June 2nd, 2020
Dear Prairie Families,
We have reached the last week of school for this unique year with a heavy heart. In addition to the unprecedented pandemic, the last ten days have seen our country again convulsing in pain and protest over another senseless murder resulting from an abuse of police power.
Some of you are not old enough to remember the first police beating caught on video. Rodney King was brutally beaten a few miles from my college campus the spring before I began teaching 30 years ago. Seeing George Floyd suffocating to death and the four day delay before arresting just one of the officers involved brought the same sickening feelings of frustration, sadness, and disappointment that I first felt in 1991. These feelings rise to the surface with each racist abuse of power caught on video. I can only imagine the number of abuses not videoed.
As a community, we must rally and continue our fight to eliminate racism, inequality, and violence in our society. Bigotry, out-of-control power, and cruelty are vile reminders of why we must continue to work together as a school community where inclusivity and mutual respect define us.
There are many ways for each of us to help build a more just world, including political activism, voting, investment, philanthropy, and community service. Prairie is committed to helping society move forward through relationship-building and education. Our faculty and I are available for students throughout the summer to listen, support, and strengthen both our knowledge and our relationships.
Summer is also a time for reflection and self-directed learning, and I hope you will join me in learning more about some of the challenges surrounding police violence and our country’s current difficulties and history related to race.
By learning more about each other and our different experiences and histories, we can help move our school and country closer to living in harmony with true equality. To learn more about improving police accountability:
- Campaign Zero – Solutions — A look at data and research-informed policy solutions that communities designed to end police violence.
- Center for Policing Equity—The Science of Justice: Race, Justice, and Police Use of Force — A detailed report using police administrative data showing disparities in the use of force. Phillip Atiba Goff, the center director, delivers a TED talk on fighting racism and improving policing.
- The Opportunity Agenda—Promoting Accountability — Learn how police accountability works, and the four mechanisms—community-based, political, civil, and criminal — for holding law enforcement accountable.
- Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights—New Era of Public Safety: A Guide to Fair, Safe, and Effective Community Policing — The reforms in this report are intended to create accountability and build better relationships between law enforcement and our communities.
To learn more about the experience of our fellow students, families, and community members who are regularly subjected to unfair treatment, systematic challenges, violence, and bias due to the color of their skin along with our country’s history of oppression:
- The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture’s website dedicated to Talking about Race — Learn more about bias, community building, anti-racism, the social foundations and history of race.
- The Zinn History Project based on Howard Zinn’s famous text, A People’s History of the United States, explores American history through the experience of the disadvantaged.
- 10 Documentaries about the African American experience — from Emmy winning King In The Wilderness to Ava DuVernay’s When they See Us about the Central Park exonerated five.
- Powell’s Books Black History Month reading list — great nonfiction and fiction books for adults, teens, and kids.
One last resource I would like to share is guidance from one of my former professors on how to talk about racial incidents with young children. Our kids see and know more than we realize, and our efforts to shield them are likely not working or helping. If there is anything I or the faculty can do to help and/or support your family, please reach out.
My condolences and hopes for justice are with George Floyd’s family and friends. This heinous act reminds us, once again, that our efforts to push back the darkness of oppression must continue.
Nathaniel W. Coffman, Ed.D.
Head of School