To the NAPE Community:
This week the world witnessed an extraordinary assault upon our nation’s history, democracy, and the rule of law. Not since the War of 1812 has the United States Capitol been besieged with such blatant disregard for human life. Worse, these actions were done at the hands of American citizens. At a time when the country is already buckling under the pressure of an almost year-long pandemic, national racial unrest, and economic recession, we watched in horror, disgust and disbelief as American citizens stormed the United States Capitol to disrupt the processes of democratic government that define us as a nation.
One of the most widely circulated photos of the scene showed Congresswoman Susan Wild (D-PA), forced to take cover on the House Floor, as Capitol Hill police attempted to restrain the mob that soon succeeded in invading the House Chamber. The blow struck against our country’s legitimate electoral processes, and the threat levied against our elected congressional representatives, were a grim reminder that our own safety and freedom depend on the ability of our system of government to fairly represent and protect us.
We were also reminded that our prized democratic freedoms are not and have never been equitably distributed. The striking contrast between law enforcement’s response to this insurrection, and its aggressive handling of last summer’s civil rights protests, served to highlight the dangerous disparities, consequences and concerns associated with systemic racism that animated those protests.
Last June, largely nonviolent protesters against racial injustice, many of them African American, were forcibly dispersed from Lafayette Square with tear gas in a clash that left a number of them injured. At the U.S. Capitol, the primarily white insurrectionists who smashed windows to break into and vandalize the U.S. Capitol including the Senate Chamber and the Speaker’s office were able to wander freely within and to depart with little interference.
As an equity organization, we have a solemn responsibility to adhere to the principles of American democracy that form the foundation of our nation’s government: to uphold them when they are under threat, and to critique them when they fail to live up to our aspirations. A moment like this is a test of our mission.
The goal of NAPE is to support a network of powerful advocates and leaders within the educational equity movement. This requires a shared commitment to social and racial justice in all aspects of our work. This week’s shocking events underlined the urgency of that need. We were reminded of the importance of shared sources of reliable information as a basis for forming opinions; of the power of language to influence people’s beliefs and actions; of the need for civic education to instill understanding and respect for democratic processes; and of the role of social analysis in understanding systemic racism and privilege.
Many events of the past year have shown that the need to educate ourselves about critical issues in the world is a challenging and lifelong project. We hope that the modes of inquiry, discussion, and support that are the pillar of NAPE’s work will be a valuable resource to all of us at this difficult time.
Thank you for your support of NAPE and its vital mission in the lives of our members, our partners, and the country.
From the Staff and Consultants, NAPE Executive Committee, and NAPE Education Foundation Board
Written by Gregory Jackson, Associate Director of Membership and Partnerships and Lisa Ransom, Senior Policy Advisor