Project Veritas, are using aggressive and underhanded tactics to undermine anti-racist work in school districts across the country, and here in the Pacific Northwest.
Here in Oregon, a pattern is emerging. Conservative groups are harassing and threatening educators involved in ant-racist work, including weaponizing the use of public records requests to access our personal information and use it to intimidate individual educators. Their aim is to generate inflammatory stories in right-wing media outlets and silence those committed to building anti-racist education in public schools. There has been a barrage of threats against individual educators in recent weeks, causing many to fear for their own safety and that of their families. Please know that our first priority as a union is to protect the safety of our members, including respecting the privacy of those impacted by these hateful acts of intimidation.
This spring, at least three candidates in communities across Oregon ran for local school board seats on a platform explicitly rejecting anti-racist work in school. As of last night’s election results, I am relieved to say that none of these candidates won. This victory, however, does not signal our work is done.
As educators, we know that the foundation of anti-racist work is love. We do equity work because we care deeply about our students, colleagues, and our community. We know that none of us can be free until all of us are truly free, and this work is at the core of our union. As with any complex endeavor, as our union undertakes anti-racism and anti-bias work we will always strive to create long-term and sustainable change. We are only as powerful as we are united, so it's important to engage as many PAT members as possible in our anti-racism organizing. There are no shortcuts to building the unity that is our collective power.
And we know there is much work to do. For anti-racist work to be successful, we need to thoughtfully and intentionally create spaces where students and educators can be vulnerable and have important conversations, and we must be bold in our push to change systems and practices that reinforce inequalities. We need our school districts and our state education leaders to commit to protecting educators engaged in this work from harassment, and to stand up to groups aiming to undermine our progress.
PAT unequivocally supports racial equity and anti-bias work in our schools. As a union, our job is to stand up for one another and for our students, and for a racially-just society. Anti-racist work has never been safe. Your union is here to protect all our educators who are boldly undertaking this difficult work.
We stand in solidarity with educators in our community and across the country engaged in anti-racist work that directly centers the safety and well-being of our students of color.
To those who seek to undermine our critical anti-racism and anti-bias work, we will show them through our ongoing commitment that we are undeterred.