The high-profile murder of George Floyd last May at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer and other fatal incidents involving law enforcement and minorities has spurred a renewed interest in addressing racism in society.
Following the conviction of Derek Chauvin last Tuesday, Village of Ossining Mayor Rika Levin, Ossining Town Supervisor Dana Levenberg and Ossining Superintendent of Schools Dr. Raymond Sanchez issued a joint statement to the community, declaring, “It is time for leadership and time to dismantle racism and build new equitable structures in our community for generations to come.”
Beyond what they termed a “monumental verdict” by the jury in the Chauvin case, the Ossining leaders maintained other acts of hate in municipalities throughout the country propelled them to act swiftly to “address our long history of racism and bigotry, and the corrosive impact they have had on every facet of American life.”
The trio mentioned other events that have “brought us to this point of reckoning,” naming: an increase in violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, fueled by an attempt by some to link Asians to the creation and spread of the coronavirus; a wave of discrimination and hateful rhetoric directed as Jewish Americans, Muslim Americans, LGBTQ individuals, immigrants and individuals with disabilities; and the disproportionate toll COVID-19 has had in exacerbating educational inequities on minorities and poor students.
“These national tragedies have combined to create a perfect storm—a storm that is powerful enough to propel us beyond the systemic racism that has come to define America’s institutions,” Levin, Levenberg and Sanchez wrote. “This systemic racism pervades all aspects of our lives, including policing, education, healthcare, employment, housing, access to capital, and in almost every other conceivable realm. It limits our potential as individuals, as communities, and as a nation.”
“There is no single, isolated answer that will solve these pervasive problems,” they continued. “Rather, the approach must be holistic and inclusive. The way we educate new generations of students will shape our nation’s course for years to come.”
Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky recently declared racism as a public health threat.
Levin, Levenberg and Sanchez stated while there is long-term work required to ensure equity in communities, immediate acts must be taken to provide support to students, staff and families to cope personally with recent events; provide resources to educators to support students to deal with the events as part of their civic development; and partner with one another to stand against racism.
“We know that as a community, it is time to move beyond emotional reactions and statements, and instead leverage our community members of all ages, and the structures we have in place,” they stated.