In response to the open letter opposing a demonstration at the home of OUSD Superintendent Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammel, East Bay DSA would like to assure the Oakland Branch of the NAACP that we stand in solidarity with the Black residents of Oakland and in particular, the thousands of Black students, teachers and support staff in OUSD. In the middle of a deadly pandemic, Black OUSD students, families, classified staff, and teachers are being forced to choose between their health and their jobs and education. This is precisely why we endorsed the National Day of Action on August 3rd and the car caravan to Dr. Johnson-Trammel’s house to demand a safe reopening plan for Oakland schools.
We are deeply saddened and disturbed to learn that today, Black education leaders fighting to keep our students and families safe have received death threats for endorsing the action. We are committed to keeping the community safe, and will adjust plans as necessary to ensure everyone’s safety. This is what this event has been about the whole time.
No one should have to choose between their paycheck and their family’s health and safety. But that is an everyday reality for workers of color, who account for 66% of essential workers in the Bay Area. Families need childcare to work, and children need to continue their education. However, given the disproportionate effect of COVID in Black communities, reopening schools before it is safe to do so is nothing short of gambling with Black lives. The rush to reopen schools will not only result in unnecessary deaths, but a widening of the racial and economic gap that already plagues Oakland. While affluent families in the Oakland Hills prepare to hire private tutors and form “pandemic pods,” thousands of families in the Oakland flats still lack basic access to reliable internet, digital literacy and the necessary devices to accommodate learning at home. Delivering a strong plan for a safe and equitable reopening is Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Tramell’s responsibility, and she has failed to do so. The staggering racial disparities in COVID-19 infection and mortality rates among Black workers reflect the continued legacy of racism, segregation and white supremacy in every aspect of our society. Given the demographics of OUSD students, it is imperative that Black students’ lives come first in any organizing we do.
East Bay DSA also stands in solidarity with the labor movement and is proud to back Oakland teachers in their demand to only reopen OUSD under safe conditions. Oakland teachers are not just bargaining for their lives, but organizing to keep their students and families safe from a dangerous and premature reopening. Pressuring bosses and public officials at their places of residence — regardless of their race or ethnicity — has long been a tactic of the labor movement and grassroots organizers. East Bay DSA has stood with labor and community organizations to pressure officials at their homes for police-free schools, defunding the Oakland Police Department, and for rapid decarceration in response to COVID-19. We have publicly pressured officials ranging from our own members, like Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, to Director Jody London and Governor Gavin Newsom. The labor movement gives its rank and file the legal right to confront the boss as an equal, and exercising that right has been a major force defending the Black working class. That is what this peaceful demonstration is meant to do, and we stand in solidarity with the parents, teachers and community members who have chosen to do so.
We will not abdicate our responsibility to stand with our siblings in the labor movement and the Black working class when they choose to exercise collective power. As socialists, our strategy is predicated on building a multiracial, working-class movement to challenge the power of racial capitalism and those who uphold it. Kyla Johnson-Trammell’s interests and positions are not on the side of Oakland’s poor and working-class Black community. She supported the Blueprint Plan to close flatland schools and is a member of Republican Jeb Bush’s pro-charter organization Chiefs for Change. We will continue to support labor and our community partners over officials who tout “education reform” but continue to undermine our public schools and public safety.
We are disappointed that the letter from the Oakland branch of the NAACP decided to include within the discourse, themes of red-baiting and “outside agitators.” Both of these rhetorical tactics were used against the NAACP during the forties and fifties. And the latter “outside agitator” line has a lineage in American politics all the way back to Southern racist politics during Reconstruction. This rhetoric only serves to invalidate the demands of the Oakland community for a safe reopening.
Our leaders and members of color in the East Bay DSA Racial Solidarity Committee and Afrosocialists and Socialists of Color Caucus invite the NAACP to open up a dialogue about the best strategy to win liberation for Black communities in Oakland and beyond.
East Bay DSA Steering Committee, Racial Solidarity Committee & East Bay DSA Afrosocialists and Socialists of Color Caucus (AFROSOC)