A Painful Moment in America: An Open Letter from World Education's CEO
June 1, 2020
This letter was written to staff by Joel Lamstein, our President, in response to the killing of George Floyd.
There has been a pattern of social injustice toward the Black community and communities of color for too long in this country. The outpouring of rage seen in so many cities across America testifies to the fury that so many people feel, whether it be for the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, and so many others whose names we must say and who we must never forget.
But racism and violence have always been part of American heritage. I am currently reading a book entitled “These Truths” by Jill Lepore which traces the history of our country from its founding till now. The book pulls no punches; it shows that from our inception, even before we were a nation, we were steeped in violence against Africans, Native Americans, and others. I would recommend this book to those of you who want to understand more about the current outrage and the enduring racism in this country.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “a riot is the language of the unheard”. The demonstrations that have occurred spontaneously across the country testify to the fact that good people across a wide spectrum of our society are now listening to the "unheard" and demanding change.
These demonstrations have been peaceful and respectful for the most part. Unfortunately, the media tends to highlight the violence that has taken place, violence that has been initiated by groups whose agenda has little to do with the issues that have brought people out to demonstrate. We must not let these people and the media distract us from the issues of humanity and social justice that are the heart of our concern.
World Education is focused on issues of social justice. Our work over these many years has never wavered from that focus. One advantage of doing this work has been that we’ve come into contact with disparate communities both here and around the world. And what we've learned from those experiences is how much we are alike, how our aspirations for a healthy life, education for our children, justice and respect for all are similar.
Of course there is no way for me or any of us who are not Black to fully understand the danger and hurt that our colleagues inside and outside World Education feel. Suffice it to say, we will do our best to listen, to understand, and to stand with our colleagues as we continue to work for social justice.
My thoughts are with all of you in this difficult time. Black lives matter.
Joel Lamstein, President and CEO of World Education and JSI