Thinking a lot tonight about ethics of care, relationality, and the moral responsibility of a role within the structure of public education.
A few months ago (it feels like years in this pandemic but it was the end of January) I attended a conference where @alexisshotwell spoke. She talked about a lot of important things, but one of them was the role we play when we work in positions of power in colonial institutions.
In case you're unsure, public education, while amazing in many ways, definitely qualifies as a colonial institution within the framework of the Canadian state.
Anyhow, she talked about the responsibility we have as people within that system who are committed to decolonization and antiracism to confront the harm those institutions do.
That, in essence, if we hold a position of power in those spaces, part of our job is to reduce the harm those spaces do to Indigenous people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, and others who are harmed within those structures.
I took her words very much to heart. While I have been doing community work for a while on antiracism and other efforts to end oppression, I had to ask myself: am I doing all I can? Am I listening to the voices of marginalized people in education?
And I looked at how people of colour have been asking me for years. YEARS. To address the problem of policing in schools.
I've asked a lot of questions about the SRO program in private, since about 2017, but I never made that public. I asked in private thinking I could do this work easily and comfortably, without a public fuss.
I see now, in hindsight, how whiteness functions in this, how the need to be polite, to act with decorum, overrides the need to do the right thing, the thing your community is demanding you do.
That talk from @alexisshotwell was like a lightning bolt. It reminded me that I didn't run for this job to do the easy things. I ran on a platform of honouring the calls to action in the TRC. I ran on the idea of truly inclusive education.
How was I keeping those commitments by staying silent in the face of a system that is harming Indigenous children, children of colour, children with disabilities? I felt the weight of that.
And so, as I brought the motion on the SRO program, it was not from a place of winning votes (anyone who knows how this works knows that taking on the police is a bad way to win votes!). It was from a sense of responsibility to the things I said I would do when I took this job.
I'm not doing this to win an election. If anything, recent months have made me consider how the desire to win elections stops us from doing the things our ethical compass says are the right things.
I'm doing this because the people I love are hurting. Because people who helped put me here and asked me, again and again, to do the right thing, are hurting. Because the children I promised to support are hurting.
I'm doing this because the evidence is clear to me that the SRO program is causing that hurt. I can't stand by and not do anything about that any more. I should not have stood by all these years.
I don't care much, now, about what happens with future elections. What I care about now is amplifying the voices who have been telling me for too long that we needed to act.
And so, yes, I'm grateful the vote to suspend is coming back around. I am still committed to doing what is right to reduce the harms to students. I still believe that we can do better than policing children in schools.
But I am not here for me. I am here to set right what I should have done a long time ago. I hope the people who have waited for me to do this will forgive my lack of courage, and I am grateful for the grace to set it right now.
You can follow @bridgetstirling.
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