January 28, 2019

Dear Campus School Families,

One of the most powerful books I have read about racism is Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility. DiAngelo points out, in ways that are specific and bracing, how difficult it is for many white people to talk about race. She notes that white progressives, people who genuinely desire a just and anti-racist society, need more humility and clarity about their beliefs and actions. She is blunt in her assessment:  

“To the degree that we think we have arrived, we will put our energy into making sure that others see us as having arrived. None of our energy will go into what we need to be doing for the rest of our lives: engaging in ongoing self-awareness, continuing education, relationship building, and actual antiracist practice. White progressives do indeed uphold and perpetuate racism, but our defensiveness and certitude make it virtually impossible to explain to us how we do so.”

I think many people saw the election of Barack Obama as proof that our county and society had arrived, that a new chapter was being written – and certainly Obama’s election was an event of historic importance. But look at where we are today, in this moment: racism, hate crimes, and oppression are resurgent and we are witnessing a desperate attempt by some to hold onto power and privilege at the expense of others. The stakes are high, the issues clear, and the challenge concrete: white people do, indeed, have work to do. And it is not easy work – DiAngelo writes “We will not move forward in race relations if we remain comfortable. The key to moving forward is what we do with our discomfort.”

I highly recommend DiAngelo’s book. It is indeed a discomforting read but it was also profound in its insights and implications, and it clarified the work I need to continue to do, both professionally and personally. My colleagues at the Campus School are similarly engaged in the work of diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism. (Several saw DiAngelo speak this fall and a number are currently reading her book.) We know this work is of paramount importance and will find life in the culture, practices, and policies of our school – and, ultimately, in the lives of our students.