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BFT Stands Up to Hate in our Community

The following speech was given by Vice President Matt Meyer on August 27th, 2017 at the United Against Hate rally.

My name is Matt Meyer and I am the Vice President of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers as well as a longtime teacher at Berkeley High.  

Some of my proudest moments as an educator have been watching our youth stand up to oppression and actively confront those who seek to disempower and destroy our communities.  Whether it be Black Lives Matter, immigrant rights movements, or confronting Trump’s horrific policies and rhetoric, our students are taking the lead in demanding a new path forward.

As educators, we have a responsibility to create spaces that empower our students to develop their voices.  The purpose of the work we do in the classroom: building community, learning to respect others, finding our shared values, and critically analysing the world, is not just to strengthen students as individuals, but to strengthen our community as a whole.  

When I look out at who makes up the alt-right, and who feels compelled to travel to Berkeley to spread fear and hate, I see people who have lost their personal connection to a whole; alienated from a broader community.  

These groups significantly  impact our students and their families, especially among the groups these white supremacists target: people of color, members of the Jewish faith, the LGBTQ community, our Muslim students and families, and our immigrant students and families, among other groups.

We cannot sit back and just let this right-wing movement build - a movement built on dehumanization and hatred.

As a community, we need to stand up together against this hate and speak to justice, equality and human rights. Teachers and classified staff will rise to the occasion in our schools and classrooms. Organized labor will be a prominent voice in standing up for these values as well. As we often say, an injury to one is an injury to all.  When our community is under attack, we must show up, be present, and fight back. We cannot let these right wing attacks limit our young people’s opportunities and direct our country backwards.  

In speaking with my students last year, they expressed uncertainty and doubt about the path our country is on. They need us to have their back, to be fierce in our advocacy for a more just world, one where white supremacists and fascists can’t gather at a park in front of a school. Through engagement, education and activism, we will stop them.