May 31, 2020
Dear Berkeley Carroll Community,
All over Brooklyn, the greater metropolitan area, and the nation the streets are full--not because there has been an unexpected cure for Covid-19, as would have been hoped, but because the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery have made palpable once more the danger that Black people in our country face when leaving home each day because of racism. Protesters are insisting on accountability for atrocities against Black communities and their message is echoed in ongoing demands for an end to intensifying vilification and violence against Chinese Americans and those of other Asian ethnicities during this time of pandemic. It is reflected in the struggle against all forms of identity-based bias, discrimination, and violence that ultimately dehumanize us all. This moment has resulted in upheaval not seen in the US in decades.
Masked and standing at a distance on the periphery of Grand Army Plaza today, I felt as though I had run out of words. I was there to bear witness to the need for change but I was muffled, unable to chant along. Depleted and pondering the drafting of this letter, I considered the terrible fact that I have a bank of words stored on my hard drive--letters that I have written about Eric Garner, speeches that I have given about Emmett Till--a ghastly repository of observances and appeals.
As events continue to unfold, I realize that we are experiencing this tragedy and unrest in our own ways. Some are confused and disappointed, others are sad and angry. As we enter the final week of classes, we will work to support our community in processing feelings and proposing solutions to the complex problems that our nation faces. Some of this programming was planned weeks ago, such as the 3 June parent webinar entitled Addressing Racism and Anti-Asian Sentiment in the Time of Covid-19, while this week's events for students, faculty, and staff are being developed as I write.
This afternoon, as my graduation speech was being recorded, I expressed my confidence in the capacity of our Seniors to use the intellectual, social, and emotional skills that they have developed at Berkeley Carroll in service to equity and justice. Reading those lines I was reminded of lawyer and activist, Bryan Stevenson, who once told me that hopelessness is the enemy of justice. If our schools, other institutions, and the nation at large are ever to reach their full promise, we must remain awake to the challenges before us but hopeful, that we and the generation in our care might be fortified for the work ahead.