One week ago today, I was driving from my home office in Delaware to the NBOA headquarters office in Washington, D.C. Admittedly, I was uneasy returning to the city knowing it would coincide with the verdict announcement in the George Floyd murder trial. Last summer, district streets in and around our offices, just two blocks away from the White House, were the frequent location of protests over the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police officers. In Washington, like in other cities and communities around the country, the lasting reminders of the comprehensible civil unrest remained for months in the form of empty businesses, windows covered in plywood and spray-painted graffiti. For me, these served as lasting reminders of the civil unrest over racial injustice.
I couldn’t help but think, “not again,” and nervously wondered if justice would finally be served. Will what I saw with my own eyes, on videos taken by innocent bystanders, be the same conclusion that trial jurors will reach after weeks of courtroom testimony? I drove on, hopeful for the family of George Floyd and for all citizens seeking a more equitable society.
As a country, and as an independent school community, we are left with the questions, “Is this moment of accountability the first step toward a more just country?” Or, “Is it simply one historic guilty verdict among far too many not guilty outcomes.”
We know now the jury delivered three guilty verdicts after approximately 11 hours of deliberation. An exceedingly rare event. As a country, and as an independent school community, we are left with the questions, “Is this moment of accountability the first step toward a more just country?” Or, “Is it simply one historic guilty verdict among far too many not guilty outcomes.” And, perhaps most importantly, “How can this event help catapult us into lasting change?” I choose to be hopeful.
In “A Guilty Verdict, a Sigh of Relief” by Greta Anderson and Sara Weissman, published last week by Inside Higher Ed, Harold L. Martin Sr., chancellor of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, a historically black university, is quoted as saying, “We cannot give in to hopelessness or the idea that such dynamics cannot be changed. We must be about transformative solutions and seizing the opportunity to change the world.”
I concur with Martin’s sentiment. As a leader within the independent school community, I believe our opportunity to develop “transformative solutions” has always been, and always will be, what our schools are uniquely positioned to do. The missions of countless schools profess the perpetual goal to prepare our students to make a difference and create a more just world for all.
As an association with a majority U.S. membership, we are committed to doing our part. NBOA’s current strategic plan commits the association, under its first stated goal, to strengthen the community by “increasing diversity and modeling inclusion within NBOA’s member community and volunteer leadership.” It has been advanced by our written commitment to DE&I and reflected in the work of the NBOA Board’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion working group for the past two years.
Like many other membership organizations, we are not where we want to be, and we certainly empathize with our member schools that are struggling with growth in this regard. However, I believe it truly matters that we are all working toward continued progress.
Like many other membership organizations, we are not where we want to be, and we certainly empathize with our member schools that are struggling with growth in this regard. However, I believe it truly matters that we are all working toward continued progress. Just as this verdict marks a major milestone in accountability, it also begins the work of creating more equitable justice for all. NBOA will continue to try and be part of the solution within its own sphere of influence.
While I acknowledge the solutions to racial inequities are complicated and complex, NBOA and our member schools are comprised of leaders that are truly problem solvers. I think we all must first take the time to really listen. And each of us needs to do the work to identify, challenge and change the values, structures and behaviors that perpetuate systemic racism within our schools and communities.
I will continue to be hopeful that we will once and for all confront the uncomfortable truths in our world, create learning communities that are open and collaborative and actively embrace a better world inclusive of all of us in the future. This will require commitment, resources, and hope that collectively, we will make a difference and create a world that is just for all.