A couple of years ago Lily Eskelson Garcia was running for president of the National Education Association and I was an Illinois IEA Retired delegate to the national Representative Assembly. Lily came and spoke to our Retired Conference that precedes the RA.
During the Q&A that followed Lily’s talk I asked her about the decline in the number of public school teachers of color and what our union was going to do about it.
Garcia never gave an action response, although she agreed that the decline in teachers of color was a scandal.
In Chicago the number of African American teachers in CPS has gone from nearly 70% of the teaching staff to under 20% over the past decade or so.
That doesn’t mean that public school teachers are now all white.
I posted yesterday about the few faces of teachers of color among those selected as excellent by the NEA Foundation. We have over three million members in the NEA. They are not all white.
Excellent teachers are not just the white ones.
It does not take anything away from the teachers who were selected to point out the racism in composing a list of excellent teachers in which so few faces of color are included.
It does not even come close to reflecting who we are.
It is particularly discouraging to find this in a year in which the NEA voted to make the fight against institutional racism our most important union-wide campaign.
As I wrote at the time of the 2015 RA, we have met that institution and it is us.
This morning I found this tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten.
— Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten) February 17, 2016
It is a disturbing comment on two counts.
It suggests that the American Federation of Teachers, a union based primarily among urban teachers as compared to the NEA, is a union of white teachers.
What does it mean to say, “Our union” should “confront our privilege”?
To be fair, the tweet contains a link to a speech Randi made to the AFT’s Civil, Human and Women’s Rights Conference in New Orleans last year. It’s a good speech.
Randi can make a good speech.
And maybe in her rush to tweet again about Hillary – which she seems to do non-stop – she lost sight for a moment of who “our union” is, who our own members are, as well as the class, race and social privileges enjoyed by Hillary Clinton.
When she speaks of confronting privilege in the future, perhaps she and NEA President Garcia can address this crisis: The hemorrhaging of teachers of color from our profession.