If You Were Here: New Hampton’s Dedication to the Fight for Equality

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Dear New Hampton Community,

On behalf of the dedicated faculty and staff at New Hampton, I write to express our deep remorse for the death of George Floyd and the numerous Black lives lost before him. We extend our support to the Black community, and those protesting for the fundamental change needed in our society to end racism and hatred.

While our campus community is often viewed as a safe haven from the challenges of the “real world”, our mission to cultivate life-long learners to be active global citizens commands us to not only use national events to educate our students and build awareness, but also to reflect on our own culture and climate. We are committed to being a community that works towards positive change, supporting students and adults from all backgrounds and ask that you join us in this effort; lending your experience and expertise in this shared effort to be our best.

I wish to share with you and hope you will reflect on the below communication that was sent to our current students and parents yesterday. I hope the message provides a glimpse into our community, the diversity work we are partnering with our students to advance, and our commitment to doing all we can for equity and racial justice.

We extend our hopes for your safety and well-being during these unfortunate times for our country.

–––––––

Several times throughout the spring, I recalled with colleagues what we would be doing if our students were still on campus. We longed for the traditional events, meaningful community dialogue, and personal contact with each of you. Daily interactions with students are an intentional way for us to focus on your needs—both in and out of the classroom. Unfortunately, we are not together at this time, but I hope to convey my thoughts to you through this letter.

New Hampton is not a place that condones violence or hatred of any kind. We pride ourselves on being a global community and with that comes a shared responsibility to support one another, most importantly our Black community right now.

If you were here now, I would want us to be talking about the unnecessary death of George Floyd. The shocking video of his killing and the inaction of police bystanders, coupled with similar injustices involving the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and countless other Black citizens, reveals how little has changed over the past several years. I don’t know what it is like to be black in our society and I don’t necessarily have the words to make sense of what is happening in our country, but I do believe that racism and violence toward people of color have been overlooked for too long. We can no longer turn our backs to the senseless mistreatment of others.

If you were here now, I would tell you how proud I am of the small group conversations I had with some of our students of color last spring. Those types of discussions are sometimes hard and uncomfortable, but they are extremely necessary in order for us to truly understand one another and come together as a united force. This important work continued into the fall and served as an impetus for a Voices of New Hampton program focused on the history of the N word and how it has propagated racism throughout society today. From there, we ultimately launched a students-of-color affinity group that provided support and advanced community-wide diversity, equity, and inclusion work. You helped us gain traction on topics of race on our campus with a constructive tone and a desire for New Hampton to be a place for all students to be accepted, valued, and celebrated.

If you were here now, I would want to listen to you, whether that be in small groups or as individuals, to understand your experiences with racism, your questions, your concerns, and consider together the actions we can take to build a better community. As always, Mr. LeBrun, Ms. Siciliano, and I are available to talk with you at any point via Zoom or phone. I am sure your advisor, coach, or other trusted adult here at NHS would happily engage in a conversation with you as well.

If you were here now, I would tell you that despite the unrest across our nation, I remain hopeful for the future. We can bring about real change if we are willing to reflect on the injustices in our world and take action to eliminate them, be less judgmental, and accept that we all have something to contribute regardless of our race. We are better together; and as so eloquently stated by Michelle Obama, “Race and racism is a reality that so many of us grow up learning to just deal with. But if we ever hope to move past it, it can’t just be on people of color to deal with it. It is up to all of us – Black, white, everyone – no matter how well-meaning we think we might be, to do the honest, uncomfortable work of rooting it out. It starts with self-examination and listening to those whose lives are different from our own. It ends with justice, compassion, and empathy that manifests in our lives and on our streets.”

Our all-school summer read, One Goal, was chosen so that we can reflect and work on these very issues. I urge you to read this book with purpose and to come back to campus inspired to make a difference in our community, our country, and the world.

Sincerely,
Joe Williams P’22
Head of School

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