Above photo courtesy of Loyd Wollstadt
#BlackWomenAtWork has been trending on social media in recent days. It is a response in part to comments made recently by Fox News host Bill O’Reilly referring derisively to California Democratic Representative Maxine Waters’ hair.
On the same day, in a separate incident, President Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer reprimanded reporter April Ryan in a manner many found patronizing. Both events involved white men saying things to or about black women that many found offensive, or at the very least tone deaf.
Activist Brittany Packnett created #BlackWomenAtWork. She says it was meant to start a conversation because the “slights” against Waters and Ryan (things like comments about one’s hair) are experienced everyday by professional black women.
A one-time teacher, Packnett is most well-known as a Black Lives Matter activist and co-founder of Campaign Zero which aims to reform policing practices. A St. Louis native, she helped organize protests in Ferguson, MO, following the 2014 killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson.
At that time, Packnett was executive director of Teach For America in St. Louis. She has since risen in that organization to Vice President of National Community Alliances.
Full disclosure: Teach For America Kansas City is No Wrong Answer’s underwriter but does NOT sponsor these Extra Credit episodes. Also, No Wrong Answers host and creator served as a TFA corps member in Houston, TX from 2006-2008.
Packnett has also served on the Ferguson Commission appointed by former Missouri Governor Jay Nixon tasked with investigating issues of racial inequality and injustice in the St. Louis region. She also sat on President Barack Obama’s commission on “21st Century Policing.”
We wanted to talk with Packnett about how #BlackWomenAtWork could be applied to the world of education. What is working in schools like for black women? Are there special experiences that black women teachers are sharing about their working lives? And do black women educators have a particular role going forward in this country’s ongoing conversation about race, equity, and justice?