In the history of our country, there have been far too many tragic deaths like Freddie Gray’s. And Eric Garner’s. And Michael Brown’s. And Trayvon Martin’s. And Walter Scott’s. And Oscar Grant’s.
It is heart wrenching to see the terrible toll of systemic injustice that continues to plague our nation and decimate low-income communities of color. We live in a nation where 1.5 million black men are missing due primarily to incarceration and early deaths, and where only 9% of adults from the lowest income quartile earn at least a bachelor’s degree by age 24 (vs. 77% of adults from the top income quartile).
More than 50 years after Dr. King wrote that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” we still see widespread injustice everywhere in America. Below the surface of what we witness, inextricably linked systems and structures – like our public education and criminal justice systems – perpetuate inequality and inequity.
As we at Education Pioneers witness and reflect on recent events in Baltimore and across the country, we’ve been sharing with each other our pain, anguish, frustration, questions, thoughts, and desire to do something.
In that spirit, we’ve hosted local Alumni events from the San Francisco Bay Area to Boston to have important and difficult conversations about race. We’re taking concrete steps internally to advance the five best practice areas highlighted in From Intention to Action: Building Diverse, Inclusive Teams in Education to Deepen Impact. We’re talking to each other in person, on the phone, and online about the systemic injustice that exists in our country, and how our work to grow the next generation of diverse leaders in education must ensure that we equip them (and ourselves) to accelerate systemic change.
We realize that these steps are small in light of the quantum leap we must make to ensure equity with our nation’s educational and criminal justice systems. We see that we have more questions than answers. And we know that dismantling the status quo won’t be easy or quick.
But we’re committed to this all-important work and draw strength and inspiration from exemplars of moral leadership – like Abraham Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – who fought with millions of others to advance the cause of freedom and justice for all.
As we look to the future, I’m reminded of Henry David Thoreau’s famous quote: “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.”
Here’s the question that I’m currently wrestling with and reflecting on (and know is top of mind for so many of us who fight for social justice): What more can we do, individually and collectively, to strike at the deeply rooted systems and structures that deprive the vast majority of low-income students and students of color with the opportunity to live a full life and reach their full potential?
We must rise to the occasion in answering this important question if we are to make the promise of equal opportunity, which lies at the heart of the American Dream, a reality for all.
Scott Morgan is the Founder of Education Pioneers. He founded the organization in 2003 to identify, train, connect, and inspire a diverse group of leaders and managers to accelerate systemic change across the education sector. An educator, attorney, and social entrepreneur, Scott believes that talented leaders from diverse personal and professional backgrounds can transform education for all students. Follow Scott on Twitter at @scottmorgan1.