“We cannot miss the moment and cannot look a system in the face and simply call for a tranquilizing drug of gradualism. America was and is a bold experiment. But she will not be OK on her own,”
— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The Florida Education Association (FEA) recognizes the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers as an unspeakable tragedy. Sadly, police brutality against the Black community has been an ever-present occurrence; these are NOT isolated incidents. It is becoming increasingly painful as we continue to view, much too often, videos of inhumane treatment of Black men, and an increasing number of Black women.
The uprisings and protests taking place in Minneapolis and other locations across this country, including the state of Florida, are a result of the anger, fear, sadness and distrust that have manifested for years throughout our communities.
Further, the Florida Education Association stands in solidarity with our sister union Education Minnesota and their local affiliates the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Educational Support Professionals Local 59 as they call for systemic and structural change of the Minnesota Police Force and justice for George Floyd.
“I was saddened and dismayed to witness the murder of George Floyd, but I am heartened because people recognize that we cannot normalize this behavior from law enforcement and more importantly that this will not be tolerated in a civilized society. Systemic change is within our grasp if we unify our voices, keep insisting that structural change happen, vote, and believe that humanity and dignity are due to every person regardless of race, creed or background,” said FEA President Fedrick Ingram.
The Florida Education Association does not condone violence or unlawful activity of any kind, but we do encourage our members to give our full voices to our democracy and exercise our right to peacefully protest, demonstrate and speak out against injustice. Civic engagement and quality public education are at the core of our beliefs and values. As education professionals, we will continue to call out injustices when these values are compromised.
United Faculty of Florida statement:
George Floyd. Ahmaud Aubery. Breonna Taylor. One more family devastated. One more child without a parent. The list goes on and on, with incidents almost too frequent to be reported. Their crime was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time… and to be Black. The United Faculty of Florida strongly condemns not only the brutal murder of George Floyd, but the systemic racism that tries to excuse this and countless other acts of violence by law enforcement against Black Americans.
In a nation that boasts of guaranteeing its citizens life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, Black Americans are too often denied basic human rights that many of us take for granted. They can’t jog without worrying about being shot. They can’t sleep without worrying about being killed. They can’t even go bird watching in a public park without being threatened.
No one should be afraid to live their lives as they choose or to seek help from police because of their skin color. A mother shouldn’t be worried about her teenager because he wants to spend time in public with his friends. Fathers should not have to see murders on live TV, and project that nightmare onto their own children. Families should not have to bury their loved ones before they have graduated from high school or known the joy of holding a grandchild.
At UFF, we are committed to representing a diverse membership. We cherish that diversity. We only hope that we can understand the pain, anger and the outrage that these continued atrocities have produced. We stand with the thousands who have vocally and peacefully taken to the streets of our country. We stand with those who are the victims of this violence. We stand with those who are no longer requesting, but demanding, meaningful change.
The rage coursing through the streets of Minneapolis and other cities is born from hundreds of years of prejudice played out as personal discrimination or legal bias. We oppose any form of violence but cannot delude ourselves into believing that the responsibility lies only with others. It also lies within ourselves. Not one of us should feel that we are untouched by the effects of the pernicious disease of racism. Recent events only underscore this fact. The disproportionate mortality rate of the COVID virus on communities of color is only one more indication of its tragic and enduring legacy. We call upon our members, families, colleges, and communities to stand with us against racism in all its forms.
We also call upon Law Enforcement, and, particularly, our union sisters and brothers in Law Enforcement, to examine their contracts and policies to ensure that they are written in ways that hold those charged with keeping the peace accountable for their actions. We cannot claim to be a state which prizes equality so long as we have a criminal justice system that disproportionately impacts marginalized communities.
Those endangered by racism are our members and colleagues, families and friends, students and former students. It is critical at this time that we not only speak out but live out the values that we claim to cherish. Demands for respect, civility, diversity, equality, and inclusion cannot just be empty words shouted in the heat of the moment. We must speak up and speak out whenever we witness hatred, racism or injustice, however small or subtle it might be. This must be a part of what we do every minute of the day in both our personal and professional lives.
In our role as educators, researchers, and mentors, we must prepare those we teach to commit to vigorous and wholehearted participation in our democracy. An honest civic discourse cannot and may not obscure the truth. This cannot be “normal”. The killings must stop. The system must change. We all must work together to build a just society, where life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are guaranteed for each and every one of us, wherever we were born, whomever we love, and whatever the color of our skin.
Student FEA Statement:
To our fierce, courageous, and brave members, please know that Student FEA is here to support you through all your endeavors! Over the past few months, it seemed as if 2020 was a crazy wild dream, that we can’t wake up from. However, these moments are our reality.
The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is yet another of the latest tragedies in our nation but not nearly the first of its kind. We as people are outraged, we as college students are outraged, we as a union are outraged, we as a nation are outraged! Still in 2020, your skin color still influences your social mobility and vitality even more so than where you were educated, live, or work. In America, it is still far too easy for those with privilege and prejudice to undo the hard-earned successes of others, particularly in communities of color. Individual and institutional racism is still our tragic reality. We must do better.
As Aspiring Educators, we have taken the charge to be the voice of our students and our profession. There is no doubt that when we enter the classroom, we are going to have black and brown children that we are going to teach, guide, nurture, and matriculate through their academic careers. Let’s commit to repairing broken systems that serve to create mistrust in government and law enforcement. Let’s resolve to make equitable and fair the distribution of justice. Let’s pledge to reconcile our struggles between who we are and who we strive to become as individuals and as educators.
Going forward, the Student Florida Education Association, under the leadership of the Florida Education Association, National Education Association, and the American Federation of Teachers, will NOT be complicit, silent, nor inactive when it comes to making sure the civil rights and liberties of ALL of our members are protected. None of us is immune. We must stand to change the systems we have created. We must continue to empower and support each other – family, colleagues, students, and neighbors – to change the world by voting, and by making equity and inclusion accessible everywhere. We must think about our shared humanity in more enlightened ways, because quite frankly, black lives must matter if we are to ever realize the full potential of our shared community!
“Racism is not getting worse, it’s getting filmed,” said Will Smith. We must recognize and respect the dignity and humanity in each of us. We must fix what has been broken in our communities across this nation for decades. I hope you will stand with me in solidarity that this is the last time we must remind our nation that Black Lives Matter! Join us this Thursday, at 2pm on Facebook @StudentFEA for 8 minutes and 46 seconds of remembrance. #BlackLivesMatter.