On Tuesday, a milestone occurred in U.S. history with the conclusion of a high-profile court case bringing accountability for the murder of a Black citizen, George Floyd, by a police officer.
Nearly one year ago, George Floyd was murdered. The individual police officer's brutality and indifference for his life were captured on an iPhone by a brave, young bystander, Darnella Frazier, who was traumatized by what she was witnessing.
Inside of our school communities, George Floyd’s murder sparked conversations filled with frustration, unhappiness, and fear as people of color in our schools shared their experiences. As Vice President Kamala Harris reminded our nation last night, “A measure of justice isn’t the same as equal justice. This verdict brings us a step closer, and the fact is we still have work to do.”
This is particularly important to EMA’s member-school community and the families that we serve. We’ve seen how dramatically Floyd’s murder impacted our students, many of whom shared social-media posts about their experiences as Black people in largely white institutions. These experiences were difficult for us to take in, and yet have created new spaces for more courageous exchange on the purpose of education, the definition of a civil society, and the promise of what education might do to help heal and rebuild.
With the verdict, the “moral arc of the universe” bent toward justice. Now, we must continue to lean in, apply pressure to that arc, so that justice is realized in less episodic ways and so that it becomes our norm. As difficult conversations occur in our school classrooms and board rooms across this country, and as we continue to discuss systemic racism and how to rethink everything from curriculum, to student selection, to grading, you might be surprised to know that I feel hopeful about our future.
Independent schools have been given a gift to deliver education free from a central bureaucracy. In that gift is a call for our schools to lead. I remain hopeful that independent schools can continue to play a critical role in society and demonstrate how to build inclusive communities where children from all backgrounds and races will thrive and reach their greatest potential.
After the verdict, Head of School Noni Thomas Lopez wrote to Gordon School’s community, “Today was a good day. Tomorrow the work continues.” And she added that “the work of dismantling racism is also the work of restoring hope.”
Let us all commit ourselves and our schools to being beacons of hope, and places where all children belong.
In appreciation for your ongoing support and dedication,