What do we do with our outrage? This is the question first year student Alice Ryan ‘26 was grappling with when she first learned about the executions of political dissidents in Iran.
July has arrived, and while campus remains quiet, planning for our return to school in September is in full swing. We know questions abound as the academic year approaches. In order to provide an open forum for these questions, we invite you to join the following faculty and administrators during our Summer Office Hours Series (all times listed are Eastern Standard Time). Each of these office hours sessions will be held via WebEx (parents and students should check email for additional links to each event), and will serve as true “office hours” where families can jump on for a few minutes or the entire time.
I am writing today to follow up on last Thursday’s forum which was hosted by Lori Patriacca ‘01 and John Bouton focused on the film Just Mercy. The film - watch it if you haven’t - focuses on the work of Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative work Stevenson does to review and exonerate those - mostly Black and on death row - who have been wrongfully prosecuted and convicted. It’s an eye-opening film into a skewed legal system and it prompted good community and self reflection. The forum is part of an on-going series of conversations and listening sessions organized at Proctor since the protests, unrest, and calls for police reform following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Over the last week we have collectively borne witness to the news of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis while in police custody, have seen the spread of angst and anger in communities, and seen images of protesters across the country. We have seen property damage. We have seen teargas shot into crowds and riot police knocking over protesters. We have seen police kneeling alongside protestors, peacefully. We have seen images of military helicopters intimidating crowds. We have seen journalists attacked and arrested. Amidst all of this (and the pandemic) it is hard for individuals and communities to find a framework for the turmoil that doesn’t make it feel overwhelming. We wonder where and when the healing will begin, when the requisite societal changes will take shape, and who will lead us through this valley.
What if we, as an imperfect society, sought justice for the oppressed with the same conviction that those in power seek to stay in power? What if we took time to honestly reconcile the racism and oppression on which America was built? What if we, as individuals, made the conscious decision to choose love in our daily decisions? Would we accelerate the slow bending arch of history toward justice that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. promised more than fifty years ago?
Perhaps my voice is not the right one for this blog post. It’s a voice that did not choose the situation I was born into, but most certainly has benefited from it. A voice that has only recently started to grapple with the privilege my family experiences. A voice that will unlikely know what it feels like to walk through daily life with an experience other than that of the majority. A voice that harbors guilt for this privilege, yet is reluctant to give it up.