Keenan Anderson, a Black high-school teacher and dad, died last week after being tased by LAPD. Systemic oppression kills Black people, literally, and relentless anti-racism in and across all societal systems is the only thing that can save our children. I write this statement in support of KIPP SoCal’s commitment to take a leading stance against systemic racism.
Keenan was an English teacher at Digital Pioneers Academy in Washington DC. His principal Mashea Ashton, worked at KIPP Foundation and has worked with many Team Members at KIPP SoCal. Our hearts ache for the Anderson family and the DPA community, as we simultaneously affirm our love for all, including those we don’t know or have a connection with.
To be sure, the investigation into Keenan’s death has only just begun, and we won’t know all the facts for some time yet. However, the videos released by LAPD clearly show he was not “violently resisting arrest” nor “posed an immediate threat to the safety of the officer or others”, the only permissible uses for tasers listed in LAPD’s Use of Force Tactics Directive.
In the aftermath of this tragedy, many of us are feeling restless, and want to use the surge of activist energy we are feeling. Like a mythical Hydra, racism grows and regenerates unless and until it is attacked at all levels: systemically, organizationally, interpersonally, and internally. Here are a few reflections and suggestions to guide us in the quest to end racism.
- Systems of oppression are interconnected in a tangled web and regularly benefit from one another. In other words, racism in policing is made stronger by racism in education, in healthcare, and on and on. But instead of being ordered in sequence, each node is connected to every other node, creating a very strong and resilient racism fabric.
- Tasers are not benign, they are lethal (see here and here). Write to your elected officials (who determine budgets) and police commissioner boards (who determine police policy) and persuade them to divest from tasers and invest deeply in de-escalation mindset, policy, procedures, trainings, and practice.
- Everyone is invited to get directly involved in work at KIPP SoCal to accelerate our transformation into an anti-racist organization: by joining the change team and setting direction, having conversations with your team to internalize the anti-racism standards and incorporate them in your day-to-day, participating in pilot programs beginning this winter, and providing feedback. Please follow up with Ms. Queenie Johnson if interested.
- Be mindful of your impact in your interpersonal relationships. Apologize, make amends, and ask for adjusting feedback.
Anti-racism is action, never words or intentions alone. What our KIPPsters need from us today and always is grounded adults who are vigilant and relentless in our advocacy for them. Let it be so.