Bending Towards Justice in Independent Education

On Monday, I had the honor to walk alongside 35 members of The Bush School community–parents, teachers, staff, administrators, Trustees, alumnae/i, students and Friends of Bush–from Garfield High School to the Jackson Federal Building in Seattle’s annual MLK March. The march, now in its 35th year, honors the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who would have celebrated his 88th birthday on Sunday. The theme of this year’s march was “Stop the Hate! Come Together” and was open to “everyone who honors the goals and methods of Martin Luther King, Jr.”
Dr. King’s goal of securing racial equality through peaceful, nonviolent resistance is almost universally accepted today, and Dr. King remains one of the most admired figures in American history. In 2011, Dr. King boasted a 95% favorability rating, with over two-thirds of respondents indicating that they thought highly—rated 4 or 5 on a five-point scale–of the slain civil rights leader. Clearly, the country’s feelings toward Dr. King have evolved over time. Largely beloved and revered by Americans today, in 1966, only 37% of Americans had a favorable opinion of Dr. King, and 44% held a strongly unfavorable opinion him. Why has Dr. King’s message grown more resonant with the passage of time? 
Perhaps our opinion of Dr. King has improved because wishing for racial equality is easier than practicing it. We must remember that progress, like love, is an action verb. And while our attitudes about how we live with and treat others of different backgrounds have changed, recently we have seen incidents of racial harassment on campuses increase This is happening nationally—according to the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS)—here in Seattle, and even at The Bush School. Dr. King believed that the most persistent and urgent question for us as a society was “what are we doing for others?”.
This is a question that our students and faculty try to answer daily. The Bush School has set a course for dialogue and action. With groups like the Student Awareness Council, White Students Combating Racism, Bush Babes, Blazers of Color, and People for Equality, our students spend time learning about one another, their different identities, and their common experiences. Our faculty and staff use affinity groups, Peacemaking Circles, and Jeffersonian-style dinners to break bread and to break down barriers of misunderstanding and mistrust. We want to invite you to join in these conversations. This spring we will host two parent education talks focused the racial climate in our community and how to talk with our children about race (dates are still tentative). Below are resources that school leaders within our regional and national associations have circulated to begin the conversation.
Last Monday, along with thousands of supporters, the Bush community marched proudly in support of Dr. King’s legacy, and pledged to “Stop the Hate” we see around us. Those of us who walked, laughed, shared stories of our families, and embraced the cold and the crowd are committed to building a just and loving society. We’ve decided “that hate is too much of a burden to bear”.
It may have taken decades for Americans to fully embrace Dr. King and his message. However, like King, I believe that while “the arc of the moral universe is long it bends towards justice.”
NAIS’ Call to Action – Make our values known
The importance of teachers learning to discuss race.
How kids learn about race
Talking to your child about race
Dyspelling Myths
Gallup Poll Citation