May 31, 2020
Dear Somerville Public Schools Families and Staff,
Our community is in mourning. Once again we find ourselves responding to an unspeakable act of hatred – racism at its core – and the senseless killing of yet another black life. We are in mourning for George Floyd and his family and friends, who must now bear the crushing burden of the callous killing of a son, brother, cousin, and father, at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer last week. It is a burden that no one should ever have to bear.
Yet the truth is that for our black community, this crushing burden is a stark reality of life. George Floyd is only the latest in a long list of black Americans who have been killed because of the color of their skin. Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery are also among the most recent victims of a pervasive racism that challenges the very essence of our humanity. Before them, far too many of our black neighbors, family members, and friends, have perished for the same reason. The truth is that the idea that black lives are not as valuable as white lives is tragically ingrained in our culture.
Institutional racism affects us all, not just those who are or have been directly impacted. For many of us, including many young people in our own community and across the world, the horrific images of George Floyd’s death will remain ingrained in our minds and in our souls – a stark and painful reminder of the reality of where we are as a country. Principals and school and district administrators will be discussing supports we can give to students and families tomorrow in an All-team meeting.
If we are to effect real change, as a society we must stop simply reacting to the latest tragedy. We must each be willing to examine, understand and address our own prejudices and biases, to reject racism at every turn and at every level, and to make a personal commitment to being anti-racist. We must be willing to make racism and its impact to our communities of color part of our normal discourse as we work together to dismantle the institutional racism that continues to plague our neighborhoods and our cities.
While we have begun this work in our schools and in our City – through professional development, policy work, development of equity teams and affinity groups, our work with Enroot, Teen Empowerment and the Welcome Project, and through student curriculum that values students’ identity – it is clear that we must move forward with more urgency. It starts with each one of us.
Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone and Superintendent Mary Skipper