“This must stop.” Pedro Rivera calls on educators to be change agents amid George Floyd uprisings
The Pennsylvania Secretary of Education penned an open letter saying more work needs to be done to bridge the gaps in opportunity in the state and beyond.
On June 15, as Pennsylvania and the country as a whole continued to see waves of change in the face of continuing uprisings around the murders of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks and Breonna Taylor by police, one Latino in state government stood in solidarity with the movement.
“I’m outraged,” said Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera.
“Outraged that George Floyd's murder is just the latest incident in a multi-generational history of ignored brutality. Outraged that unarmed black men and women continue to die at the hands of law enforcement. Outraged that black and brown communities continue to live in fear of individuals who have pledged to serve and protect. Outraged that systemic racism continues to exist in our nation,” he said.
For Rivera, the time had come for that outrage to get results.
“This has to stop,” he said.
The racism being uncovered to this day in the U.S. isn’t something any American was born with, it’s a learned activity.
As Secretary of Education in Pennsylvania, Rivera knows all too well the role school plays in perpetuating and reinforcing racism.
“Education is an institution rife with historic inequities in resourcing, inequities in discipline, and inequities in opportunity,” he said.
But his message wasn’t just one of recognition of education’s shortcomings.
Rivera also believes it is part of the solution to achieving the better future touted by activists and other public figures alike amid the uprisings.
He spoke of some of the efforts he’s led in Pennsylvania, such as a toolkit for school communities to respond to and prevent racist incidents, hiring more teachers of color and preparing teachers and other school leaders to engage in deeper conversations about race and discrimination with students and families.
Despite the effort, Rivera isn’t claiming the fight over.
“This isn’t a victory lap — it’s our responsibility, and it’s a call to action as more work needs to be done,” he said.
That work needs to address the barriers to opportunity that still exist in Pennsylvania and the country’s schools.
Part of the solution is calling on elected officials to get more funding to schools, and another is creating an environment that empowers Black and Brown students to be leaders rather than face inequities.
Rivera warned the work is hard, but necessary. The outrage he feels for the current situation is the fuel to accomplish it.
“We must use this moment to recommit and move forward. We cannot look back a generation from now and say, ‘what if we had done more?’” he said.
In his role, Rivera plans to do his part and implores others to do so too.