You may have recently received a letter from my fellow Trustees regarding the current unrest in our nation. I decided to issue my own separate letter regarding these events as I believe my perspective would best be articulated outside of a joint letter.
I recognize the pain and suffering many have experienced during these tragic events. I stand with the community as we look to build a path forward.
It was absolutely heartbreaking watching the tragic death of George Floyd. People are rightly upset. George Floyd wasn’t shown basic compassion from those we expect to live up to their sacred oath to protect and serve. We are afforded due process in this country and the right to be treated humanely. Nothing was humane about that arrest.
Now, the civil unrest unfolding nationwide has reached into our own neighborhoods. As a Natomas Unified School Board Trustee, I feel the responsibility to respond to these events.
The scope and duration of the events means we are at the time and place where mere commitments to making improvements are no longer enough. As one of the most diverse school districts in the country, we have the opportunity to show people we can do better by doing our part to end systemic inequalities. Our actions should go beyond a letter, even the one that you are currently reading.
Most reasonable people agree that bridging gaps and fostering unity should occur on a level playing field. But, we should acknowledge that bridging gaps is difficult when some are stuck on levels below others. People are frustrated because they have heard promises of improvement for years on end. While there have been some improvements, many are still stuck in conditions, due to structural inequalities, that limit success.
I grew up attending defacto segregated schools in South Central Los Angeles, California. They were segregated to the point that my youthful mind concluded that somehow anti-segregation laws simply hadn’t been enacted where I lived.
Suffice to say, my experience with some police officers while growing up was distinctly different from those experiences of some of my friends who grew up in secure, suburban neighborhoods. I know the experience of having to drive straight for miles on end while being trailed by a police unit because I was too afraid that the slightest inappropriate turn of my vehicle would turn into less than desirable circumstances.
I wish I could say the nature of that relationship substantially changed during my college years, but that wouldn’t be true. I wish I could say that as an adult professional, homeowner, elected official, husband and proud father, that race differences as I move through society no longer matter. But, that would not be true either.
Unfortunately, amidst the protests, some have attempted to seize this tragic moment for their own personal gain by corrupting the message of needed change and have vandalized our communities and committed senseless acts of violence. I condemn these acts of violence and urge the community to engage in a safe and productive manner that is mindful of innocent workers and the vulnerable.
We should also resist those who intentionally seek to devolve the local and national discourse on what it takes to move the ball forward. At a time that requires leadership, we’ve seen some folks become polemicists and use red herrings to distract from real progress. I urge you to ignore these folks and to focus on the solutions and find the helpers.
And that is why, as hard as the challenges are ahead, I feel compelled to use my experiences to bridge gaps and bring people together. Yes, the conversations will be tough, but seeking revenge isn’t constructive –it will only repeat a vicious cycle of tearing each other down in which there are no winners. I am choosing to use my personal knowledge of this hurt to edify and hopefully prevent someone else from experiencing the same pain. I hope you will join me in these efforts.
Thank you for all you do for our communities and our students. It will make a difference.
Natomas Unified School District