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Continuing a Journey Toward Anti-racism

Suzanne Romero Dewey
No one is born racist or antiracist; these result from the choices we make. Being antiracist results from a conscious decision to make frequent, consistent, equitable choices daily. These choices require ongoing self-awareness and self-reflection as we move through life. In the absence of making antiracist choices, we (un)consciously uphold aspects of white supremacy, white-dominant culture, and unequal institutions and society. Being racist or antiracist is not about who you are; it is about what you do. Talking About Race, Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture

It has almost been a month since the death of George Floyd ignited our country into a renewed awakening that things are not right. Black lives matter! Systematic racism is rampant. Schools such as Emma Willard School can be beacons of hope, but they are not immune to the harm of racist behavior. In a series of conversations with students, employees, and alumnae, deep sharing is forcing the realization that we have a responsibility as individuals and as educators to develop, foster, and demand anti-racist thinking and actions.

The administration of Emma Willard School knows that we have much work to do to help make our school that hoped-for beacon with a diverse population of students and staff thriving as an equitable and inclusive community. Head of School Jenny Rao shared with employees that “we have to commit to our own personal work” when it comes to becoming anti-racist. “Each of us has our own journey but we need to fast-track it.”

Jenny Rao shared her thinking in a video message shared with the wider Emma community last week. She outlines the steps we are taking as an organization. 

In one of the alumnae input sessions, a member of the Class of 1970 told us that the work is on the community. True understanding starts with inward reflection, considering our own attitudes, contemplating rote behaviors, and engaging in meaningful and often uncomfortable conversations. Part of the hard work of becoming anti-racist if you are not a person of color is first comprehending that our civic infrastructure, laws, and belief system are constructed through privilege and white identity.

Below is a sampling of resources to help you on your own journey.

All-School Read
We’ve selected Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid as our All-School read. We believe this summer reading experience will provide an entry point for conversations about issues of equity and justice and specifically anti-Black racism. This book explores various viewpoints and we hope will be accessible to all students and employees. Such a Fun Age is written by a Black female author and is a story that features a strong female protagonist. The book confronts what it means to an ally and what that action might look like in today’s climate. 
A Theatre Production Worth Seeing
Last autumn, Emma students were invited to see the play Pipeline at Shakespeare and Company.  The play is about a Black high school student at an upstate New York boarding school who gets into trouble over an incident with his teacher while reading Native Son in class. The story is told chiefly from the perspective of the student’s mother and wraps around her terror as she raises a Black son in today's America. Written by Dominique Morriseau (head writer on Showtime's Shameless and recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant), this play is essential viewing this summer.  The Lincoln Center is streaming this production, online right now 
Juneteenth Jamboree,” a PBS series about the holiday

“An American Spring of Reckoning,” by Jelani Cobb in the New Yorker


Waking Up White by Debby Irving

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Homegoing (fiction) by Yaa Gyasi
285 Pawling Avenue, Troy, NY 12180 | P: 518.833.1300 F: 518.833.1815
PLEASE NOTE: Our campus is currently CLOSED to the public. See our COVID-19 Response page for details.

Welcome to Emma Willard School, a private day and boarding high school for girls in Troy, NY, and a leader in girls' education for over 200 years.