Race, Equity, and COVID-19: Navigating Crises and Building for the Future

Race, Power, and Education

**Californians for Justice. (n.d.). Why race and relationships matter in California schools. Available at https://caljustice.egnyte.com/dl/XDr3C96lKt

This report charges educators to center race and racism when considering the challenges faced by California schools, rather than sidestepping the issue by focusing on “low income” or “high needs” populations. Systematic racism affects students in a range of intersecting areas that include criminal justice, employment, housing, immigration, and civic engagement. Within school settings, students also face unconscious bias from teachers and administrators, resulting in less supportive school environments, unequal access to college preparatory courses and highquality teachers, and fewer opportunities for families to engage with the school community. The report proposes a shift to relationship-oriented schools that focus on building personal relationships between teachers and students in order to improve cognitive development and social-emotional learning and to provide an environment that supports and values student voices. We are sharing this piece to complement and center the student voices we will hear from directly during Session I.

**The Aspen Institute Education & Society Program. (2018). Pursuing social and emotional development through a racial equity lens: A call to action. Available at https://www.aspeninstitute.org/publications/pursuing-social-and-emotional-development-through-a-racial-equity-lens-a-call-to-action/

During COVID-19, educational delivery has brought equity disparities to the fore. This Aspen Institute report calls educators and administrators to action by looking at ways to address systemic racism through the intersection of social, emotional, and academic development (SEAD) and equity. The authors argue that educators must consider equity not only in resource allocation, but also in the culture and climate in which students learn. The authors recommend 10 considerations for implementing SEAD using a racial equity lens: 1) build on student strengths, 2) attend to root causes of challenges students experience, 3) address stereotype threat in interactions with students, 4) develop supportive learning environments, 5) respect all cultures, 6) embed restorative practices in school discipline policy, 7) provide needed resources, 8) invest in adult development, 9) support adult social-emotional health, and 10) engage families and communities. By applying this lens to SEAD initiatives, educators can foster improved student outcomes while diminishing disparities among students. We are sharing this piece because it weaves together two urgent and interrelated student needs: attention to racial injustice and social and emotional learning.

***Love, B. (2020, August 24). There is nothing fragile about racism. EdWeek. Available at https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2020/08/25/there-is-nothing-fragile-about-racism.html

In response to Robin DiAngelo’s book White Fragility, Love argues that while white people’s responses to racism are often fragile, racism itself is not. Exploring white fragility – the typically defensive, sorrowful, or apologetic response that white people often give during difficult conversations about or others’ experiences with racism – is an important place to start dismantling racism for many. But without further, explicitly anti-racist work, white fragility positions white people as powerless to change the systems they created and benefit from. Love criticizes the common practice of rewarding students or schools for “beating the odds” when school and system leaders do not actually change the structures or policies that created the odds in the first place. She also writes about contemporary white “co-conspirators” (people who use their privilege to disrupt or transform institutions of power) and characterizes them as people who were powerful in their attacks on racism. She concludes by reiterating that white people are a powerful force and must use their power, not their fragility, to end racism. We shared this article because it is a provocative invitation to be explicitly anti-racist in our work during Meeting 42 (and beyond).

Copeland, R. (2020, July 29). “You can’t achieve true health equity without addressing racism” – part I. Institute for Healthcare Improvement. Available at http://www.ihi.org/communities/blogs/you-can-t-achieve-true-health-equity-without-addressing-racism-part-i

In this interview of Ronald Copeland, Kaiser Permanente’s Chief Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Officer, he states that medical professionals often assume that structural racism and implicit bias are not issues that they are required to tend to when they provide care to individuals. But Copeland characterizes them as safety and care quality issues that must be addressed. He shares an example of a patient who made repeated visits to the emergency room. The medical care team initially assumed that the patient was not taking her medications as directed; on investigation, it was discovered that she lived in substandard housing infested with mold, which interfered with the medications she had been prescribed. Copeland concludes by saying that stories like this are what drive Kaiser to promote health equity at all levels of the system. We are sharing this piece to draw attention to the similarities between the health and education fields as they grapple with vast inequity in service delivery and outcomes.

Lieberman, M. (2020, September 23). Internet access is a civil rights issue. EdWeek. Available at https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2020/09/23/internet-access-is-a-civil-rights-issue.html

This article discusses inequities in home internet access and how lack of high-speed internet affects students, parents, and educators—especially in rural communities, in low-income families, and among people of color. While the COVID-19 pandemic and associated challenges to remote learning have put the issue back in the news, Lieberman notes that the digital divide has been a known problem for decades, with little action taken despite repeated warnings from activists, journalists, and researchers. Causes of inequitable access to broadband internet include a lack of a profit motive for internet service providers to build networks in rural and low-income areas, limited funds for cities to create their own networks, and federal agencies that do not prioritize and even exacerbate the problem. While some states and cities are making incremental headway in providing better internet access to marginalized communities, Lieberman believes that decisive federal action will be necessary to create a comprehensive plan that will fully address the issue.

D'Souza, K., & Rosales, B. M. (2020, November 11). Why Los Angeles County’s neediest school districts don't apply for waivers to reopen campuses. EdSource. Available at https://edsource.org/2020/why-los-angeles-countys-neediest-school-districts-dont-apply-for-waivers-to-reopen-campuses/643453

This article describes how Los Angeles County is wrestling with reopening some but not all schools. The county’s waiver program was intended to help open public schools that primarily serve low-income students, but instead, affluent and private schools are taking advantage of the new program. Educators profiled in the article say that the process encourages inconsistent openings across district and city lines in the large county. Some school and district leaders report that they have not applied for waivers because they do not want parents to perceive that leaders are arbitrarily deciding to open some schools but not others. Other leaders report that they are not applying for waivers simply because infection rates remain high in their local areas. The article includes a color-coded map showing the disparity in granted waivers between private and public schools, as well as by geographic location within the county.

**This document is considered a priority reading.