Black Lives Matter at Nelson Advocacy
Every socially aware company in the world has released some feel good supportive statement about BLM and ending racism. Many of these statements are simple pablum designed to sell something or promote some mythical value these companies claim to have had despite all evidence to the contrary.
This is not that statement.
I will detail what we have done, what we are doing now, and what we plan for the future to end systemic racism and ensure that Black Lives Matter.
As an education advocate, I have witnessed systemic discrimination first hand. Not only have I seen rampant disability discrimination against children of every race, I have seen specific and targeted racial decisions made against individual black students. I have documented and reported incidents where entire groups of black students were targeted en masse. I have seen video of my African-American clients assaulted by SROs (School Resource Officers) in our schools for doing nothing more than raising their voices. I have watched and fought against unequal punishments at multiple schools in multiple school districts where black students were punished for the same actions for which their white peers received no punishment at all.
It broke my heart.
And after that, it made me angry.
So here is what I will do with my anger.
While I am an educated person, I do not and cannot know everything. As a white male, I have benefitted from privilege my entire life, even though at times I did not see it.
I know this.
I have always known it, even at times when it was uncomfortable to admit.
So now I am reading more to learn. At the moment I am reading "Between the World and Me" by Ta-Nehisi Coates and "Disrupting the School-To-Prison Pipeline" by Bahena, Cooc, and Currie-Rubin. Although I have worked for years to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline for my kids, I now realize that more targeted systemic action is required.
I am also reviewing my case files to see if there are instances where follow up actions are possible. My focus is always on the child first, and since I charge by the hour parents cannot always afford to deal with all the problems that exist. So to that end I plan to use the hours in my Advocacy Fund to help parents file additional complaints or write letters to address systemic race and disability based discrimination.
I say "race and disability based discrimination" for a reason. As an example, a non-disabled black student is 2 times more likely to be suspended than a non-disabled white student. A disabled white student is 3 times more likely to be suspended than his non-disabled white peers. However, a black student with a disability is 5 times more likely to be suspended than a non-disabled white peer. These kids are hit hardest by the exclusionary discipline system we currently promote in schools.
This is where we are not sure what to do. This is our company, and Kelly and I make the decisions. That said, we are not people of color. We need feedback and guidance. We will soon send out a survey to our mailing list asking for feedback on our proposed future actions. We will also post it here when it is done.
It is important to us that we include the voices of those we represent in our actions. As the autistic adults as A.S.A.N. proudly state "nothing about us without us." We are willing to be guided by the voices of those who experience racism every day. If we don't listen to the folks who are affected then we will never solve the problem.
Right now we see a few major issues that need to be addressed.
- Remove SROs from schools.
- Extend the reporting time for Office of Civil Rights discrimination complaints from 6 months to 2 years.
- End exclusionary discipline practices in schools.
- End restraint and seclusion in schools.
These are the first 4 that come to mind. We will expound on them in future blog posts so folks can understand why they are important. However, we are open to other ideas.
Help us be the advocates our community needs, because if black lives don't matter then no lives matter.