Having watched the events of the last week, we at Facing History and Ourselves are hurting and grieving. We have seen George Floyd's brutal death at the hands of police, the sorrow and outrage of protesters in Minneapolis and around the country, and presidential tweets that escalate threats of further violence—all set against the backdrop of an ongoing pandemic which disproportionately impacts communities of color and reinforces long standing inequities. It is painful.
But as students of the past, we are not surprised. We witnessed the indignity Christian Cooper experienced while we followed the tragic news of the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. We understand the ways that history is alive in this moment: these events underscore how the legacy of slaveholding has passed to many in our society—including, lethally, law enforcement—who too frequently display indifference and disregard for black lives and black dignity. In fact, full lives and dignity are not possible when systems of law and order are not equally enforced. We stand against the systemic racism and individual bigotry that continue to take the lives of black men, women, and children in the US and other countries around the world.
We are also educators, thinking of our young people watching these same events. Many are hurting, questioning whether they belong, whether they have rights that will be respected, whether their lives matter—and many lack the supportive space of a classroom community to express their feelings and process their questions.
In this painful moment, what does it mean to be accountable to the history we teach and worthy of the students in our classrooms? Facing our history means reckoning with our repeated failure to live up to our ideals in the United States, not just as institutions but also as individuals. It also means taking strength from the bravery and persistence of those who have always insisted that America keep its promises. Facing History and Ourselves has been committed to using the lessons of history to challenge teachers and their students to stand up to bigotry and hate for over 40 years. As educators and as members of our communities, we recommit to this work and we ask you to join us.