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‘George Floyd. We begin this meeting saying his name.’ State Board members discuss systemic racism.

“George Floyd. We begin this meeting saying his name. For anything less further supports the comfortable silence which surrounds and upholds the systemic practices which continue to plague our nation and state, and result in the physical and mental deaths that many black and brown citizens experience every day.”

That’s how Eric Davis, chair of the State Board of Education, began Thursday’s meeting. The comments came after a weekend marked by protests in response to the treatment of black people by police around the country. In particular, it was sparked by the death of one black man, George Floyd, by police office Derek Michael Chauvin on May 25 in Minneapolis. Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, and Floyd died as a result.

Davis spoke at length about systemic racism and the responsibility of the Board and state education leaders in addressing it. You can hear his full comments below.

Following Davis, many members of the Board took turns adding their voice to the chorus of concern over what happened to Floyd and the turmoil that has engulfed the nation and state. Board member James Ford spoke directly after Davis, expressing his appreciation for Davis’ comments before speaking at length.

“As a point of personal privilege, I would just like to state for the record unequivocally and unapologetically that black life and furthermore black lives matter. This statement should not be even remotely controversial or provocative,” he said, adding later: “Our lives should matter whether we’re jogging through a neighborhood. Whether we’re sound asleep in our homes. It should matter whether we’re bird watching in a park. It should matter especially when they’re pressed face down on the pavement with the full weight of an officer kneeling on our necks. And it should matter in our schools.”

Hear Ford’s full comments below, as well as comments from State Board principal advisor Matt Bristow-Smith and Board member Olivia Oxendine.

See a press release about some of the Board members’ comments here.

Alex Granados

Alex Granados was the senior reporter for EducationNC from December 2014-March 2023.