Tyre Nichols

January 31, 2023

Waverly Commu­nity,

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. 

In Commu­nity,

Clarke Weath­er­spoon
Head of School