Following the Media Narrative: Why Our Schools Should Be Actively Anti-Racist

Centering equity in our lives and in our work

By The BELE Network

In the month since George Floyd’s death, the country has experienced widespread protests and civil unrest not unlike the civil rights movement of the 1960s. In a time when COVID-19 has already diminished educator’s capacities for planning and action beyond this moment, we feel it’s important to pause and acknowledge how growing awareness of systemic racism and police brutality are shaping media conversations about racism in our schools.

In the past weeks, we’ve used a media analysis tool called Quid to follow the evolving discussion about race and racial equity as it pertains to our schools and the education system.

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Quid media analysis network made up of ~3800 individual stories from U.S. media outlets.

The broader media narrative began by covering George Floyd’s death and the subsequent protests that erupted across the country. Coverage from outlets like the Boston Herald and The Palm Beach Post was neutral, conveying the facts of the situation that resulted in George Floyd’s death, as well as updates on the resulting protests. From there the coverage transitioned to examine the motivation behind this civil unrest. This included articles from outlets like PBS and The Stranger that examined the extent to which systemic racism exists, and how it impacts both experiences and outcomes for millions of Americans.

Now, the conversation has turned to the concrete ways that we can address, disrupt, or dismantle systems that are plagued by systemic racism. This has largely focused on reforming or defunding police departments, but the conversation has broadened to include other institutions and systems — including our schools. The first example of this surfaced when the school board for Minneapolis Public Schools voted to terminate their contract with the Minneapolis Police Department shortly after George Floyd’s death. Many others have followed suit in the time since, including large districts in Denver and Seattle. Coverage of this specific relationship between police and schools appeared in the New York Times and The Washington Post, reflecting how the conversation about race and schools is becoming more prevalent across the country. We’ve also seen education leaders across the country stepping up to demand that schools and educators act as agents for equitable change — highlighting that conversations are happening at both the national and local levels about the need to cast out systemic racism.

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Light blue on bottom: Coverage of Protests; Red second to bottom: Addressing systemic racism

This progression has been visible in national networks such as CNN, USA Today, and Forbes — as well as in prominent local outlets, such as the Boston Globe, the Oregonian, and The Seattle Times. Specifically at the local level, school boards, superintendents, and other education leaders are vocally cutting ties with police departments and other law enforcement agencies they partner with. While this is only a single step, this is progress towards creating more safe, comfortable, and equitable learning environments that serve each and every student.

Now that the narrative has arrived at a place where audiences and decision makers alike are looking for actionable ways to address racism, the BELE Network is ready to support. This is an opportunity to draw a distinct line from how inequities and systemic racism in our schools, directly result in further inequity and systemic racism in our society.

We will continue to provide a framework, backed by tools and resources, for how we can integrate anti-racist practices and policies in our schools. It’s all hands on deck to support our students in the midst of two crises, and we’re heartened to see a rapidly evolving conversation around equity that may bridge to impact our most problematic and inequitable systems.

As we look towards the coming school year, we must grapple not only with the public health impacts of COVID-19, but also with the lasting toll that generations of systemic racism has taken on our schools and students. In the process of building back better, an equitable approach will ensure that each and every student receives the resources and support they need to thrive, as we remain optimistically and unapologetically focused on creating a better future.

We’re glad to have you alongside us on this journey — with gratitude,

The BELE Network

Written by

We are committed to creating learning environments that equitably support every student — especially students of color and low-income students. belenetwork.org

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