School NewsJun 2, 2020
A letter from Head of School Julia Heaton on the recent violence against people of color
Dear MHS Community,
I write on behalf of Miss Hall’s School to express outrage and grief in response to the continued, senseless violence against black Americans and other people of color at the hands of police and fellow citizens. We mourn for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and their families. And, we acknowledge that these are but three names on a list of tragic deaths that grows longer and longer by the day.
I write on behalf of Miss Hall’s School to express love and concern for MHS students of color, families of color, faculty, and staff of color, and alumnae of color. We condemn the overt and covert acts of white supremacy that threaten your physical, mental, and emotional safety. We bear witness, we are listening, and we stand in solidarity with you. Black Lives Matter.
I write on behalf of Miss Hall’s School to issue a call to action to every member of the MHS community around the world. I implore you to do your part, individually and collectively, to dismantle systems of inequality and oppression.
Over the past few days, I have been asking myself some pointed questions, which I share with you here so that you may ask yourself the same:
- What can I do right now to show up for others?
- What do I need to learn to counteract my own deep-seated biases and assumptions?
- How can I use my voice to call out injustice, and how can I amplify the voices of others?
- When I see people in power seek to devalue, dehumanize, and threaten people of color, how will I demand accountability?
- How will I leverage my privilege and influence, and expend my political/social/financial capital in direct alignment with my values?
- When I feel overwhelmed, uncomfortable, or afraid, how will I resist the lure of passive silence and tap into resilience and courage instead?
- What will it take for me to make ongoing, sustained commitments to social justice, long after the current moment has passed?
While these are highly personal questions, most of my answers are rooted deeply in my work at Miss Hall’s. When it comes to social justice, I cannot separate the personal from the professional. Our mission is to inspire students to contribute boldly and creatively to the common good, and to live by the core values of respect, honor, growth, and authenticity. This mission and these values have become my own, and I am inextricably linked to the history of this school and what is to come.
In its 122 years of existence, MHS has faced challenges, upheaval, failures, and positive transformation. As we look to the future, I am committed to continuously reimagining and growing toward our goals of equity and inclusion. This begins with building strong and authentic relationships and community; extends into curriculum, policies, and daily practices; and never ends.
At MHS, we teach our students to be courageous participants in a multicultural society, to advocate, to act as allies, and to create change. As I write, students and alumnae are already activating their networks, using their platforms on social media, protesting, and showing up in countless ways. Students, I am incredibly proud, as always, of your fearlessness, compassion, and unshakeable convictions. As I have said, this work does not lie solely on your shoulders. You didn’t create these problems, and you can’t be expected to solve them alone. To reimagine and build a more just future will take all of us.
Some students may be wondering, is it safe to go out and protest? That is a conversation to have with your families about where you are, what your rights are, and what precautions you will take to ensure your safety. As you are considering, I remind you that protest is only one form of action. Consider, too, the skills you have learned at MHS to mobilize others, build coalitions and partnerships, and use your voice. And, as soon as you are old enough to do so, VOTE for leaders who inspire you. Or better yet, BE a leader who inspires others.
Some families may be asking, how do I talk to my student about the state of the world? I encourage you to begin by listening, deeply, to your student’s feelings, questions, and fears. We can neither make the fears go away, nor can we attempt to “protect” students from the truth. Racism is a truth we all need to face. What you can do is join together in questioning, learning, and taking purposeful action. There is no script, but I can assure you that one conversation will open the door to more. If you are interested, we have shared some resources below.
In speaking to the graduating Class of 2020 on Sunday, I remarked that we are currently facing two crises — a global pandemic and the national disease of racism. While COVID-19 is a new enemy that we are racing to understand and combat, racism in the United States is intricately woven into our history and perpetuated by our laws and behaviors. In response to COVID-19, the MHS community has rallied together quickly and decisively to protect the well-being of our students and support those in need. Our response to racialized violence and injustice perpetrated against people of color must be just as strong and unified.
All my best,
Julia Heaton, Head of School