The covid pandemic has been brutally hard on all of us, as we struggle to balance work and other commitments, care for family members, and support our students emotionally through this traumatic time. To get through this, our solidarity as union members and our supportive relationships with each other are more important now than ever.
While acknowledging the struggles we all face, it is critical to recognize that this pandemic has unleashed an ugly and extremely dangerous form of anti-Asian racism and xenophobia that we must fight and defeat. We see it on the national stage in increased incidents of harassment and hate crimes against Asian Americans, and in despicable rhetoric from politicians. In our own community, we have seen Asian and Asian-American educators and students targeted in hate-filled “Zoom-bombing” incidents in high school classes. We must be absolutely clear and unwavering in our support for Asian and Asian-American students, educators, and families who have been targets, or are at risk of being targets, of this hate.
Let us take this moment to think about how we can use our collective power to take a stand against racism in all of its forms and acknowledge that hate and xenophobia have no place in our schools and our community. Let us also see this as a call to action to reflect on our own privileges and biases, and commit to further educating ourselves and becoming even better allies for our students and fellow educators of color.
As we develop a plan as a union at the local and statewide level to counter this hate, each of us is called upon to reflect on how we can show support and solidarity for our Asian and Asian-American coworkers and students on an individual level. This can be as simple as checking in to see how your Asian-identifying students and coworkers are doing, or organizing a video or photo collage with your colleagues sending the message that we love and support our Asian and Asian-American students, and that we stand firm in rejecting hate. If we all commit to being allies in our everyday interactions with our colleagues and students, we can make this crisis just a little more bearable for many of us who are most at risk.
In the longer term, our Asian-American students need us to learn even more about their experiences and the challenges they face. Many Asian-American students have had to contend with long-standing explicit and implicit bias and discrimination that the current, alarming rise in anti-Asian American sentiment has exacerbated. The “model minority” stereotype, an assumption that all Asian-American students do exceptionally well academically, can lead many of us to assume that Asian-American students are thriving. Too often, this means that Asian-American students face risks to their emotional and mental health that we as a school system fail to identify. And more Asian-American students face socioeconomic challenges than many Newton staff would imagine. These struggles may not always be visible to educators for a variety of reasons, but they are a very real part of many Asian-American students’ lives as they go through the Newton Public Schools. We must commit to showing our Asian-American students that we see them, hear them, and value them as individuals and as an essential part of the Newton community.
If you have ideas for how we can leverage the collective power of our union to support Asian-Americans and all communities of color, please let us know. And to our members who identify as Asian or Asian-American, please know that you are not alone. Just as we reaffirm our commitment to supporting all of our students and members of color, we pledge to stand in solidarity with you, support you as coworkers, friends, and allies, and take actions large and small to defeat hate and bias in all forms.
**Thank you to Mike Schlegelmilch, who spearheaded the effort to compose this NTA statement. Thank you to Charlene Beh and Michelle Leong for getting the conversation started, and to Sue Cohen, Ariana Foster, and Jane Frantz of the Executive Committee for their work composing the statement. The statement itself has the unanimous support and endorsement of the NTA Executive Committee.