Not everything that is faced can be changed.
But nothing can be changed until it is faced.
Dear Summit Community,
We write today with aching hearts, as we survey not only the events of the last ten days--the brutal killing of George Floyd and the national eruptions of anguish and passion that have followed--but also the longer and deeper history of anti-Blackness in this country, of which this senseless killing is but the latest instance. We feel that speaking out in condemnation of this is necessary, even while we recognize that speaking out is not itself sufficient. We must also act.
One of the resources often recommended for talking to children about racial justice is a picture book called Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness. This book tells the story of a young white girl hearing news from the television and learning that an unarmed Black man was killed by police officers in an American city, and that the death was captured on cellphone video, and followed by widespread protests. What does it tell us that a book written years ago is about the exact same scenario that has occurred this week? It tells us that the devaluing of Black lives by our policing system and other institutional structures is not new, not isolated, and not going to spontaneously resolve on its own. Systemic problems require systemic solutions, and that means that all of us must stand up for what is right.
To the members of the Summit community who are Black, we want to say that we see you. We stand with you. We join you in the struggle for justice and liberation. Your lives matter, and we commit to demonstrating that not only in word and speech but in action and truth.
For those of us who are not Black, how can we be part of the solution as our country moves forward together? We can search within our hearts and reflect on what these recent events bring up for us, rooting out our own resistance, fears, and unexamined assumptions. We can listen to Black people when they tell us what they’re experiencing, even and especially when their experience is different from our own. We can speak out when we hear our friends, neighbors, and colleagues dismissing police brutality, sharing misinformation, or prioritizing concern about property damage over concern for Black lives. We can take the interpersonal risk of not necessarily having exactly the right words, but speaking out anyway, knowing that to remain silent is to remain complicit in systems of oppression. We can take any number of concrete actions available to us, by donating to organizations, pressing our elected officials for true policy change, or direct action. Finally, given that we are a community centered around education, we can commit to talking honestly and openly with our own children about these events.
In a time such as this, when the injustices, inequalities, and fractures of our society are being exposed and laid bare, we are so grateful for our grounding in the peace-making and justice-seeking values of Montessori education. As the recent statement from the Montessori Schools of Massachusetts, whose president is our own Head of School Martha Torrence, puts it: “At the very heart of Montessori education is the promotion of peace. Peace-making is not a passive stance, but rather an active and disciplined pursuit.” Never has Summit’s mission of developing thoughtful global citizens ready to engage a diverse world been more relevant, or more urgent.
Summit’s commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work has most recently been spurred on by our committee which includes administrative, board, faculty, and parent members. In the fall of 2020, the committee will be working with the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) to conduct an Assessment of Inclusivity and Multiculturalism (AIM), a community wide survey and series of conversations that will encourage us to have open dialogue, come to better understand ourselves, and point us towards actions we may undertake.
As part of the committee's work, Summit engaged DEI educator, facilitator, and trainer Liza Talusan, Ph.D to work with the school community. She will facilitate a Summit Fireside Chat on Thursday, June 11 from 7-8 pm entitled “Difficult Conversations: Talking with your Child about Race and Social Injustice." We hope you will join us for this conversation and all those that will flow from there. An invitation with the link will follow soon.
For resources on having these necessary conversations with our children, please see the annotated list below. If after reviewing these resources you have questions or ideas, please reach out. Our committee looks forward to continuing this conversation and working together to create change in our school, our communities, our nation, and our world.
The Summit Montessori School Board of Trustees
Martha Torrence, Head of School
The Summit Montessori School Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee
John Bower, Parent and incoming Board of Trustees Member
Rebecca Crawford, Director of Development and Parent
Elbert Hardeman, Parent
Robin Jenkins, Parent
Summer Shaud, Board of Trustees Member and Parent
Tyra Sherry, Children’s House 2 Co-Lead Teacher
Martha Torrence, Head of School
10 tips for teaching and talking to young children about race:
Interview with the author of Raising White Kids about how white parents can talk about race: https://www.npr.org/2020/05/31/866426170/raising-white-kids-author-on-how-white-parents-can-talk-about-race
Addressing racial injustice with young children:
Beyond the Golden Rule, a booklet for parenting about teaching tolerance: https://www.tolerance.org/sites/default/files/general/beyond_golden_rule.pdf
Talking to children after racial violence: https://www.gse.upenn.edu/news/talking-children-after-racial-incidents
Talking About Race, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture
How to tackle anti-blackness as a non-black PoC