Dear Parents…

“I watched the classroom like I watched the streets because I knew part of the answer was there.” James Baldwin

This weekend, I was inspired to respond to a distressing post I was tagged in. For me, it brought the past thirteen years in community with an independent school altogether as would the last piece of a complicated yet beautiful puzzle.

The parent’s heart-breaking post described an all too familiar experience about leaving or staying. It was about pulling black and brown students out of schools when painful and clearly racist incidents occur.

The hope of the person writing the post was to be able to identify schools doing the work  (like a list), where racism couldn’t show it’s ugly face. And, if it did leadership and the community would deal with it intentionally and swiftly.

As a highly-engaged POC (parent of color) with a lifestyle network focused on independent school culture and us, I am conscious of how both of these roles offer me insights, a clearer perspective on a few things, like,

*why I’m so insistent on pursuing this type of education for my kids & others in spite of the complexities racially and socio-economically
*and, how I believe families of color can beat the odds and really thrive in these rigorously challenging environments while making it better for those who follow

I’ve often wondered if “a list” can genuinely and accurately identify the culture of educational spaces as free from the opportunity of racial trauma, at any given point in time. Will ranking schools as doing all the right or wrong things protect our kids?

Or do we need a blueprint? Could a playbook and toolkit better serve us for the ‘Not If, But When‘ scenario in institutions that are centered in whiteness?

What should a playbook and toolkit take into consideration?

1. We belong – many of our ancestors built powerful cultural legacies against all reason, and with sweat equity and their lives, drove the capital to create our most elite institutions. I was reminded a long time ago how to walk in white spaces -like I already earned a seat at the table. Are we prepared to pull up, find networks, show up, and take our place?

2. Equity is elusive – historical, institutional, and systemic inequities are baked into the culture, community, and curriculum of most educational spaces, independent schools notwithstanding. How do we stay, thrive, and disrupt for the better?

3. The price of this ticket – most of us buy into a school’s prestige and college acceptance list (notice I did not say rate-not an issue here). The school’s mission, vision, seal, and strategic plan is the promissory note. Yet, the costs are high tuition, and if we’re honest, social and emotional instability. Do we know how to mitigate these costs for our family and practice wellness as we secure what we’re paying for?

4. Activism is not accidental – students of color have been successfully pushing back. Mandatory anti-bias training is a must for faculty & admin. And, as parents, we have to leverage our capacity to affect change too. It can be futile to jump from one inherently white supremacist space to another, to what we hope is greener grass, without advocating for what is necessary where we are.

I wonder if we recognize the power of our individual voice & visibility? Are we willing to challenge parent peers to get uncomfortable and engage beyond their privilege?
And if we choose this journey, is making emotional wellness a top-priority a sign of weakness or a strategy for success?

What I do know is that at all times, we must be vigilant when it comes to how and where and by who our kids are educated.

As my husband likes to say, ‘keep your head on a swivel’.

No matter the school, what they say, or what others say about it, most are inherently challenged to become just, diverse, equitable, and inclusive. Do we stick it out, or do we bail out? Perhaps, the cost of admission should also include showing the ‘beloved’ to itself while we’re getting what it is we came for.

When it comes to straight-up racist acts, unconscious or conscious bias, and even those hard to put your finger on micro-aggressions:
1. disrupt it and call it out immediately -you’re not tripping.
2. find allies -no time for detractors.
3. quickly document and address it with leadership.
3. ask for what it is you need and follow up.
4. and, when necessary, repeat.

I realize too that some outcomes are untenable, and leaving is the only option.

But, if you’ve taken the time to build relationships with school leadership and other stakeholders in the community from day one, please utilize these to challenge & encourage schools communities to live up to their missions and goals to become better than when we arrived. In tough times families and schools can grow stronger. I am a witness.

Your RIISE Blueprint | Playbook | Toolkit™ arrives this fall. Perfect for families who want to thrive and lead.

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