Our Virtues & Confronting Racial Injustice
Dear Willow Community,
It is with great sadness that I write this message. Over the past few days, our television screens and social media feeds have been filled with so many painful and powerful images, and I have no doubt that it has led to many difficult conversations in your homes. There are no easy answers to your children’s big questions or simple solutions to these complex, systemic problems. Yet, it is incumbent upon all of us to face this reality head-on.
During these difficult times, I encourage you to look toward our virtues for guidance. At school, these virtues guide our conversations with our students, giving your children and their teachers a common language that helps us discuss difficult, emotional topics and moral and social issues. It is important for us, and for our children, to process through feelings about the injustice we have seen and how different individuals have responded to these actions. I hope that our virtues will help guide your conversations at home with your children, as they continue to inform our actions as individuals and as a community. Of our virtues, the ones that stand out to me as I process these incidences of racism, violence, and protest are justice, compassion, service, courage, and hope.
Justice compels us to act on behalf of fairness and equality. It speaks to not only our individual actions but our collective understanding of what best serves the common good and the systems that support or suppress justice for all. As we work for equality in this moment, the virtue of justice asks us to act individually and collectively.
Compassion and empathy remind us that we are one, connected as a human race, as we seek to better understand each other’s feelings and perspectives. We feel for those who are suffering or in need, letting go of judgments even if you might disagree with someone’s beliefs or actions. Compassion instills in us a readiness to act for the benefit of others.
Service encourages us to ask ourselves what we can do now. Explore what actions you can take that will have a positive impact and lead to the changes you believe in, then follow through on those that you are most passionate about.
Courage is required of us now, in big and small ways. Courage to have the tough conversation, face our own assumptions or biases, and do the right thing, even when it is difficult. Courage inspires us to not give up.
Finally, I encourage you to reflect on and practice a virtue that is sometimes overlooked in trying times: hope. Hope helps us visualize and plan for a better future for our children, together. It empowers us to believe in and affect positive change. At Willow, hope is at the heart of our mission to help your children develop an ethical approach to all relationships, realize their full potential, and believe in their own power to effect positive change.
As we look with hope to the future, we understand how important it is to talk about race and racism with our children today. We need to work together to help our children understand the history of racism in this country and to recognize and fight racism in all of its forms. That means talking to children in developmentally appropriate ways about why people are protesting and engaging children’s questions. Though we have limited time left in this academic year, we will create space in our classrooms now for children to explore these feelings as appropriate, using the virtues to help frame these conversations and explore ways that they can find their own agency and voice. Most importantly, we hope that you will find the time to explore these issues as a family, discussing the nuances in your own beliefs, histories, and experiences. For developmentally appropriate resources to guide these conversations, Embrace Race is a great place to start.
The Willow School is committed to the ethical treatment of all individuals, regardless of their race or background. We are committed to continuing to learn and grow and ask the difficult questions of ourselves, our communities, and the world. To quote James Baldwin, “not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” We are committed to doing so as a school and in our classrooms and hope that you will commit to these difficult conversations in your home. This is an important time to recommit to our ethos of learning with purpose and leading with character.
Sending my best wishes for your good health and safety and that the efforts of those acting in good faith will lead to sustained, positive change for all.
Head of School