Our Children and Educators Deserve Safety to Live, Learn, Teach, and Thrive

Our hearts are heavy with the news of the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday. We at the Nellie Mae Education Foundation cannot imagine the immeasurable grief facing the students, parents, educators, and community members who are mourning the loss of nineteen children and two teachers. It is not lost on us that just last week, we released a similar statement about the mass shootings in Buffalo, Dallas, and Southern California, condemning violence and calling on others to join us in our commitment to fighting for a more just, equitable future. Now, only days later, we are facing the same devastating terror and despair again.

We know that this violence is not limited to Uvalde; we remember Sandy Hook and Parkland and more. We know this violence is not limited to schools; we remember Pulse and Walmart and countless others. We know that this violence is not even limited to mass shootings — this violence is endemic to a culture that was built on white supremacy, colonization, and oppression. The violence we fear in our country is inextricably linked to the violence that fueled the genocides of Indigenous nations and the enslavement of Black people, and it is linked to the violence of imperialism that has so defined our place in the world in both the past and present. It is linked to the violence of our immigration policies, as community members in Uvalde were reminded when Border Patrol agents showed up to the school, causing worries of detainment and deportation on top of the fear for their children’s lives. Our children and educators deserve safety to live, learn, teach, and thrive.

Last week, in the wake of three mass shootings, we reaffirmed our commitment to work towards equitable and liberatory education, and to fight against white supremacy and violence. We continue to stand firm in these commitments. But it can feel hopeless to keep repeating these commitments as violence keeps occurring, keeps killing people, keeps showing us that even if we dedicate ourselves to good work, the oppressive systems we are up against are still standing strong. Today, we came together as a work community to hold space for grief, anger, fear, and pain. It was also important to start articulating how we want and need to show up, as one institution and in partnership — taking cues from those most impacted. While we don’t hold the answers, we know we must do more and intentionally align efforts with others. We are clear that silence is not an option.

It is in moments like these that we turn to words like those from Mariame Kaba about how hope is a discipline. Hope is something that grounds us in the work, that keeps us going, even when we are tired or angry or frightened. As we use our hope to fuel our response to these terrible tragedies, we encourage others to do the same. Together, let’s leverage the full power and assets of philanthropy to exert the kind of influence and pressure needed to protect our humanity and lives.