The 2020 PTA Reflections Art Contest theme has racist associations. Let’s change that.

The 2020 PTA Reflections Art Contest theme has racist associations. Let’s change that.

0 have signed. Let’s get to 500!
At 500 signatures, this petition is more likely to be featured in recommendations!
Student Equity Council started this petition to the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) Board of Directors

This year's prompt, "I matter because...", asks 300,000 students – many, if not most of whom, are white – to publish written and artistic statements about why their life matters (Reflections website). In the context of a nation resounding with cries of Black Lives Matter for racial justice, this year’s theme feels painfully evocative of the All Lives Matter movement. By prompting connection to the Black Lives Matter rallying cry through central use of the word “matter” in the Reflections theme, then asking all students to participate, it contributes to the racist dismissal of the unique challenges Black-Americans face. That is the impact, even if it was not the intent.

We are a youth-led, equity-focused group of students from Western Washington. Our district’s schools, like many of the thousands of elementary, middle, and high schools across Washington State, recognize Reflections entries by exhibiting them in common areas. This year, those display cases will be mostly filled with non-black students reflecting on why their life matters. If no change is made to this year’s program, these submissions will not just be accepted but celebrated with indifference to the impact they have on Black students walking the halls.

Black students have been bombarded by police brutality on the news, stereotypes on media, discrimination in the system, backlash from communities, and racial exclusion impeding engagement with the activities they desire--including participating in this art contest. Black students in schools may avoid participating in certain activities due to the lack of a welcoming environment. This prompt is a distressing example of this; a Black student may desire to participate in this years’ Reflections, only to be discouraged from the countless “I Matter Because...” projects from their non-Black peers which undermine the importance of Black Lives Matter. We can do better. We have to do better.

This current Reflections theme takes the spotlight away from Black Lives Matter and the countless Black advocates who have been fighting for awareness and change. It compels other students to argue “I matter too” when society never questioned it. It hovers over Black art students, dismissing the grotesque barriers a Black person faces. Clearly, this is unacceptable. 

Therefore, as a part of the PTA’s duty to ensure this is an all-encompassing activity, we ask that the PTA consider the following steps moving forward:

  • Recalling the theme and re-publishing one without racist associations. A new theme could come from current or past Theme Search Contest submissions. Examples could include “I have hope because…” or “I am strong because…” 
  • Posting a message contextualizing the problems with the theme to the PTA Reflections websites 
  • Addressing the institutional structures that allowed for the approval of this theme

PTA President-Elect Anna King, in announcing this year’s theme, acknowledged some of the new meaning the theme takes regarding the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement but failed to address the problems it presents (PTA video). 

Even though this theme was announced before George Floyd’s murder and was presumably approved with good intent, its impact nonetheless distracts from the barriers that Black students in our school system face. 

As we write this, the theme is live. If change is going to come, it needs to come now. Sign this petition to help empower our call to action as we reach out to leadership within the PTA.

 

edit: added link to Reflections website and PTA video explaining the theme (9/11/20)

0 have signed. Let’s get to 500!
At 500 signatures, this petition is more likely to be featured in recommendations!