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Pay Attention Damn It!

Another voting season is upon us. It always brings us a selection of individuals whose belief systems align to support the disparities across systems for Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people, especially students. People's belief systems work tirelessly to maintain the institutional and structural racism that the education (among others) systems are dipped, rolled, and fried in.

As an educator and coach, I often find myself in between a rock and a hard place. The rock represents the Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students and people that live in the gap/debt; the hard place is the work I do with a majority of teachers, administrators, superintendents, school board members, organizational owners, and leaders who are primarily White, and finding grace for a patient process of teaching, when I immediately want to rip someone’s face off their face, especially when they can name the racial categories of students and people who are struggling, failing and being placed on trajectories to remain in the gap.

I altered the image I used above to add the word, everyone. Although the picture is excellent and powerful, to make my point, I needed to include that everyone is responsible for this gap/debt and precisely because we are in a voting season. As the former first Black woman to hold a school board position in Bellevue, WA, I know first-hand this systemic gap. Spending over a decade in Bellevue, I recognize its good, bad, and indifferent and how it's a great representation of why EVERYONE needs to be held responsible because you have power as a voter.

So what's the point of my rant, you ask? My point is reading about a candidate running for Bellevue School Board who is so ill-informed and ignorant to history and understanding that their belief system supports the disparity. Furthermore, she could be elected by those who hold belief systems identical to hers to keep the system in its existing structure and that Bellevue is not an isolated incident. DAMN IT! I need you to pay attention.

In reading one of many articles on school board candidates, a friend shared one with me, and oh, boy, what a personal connection to my experience! The article my friend shared is about a potential school board candidate Faye Yang. What I found as one of her ridiculous points is where she states, "graduation rates for Black and Latino students were predictably lower "most likely" due to the "immovable element of genetic disparity between the races when it comes to IQ scores." In making a statement like this, her ignorance to state a fictitious point of genetics, instead of the real point of racism as an institutional and structural barrier, tells me she wants to pretend that these barriers (that were historically created) don’t exist. I'm inclined to believe from her statement that the current state of education, housing, employment, etc., is all at the fault of genetics. Her beliefs are her beliefs; however, in reading this and other school boards' news across the US, I was compelled to write and ask that folks start paying attention to all the things you don't or have refused to pay attention to!

One of the major issues is that people will do everything other than focus on the racial and social injustices that have historically kept the systems moving. The education systems, housing, justice are all working together simultaneously; if you genuinely want to impact systems, then look at the people in them; systems don’t exist without people. If you're a person who wants to uphold the system, then friend, you're doing fine; if not, then I implore you to pay attention, make decisions that require you to be in a constant state of discomfort and disruption.

Do your homework investigate and seek out facts and not fiction, verify, verify and verify. Decisions made in anonymity and without courage limit justice when approaches are taken that are dipped, rolled, and fried in selfishness, hate, and racism and therefore not being beneficial to anyone, so pay attention and engage yourself to use your power and vote.

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Krischanna Roberson is an extraordinary leader who inspires and models’ racial equity transformation. She is a proud native New Yorker who hails from Brooklyn and is a mother of two young adults who


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