Organizing for Racial Equity: From an Idea to a Movement

By: Organizing for Racial Equity (ORE)

The fight for ethnic studies in Washington State has largely been led by educators, especially in Seattle Public Schools, thanks to the organizing of groups like Social Equity Educators and the Center for Racial Equity. Ethnic studies, however, needs to be rooted in deeper efforts to achieve racial justice, and not just in education. Below is a piece written about the accomplishments of grassroots organizing for racial justice at the State level at the Washington Education Association (WEA) Representative Assembly (RA) this past April. This is what’s possible when teachers lead on racial justice!

Within our union, there are still racial inequities that need to be addressed. However, during the WEA Representative Assembly held from April 25th to 27th, the conversation began again as racial justice seemed to become the theme of the convention. Marquita Prinzing and Kaitlin Kamalei Jenkins from Seattle Education Association (SEA) tag teamed as lead organizers for Organizing for Racial Equity, a statewide movement that brought forth many racial equity policies at the WEA RA.

Organizing for Racial Equity started as an idea between a few educators at the SEA Mock RA meeting. However, the thought quickly grew into a statewide organizing effort. Many different locals were represented on the core team, including Seattle, Shoreline, Edmonds, Tacoma, and Mukilteo. The team drafted policy submissions, crafted floor plans, and wrote informative documents. The team also ensured that there was a concrete promotional plan, including networking, engaging with caucuses, creating a social media plan, and branding materials. By the start of RA, we garnered support from locals across the state.

With the hard work of the team and the support of the WEA community, we were able to pass all eight of the motions that our team presented. Our motions included:

  • Amendment #3: Adding a racial equity analysis question to policy submission forms
  • NBI #32: Calling for racial equity training and tools for the WEA Board
  • NBI #31: Supporting a Statewide Educators of Color Network
  • NBI #33: Creating an Ethnic Studies Taskforce
  • New Resolution #9: WEA supports Ethnic Studies
  • NBI #41: Supporting Black Lives Matter at Schools
  • NBI #78: Calling for more equitable race & ethnicity data
  • New Resolution #3: WEA acknowledges White Supremacy Culture

There were also many other racial equity motions passed by other members of SEA and other locals represented by Organizing for Racial Equity. Another huge win for racial equity was NBI (new business item) 40: in support of the i1000 Affirmative Action bill—a key step to legalize diversifying the teaching force, which was authored and supported by ORE members.

Thank you for all your support and thank you to all SEA members that were on our core team. We look forward to continuing the movement, especially with the National Education Association RA coming up soon. If you would like to join Organizing for Racial Equity, please join our Facebook group to stay updated:

SB 5023

by Tracy Castro-Gill

The Washington State Legislature has sent SB 5023, “Concerning an ethnic studies curriculum for public school students,” to Governor Inslee to sign into law. This is great news for many of us who have been fighting for years to get curricula that is relevant for our students and challenges white supremacy.

We should not, however, think our job is done. The bill reads very much like liberal multiculturalism and does not mention anything about anti-racism or the critical analysis of the the power structures in our country and the world. You can read the report here. But what’s disconcerting is the following language:

Summary: Essential Academic Learning Requirements.By September 1, 2020, OSPI must adopt EALRs and grade-level expectations that identify the knowledge and skills that all public school students need to be global citizens in a global society with an appreciation for the contributions of diverse cultures. The EALRs and grade-level expectations must be periodically updated to incorporate best practices in ethnic studies.
Ethnic Studies Materials and Resources.By September 1, 2020, OSPI must identify and make available ethnic studies materials and resources for use in grades 7–12. The materials and resources must be designed to prepare students for global citizenship in a global society, with an appreciation for the contributions of multiple cultures.

School districts are encouraged to provide ethnic studies courses that “incorporate” whatever materials are created by an OSPI Ethnic Studies Advisory Committee. So while this feels really good, and may be a win on some levels, it has no teeth. There is no mandate to provide ethnic studies. In a state whose teaching force is 90% white (some of whom feel emboldened enough to write trash like this: Diversity education is divisive education) I am not satisfied.

Please follow our website to keep up to date with what you can do to join the fight for ethnic studies in Washington State. Check the Follow tab to learn about organizations in your district and region, many of whom need your support!