Today, with the jury reaching a guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin case, we saw some movement toward accountability. While there is certainly a palpable sense of relief in the air, one verdict does not signal systemic change. It signals a tentative step toward justice.
When we approach a horrific mass murder as an isolated, individual act, we dehumanize the victims and invite more such atrocities. When we accept the perpetrator’s definition of his unforgivable actions as “not a hate crime,” we normalize his behavior and dishonor the truth. If we consider how seldom we, as a culture, talk about racism against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, it’s not surprising that we have become complicit in the gaslighting that has occurred. These community members’ fear in the face of increased harassment and violence deserves to be acknowledged and must be addressed with action.
Like many of you, I woke up yesterday feeling such joy in hearing that Reverend Raphael Warnock became Georgia’s first Black Senator and the first Black Senator from the Deep South. This was in stark contrast to how the day ended, after the violent riots and civil unrest in Washington, DC. These unconscionable acts left me with sadness, disbelief, confusion, and grief during what should have been the next phase in a peaceful transfer of power.
There is much work to be done when it comes to achieving racial justice, defending democracy, and ensuring equity--and our children will inherit what is left of the challenges we cannot resolve. We owe it to them to amplify our own commitments to these priorities. I feel re-energized to continue my efforts toward social change as one person among the multitudes working to “bend the arc of the moral universe more towards justice,” in the metaphor first envisioned by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and referenced by President-Elect Biden.
Whatever your political leanings, I think we can all agree that the polarization of our country has slowed our ability and responsibility to evolve as a democracy. Our children are the ultimate casualties of this divisive landscape, as they struggle to make sense of the deep chasm they see dividing so many adults in their lives. We owe it to them to continue foregrounding the values we want them to learn from us: candor, respect, integrity, kindness, sincerity, self-control, inclusion, equity, justice, and love.
I remember clearly when President Clinton appointed Justice Ginsburg to the Supreme Court, as I was just beginning my doctoral studies. While she was not the first female Supreme Court Justice, her ascension represented the breaking of a glass ceiling (I also naively imagined by the time I’d finish my Ph.D., the challenges women face juggling work and family would be ironed out!). But despite coming to terms with the too-slow rate of positive change, I did find myself inspired by and replicating some of her virtues: hard work, a life partner who would support my ambition and not be threatened by my success, and a commitment to mentorship and to service.
As we take a moment to appreciate where we have been, I think we must state the truth: that persistent racial inequities in myriad institutions in society are the result of systemic racism, and independent schools are not exempt. We charge tuition and can have practices that benefit those with financial resources. I believe we must use our position of privilege to redouble on our efforts to identify and address injustice both inside and outside our community and commit to embracing antiracism as a guiding tenet of our work.
Yesterday morning I hiked to the top of a peak in the Santa Monica mountains. After spending this past week facing a wall in my bedroom office, helplessly following the news while working on wrapping up this school year and scenario planning for next year, I needed to see the horizon and a broader panorama in order to reflect in and synthesize the wide-ranging feelings and thoughts that had collected during this agonizing week. This morning, I am looking at a very different panorama, and I am shaken by the images of rage, pain, and destruction that we all are seeing in our beloved city and cities across the nation.
When we cannot stop where we are and address feelings in the moment, they tend to come out sideways as emotions or actions far removed from the original feeling. They can show up as a grumpy spouse who snaps at a simple request, a call from a teacher when your child has an outburst in class, your own lack of patience with co-workers or friends. By the time the feeling has become an expressed emotion, you may not be able to find your way back to the source. As parents, modeling calm, approaching emotions with curiosity, and giving yourself and your children permission to feel will go a long way toward reducing anxiety. These life-long, invaluable skills lay the groundwork for the courage, flexibility, and compassion we will require to re-envision our world as a better, more equitable, more beautiful place.
Let kindness in this moment—each moment—guide your actions and orient your mindset. I long for the day we can show goodness to each other in person again. In the meantime, I am comforted to see the many ways we are managing to make profound connections with one another—in our community and with the larger world—despite the distance.