Message from the Principal

Dear WNCS Community,

Even as we try to work on our graduation to honor this special achievement for these students, my attention has been pulled to the unfolding events around the country. The recorded murder of George Floyd, the eruption of protest around the country and the intense conversations across the news and social media about the patterns of racism which still plague America.

My disposition is to do my thinking and reading in private. Especially as a white person speaking to this moment, it is difficult to figure out anything useful to say. I don’t want to make hollow statements which only pay lip service to the issues involved. I don’t want to speak to experiences that I haven’t had. And I also don’t want to make statements I don’t believe.

It took a letter from one of our school families to prompt me to try to say something. She helped me see that my silence, as a representative of our school, comes across to some as ambiguity, neutrality, or worse. I wish it could go without saying that we stand against racism and police brutality. But maybe that is exactly the point. It doesn’t go without saying.

So I’d like to make a couple comments, knowing I can only truly represent myself, but hoping that the comments resonate for what our whole school community stands for.

We are against murder. At a spiritual level murder is one of the central prohibition given in the 10 commandments because it is directly against the heavenly command to love our neighbor. Murder of the heart is forbidden, murder of a person’s reputation at the civil level is forbidden and certainly physical murder of the body is also forbidden.

We stand with the rest of the country horrified and condemning of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police. Murder is particularly egregious when committed by police because of their position in society of both power and trust. I can’t possibly understand how difficult the job of good policing is, and yet it is clear that we must demand exceptional standards and quality from the institutions charged with protecting public safety.

I can’t make the statement that “I am not a racist,” because of what I understand racism to be.  But I can certainly make the statement that I am entirely against racism. Racism is one of types of spiritual murder mentioned above – even when it doesn’t take form in action or word, it is still from a murderous spirit. Its particular form is built on the lie that we are justified in feeling superior to another based on the genetic accident of birth. It’s a stupid lie as soon as it is examined, but it is also a tempting lie because of the desire to feel superior to another. So it remains a fight. A fight that is first, and always, fought in each human heart. I am committed to that fight.

Even as a small school, we are blessed with a wide variety among our student body. Even more than the variety of skin tones, is the variety of cultural backgrounds that each of our families add to the community. There is no doubt in my mind that this variety enriches and deepens our school.

I want to express in particular our commitment to respecting, protecting and honoring each of our students of color, who are under particular stress at this time. We care deeply about each one of you. We value your presence in our classrooms. And it is heartbreaking to know that the shadow of prejudice continues to make your lives harder in this country. We want an America where this is no longer true.

The letter I received also encouraged our faculty to learn and educate ourselves in black history and in discussions of contemporary issues around racism. These topics have been an important part of my reading and listening in the last several years, but the parent who wrote me gave me a much longer list of further resources to explore.

We will be reviewing resources on race at our end of year faculty meetings for our summer professional development work. We will also use a significant portion of our meeting time to review our programs, especially black history month, looking for opportunities where we can do more. I have to tell you, that makes me nervous. There are many ways to get it wrong as a white person presenting black history to black students. In this effort have benefited greatly in the past to have our parents of color come in throughout the year as speakers, sharing the richness and diversity of their individual biographies – not only on the topic race specifically, but on any number of other subjects which make up part of their experience as a person of color.

I wish the whole school family safety – physically and emotionally. These are hard times. I hope that many of you can tune into the live-stream of our graduation tonight to celebrate the work of these students and that your summer is better than this spring.

– Rev. Brian D. Smith, Principal