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By Anna | June 8, 2020

Hello. Welcome to the Movement.

My name is Anna and I am a White mom from Los Angeles -more specifically the stolen land of the Tongva Tribe. I am one of the members of the Integrated Schools Parent Board. We have had an astonishing number of new visitors, followers, and listeners this week, so we want to introduce ourselves and set you up with an understanding of our work. 

If you are new to this movement, welcome.  We’re glad you’re here and we want to be perfectly clear – We believe fully and unequivocally that Black Lives Matter. We believe that systemic racism is killing communities of color, strangling our democracy, and preventing us from realizing a true, multiracial democracy. 

We believe it is past time to rethink policing, end the school to prison pipeline, reform our criminal justice system, reinvest in our most vulnerable communities, end housing discrimination, employer discrimination, medical racism. We believe that we need a serious conversation about reparations. We stand with organizations around the country calling for these reforms. 

We also believe that school segregation is one root cause of the racial tensions in our country. As it is a cause that was entirely created and now maintained by White and/or privileged people, the generational work of unwinding it has to include real work and measurable changes in the behavior of those same groups. Guided by the wisdom and direction of leaders of color who have been in this fight for decades, it is time for us to take action.

We know, as a group of predominantly White &/or privileged folks, that we have a lot to learn and a long way to go, that racism still exists within us, and that we will never arrive at a destination point of “fully not racist”. As racial justice activist and writer Layla Saad says in her book, Me And White Supremacy, this work of dismantling White supremacy, in yourself and your community, is a practice. So whether you’re new to this practice, or your practice has been honed and refined through years of critical thinking and acting, as long as you are willing to keep learning with us, you are welcome here.

And, while we recognize our own need for continued learning, and the importance of listening to leaders of color, we also understand the power, as integration advocate Matt Gonzales puts it, of White lips to White ears– the increased ease with which White people can hear messages of social justice from other White people. And, we know that the burden of the labor of educating White folks should not rest on BIPOC. So we work to first mobilize families to have brave conversations, to push back on the smog of implicitly or explicitly racist ways we talk about schools, and also to take action, to practice antiracist integration – not merely desegregation, but real, 2nd wave, antiracist school integration.  Humble, joyful, aware of our impact, ready to learn, and ready to help create new systems of shared power so that we can play one small part in creating the world we want for our kids and for all kids.

We are cautiously optimistic about the overwhelming awakening of White folks everywhere in this moment. There is much to be done (and you can find lots of lists, like this one here, that can help you get a sense of your options). It asks little of those of us with privilege to condemn the police as they beat and murder Black people in the streets. The harder work is asking the tough questions about our own complicity in building and sustaining the systems that led us to this moment.  Why do we live in all white neighborhoods? Why are our gifted and talented programs disproportionately white, while our special education programs are disproportionately Black and Brown? Why are we comfortable with a BLM sign, but not a school with predominantly Black and Brown kids? Why do we tolerate and perpetuate racial segregation? Integrated Schools is a place for White &/or privileged people to struggle with these questions and move to action in our own lives.  

I want to be hopeful that we may be in the midst of a revolution. If the wind of media attention is at our backs right now, we want to work every day to be a part of the solution. And as we attempt to grow our 3.5% still, we hear folks echoing the same critiques we’ve received since day one, that our name and mission are too direct, that all this talk of antiracism, and dismantling white supremacy culture is too aggressive, too uncomfortable. I am reminded of this beautiful manifesto our late founder Courtney Everts Mykytyn wrote in the early stages of hashing out the fundamental tenets of this movement: 

“The name ’Integrated Schools’ just feels… too hard. It feels like work.” “It makes me think of all the ugly busing protests. Ugh.” “Why can’t you choose something nicer, more like a warm hug?  Like togetherness-, multicultural-, or unity-something?”

There are many valid critiques of our name.  For a few people, ‘Integrated Schools’ sounds like we are about technoclassrooms. Others recoil from the historical trauma of Civil Rights Era racism that our name summons. For most people who have suggested a rebranding, ‘Integrated Schools’ depicts too daunting a struggle, the confrontation of too-difficult things.

If our goal is to grab people, to gently welcome parents into the fold, choosing a less off-putting name makes perfect sense (“Opt IN” or “Let’s All Go to School Together!” or “Parents for Justice for All Students”?). As a few marketing folks have warned, the PR challenge of ‘Integrated Schools’ is colossal.

But yet…

We have come to the limits of what that can accomplish and our children still attend separate and unequal schools. It is time now to engage explicitly with integration, without fuzzy feel-goods, without whimsical euphemisms, without flinching. Integration for the sake of integration. Integration for the sake of equity and democracy.

We cannot shy away from the violence of integration’s historical roots: the busing and protests and federal troop deployments, the redlining of neighborhoods and secession of districts. That so many black educators were fired because of Brown v Board and we never got them back. This is part of our national story, and its lessons must anchor us. To build trust between communities that have for too long lived separately, we must be unequivocal in acknowledging our past. 

Indeed, we must be similarly resolute about the everyday and coded violence of our many contemporary forms of segregation.

We have now all but given up talking about integration. We may exalt the glory of programs whose primary mission is to promote integration (or, rather, desegregation)  but whose rhetoric rarely mentions it.  When we aren’t ignoring school integration altogether, we cowardly conceal it.

Integrating our schools IS demanding and thorny work.  It isn’t for the spineless.  Meaningful integration requires us to be fierce, to look inequity in the eye and demand better from our institutions and ourselves.

So after much deliberation, we have chosen clarity over comfort, justice over popularity. We have opted to lay bare our mission as parents and we hope you join us in our fight for Integrated Schools.

Courtney didn’t compromise to make the work more palatable, and neither will we. The truth is the name Integrated Schools makes some folks uncomfortable. As it turns out, the work is uncomfortable. When you join us here, we hold space for that discomfort. And then we move together into the best imagined, integrated future.

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Integrated Schools is growing a grassroots movement of, by and for parents who are intentionally, joyfully and humbly enrolling their children in integrating schools. Learn more >

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