A message from CSG about recent events.
Columbus School for Girls is a community bound by the common pursuit of academic excellence, empowerment, and a belief that the most transformative education requires respect and empathy. Our school was founded on the principles of inclusion. CSG is a community in which raising one’s voice is honored and encouraged, and in which standing up and speaking out against injustice is nurtured and supported. The public discourse we are witnessing across our country would typically move us to come together on our campus to facilitate important conversations, provide emotional support to one another, and to work toward understanding. In the midst of a pandemic, gathering our school community together in the typical way is not possible, but, as evidenced by the many emails and calls I have received from students, families, faculty, staff, and alumnae, many of us are being called to demonstrate these values that we share. It is in that spirit that I write this letter.
The recent murders of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, the killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, as well as the incident of a white woman calling the police to falsely claim that an African American man and birdwatcher was threatening her because he recorded her refusing to leash her dog in a protected part of Central Park, are only the most recent examples that highlight the systemic racism that pervades our country, our cities, and our communities. The grief and sorrow elicited by these events are compounded by the fact that people of color are dealing with disproportionately higher death and infection rates from the COVID-19 virus, a reality that is more evidence of the racial disparities and inequities that persist in America. The list of such inequities goes on and on, and the unprecedented mobilization across the nation we are witnessing is a direct response to those inequities. Many are mourning, and they are tired. We are, too. With that weariness, comes an energized resolve. Now is the time for us to look to our motto, Forte et Gratum, and with strength and grace, to denounce racism, to take action, and to support our students and faculty and staff of color, not just in word, but in deed.
Over the past few years we have made a concerted effort to strengthen and expand diversity and inclusion work at CSG. This work has included naming systemic racism and its effects on our society and discussing the things we can do, in big and small ways, to dismantle it. Now is the time not only to continue these important conversations, but also to be actively anti-racist. We must be even more fiercely committed to making sure that our curriculum and reading lists are inclusive of the voices in our community. We must continue to create safe places for uncomfortable conversations, like the affinity groups in Middle and Upper School. We must ask for honest and open feedback from our students, families, and alumnae, and make honest and open efforts to address their needs and concerns. We must continue to provide professional development and parent education to equip the adults in our community to answer the hard questions and have the difficult conversations so that we can fully support all of our students. We must continue to work to diversify our faculty and staff. We must hold ourselves accountable to our values.
The debate over racial inequity has a history of polarization in America. While there is a temptation to politicize this moment in our history, it is important that we recognize that racism is not a political issue. It is a human problem, and our response should be a human one. What we are seeing on our televisions or in our neighborhoods is a call-to-action, not just for local government and police departments, but for all of us. Recently, CSG signed this letter with hundreds of other organizations supporting a Columbus City Council resolution to declare racism a public health emergency. Demonstrating active anti-racism is not only imperative for the wellbeing of our black students and other students of color, it is also essential to the wellness of our community as a whole. Our mission of “empowering girls to discover their distinct potential as learners and leaders” requires that we recognize the systemic practices that could prevent our students from reaching that potential. We are committed to making sure that when we say our students should have unlimited potential, that they should flourish and thrive, that they should have a safe place to fail, that they should defy stereotypes--and that it is our collective job to help them reach these important goals--that we are making that same commitment to every one of our students.
As activist Brittany Packnett Cunningham said recently, “This moment of grief can also be a moment of purpose.” We have plans to come together and determine a compassionate and resolved response to the pervasive racism against which so many are now protesting. This will include conversations with students, parents, faculty and staff, alumnae, and our Board of Trustees. The goal will be to bring these voices together to create an actionable list of items that will resist racist rhetoric and activities. I will follow up this summer with a plan for when and how these conversations will happen, and we will invite you to participate in these important discussions. In the meantime, I want to share articles and resources that we have found helpful as we grapple with our own questions and those of our students. Should you need anything at this time or have ideas or questions related to CSG’s next steps in this journey, please reach out to me directly.
Forte et Gratum,
Anti-Racism Resources (Books, Articles, Websites, and Ways to Support)