I’m a 54-year old White woman, a Chicagoan, a fellow educator to many of you I am guessing. For decades my commitment has been to transforming our Chicago high schools to be places that welcome, support, inspire, challenge, and engage students, supporting them to see and create visions for their future selves, particularly our Black and Brown students who have been so severely marginalized by our system. While my commitment to social and racial justice in education remains strong, my perspective on my position and power is shifting as I wrestle with the skin that I’m in and the current social and political context: how can I believe that education is the ‘great equalizer’ when we see countless instances in which those who have been through the education system still face racism and injustices daily? What is my role in reproducing this inequitable and oppressive system? How do I show up as a White ally in such an explicitly atrocious time of White supremacy and anti-Black racism?
I like to think of myself as a White ally though in all honesty it’s a journey, a life-long one for sure, and I have to grapple with the fact that I can easily absolve myself from fulfilling that responsibility if I’m not vigilant, and that I’ll never fully arrive…On my journey over the years I have experienced movement in my own consciousness and allyship, though much more movement is necessary:
Call to Action
While allyship is a process and a journey, I/we as White people have got to do better NOW. I/we’ve got to get with it, stay in it, and stick with it. Not letting go when it becomes uncomfortable, or is inconvenient, when life starts to return to ‘normal’ after covid-19, when we stop seeing protests in the nightly news. Calling on us to not be this:
“Racists are counting on you to continue doing nothing. They are certain that before long, you will return to your blissful state of denial, where racism is somebody else’s problem. And you will not disappoint them. Racists know some of you better than you know yourselves.”
We can and we must be this!:
“Happy Birthday, Ahmaud. Your murder was so egregious, we just might get the cross-racial coalition we need, which is the only strategy against racism that ever truly works. Rest peacefully and don’t worry.
I’ve enlisted the antiracist White people, and with them we are unstoppable. The racism that killed you doesn’t stand a chance. It’s just a matter of time now.”
Mary Ann Pitcher is currently serving as an education consultant and coach. She co-founded and co-directed the Network for College Success at the University of Chicago (NCS), a high school network and research-practice partnership that supports leaders in improving their schools with a particular focus on supporting students through graduation and postsecondary preparation, access and success. Prior to NCS, Mary Ann co-founded and co-directed the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School of Chicago and taught English and co-founded a small school at Harper High School, Chicago Public Schools. Mary Ann has a Master in Education in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Illinois at Chicago and thirty years experience working for equitable learning environments and outcomes for students in Chicago. She continues to examine and strengthen her own equity stance, knowledge, will, and skill as a White educator.