June 17, 2020
Dear School District of Philadelphia Community,
As the largest, and most diverse school district in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, we have as our mission “to deliver on the civil right of every child in Philadelphia to an excellent public school education and ensure all children graduate from high school ready to succeed, fully engaged as a citizen of our world.” Embedded in this mission, then, is an inherent commitment to ensure we provide the necessary conditions needed for all of our students to excel. But, how can we truly accomplish this if some of our students are forced to witness and endure acts of hatred because of the color of their skin, are dehumanized for where they come from and how they look, and live within conditions that place their bodies under constant attack, rendering them voiceless by the very system that is supposed to protect and empower them? The answer is, we cannot.While we believe in, and will continue to cultivate, a system that addresses all forms of inequity, because of both historical and current events within our nation and city, it is imperative that we take a laser focus on acknowledging and dismantling systems of racial inequity. For us, this goes deeper and far beyond focusing on individual acts of prejudice and discrimination, but refers to uprooting policies, deconstructing processes, and eradicating practices that create systems of privilege and power for one racial group over another. While we do not have all of the answers, as a district we are committed to calling out racism when we see it, investigating racism when we hear it, and taking aggressive actions to eradicate its existence from our school system. We recognize this fight did not originate with the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. But, in light of these recent acts of hatred and ongoing actions that impact our students and school communities, we are fueled, positioned, and ready to take our commitment to the next level in order to provide our children with an education that is truly liberating, protecting, and just.
We acknowledge and honor the great work that has already been done within our school district, as many of you work tirelessly toward addressing injustices of all kinds. Now, is the time to expand our efforts and take collective action, challenging and changing the ways in which our norms, values, and structures uphold systems of racism. We can no longer be passive or disjointed in our approach. We must be bold and courageous, willing to do the necessary work to acknowledge and disrupt racist ideologies and behaviors within our own lives in an effort to dismantle racism within our school system.
Some may ask, “why are we only talking about racism when there are other systems of oppression that need to be addressed?” To that I will answer, race is the social construction that set the foundation and built the infrastructure for the United States we know today. Racism is the root of all other forms of injustice and provides the nourishment needed for other systems of oppression to thrive. As such, in order to destroy the tree, we cannot simply pick at the leaves or chop away at the trunk, we must destroy the root.
As your Superintendent, I charge every member of our school community to join in this fight toward antiracism. I urge you to prepare yourself for the heart work needed in this moment. This will not be easy, but it is very necessary.
As we move forward with this charge, we will do so together, with intention and deep purpose, centering our work through the lens of racial equity. This is indeed a sobering moment for many, but this is just the beginning. We cannot wait for anyone else to do it. We are it! We must do it! We will do it! Enough is enough! No justice, no peace!
William R. Hite Jr., Ed.D.
The School District of Philadelphia