June 1, 2020

Dear Explorer West Community,

This weekend the collective frustrations and heartache of Black Americans and their many allies were made visible in powerful form, here in Seattle and all over our country. In my family we talked about the most recent deaths and racial injustices that inspired these protests. My 13 year old knew a lot more about these horrible incidents, and the pattern they represent, than my ten year old. We made space for their questions and their feelings. We shared tears and worries, as we talked about what has changed over history in our country and what has not. My family is white, so our conversations don’t include personal concern for our own safety and well being, as it unfortunately does for many others in our community. Instead, we talked about the responsibility that comes with the power and privilege our skin color inevitably confers in our society. That responsibility means challenging ourselves to be part of the solution, rather than silent bystanders to injustice.

For me personally, I entered the field of education out of a sense of optimism, out of a hope that by working with young people in schools focused on character and community, I could help create a better and more just world. That optimism fuels me still. When I see the ways the students at Explorer West work hard to hold on to, or regain, the respect and trust for one another that I believe are innate to humanity, and I see how hard our teachers work to nurture and grow that culture of respect, I wonder, what will it take to create a world where George Floyd’s murder would have been unthinkable? Where racism and other prejudices and biases can be unlearned?

 

I think it takes each one of us, and I am so grateful for the strength of our community and the good work we are doing together. In the remaining days of school, our teachers will hold space for discussions about these challenging issues. We know our students of color are in so much pain right now, and their white peer allies are looking for guidance in how to fix a broken world. Please reach out to your child’s advisor if there’s anything you want us to know about how these events are impacting them, so that we can better support them. As always our partnership is critical as we work together to create a more just world.

Below are some resources, shared by my dear friend and colleague from Seattle Girls’ School, Brenda Leaks, that can support your conversations at home:

And finally, for anyone who struggles to find words to explain the violence witnessed over the weekend, I was struck by this quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, from The Other America in 1968:

…it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear?…It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.

I dearly wish Dr. King’s words from more than 50 years ago did not feel so vividly current, but they do. Feel free to reach out to me or to any of us for conversation or support.

With so much care and respect,

Barbara