Dear Oakland Unified Community,
I am heartbroken for our country. What is happening in Washington, D.C. is outrageous and criminal. And I am holding our students, families and staff in my heart.
Not surprisingly, these events in the nation’s capitol have some members of our community, especially our students, upset and scared. Of course, Oakland is one of the most diverse cities in the world, and many residents come from countries that have experienced exactly this kind of uprising but with much more tragic and life-altering outcomes. I know some of our students and families are expressing concerns about their own safety and the security of our nation.
I hear you, and I share your concerns. This is an upsetting time for our country. But please consider that this activity is happening 3000 miles away and that the distance protects us from this threat to our democracy. The District, the City of Oakland and the State of California will do everything possible to protect all residents from any infringement of their rights or threat to their safety.
January 6 is historically a day of celebration when a joint session of Congress counts and confirms the electoral college vote for president, formalizing the next president’s path to inauguration on January 20. It is a ceremonial part of the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to another. But what is happening in the nation’s capitol is anything but a peaceful transfer of power.
Some people who disagree with the results of a free and fair election in which Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the White House have decided to try to damage, if not tear down, our democracy. It’s clear that they have been motivated by the words of the current president who refuses to accept his defeat. The people who support the president have broken into the capitol building, damaged property, clashed with police, and they overtook the floors of the House and the Senate.
This is not what our country is about. Protest, yes. Insurrection, no. The U.S. is a democracy, and I join the chorus of voices calling for this anti-democratic behavior in Washington to end immediately. I hope we can all recommit ourselves to what President-elect Biden described today as, “The renewal of a politics that’s about solving problems, looking out for one another, not stoking the flames of hate and chaos.”
Also, I must address one more thing of critical importance in our community and our country. In response to the events of today and how the police treated the rioters, the NAACP tweeted, “They’ve killed us for less!” The police response to this insurrection has obviously been measured, and the rioters have been treated very differently from protestors during months of Black Lives Matter demonstrations. It’s impossible to look at this as anything but a product of white supremacy. Honestly, can you imagine what would have happened if BLM demonstrators had done the same thing at the capitol? It saddens me and reinforces why OUSD must continue to stand proud and strong in our work towards becoming an anti-racist district.
To students expressing fear or distress about what they’re witnessing, we encourage you to reach out to your teacher, principal or counselor, reach out to our behavioral health team, and if need be, access the Alameda County Crisis Hotline at 1-800-309-2131. Also, our teachers will prepare in the days to come to provide support in class, and help students understand what it all means in their lives and in our country.
It may be a shocking scene but it will pass, and sometime in the not too distant future, our students will be studying what happened this week in their civics, history, and government classes. Let’s band together and support one another as we work through this challenging time. As a nation and as a community, we will get past this episode united, with a new opportunity to continue to perfect our union with new leadership, representing the most diverse cabinet in American history.
Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell