Charlottesville, White Supremacy and Race Equity

The Minnesota Education Equity Partnership (MnEEP) – an education race equity collaborative of education institutions and people of color and Indigenous people – joins with many voices in unequivocally condemning the racial violence, the attempt to sow fear and the political agenda of racial hatred perpetrated by white nationalist groups in Charlottesville, NC this past weekend.

In a nationally organized effort, white nationalist groups from across the country – chanting Nazi era slogans and armed with weapons – invaded the campus of an institution of higher education, the University of Virginia (U.Va) in order to riot and attack students and others alike. One person was killed when a white supremacist deliberately drove a vehicle into a crowd of peaceful counter-protestors. Two law enforcement officers died while monitoring the ensuing chaos.

MnEEP recognizes that knowledge is a key to countering racism and as such, is threatening to racists and those who seek to perpetuate white supremacy and privilege. We believe it was not a coincidence that those seeking to preserve systemic racism chose to act violently at a university – a place of learning, a place of nurturing leaders for a just and multi-racially inclusive democracy.

As a state public research university U.Va offers 11 Ethnic And International Studies Degree programs which seek to advance the knowledge needed to undo racism by furthering the academic identity and the skills of people of color and Indigenous peoples. In 2015, U.Va conferred 411 Bachelor’s degrees, 23 Doctoral degrees, and 18 Master’s degrees to individuals pursuing this knowledge.

MnEEP believes this is the appropriate and necessary work of a public state school.

MnEEP calls on all Minnesotans to not only condemn this act of domestic terrorism but to do so in a re-commitment to eliminating systemic racism in America and in our state.

That re-commitment includes strengthening the ability of our state’s E-12 schools, colleges and universities to use race equity as a guiding mandate to produce new curriculum, ways of teaching, structuring schools and college, and the empowerment of students of color and American Indian students to form their academic identity – one that leads to cognitive and spirit liberation from our systems of institutional racism.

MnEEP believes the agenda needed to counter the resurgent tide of American white supremacy and to equip Americans with the tools to realize racial justice must include the fuller implementation of Ethnic Studies at the U of Minnesota, the MnState system and at our private colleges as well as at all  E-12 schools in Minnesota.

MnEEP also believes that an anti-racist agenda calls for our state to quickly raise the number of teachers of color and American Indian teachers in our public E-12 schools to reflect the racial/cultural diversity of students. That would put an additional 15,000 such teachers in our public classrooms.

The MnEEP community’s thoughts and prayers are with the families of Heather Heyer, H. Jay Cullen, and Berke M.M. Bates who lost their lives this weekend, as well as with the many others who were attacked and beaten by white supremacists.

MnEEP’s work is based on a belief that we are a better people than what was witnessed in the hatred of white supremacists at Charlottesville. By advancing race equity in education we can realize being that better people.

—Carlos Mariani Rosa, MnEEP executive director