Dear Westside community,
In my nine years as a head of school, there have been very few moments when I have felt compelled to write to my school community to offer thoughts on a political or current event. Sadly, every week the news is filled with atrocities somewhere in our country and our world. This past week however, with the killing of George Floyd and other race-charged acts, and the protests that have followed in Seattle and elsewhere, I feel compelled to connect. These are the moments when mission-driven organizations have a choice to lean in or to sit back to wait and see what happens. This is not the time to sit back.
People of color in our country are hurting, including those in our Westside community. Their white peer allies are hurting too. From my conversations with friends this weekend, both white people and people of color, I have become even more aware that we cannot move forward by turning away from the pain, as hard as it is to witness.
I would like to impress upon all of us the importance of having real conversations with our children and with one another, conversations that will no doubt be difficult, uncomfortable, and painful. As educators, parents, and human beings, we cannot ignore the impact that systemic racism has on our country nor can we fail to teach our children -- especially our white children -- to dismantle oppression in all its forms. We must commit to teaching our children not just about the atrocities of the past and present against people of color by white people, but also about how non-white people have contributed to the building of this country we live in, with their ingenuity, power, and resilience. We must learn to see and honor the humanity of others if we are to recover our own humanity.
We have those conversations at Westside, sometimes skillfully and sometimes less so. As a staff, we leaned in to having those conversations ourselves this past year, and began a commitment to educating ourselves on how to do better. It was the beginning of the road and we have a long way to go. We will continue to have the conversations, to do the work to get better at leading those conversations, to empower our students to have them with each other, and we are committed to continuing to devote professional development resources on training for our staff in issues of diversity and social justice.
Our teachers and staff will do our best to hold space for our students this week. We recognize that our students and families of color and their white peer allies are grappling with extremely challenging issues. Please reach out to your child's advisor/teacher to share impacts that would help us support them. I am grateful to our Division Heads and to some of our teachers who have shared resources, as well as words of empowerment and encouragement, with their colleagues. Below I have included some resources to support your conversations at home.
In the words of Dr. King, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." I encourage us all to speak up, speak out, and speak with our children. They offer our greatest hope for change in a world that is crying out for justice and equity.
We have no more important purpose than to give our children the tools to make the world a better place for themselves and for their children.
Head of School
- USA Today - George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. What do we tell our children?
- King5 - How we talk to our kids about race, racism, and identity
- Teaching Tolerance - Beyond the Golden Rule
- New York Times - Race/Related Weekly Newsletter