An Open Letter to Our Community About Racial Injustice: Response, Reflection and Action
Dr. Joseph Kreutziger

 

Dear St. George's Community:

As we break for the summer and as a school community attempt to make sense of this first wave of a pandemic, one that by its very nature divides and isolates us into our pockets of social distance in the name of health and wellness, a far less novel and all too rampant contagion of racial discord and social inequity has broken back into the foreground of our attention. Like so many of you, I have been at turns angry and heartbroken by the horrific, disturbing deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and the growing, endless list of senseless recorded and unrecorded incidents of racial injustice and violence.

The pandemic has taken its toll to varying degrees on all of us, but even the viral biology of the coronavirus—that by its very nature is indiscriminate and relentless in whom it attacks— has exposed, sometimes shockingly even to those of us not ignorant of the racial divide, the inequity of our culture where to be black is to have been impacted far more alarmingly by exposure, economics, unemployment, health access, and even death at the hands of the pandemic. These past three months we’ve worried about what might take our breath, and we’ve looked for the tell-tale signs. But “I can’t breathe” is a refrain and sometimes a reality our community of color has been contending with far longer than the most recent symptoms of outbreak. This, too, requires a call to response, reflection, and action.

Consider that the mission of St. George’s Episcopal School boldly requires us to value the worth and dignity of every child, affirming that our moral responsibility, our expression of care and concern, means that we hold dear the knowledge that no two children are alike, that we embody the values of perseverance, integrity, compassion, and respect. As a member and leader of this community, I ask that all of us reflect upon how this mission, which, when lived by our families and faculty, has provided a safe and supportive environment inclusive of a dynamic blend of learners and differences—what in educational parlance we describe as neurodiversity. 

I am also reflecting upon our Episcopal identity, that ethos which requires us as a school to “strive for justice and peace among all people and [to] respect the dignity of every human being”; further, to define the principles of social justice as the “integration of the ideals and concepts of equity, justice, and a just society throughout the life of the school.”

Where could we be doing more? We have that educational lens turned individually, but where could we and how should we be turning our lens of equity, diversity and inclusion outward? If we are to create a safe and secure community of learners, we must engage in these conversations about race and injustice, at home and when we return to campus, rather than wish away what plagues our nation or attempt to keep at bay a meaningful engagement with equity work for fear that our children won’t understand. It is not healthy, often dangerous, to be kept innocent and ignorant of the construct of race and racial relations in our country. At the earliest ages, we are exposed to it and unconsciously (and at worst consciously) begin to implicitly accept bias and prejudice as a way of being. We cannot provide an environment where every child feels safe, secure, valued and included without addressing and attempting to see, compassionately, what impediments there are, what inequity or privilege still exists, solely dependent upon the color of our skin.  

Even reflecting this far, it is important to know that we have already been taking action. Our Board of Trustees identified diversity as a priority both for its own work and for the school in the strategic planning that has been happening throughout the course of the year. Most recently, this has manifested in a vibrant, dedicated, voluntary task force of our administration and faculty engaged in what we’ve deemed the JEDI work of the school—that is, the work of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. The task force’s initial recommendations over the past two months have informed what will be an essential pillar of strategic planning for the school, and their work continues over the summer break, more fervently now in light of recent events. More immediately, we have secured both a grant and a generous donation to the school that are specifically focused upon our faculty and community at large receiving anti-racist training and professional development to serve these goals of St. George’s.

In the meantime, should you be searching for resources to engage your children in conversation about the recent protests and themes of inequality and racism at home, our Counseling and Wellness Department suggests the links below, and they are also open to your emails should you need additional support (tamara.claverie@stgnola.org and molly.sanders@stgnola.org).

There will be more to say and do, more voices including yours and your children’s to hear and include, when school resumes. We value your support, participation and engagement, and we aspire to the hopes and ideals that education and civic discourse in a democratic society can still be the antidote to racism and our nation’s original sin; that our small community at StG can be a model for the community at large that so desperately needs examples contrary to what we’ve most recently seen. Let’s reaffirm and broaden what it means to take care of our own, to find peace in our time to be healthy and well as a community.

Yours,

 

  • Dr. Kreutziger
  • JEDI
  • Mission
  • Taking Action