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NEA Calls on all Educators to be “Social Justice Patriots”

Photo: Kevin Lock/NEA

National Education Association Executive Director John Stocks delivered his first keynote as executive director on Wednesday, challenging the nearly 9,000 delegates at NEA’s annual Representative Assembly to become “social justice patriots.”

July 4th is a time to celebrate brave men and women in uniform who risk their lives to protect the nation’s freedoms, but patriotism, Stock told the delegates, should be viewed through a broader lens.

“Too often we overlook the part of our national portrait that celebrates those Americans who are driven by their conscience to make America a more perfect union … those who are constantly urging America to live up to its promise of equal opportunity and justice for all.

“I have a name for people who are divinely dissatisfied with America, yet love America’s promise. I call them social justice patriots.”

Educators have played a critical role fostering social justice patriotism throughout U.S. history — from seeking funds for the education of free slaves after the Civil War to speaking out against the internment of Japanese-American children during World War II to opposing the segregation of Black children in schools that were inherently unequal.

But with the emergence of voter suppression laws, growing income inequality, and insidious new forms of racial discrimination, it is imperative that NEA members everywhere to become committed activists for social justice and equal opportunity, Stocks said.

Stocks called attention to the NEA’s participation in a national campaign against racial profiling. In response to a call to action from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, NEA recently joined civil rights, education, faith, labor, and community groups to mobilize against this injustice, including civil and community action, legislative initiatives, and an education strategy. In June, Stocks participated in a high-profile march in New York City to protest that city’s “stop and frisk” policies that target Black, Latino, and Muslim men and boys for random searches without cause.

“When any law-abiding American cannot walk freely on any street or in any community in his country without looking over his shoulder, it means he is not truly free,” Stocks said. “And we as a progressive labor union and a social justice organization have a responsibility to take a stand and say “No More!”


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