After a polarizing presidential election that has incited hateful incidents in our schools and communities, we have a renewed sense of purpose in our mission to promote racial equity and to preserve the basic civil rights and liberties that form the foundation of democracy in our multiracial society.
The Center for Education and Civil Rights (CECR) was established because of the importance of education in remedying the racial and economic inequality that exists in communities around the United States. For our democracy to be a reality, we cannot ignore the segregation that exists at all levels of the educational pipeline, from birth to graduate school. Nor can we overlook the fact that our political leadership is unreflective of the diversity of all members of our community.
In one of the U.S. Supreme Court’s most monumental decisions, Brown v. Board of Education, a united Court acknowledged the unique importance of integrated education more than 60 years ago:
Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities…. It is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values.
With these principles in mind, we will work with our partners to help create and sustain educational spaces that bring us together in ways that bridge the deep divisions in our country. Through our collective efforts to realize authentic integration in our schools, we will dismantle a system of racial hierarchy and move toward mutual respect, understanding and connection.
These challenging times will require new strategies to reduce the divisiveness and targeting of individuals on the basis of their identity. We cannot stand by threats and actions that are fundamentally at odds with our nation’s ideals of inclusiveness and equality. We stand with schools, universities, and other organizations that are on the front lines of education and social justice.
Now, more than ever, there is a critical role for centers like CECR to produce insightful research regarding the complicated intersections of race, class, opportunity, and rights; to build a vast network of collaborative relationships to promote our factual findings and counteract pernicious misinformation; and to facilitate action at the local, state, and federal levels to advance racial equity.
On January 14, 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at Penn State University. He said:
[W]e have come a long, long way. And I am absolutely convinced that the system of segregation is on its deathbed today, and the only thing uncertain about it is how costly the segregationists will make the funeral.
Now nearly 52 years later, we have just endured an election that revealed to all of us just how divided we still are. This is the time for us to stand together. We welcome your ideas, and your engagement in these efforts.
Co-Directors, Erica Frankenberg & Liliana M. Garces