Arizona Arts in Schools re-dedicates to the fight for equity

As we stand shoulder to shoulder with our partners in schools that have been ignored and underfunded for decades, we are a witness to Institutional Racism in our public-school system. This systemic racism is an inequity that’s plain to see on paper—as our nation spends $13,000 per capita per year on public education for white students versus $10,400 for students of color–and heartbreaking to see in person. That funding gap is the difference between having music classes or not, having field trips or not, having guest assemblies or not, as well as having, or not having, athletics, counselors, librarians, nurses and a host of other services and opportunities that are broadly available in more affluent U.S. schools. This dearth of opportunity also sends the most qualified teachers and most engaged families looking for better options, leaving schools populated only by children, families and teachers who have no other choice—educational deserts where we see the correlation between race and a fundamental lack of equal opportunity firsthand.

Our students, stakeholders and colleagues are Black, Indigenous and Latinx. Arizona Arts in Schools seeks team members that reflect that diversity and, as a team, we actively examine unconscious biases in our curriculum and practices. We do this because we know the unconscious biases that exist even among those we consider allies in creating broader access to arts education.

We have heard well-meaning K-12 educators, arts education funders, and other colleagues comment on our work, referring to particular student groups in which a majority were of the ethnicity indicated in brackets:

  • Those students aren’t interested in classical guitar, are they?” [those = Black]
  • Those students will never be ready to perform at an event in October. It’s too early in the school year for them.” [those/them = Latinx]
  • Those students can’t learn to read music.” [those = indigenous]

Our students disprove such biases every day. It is not racial or ethnic difference that keeps BIPOC students from engaging and achieving in the arts; it is a system that is fundamentally stacked against them and the well-worn justifications used to explain away the disparity that can produce such outcomes.

In this year where we have seen a pandemic that is killing Black, Indigenous and Latinx Americans at more than twice the rate of White Americans and as we witness instance after instance of police violence against Black citizens in the communities where we work, we at Arizona Arts in Schools re-dedicate ourselves to being allies, listeners, and learners in the fight for equity.

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