A Public Statement from Bank Street College
June 2, 2020
The Bank Street College community affirms that teaching and learning are expressions of justice. Education can be—must be—both demanding and uplifting, intentional and expansive, inclusive and liberating—and speaks to the human dignity of every child. We are guided by the belief that human beings learn in the context of meaningful relationships and through doing, making, and changing the world around us. In moments where we see great injustice, we cannot remain silent. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”
Six years ago, we first heard the phrase “I can’t breathe…” The victim was Eric Garner, who died at the hands of a group of police officers in Staten Island. Last Monday, George Floyd uttered those very words while he was being murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis. “I can’t breathe…” has become a call to action for all of us. “I can’t breathe…” is the rising anger toward injustice that so many of us feel as we are witnessing these events. “I can’t breathe…” should remind us that although some of us are able to tune out, there are many among us who navigate the world daily holding their breaths. Most importantly, “I can’t breathe…” describes the experiences of all Black Americans who are impacted and harmed by systemic racism.
This systemic racism is also responsible for the disproportionate burden we have seen on Black communities and other communities of color during the current COVID-19 health crisis. Here in New York, we have witnessed tremendous loss in the past two months. Twenty-one thousand of our fellow citizens have died and Black and Latinx New Yorkers are dying at twice the rate of White and Asian residents. Across the United States, people of color make up 45% of all essential workers—which means they belong to a population more likely to be exposed to or infected by COVID-19, while having less access to the critical resources required to be safe during a pandemic. Lower income communities throughout New York have historically been segregated by race, often with limited access to quality health care. These structural issues have a long history in the United States and are representative of inequities that are made worse by anti-Black racism.
We support the protests and share the outrage arising in response to these injustices. Bank Street College of Education adds our voices to the swelling anti-racist public response. These voices, our voices, must be heard and we must hold our leaders, our public institutions, and ourselves accountable for making concrete changes. We commit to redoubling our efforts to transform the systems that continue to devalue the lives of Black people in our communities.
We at Bank Street stand for equity and social justice. We will continue to do the daily work of building a community of educators, students, families, and partners who are working toward an inclusive and liberated society. We ask that you join us.
Signed by the Bank Street College Cabinet
Shael Polakow-Suransky, President
Suleyni Abreu, Deputy Chief Operating Officer
Katie Connelly, Chief of Staff
Tracy Fray-Oliver, Senior Associate Vice President, Bank Street Education Center
Laura Guarino, Associate Dean of Children’s Programs
Marcela Hahn, Vice President for Development
Doug Knecht, Vice President, Bank Street Education Center
Jed Lippard, Dean of Children’s Programs
Akilah Rosado, Vice President, Governance and Community Engagement
Cecelia Traugh, Dean, Graduate School of Education
Justin Tyack, Chief Operating Officer