NEARI Statement on George Floyd and Systemic Racism

(June 1, 2020) The uprising that has followed in the days after the killing of George Floyd - and the Black men, women, and children who preceded him in death and brutality – should be a cumulative call to action. If a “riot is the language of the unheard,” as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr said, then let the cacophony and chaos in our American streets be heard as a clarion call to change the systems that permit a disregard for human life to persist and continued systems of inequities and inequality at every level to continue.

The National Education Association Rhode Island (NEARI) believes that change must come from every corner of American life and that difficult conversations must take place in order to break the bonds of systemic racism. Systemic racism is the virus that has infected American institutions since our founding, from our justice and economic systems to our education system.

It is no longer enough to have a racial and social justice committee, as NEARI does. It is no longer enough to offer implicit bias training and diversity workshops to our members, as NEARI does. It is no longer enough to be comfortable as non-racist. Each of us must take on the hard work of anti-racist action; speak up when it is seen, shout it down when it is heard, and provide the space for equity to thrive.

As an organization – a union – that represents 12,000 educators, education support professionals, state and municipal workers, graduate students, and retirees, NEARI pledges to do more. We pledge to do more because we hear the call. We pledge to do more because the hard work of anti-racism must show in what we do each day in the classrooms, counselors’ offices, lecture halls, and laboratories across the Ocean State. Today we are grieving and outraged, but we pledge to actively work toward racial and social justice in every corner where power must be challenged.

We cannot say that all lives matter until Black Lives Matter. We hear the call. We are ready to start the work.