The National Education Association added a new section to its Resolutions, titled “White Supremacy Culture,” in which it states the belief that educators must acknowledge the existence of White supremacy culture as a primary root cause of institutional racism, structural racism, and White privilege.
The National Education Association (NEA) is the largest professional employee organization – union – in the country, with a reported 3 million members at every level of education including pre-school to university graduate programs. The NEA has affiliates in every state, with the Tennessee Education Association (TEA) being listed as the Tennessee state affiliate.
The TEA, as reported by The Tennessee Star, was very active in 2018 state elections, spending more than $500,000 during the election cycle.
The “White Supremacy Culture” resolution was included in the 2017-2018 report of the NEA Resolutions Committee, which was presented to the NEA Representative Assembly held July 2 through 5, 2018, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where a reported 6,200 delegates attended.
According to NEA, the Representative Assembly is the highest decision-making body within the 3-million member body with over 8,000 delates, making it “the world’s largest democratic deliberative body.”
The NEA holds a 10-day long annual meeting and representative assembly each year around the Independence Day holiday. There are days of meetings prior to the annual meeting, but the centerpiece of the annual event is the gathering of the Representative Assembly.
The Representative Assembly is comprised of 8,000 delegates, allocated at a ratio of 1:1,000 active members of state affiliates and a ratio of 1:150 active members of local affiliates, according to the NEA’s Constitution. The delegates are then elected to the Representative Assembly by secret ballot of members within each membership group.
Prior to the meeting of the Representative Assembly, the Resolutions Committee, one of 23 NEA committees, prepares the proposed resolutions for presentation the Representative Assembly for adoption.
The Resolutions Committee is comprised of a five-member Internal Editing Committee appointed by the NEA president.
The Resolutions Committee also includes members and alternates from each state that number the same as the directors of each state and as many retired and student members as retired and student directors, all of whom are elected.
At-large representatives of the Resolutions Committee, appointed by the president, include ethnic minorities, administrators, classroom teachers in higher education and active members employed in education support professional positions.
The most recent report of the NEA Resolutions Committee was presented to the Representative Assembly during the summer of 2018. The report tracks the evolution of the resolutions, indicating when a resolution was (originally included), deleted, changed or added as new.
Deleted language is enclosed with bold brackets, while new copy is indicated by the language appearing in bold italics. At the end of each resolution, the year in which the resolution was first adopted and last amended appears in parenthesis. These practices make the identification of additions and edits clear to the reader.
The NEA Resolution Committee Report to the Representative Assembly of July 2 through 5, 2018, a 15- page document, included around three-dozen language changes, some more substantive than others, as well as four sections marked as “new.”
One new resolution titled “Board of Trustees,” essentially separated out a pre-existing portion of another resolution.
A second resolution indicated as new is titled “Cultural Diversity in Instructional Materials,” which combined newly-deleted sections titled “Cultural Diversity in Instructional Materials and Activities” added in 1969 and last amended in 1995; “Women in Instructional Materials” added in 1996 and last amended in 1998; and “Religious Heritage in Instructional Materials” added in 1988.
An entirely new resolution titled “Private Prisons” states, “The National Education Association believes that profiting from incarceration is in direct conflict with the objective to rehabilitate those who have committed crimes. Additionally, private prison practices such as maintaining high occupancy rates and unsafe staff-to-inmate ratios, lobbying for harsh sentences, and providing inadequate services undermine restorative justice practices and disproportionately affect people of color. Therefore, the Association believes that incarcerated individuals should be held in publicly operated institutions.”
Another entirely new resolution carries the heading “White Supremacy Culture.”
The section reads, in its entirety:
The National Education Association believes that, in order to achieve racial and social justice, educators must acknowledge the existence of White supremacy culture as a primary root cause of institutional racism, structural racism, and White privilege. Additionally, the Association believes that the norms, standards, and organizational structures manifested in White supremacy culture perpetually exploit and oppress people of color and serve as detriments to racial justice. Further, the invisible racial benefits of White privilege, which are automatically conferred irrespective of wealth, gender, and other factors, severely limit opportunities for people of color and impede full achievement of racial and social justice. Therefore, the Association will actively advocate for social and educational strategies fostering the eradication of institutional racism and White privilege perpetuated by White supremacy culture. (2018)
The Representative Assembly adopted all NEA Resolutions contained within the 2017-18 Final Report of the NEA Resolutions Committee at its July 2018 meeting.
As The Star has extensively reported, the Williamson County School district has over the past year introduced a series of Cultural Competency videos. Module 3 of that video series focused on white privilege.
In the 26-minute video, the narrator told viewers, “white individuals do enjoy unearned advantages that society does not necessarily offer to individuals of color.” The usage of the word “unearned” in the video seems to mirror the NEAs resolution language that white privilege is “automatically conferred.”
During a regularly-scheduled Williamson County School Board meeting held March 25, 2019, School Superintendent Mike Looney told the Board members and attendees in the filled-to-capacity room, “I take full responsibility for the development of the Cultural Competency Series videos,” as The Star reported.
Later that week, a meeting was scheduled with the purpose of members of the community, including parents, citizens and elected officials having the opportunity to discuss the Cultural Competency Series professional development videos with Superintendent Looney.
At that meeting, Looney reportedly defended the Cultural Competency efforts because the school system had to report 19 race, color and national original discrimination complaints last year and that the numbers continue to increase.
It is unclear what, if any, influence the NEA’s resolution “White Supremacy Culture” has had on the Williamson County Schools Cultural Competency efforts.
The 2019 NEA annual meeting is scheduled for June 27 through July 6, 2019, in Houston, Texas. The tentative meeting and event schedule can be found here.