Unison Rainbow Logo

Public Statement on the
Lynching of George Floyd

Context:

Lynch - verb (used with object) to put to death, especially by hanging, by mob action and without legal authority.

 

Let us for one moment suspend our knowledge about the practices of the “founding fathers” of this country, the knowledge that the founding documents laying out the fundamental rights of this country’s citizenry left out whole swaths of people, the knowledge that what was spoken and written was really only meant to be true for white, male property owners. Let us suspend all that for a moment to look back at what was purported to be the fundamental purpose of public education in the USA, as stated by Thomas Jefferson, himself.  

"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves, (A)nd if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power."  - Thomas Jefferson

So what does this mean for us, public schools, as institutions?  The people who make up public schools?  The people who may not want to face the fact that we represent, work for, and are embedded in, the same larger institution that fosters the practices of the likes that lead to the lynching of George Floyd? What are our responsibilities right now?

These questions led us to take responsibility for writing a public statement on the lynching of George Floyd.  

We call on more public institutions to do the same.

Statement on the lynching of George Floyd:

The Urban Assembly Unison School is a proud public middle school in Central Brooklyn, NYC.  We carry the telltale numbers of a NYC public school - IS351 - although we are known simply as “Unison”.   The name by which we answer, the name by which we gloat, the name by which we identify says much about who we are.  

Our mission statement contains the following 3 statements (amongst others):

Unison CARES deeply about social justice, seeing public education as an opportunity to prepare youth to be thoughtful and actively engaged in bettering society.

Unison CARES deeply about equity and interrupting our society’s various inequities. Unison works to build an environment and a curriculum that tackles injustice, gives students access to the critical thinking skills necessary to identify injustices, and provides access to the communication skills necessary to advocate for themselves, their communities, and for our society at large.

Unison CARES deeply about the truth and providing our students access to a curriculum that reflects truth and that reflects our students’ identities (for example - their race, culture, gender, gender expression).

 

We take our own mission seriously and therefore feel the need to wholeheartedly and publicly condemn the lynching of George Floyd alongside the countless images and videos that have captured the violent racism that too many Black and Brown citizens of this country have endured.  

Unison is publicly stating that...

We condemn the ways in which our system’s racist history continues to mean that white supremacy has its literal and figurative foot on the necks of Black and Brown lives.  

We acknowledge and condemn the ways in which this figurative foot on the necks of Black and Brown lives plays out every day - separate and unequal schooling, disproportionate policing, unequal healthcare, unequal housing access, unequal wealth distribution, to name a small few.

We acknowledge and condemn the ways in which the institutions meant to serve and protect the citizenry of this country often are the exact institutions acting both explicitly and implicitly to maintain the disproportionate access and outcomes for Black and Brown citizens.  

We acknowledge and condemn the ways in which negative biases, gone unchecked and unexamined, lead to acts both small and large that maintain and continue the racist outcomes we have seen for centuries.

 

We acknowledge that public education in this country has historically centered white, patriarchal, anglo, capitalist values, norms and practices resulting in schools dis-serving and marginalizing our students whose identities, cultures, race, and religions do not align. 

Therefore, Unison accepts the responsibility to build and sustain a public school that:

  • Is anti-racist

  • De-centers whiteness and instead builds an inclusive school environment that centers and celebrates ALL the races and cultures of our students, their families, and our overall community.

  • De-centers patriarchy and instead builds a school environment that is inclusive and celebratory of ALL genders, gender identities gender expression.

  • De-centers capitalistic values and instead builds a school environment that functions collectively and in Unison. We will build a school environment based on the values of Collaboration, Engagement, Responsibility, Engagement, and Self-determination. 

  • Builds and sustains the environment as described above in order to be a school that makes real the purported purpose of public education - to enlighten and empower young people and future citizens so that they may be empowered and able to correct abuses of constitutional power.  To be a public school committed to ultimate liberation.