Photo by Jerónimo Bernot on Unsplash
Dear Launch community,
Today we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day and honor Dr. King’s civil rights work.
It’s been more than 50 years since the assassination of Dr. King and the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and we’ve come a long way. But you only have to look at the attempted insurrection last week to acknowledge that we have more work to do. A mob of far-right extremists and white supremacists violently stormed the Capitol building, waved the Confederate flag, shouted racial and anti-Semitic slurs, and erected a gallows and noose – a disturbing reminder of the terrorization and lynching of Black people during Jim Crow.
We have a widespread cultural belief in this country that America is the land of equal opportunity, and that if you only work hard enough you’ll be successful. But it’s a sad truth that this idea of the United States as a bastion of equal opportunity for all is just a myth. There are clear racial disparities in education, income, home ownership, health outcomes, and the criminal justice system due to historical and systemic racism.
Our mission at Launch is to fight against racial inequity in education, close the opportunity gap, and expand access to learning programs for all children – particularly those who are furthest from educational justice, including children of color, low-income children, immigrants and refugees, English language learners, children receiving special education services, children experiencing homelessness, and children living in foster care. As educators, we have an important role to play in furthering Dr. King’s legacy and fighting white supremacy and racial injustice. Our role is not just to teach children their numbers and letters, but to also instill in them a sense of empathy, kindness, respect for diversity, and social justice ethics.
As Dr. King said in The Purpose of Education,
“Education must also train one for quick, resolute and effective thinking. To think incisively and to think for one’s self is very difficult. We are prone to let our mental life become invaded by legions of half truths, prejudices, and propaganda. At this point, I often wonder whether or not education is fulfilling its purpose. A great majority of the so-called educated people do not think logically and scientifically. Even the press, the classroom, the platform, and the pulpit in many instances do not give us objective and unbiased truths. To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.
The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals.”
Part of honoring the legacy of Dr. King is taking sustained action to make our community a better, more equitable place and actively fighting racism and white supremacy. Launch is wholeheartedly committed to this work.
Over the past year we’ve done racial equity trainings with staff, expanded our tuition assistance program to support more families who otherwise wouldn’t have access to quality programs, prioritized enrolling children furthest from educational justice, and hired a contractor to provide translation and interpretation services for families who speak a non-English language. But as I said above, we have more work to do.
In the coming year, we’ll be deepening our racial equity work, including developing a formal racial equity framework and theory of change to drive our work, implementing the Black Lives Matter at School curriculum in our programs, evaluating/modifying our policies and practices to be more equitable, and taking a more active role in advocating for policies, laws, and funding that support racial justice.
We’ll share more about our racial equity journey in the coming months, along with opportunities for our community to partner with us in this work. I look forward to engaging with you throughout this process!
I also encourage you to attend one of the many local virtual events to honor Dr. King and take action towards racial justice in the coming days. Below are a few great opportunities:
Below are some resources for families on talking about Dr. King and civil rights with children: