January 31, 2023
Like many of you, I recently learned about the brutal murder of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee. The video is something that I hope you haven’t seen. For many people, the existence of the video recalls the murder of George Floyd and the calls for social transformation that followed. The video is also a reminder that we shouldn’t become desensitized to violence and that all lives have tremendous values and deserve protection and love. Our Black, African, and African-American communities may be particularly sensitive and sad because of the release of this video and the memories it brings up. Awareness of this can also be helpful.
A couple resources that are worth reading: The Red Record (available here in full via the Project Gutenberg) by Ida B. Wells-Barnett. Wells is an important American patriot who documented the horrors of racial injustice after the Civil War. Her work is essential to understanding the historical legacy of anti-Black violence. I’d also recommend reading On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the 21st Century by Sherrilyn Ifill, former director of NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The text chronicles the role of vigilante justice and racial terrorism as essential parts of American history that are defining rather than aberrant. She also addresses the impact of lynching on communities, rather than just on the victims and their families.
As we learn more, we can do more. I hope that we take simple steps as a community to make a difference.
- Recognize when one’s own behavior supports the marginalization of others along racial lines.
- Confront how racism and white supremacy have shaped your life and decision- making.
- Intervene when you witness racism. Especially when perpetrated by close friends and family members.
- Learn about the legacy of race and racial violence, segregation, and marginalization in our society and societies around the world.
- Remember that witnessing brutality is not a requisite for empathy and that we all deserve a rest from viewing extreme violence.
- Join the Anti-Racist Book Club at Waverly and dialogue with other community members about what you can do to make a difference. Details will be shared in the near future.
I will be in conversation with faculty and staff about how we want to discuss these issues at school. I will share ideas and initiatives that come out of those conversations. I hope you all have a safe week ahead and we remain steadfast in the reality that our collective and individual justice work is the work of a lifetime. We do it for ourselves, our friends, family – and for those we may never meet. May we have patience, persistence, and fortitude.
Head of School