June 4, 2020
Like many of you, I have struggled to process the events of the past week. The killing of George Floyd, by a white police officer, was yet another tragic example of America’s systemic assault on Black lives.
Schools, like law enforcement agencies, are guilty of perpetuating racism and violence. While we as educators do not wield guns, tear gas, or tasers, we hold the power to keep Black students out of gifted programs and advanced courses and in pipelines to low-wage jobs, limited opportunities and prison-like discipline. And schools and police departments can conspire to derail the promising life prospects of Black kids.
As a white man in a leadership role at a predominantly white institution that trains future teachers, counselors and administrators, I am obligated to listen, lead and use my privilege for the benefit of others. I’m learning from educators of color, like Dr. Mary Rice-Boothe and her searing post “I’m Not Okay.” I’m also taking advantage of resources at Drake University, like these Toolkits for Action on Social Justice.
But listening and learning is not enough, nor is an individual response to an institutional problem. The burden to speak out and take action must be a collective endeavor and it must not fall only on People of Color. This effort is part of a shared goal to make the School of Education a place to engage in difficult conversations and to serve as a change agent through faculty, staff, student and alumni collaboration.
This is why I have convened a summer committee, with representation from each of these groups, to determine how we can better demonstrate explicitly anti-racist practices and in turn ensure the educators we train and support are prepared to take the courageous actions needed to dismantle a system of organized oppression. The committee met for the first time today, and I am inspired by the commitment to follow-through and to expand the coalition needed to make progress.
Grounded in our guiding principle of social justice, we will move forward in determined and deliberate ways. While the work won’t always be perfect, our efforts will be resolute and focused on ensuring the next generation does better than our generation in building a racially just and equitable society.
Dr. Ryan Wise, Dean of the School of Education