SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Since March, California’s education chief Tony Thurmond has given direction to school districts during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing stability in uncertain times. But Monday’s remote address was different and personal.
“It has been difficult for me to make sense of how a man could beg and plead for his life and still have his life snuffed out,” Thurmond said.
Before being elected to statewide office, Thurmond served in the State Assembly and was a school board and city council member from the north bay area. He is currently the only black person to hold a statewide office.
He says he thinks about racism every day and he’s had a tough time explaining recent events to his kids.
“How to answer their questions when they ask ‘Dad, why did this happen?’” he said.
The last words of George Floyd are etched into his consciousness.
“I’m haunted by the words of George Floyd, begging to breathe, begging for life,” Thurmond said.
Thurmond says racism must be met head on, beginning with an honest discussion with school districts.
“Racism and its impact on black and brown students who are more likely to be suspended and pushed out of school, to be given an education that is not equal,” Thurmond said.
Thurmond says coursework and training that addresses implicit bias is key, but Thurmond says kids learn attitudes from adults which must also be addressed beyond educational institutions.
Thurmond made a plea to work harder at obtaining social justice now, not wanting to let this opportunity get away, and doing it without violence.
“I only ask that you protest peacefully, that you carry yourselves to be reflective of what our movement needs to be,” he said.
Thurmond says he’ll use several social platforms to get input and to create an outlet for those who are frustrated with the system. He is also accepting comments and suggestions via email.