When I first started getting texts about his tweet, they were all similar, and from the people I am close to in my school district. My friends said things like, "It's about time." and "Yay...Thank you Dr. J!"
And then I started to hear all of the things that people I am not surrounded by all the time thought about his tweet. The comments were more like:
"This isn't leadership."
"I can't believe he said we were racist."
"He should have to take that tweet down, it is offensive and wrong."
I have actually had some really valuable conversations about racism in our schools as a result of his now-infamous tweet.
Teachers I value have asked me things like, "Do you really think we are racist? I am not racist!" We talked through the difference between being overtly racist and being a part of a system that is plagued with institutional racism, as many of our country's schools are...including my own district. I always go back to the data to reason with people and to help them see the impact schools have on kids of different races.
Here is one data point that I have been using to respond to this idea that institutional racism doesn't exist:
You are reading this right. By the end of 5th grade, 89.9% of our African American students are not proficient in mathematics. (Source: mischooldata.com) I can't imagine how kids feel sitting in math class, just starting middle school without basic math skills. And they received the same instruction all the way through. That's how institutional racism works. And we have to start talking about it, in every community, in every state. Here is a glimpse of reading proficiency:
Out of the almost 200 African American students that just started high school, almost 70% of them are not proficient readers. High school is hard enough when you can read anything that is put in front of you. Imagine how difficult it is to keep up in a chemistry class when you can't understand the text.
The anger around his three simple words was startling. Even to me. And for all that think he should have to take it down, or that saying "stop being racist" is in some way a testament to his leadership abilities, I ask you to sit down and really think about that. If you were offended by those words, it's time to look within.
I am here to tell you that THIS is leadership. We have to look institutional racism right in the face and do something about it. Every single one of us. I have no criticism for my leader, I have only one thing to say to Dr. Johnson...Thank you. And I double down on his message to all of us.
Stop being racist.