Dear Indian Springs Community:
The letter that I had intended to write this week will arrive early next week. It will contain more information about the opening of school in August.
But first, like so many heads of schools, presidents of colleges and universities, and religious leaders in the United States, I write now to express to all Indian Springs School students and their families, but especially to the School’s black students and their families, the outrage and heartache that my colleagues on the faculty and staff and I feel about former Minneapolis Police Officer Chauvin’s slow choking to death of George Floyd and our sadness at the destruction that has taken place following that death, and to reaffirm as well the commitment of Indian Springs School to building a community based on core values that include integrity, inclusion, and infinite respect.
As horrific as the actions of Officer Chauvin were in choking George Floyd to death, over nearly nine minutes, equally appalling to me as an educator was the silence of the other three officers at the scene, none of whom seemed to object to, redirect, or ameliorate in any way Officer Chauvin’s actions. Moral courage, which is embedded in one of the six core values of Indian Springs School, is the one value that enables us to object, to stand up, to act, in the face of injustice. Moral courage is a choice, it is a learned and practiced habit, and among the four former police officers, moral courage was shockingly absent during the entirety of those nearly nine minutes.
In a recent interview with the New Yorker magazine, Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, the author of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, and the prime mover behind the creation of the National Museum for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, reminded us all that it was not slavery alone that comprised the great sin of the United States against African-Americans—it was the linking of slavery with racism, and it was racism that paved the way for decades of legalized and institutional oppression long after slavery was abolished.
Before the choking to death of George Floyd, Indian Springs School had identified the core value on which the School would focus next year—inclusion, and had included the topic of anti-racism as a focus of the beginning-of-school faculty and staff meetings in August. The events of the last ten days reaffirm the importance of these decisions.
In the face of such injustice and wanton destruction and sadness, some things give me hope. First, and most important for Indian Springs School, is the leadership that I know our students will provide the School next year in guiding discussions that can educate all about the pernicious impact of racism of all kinds. There are strong, thoughtful, intentional leaders in the Class of 2021 whose voices will be especially important next year.
Second is the inspiration that so many leaders of cities have provided about these issues. In Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, Police Chief Patrick Smith, and Fire Department Chief Cory Moon have been consistent voices of understanding but also of the need for order, civil discourse, and respect for all. The mayors of Houston, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and St. Paul have all spoken passionately acknowledging injustice and the need for institutional change, but also clearly articulating their strong beliefs in working for change constructively, not destructively.
Finally, it is my strong belief that the way forward will be found through the willingness of all participants in these discussions to connect with others. This is a uniquely human capability, but also a uniquely human need. May it guide us all in the future.
As always, I send with this note my best wishes to you.
Interim Head of School
Indian Springs School