June 1, 2020
Dear Williston Students, Faculty, and Staff,
Were school in session, I would be addressing our students directly about the death of George Floyd, the brutal imagery of the end of his life captured by cell phone video and security cameras. Those images are sickening, and as with the Rodney King video from thirty years ago, we are seeing before our very eyes how racial injustice threatens the lives of those in the black community and rends us apart as a nation. If I were in Stevens Chapel, I would ask the community at large to recommit themselves to our foundational principle of respect for self and others. And then I would ask that we do more: that we reach out to students and adults of color who deserve our support more than ever.
As a white man, I have never experienced fear when pulled over by a police officer for a speeding violation. I have never doubted my ability to hail a taxi in a major American city, and I have never had a family member experience any of these and far worse inequities. But I have friends, people who do not identify as white, who have shared their stories with me, and as always, I stand with them and all in our community who are suffering.
We are blessed at Williston to live in a community that supports one another, where individuals are respected and affirmed not for the color of their skin but for the content of their character, to paraphrase America’s paragon of non-violent protest and social justice, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Systemic racial injustice has once again threatened to fray the tapestry of the great American experiment, a nation of immigrants, who seek to live in a country where all are created equal, and where we strive to live by our unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Despite our being separated by a pandemic of historic significance, we should not lose sight of this moment in the long road of a civil rights movement towards a more perfect union. I have asked the faculty diversity committee to convene this week with our current students and recent graduates to offer a forum of support and planning for how we at Williston can dedicate our community to advancing the cause of racial justice and equity in the coming year.
With my best to you and your families for safety, good health, and faith that our best instincts will unite us.
Robert W. Hill III, P’15, ’19
Head of School