Governor Youngkin is intensely working to remove “divisive” concepts from Virginia education policy. The concepts in question are cultural competency, understanding of inherent bias, and the role of racism (historically and currently) in our social systems. The definition of divisive is “tending to cause disagreement or hostility among people.” I don’t understand how educating students about the impact of slavery, systemic racism, and oppression in our country correlates with that definition. After all, knowledge of past mistakes gives us the power to make informed decisions for the future. In this instance, knowledge is the opportunity to create allies among minority groups and increase equality in our state.
Removing concepts like those stated in EdEquityVA is inherently racist and truly shows how our systems currently work to oppress vulnerable populations. The idea that systemic racism does not exist or should not be a focus in education is simply inaccurate and only benefits white people.
As a social worker in Southwest Virginia, I find the knowledge of racial oppression in this state essential because discrimination against people of color is so evident where I live. My profession embraces cultural competency and advocates for social and racial justice across all institutions including education. I’m aware that as a white person I have inherent bias that I work to improve everyday. Knowing this has been an essential part of my success both professionally and socially. My education of inclusion and diversity as an adult was not “divisive.” On the contrary, it has made me a better friend, community member, coworker, and ally. My only wish is that I was educated earlier and more during grade school.
If this speaks to you, please contact your state legislators about the importance of keeping diversity and inclusion language and curriculum in Virginia schools.
Samantha Miller is an intern with Virginia Organizing in Southwest Virginia.