Teachers at an elementary school in Seattle, Washington, will wear Black Lives Matters shirts on Sept. 16, sparking controversy.
John Muir Elementary School teacher Jennifer Whitney decided to initiate conversation about race through creating donation-funded T-shirts that read "Black Lives Matter, We Stand Together," KING reports.
Whitney wants the public and the school to discuss why people of color disproportionately have high incarceration rates and low college graduation rates.
“It is part of the oppression, the systemic oppression that continues on,” said Whitney.
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Other teachers embraced the idea and will participate.
“To be silent would be almost unforgivable, and I think we have been silent for almost too long,” third-grade teacher Marjorie Lamarre said.
The move has invited criticism, some perceiving it as a liberal "move" and show of support for an extremist political group and statement.
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"If the shirts represented an issue from the other side of the aisle, the idea would have been shut down in a matter of seconds," wrote Amanda Shea for Mad World News, who also wrote of her frustration that God has been "removed from public schools." "'You can’t fairly present one side of the issue without discussing the other, so if understanding and equality are what they are after, then September 17 should be the day the teachers wear shirts that say 'ALL lives matter, We stand together.'"
Some respond that while well-intentioned, "All Lives Matter" shirts would miss the point.
"[It is] not seen as a Kumbaya sentiment but as a way to remove focus from the specific grievances of black Americans," explained Daniel Victor in an opinion piece before this incident about the statement for The New York Times.
Rather than feel discouraged, it appears John Muir Elementary School's teachers welcome the backlash.
“I think we are going to get some pushback from the T-shirts, but I think that is an invitation for families in the community that might not agree with us to come in and have a discussion with us,” said teacher JR Lorca.
The social media hashtag #BlackLivesMatter started gaining ground in 2014 and grew through 2016 after a series of police shootings against often innocent African-Americans, The Huffington Post reports.