Today the Upper School community met during our homeroom assembly and third block to share reactions to the announcement that the grand jury would not indict the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in August. Students spoke candidly about this judgment and what it represents to them. As one student told me, “It’s as if someone looked me in the eye and said, ‘You don’t matter.’” Others described the profiling they have experienced in their lives and the concern they have for their children if our world does not change. These were deep, honest, and courageous comments. I applaud all of our students for listening to understand perspectives that they may or may not share.
Our students reminded one another to check their sources, to be informed, to speak honestly and openly about race, and to have empathy. As one senior said, “Let’s not think of Michael Brown as a ‘black teen.’ Let’s think of him as a person—just like all of us.” As can be expected in national cases like this one, some students were more informed and felt more passionately than others; however, as the discussion progressed, it was clear that many students see this as a call to action and over 50 students met with Carolyn Lett and me at lunch to continue our conversation. Several students are working on ideas over the break. We will meet again in early December.
The case of Michael Brown is symbolic of a systemic issue that cannot be denied. As much as we might like to believe that race is a construct that has lost influence over time, it has not. As much as we would like to think that we have realized Martin Luther King’s dream that he could live in a world where his children would not be “judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” we do not. However, Roeper is a place where we teach students to be committed to justice rather than power. So we will continue our discussions, we will find common purpose, and we will take appropriate action. Our conversations may not always be comfortable, but they will be respectful and they will provide opportunities for growth and self-discovery.
Special thanks to faculty who continued, where appropriate, to facilitate discussions throughout the day and who proved once again that teaching is much more than being an expert in a particular content area. As Thanksgiving approaches, I am reminded how thankful I am to be a part of this community where we do not hide from the realities of our world—rather we seek to find ways to understand and improve it collectively. I am very fortunate to be a part of this place and to share my day with your kids. They are incredible people capable of so much good.
All the best,
Upper School Director