Anti-Racist Action – Vision Statement
Last Updated October 13, 2020
The entire Freire Family – a community of students, parents, staff, board members, and community partners across four campuses and our network office – is committed to developing an actively anti-racist school network. This work is essential to support and uplift our Black community and keep our kids psychologically safe and academically strong as they grow into engaged, self-actualized agents of change in their schools, their communities and the world.
To do so, we must end institutional racism in the Freire community. In partnership with trusted, expert external partners, we will take the first steps of this sustained commitment to eradicate institutional racism by doing the following during the 2020-21 school year:
- Develop an understanding of the historical antecedents and causes of systemic racism (i.e. institutional and structural racism);
- Foster a common set of words and understandings to talk about racism and anti-racism;
- Heighten our awareness of implicit bias and individual-level racism (both internalized and interpersonal) and how that manifests into racism at the institutional level;
- Create clear, consistent and sustainable policies, practices, beliefs and behaviors that we can employ to uproot institutional bias and racism in routine and non-routine ways, including around hiring, staff development, and curriculum and instruction.
- Develop our voices as advocates for equity and anti-racism and work collectively and alongside our kids to begin to “build the future” they deserve – one free of systemic racism in all its forms.
This vision statement was developed by Freire Schools’ Racial Justice Working Group and the People of Color Collective, building on the work of Freire Middle School’s Our Time is Now group. This is a work in progress; we will revisit this vision at set intervals and revise it to reflect our learning and growth.
Internalized racism lies within individuals. These are our private beliefs and biases about race and racism, influenced by our culture. Internalized racism can take many different forms including racial prejudice toward other people of a different race; internalized oppression, the negative beliefs about oneself by people of color; or internalized privilege, beliefs about superiority or entitlement by white people. An example is that a belief that you or others are more or less intelligent, or beautiful, because of your race.
Interpersonal racism occurs between individuals. These are biases that occur when individuals interact with others and their private racial beliefs affect their public interactions. Examples include racial slurs, bigotry, hate crimes, and racial violence.
Institutional racism occurs within institutions and systems of power. It is the unfair policies and discriminatory practices of particular institutions (schools, workplaces, etc.) that routinely produce racially inequitable outcomes for people of color and advantages for white people. Individuals within institutions take on the power of the institution when they reinforce racial inequities. An example is a school system that concentrates people of color in the most overcrowded schools, the least-challenging classes, and the least-qualified teachers, resulting in higher dropout rates and disciplinary rates compared with those of white students.
Structural racism is racial bias among institutions and across society. It involves the cumulative and compounding effects of an array of societal factors including the history, culture, ideology, and interactions of institutions and policies that systematically privilege white people and disadvantage people of color. An example is the overwhelming number of depictions of people of color as criminals in mainstream media, which can influence how various institutions and individuals treat people of color with suspicion when they are shopping, traveling, or seeking housing and employment – all of which can result in discriminatory treatment and unequal outcomes.
Source: Moving the Race Conversation Forward: How the Media Covers Racism, and Other Barriers to Productive Racial Discourse, Part 1 (Race Forward, January 2014)
Our Commitment to Anti-Racist Action
From Freire Schools Network & School Leaders
June 5, 2020
The past week has been among the most difficult any of us have ever experienced as educators. For some of us, this week represented the boiling over of fear and tension we have known our entire lives. Others among us spent this week educating ourselves on systemic racism and realizing harsh truths about our own privilege and biases. All of us stand firmly with Freire Schools students and staff engaging in community protests against racism and police brutality.
This week, we marched in protest of Black death at the hands of the police. We watched in horror as our friends and neighbors were gassed and beaten by police while rising up against deep-set racism in our cities. We feared for the safety of our students, ourselves, and our loved ones. We cried. We expressed anger. We supported our kids and each other.
Most of all, we listened to our students, our families, and our teachers and staff. We heard clearly your grief, anger, fears, and frustrations. We heard the pain that you feel that Freire Schools has not done all of the work we need to do to acknowledge and fix the real and important ways in which our own systems perpetuate racism and white supremacy.
The memories of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and too many more demand that we sit with the intense and often uncomfortable emotions that we feel and use them to better ourselves and our schools.
So, today, we make a commitment that Freire Schools will develop an actively anti-racist school network. Starting now and continuing over the summer, we will develop an actionable plan to achieve this goal. This is what we know today:
- Our goal is for 100% of our Freire Family members to be actively anti-racist.
- In order for this work to be successful, those in leadership – our board members, network office leaders, and school leaders – need to identify our own biases and how they transfer throughout our organization.
- We need to think about systemic racism within our organization and how to uproot it. To do so, we will audit bias in our thoughts, our actions, our leadership, and our Freire Program (i.e. pedagogy, programs, policies, and systems) and identify our organizational blind spots.
- We admit that we may not always be able to identify our own weaknesses or be best able to assess the needs of our Black community, and so we will ask for help from experts in institutional racism.
- We will move with urgency while also recognizing that our action plan must include immediate, near future, and long-term work.
- We commit to concrete, ongoing work that continues far into the future, long after this moment of national attention and momentum.
- We will create diversity, inclusion, and equity training for all Freire Schools staff – both during onboarding and as an ongoing part of professional development. This includes our own training as school and network leaders.
- We will establish an explicit, regular timeline for leaders and staff to reflect on our anti-racist work and areas for future growth and communicate our progress to all members of the Freire community.
- We will remember at all times that our school was founded on social justice principles, and that Paulo Freire believed that education was the most powerful act against oppression. Anti-racism work is essential to our students, our mission, and our shared future.
Finally, we know that all Freire voices must be heard as we develop our path forward. We encourage all Freire Family members who are interested in working on our anti-racist action plan this summer to email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know that you want to join the planning team. This includes students, alumni, teachers, staff, parents, board members, leaders – anyone who is committed to developing a baseline of trust and empathy in our community, having real conversations about race in our network, and reforming any parts of our Freire Program that do not protect, support and uplift our Black students as they prepare to build the future.
We have work to do – real work to make our schools, our network, and our Freire Family better. We will make mistakes, it will be sloppy at times, and our work will be filled with highs and lows. But our students, our families, and our schools are worth it.