Do we want — and do we all deserve — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Our nation is at a crisis point, and we must start personally and publicly asking questions about what we stand for, what we hold as our core beliefs and values.
This month alone, I have grieved and grappled with the shooting of two black men by police during routine and low-level interactions; then, at a demonstration against these actions, as a nation, we recognized the slaying of five police officers as being unjust as well.
This violence and hatred has to stop. It has to stop. And Tukwila can lead the change. In this community of global citizenship, with all races, skin colors, cultures and religions represented, we can set the example for the nation.
As the superintendent of schools, I experience the hope and good intentions of our students and police officers daily: Our law enforcement wants to do what’s right. We see the humanity in each other.
Support of one group is not exclusive of the other, yet we still have work to do on this front. I believe that we have to start with hard conversations.
In the Tukwila School District, race and equity issues are a top priority for the coming year. We have recently adopted a race and equity policy focusing on the importance of this work being front and center. This includes committee work, cross-examination of our discipline and academics, dialogue and training.
However, this work is not new. In 1946, Albert Einstein emphatically discussed the relationship between individual people and how their attitudes toward one another demonstrated significant biases. He gave emphasis to our current somber reality when discussing Americans: “Their sense of equality and human dignity is mainly limited to men of white skins. Even among these there are prejudices of which I as a Jew am clearly conscious; but they are unimportant in comparison with the attitude of the ‘Whites’ toward their fellow-citizens of darker complexion, particularly toward Negroes.”
Today as I hear about brutality against black people across the country, I have significant concerns and embarrassment as a white woman. I agree with the contemporary intellect of Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, who says that whiteness is blindness. My entire perspective is shaped by an experience of privilege unknown to those who are not white.
My commitment, then, is to understand and to act in support of my community and students. There has been minimal growth as a nation on this front. This situation pains me, but the time has come to shape our lives differently and have the courage to set examples by choosing our words impeccably and acting on behalf of every human being in terms of their worth as positive contributions to the greater good. We must move and devote all energies toward healing as one United States of America.
How do I begin to see what I do not even know? Black people should not be the sacrificial lamb to latent levels of racism, fear and blindness. I do not want my black brothers and sisters to have to raise their children differently in how they approach police; I do not want police vilified — or harmed — in their work to keep us safe. My question is how we as the United States of America begin to listen to Black America in a way that creates a bridge of reconciliation, peace and — the ultimate — love.
How do we unearth our own biases? Do we want to hear the true story Tukwila? Are we afraid?
The good news is that love is far, far easier than hatred. When we have the courage to refute hate and acknowledge our blindness, we move forward. We must move to love, compassion and humanity for all. We need to be united and peaceful, singing collectively as one United States. Every brother and sister needs to answer to these situations with love, peace and what is fair and just. Every human being deserves the utmost respect. When one of us falls, we all suffer. We stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter because Black America is in crisis—we need to spotlight and stop the historic violence, marginalization, and segregation that continue to plague black Americans. This is about all of us collectively.
I also want to emphatically support our police officers and first-line responders. In Tukwila, the emphasis is on a shift to community policing, which is exactly right. Instead of enforcers, our officers need to be resources.Police and first responders need to know our community members on a personal level, and vice versa. Instead of fear, our families should think safety when they are approached by someone in uniform. One of the most important ways to support community policing is simple: Making sure that our first-responders have the resources and facilities to be out among residents—a presence in neighborhoods—in a meaningful way.
The city has developed a proposed Public Safety Plan that prioritizes fully funding police, fire and other first responders by investing in safe, modern buildings and equipment. Much of the funding would likely come from a voter-approved bond in November, depending on how the City Council proceeds with the plan. I am in full support of prioritizing first responders!From my perspective, our nation is also at a crisis point for first responders, and the solution is more training, more support and more presence. We need to attract and educate the best people to be on the front lines, and that way we can hold them accountable for upholding the same values and service levels that we as a community demand.
Tukwila makes me proud every day, and this critical time in our nation’s conscience is no exception. I know that we have the mindsets — and more importantly, the heartsets — to come together with love and to set the example for the rest of our nation. Let’s make it happen.
Dr. Nancy Coogan
Tukwila Schools Superintendent Dr. Nancy Coogan can be reached at 206-901-8006 or at email@example.com.