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The Episcopal School in North Philadelphia

Dear St. James School Community,

Yesterday, when a jury of our peers convicted Derek Chauvin of murdering George Floyd, my reaction was: Justice does not bring George back to his family. Justice does not heal the broken hearts. And yet, Thanks be to God that justice was done.

This morning, I feel called again to the urgent work of racial justice and reconciliation — the only work that can prevent more senseless loss and heartbreak. Nothing about race relations in America is over just because this trial is over. Our country is not going to ‘get over it’ anytime soon because “it” is the tallest mountain in America: the mountain of misunderstanding, mistrust, and hate that divides people with white skin from people of color.

Slavery built that mountain, and it has grown higher through decades of discrimination in all its ugly forms. No matter our race and/or cultural expression, we all grew up in a country where attitudes about race have shaped us. As adults, we must examine our unconscious biases and commit to the work of anti-racism, within ourselves and within our communities. It is the only way to climb that mountain and embrace all of humanity at the top.

We are doing that important work at St. James School, with intention and love. As a staff of mostly white adults teaching mostly Black students, we actively seek, challenge, and evaluate racial equity and inclusivity in our policies and practices — from the books in our curriculum to our hiring practices. There is no greater imperative.

Today, let our hearts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of George Floyd and Derek Chauvin, and all of those who have suffered most since that fateful May day. Today, let us pray to God for the strength to lead our families, friends, and communities up the mountain.

The climb begins with a single step and I believe most of you have taken many steps already. If you are asking yourself ‘what more can I do,’ consider taking more of the steps below.

  1. Read with intention. Seek knowledge. Read nonfiction about racism, inequality, and police brutality. Read research by Black scholars. Read Responding to Racist Violence, a resource from The Episcopal Church.
  2. Listen with intention. Listen to the voices of disenfranchised yet resilient Black people. Their narratives paint a telling picture of historic and pervasive discriminatory treatment by criminal justice institutions. Understand #BlackLivesMatter does not equal white subjugation.
  3. Talk with intention. Not small talk. Not concerned talk. Not empathetic talk. Real talk. Informed talk. Uncomfortable talk. Processing by yourself can reinforce your biases. It is critical to engage in conversations with people who challenge anti-Black narratives.
  4. Act with intention. Get involved. Donate. Call out/in others. Seek to bring forward awareness, concerns, and ideas so that our approach to issues of racial injustice is comprehensive and consistent whether we are at home, church, work, or in our social circles.
  5. Reflect and recommit with intention. There is no magic button. There is no quick fix. The weight of institutional racism, structural inequality, and oppression will not be lifted overnight. It requires each of us to reflect and recommit to this process, with intention.

Today I add to that list, pray for just actions from our judicial system. Pray that racially motivated injustice will become a thing of the past. Pray for more leaders to rise up and help us build the beloved community that God intends for us.

In closing, I want to thank St. James School’s Racial Equity Team for leading us in the necessary reflection and change through workshops, readings, and courageous conversations. These individuals do this work with passion, love, and commitment.

I also want to thank you for your commitment to our work here at St. James School.

God Bless,
David Kasievich
Head of School