As our community and nation reel from recent episodes of racial violence, we must remember that the problem runs far deeper than “isolated incidents.” The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery are only the latest examples of the violence, physical and otherwise, inflicted on Black people and people of color every day. The recent trauma highlights and exacerbates the already devastating effects of the coronavirus, which has disproportionately impacted communities of color here in Boston and elsewhere. The cumulative effect on our city’s young people is incalculable.

We must devote extra care and thoughtfulness to listening to our youth as they process this trauma. But we must also focus on healing over the long term. As other organizations and individuals who have worked to achieve racial justice for years have taught, true healing cannot begin until we acknowledge and work to dismantle the systemic oppression that plagues our society.

At Boston Partners in Education, our vision is that with the support and involvement of our community, all Boston Public Schools students will recognize and achieve their full potential. We cannot do that without centering equity, empathy, and trust. Now, more than ever, it is crucial that we prove to our youth that we are in this fight together — by nurturing caring, inclusive relationships that demonstrate to them: you are heard, you are valued, you are loved.

In James Baldwin’s 1962 “Letter to My Nephew,” he wrote:

You were born where you were born and faced the future that you faced because you were black and for no other reason. The limits to your ambition were thus expected to be settled. You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity and in as many ways as possible that you were a worthless human being. You were not expected to aspire to excellence. You were expected to make peace with mediocrity. […]

You have, and many of us have, defeated this intention and by a terrible law, a terrible paradox, those innocents who believed that your imprisonment made them safe are losing their grasp of reality. But these men are your brothers, your lost younger brothers, and if the word “integration” means anything, this is what it means, that we with love shall force our brothers to see themselves as they are, to cease fleeing from reality and begin to change it, for this is your home, my friend. Do not be driven from it. Great men have done great things here and will again and we can make America what America must become.

To our mentors, teachers, administrators, partners, and especially students: we are with you. Thank you for all you do, every day, to make America what it must become.