Back to All Blog Posts

Ahmaud Arbery is the Reason We Must Train Politicians to Be Anti-Racist

School Board Partners T-Shirt

If you are angry that another black man was murdered in broad daylight by white men who weren’t arrested for two months, you might be feeling like the system is broken. But the system isn’t broken. It is working exactly as it was designed and has been upheld for decades by (mostly white) elected leaders.

If we want behaviors and actions to change — whether in policing, schools, city hall, or congress — we need politicians who have the skills, knowledge and mindset to lead through an anti-racist lens.

Every elected leader in America has grown up in a system founded on the principals of racism. Even the nicest, most well-meaning politicians grew up reading textbooks and watching movies that portray white people as strong, smart leaders and black and brown people as lazy, violent criminals. You can’t change systems built on centuries of racist beliefs and policies without intentionally unlearning those beliefs and relearning new behaviors that are anti-racist.

We created School Board Partners to begin training a new generation of elected leaders who want to lead using an anti-racist framework and need support to do so. We need similar organizations training other elected leaders to do the same — in city halls, state houses and federal chambers.

Elected leaders receive very little training and support in general, across a wide array of areas. Politicians regularly manage budgets and staff far larger than they have experienced prior to running for office. Very few politicians have written policy prior to their swearing in. And even fewer have received training on how to ensure those budgets and policies are anti-racist.

Becoming an anti-racist elected leader takes time, commitment and resources. First, you have to study the history of policymaking in America and how our government has upheld racist policies across every area of life, including policing, housing, schooling, transportation, healthcare, and more. Then you must review all policy under your purview and identify how each policy is implicitly or explicitly perpetuating racism and oppression. Next you must rewrite and pass anti-racist policy while bringing your community and staff along with you to support the new policies. Finally, you must hire or appoint leaders who will implement new policy with fidelity, and hold them accountable for doing so.

Elected leaders should not feel guilt for what they don’t know or haven’t learned up until this point. We all grew up in a racist system and none of us are individually responsible for that reality. But unless each of us with a seat at the table commit to unlearning and recreating the policies and systems that govern how Americans will live, beautiful humans like Ahmaud Arbery will continue to be victimized by our racist systems. They might be murdered at gunpoint, or they might die because of racist health care policies or they might languish in jail because of the school-to-prison pipeline.

What I know for sure is that white men will only murder black men for as long as they are confident that their elected leaders will protect them. All elected leaders, but especially those of us who are white, must commit to changing that reality — not through thoughts and prayers, but through policy and behavior change.

If you are feeling helpless right now, write your local elected leaders and ask what they are doing to rewrite policies and procedures that are anti-racist. Until white people demand something different, it will stay the same, and as a country we will mourn and then promptly forget each life that is lost due to racist policies. In order to undo centuries of harm, we cannot simply believe we are not racist, we must commit to being intentionally anti-racist.

Ahmaudarbery, Anti Racist, School Board, School Board Elections