Last October, teachers in the Seattle Public Schools district planned a Black Lives Matter in the Seattle Public Schools event that consisted of wearing T-shirts with the slogan printed on them, despite the fact that a similar effort at Seattle’s John Muir Elementary in September was met with criticism, hate mail and threats of violence.
The teachers expected backlash, and they got it, in the form of white parents from the city’s wealthier neighborhoods writing to their school principals and saying that they were displeased that such an event would take place, saying that a Black Lives Matter day was too militant, too political and too confusing for their young children, according to KUOW.
Because the parents would not speak directly with the news station about their displeasure, KUOW made a public records request and published their emails with all identifying information redacted.
The letters’ range in tone from “Not all white people” to “What about Martin Luther King’s dream,” but in the examples cited, KUOW notes that the parents complaining are from “one of the whitest, most affluent” and “staunchly liberal neighborhoods dotted with rainbow yard signs that say ‘All Are Welcome.’”
Wrote a parent at Laurelhurst Elementary: “Can you please address … why skin color is so important? I remember a guy that had a dream. Do you remember that too? I doubt it. Please show me the content of your character if you do.”
From Eckstein Middle School in Wedgwood: “What about red and black or yellow and white and black? How does supporting Black Lives Matter help that gap?”
And from Bryant Elementary in Ravenna: “I’m writing to share what my 9-year-old daughter told me about what she learned in class regarding the Black Lives Matter discussion. She said she ‘felt bad about being white.’ And that ‘police lie and do bad things.’”
Stephan Blanford, a Seattle school board member who is black, and whose doctoral research focused on race and public education, told KUOW: “This is what I’ve come to call Seattle’s passive progressiveness. We vote the right way on issues. We believe the right way. But the second you challenge their privilege, you see the response.”
This is a common refrain whenever the topic of Black Lives Matter comes up. It’s as if no matter how many times we explain that “Black Lives Matter” doesn’t mean other lives don’t, people still overlook that and want to argue about why black lives shouldn’t matter more than any others. It is the “not all whites” reaction that leads into “All Lives Matter” and ends with black people being called racist simply for pointing out that black lives should, in fact, matter.
The white parents in Seattle are a microcosm of supposedly liberal white people all over America who want to be good allies but can’t seem to move past semantics in that allyship. They get hung up on words, and not the greater actions that the words are speaking against.
Before you go over to KUOW to read the rest of the emails, pay attention to what happens in the comments of this post. Even as I type this right here and forewarn you, people will immediately jump and call me racist just for posting this.
Read more at KUOW.