Mitch Lyons, president of the Social-Emotional Learning Alliance for Massachusetts and coordinator of SEL4Newton


In the midst of our national awakening to systemic injustice as witnessed by the blatant murder of George Floyd and for all those that came before him, there are first steps all white people must take. Silence is no longer an option.  

While we knew all along what was going on……

In June, 1963, when I was 16 years old, I remember sitting with my mother talking about the murder of Medgar Evers who was shot in the back in front of his home.

It didn’t affect my white privilege, so I went on with my life.

In 1968, my black friends at college stopped talking to all their white classmates. I couldn’t understand why they would do such a thing as we were so liberal.

It didn’t affect my white privilege, so I went on with my life.

125 cities were burning after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

It didn’t affect my white privilege, so I went on with my life.

In an unbroken chain since then, throughout my career as a lawyer and raising a family, Black people have been murdered, discriminated against and subjected to daily macro and micro aggressions in all aspects of their lives.

It didn’t affect my white privilege, so I went on with my life.

In 2011, I founded SEL4MA to advocate for SEL in all schools, but when we, at the suggestion of our few Black members, inserted in our Vision “culturally aware and responsive”, I gave little focus to its true meaning.

It didn’t affect my white privilege, so I went on with my life.

In the Fall of 2019, three members from our Equity and Inclusion Committee, gave the Steering Committee a beginning exercise in looking at our difficulties in talking about race, I engaged in a superficial way without the deep thinking it would take, but never followed through by taking responsibility for continuing the dialogue.

It didn’t affect my white privilege, so I went on with my life.

On February 23, 2020, Ahmaud Arbery was killed when jogging. On March 13, 2020, Breona Taylor was shot to death while sleeping.

It didn’t affect my white privilege, so I went on with my life.

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was murdered.

I ask myself now, “Am I just going to go on with my life?”

Or instead, will I spend the time and energy questioning myself, asking myself uncomfortable questions and thinking of ways I can help change my white perspective?

I have spent my time recently talking to my Black friends and learning some hard, uncomfortable truths about myself and about SEL4MA. I’m seeing that what I say and what I do has been totally inadequate. It will be a journey that is going to take time and requires me to take responsibility for asking questions and seeking advice as a white man.

I’ve started this journey with personal introspection by reading the book, “White Fragility: Why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism.”  I am grateful to those who knew I needed a starting point for self-reflection.

Then, after I am honest with myself, after I’ve really dug deep to see how I’ve acted, I need to examine our organization’s dedication toward racial justice within the framework of advocating for SEL. I ask for your help in finding ways to make that happen.

 







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