Letter to Our Community

Jul 8, 2020

Why learning about systemic racism is not enough

We are in a moment of reckoning. In addition to the pandemic, we are also experiencing a groundswell of pain, awareness, and activism around systemic racism due to the recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and George Floyd. We affirm and will keep affirming, that Black Lives Matter.

It is within this context that we underscore both the urgency and the long-term importance of Mosaic’s work. To do so, we refer you to our Need Statement and the Pyramids of Violence and Peace that underlie all that we do. You will see that at the foundation of these self-perpetuating pyramids are segregation and connection. Segregation is at the root of systemic racism and violence, and connection is at the root of the solution.

It is important to educate ourselves about systemic racism AND it is not enough. When we do not actually know others from different backgrounds than ourselves, we are left to rely, whether consciously or unconsciously, on the stereotypes that surround us. These stereotypes enable us to dehumanize others and block our ability to empathize.

Just as no child should graduate from elementary school without learning to read and write, no child should graduate without friends from different backgrounds or without understanding how stereotyping works and how to truly see others. Only when we can connect, respect, and empathize across differences, can we move towards justice and peace.

We have witnessed countless students from homogeneous schools who can recite all the core social justice tenets — yet, when they arrive at our Outdoor Project and share a cabin with a diverse group of students for the first time, they struggle to put these lessons into practice. It is only after close interpersonal connections with other students and the patient guidance of our diverse staff that they are eventually able to embody the lessons.

The systems that separate us are powerful. If only it were as simple as, “Let’s just come together and be nice to each other.” If we are truly going to come together to make change, we must be extremely thoughtful and intentional. As research shows, in order to come together and overcome prejudice, we must work on common goals, address issues of discrimination head on, and learn skills for authentic interaction and assertive conflict resolution. We must dismantle the Pyramid of Violence and build the Pyramid of Peace.

It is not enough to read about and discuss peace and justice — we must live them. The Mosaic Project seeds society with thousands of students who have experienced building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community and are inspired to create such communities throughout their lives.

Over the past several weeks, our teaching staff has been visiting our partner schools’ virtual classrooms to facilitate activities and discussions. Hearing from these 4th and 5th graders during this time is absolutely heartbreaking. They are well aware of all the pain and violence around them. It is essential that we show them another possibility of what the world can be and empower them to build it!

We have been doing this work for 20 years, and we will keep doing it until our neighborhoods and schools are no longer segregated and inequitable. We will not stop working toward peace, justice and a better world for all our children, and we hope you will stay by our side.

Black Lives Matter.

Photo: Julio Marcial