Over spring break, Ruth and I got hooked on Ted Lasso, a lighthearted TV series about an American football coach who is hired to lead an English Premier League soccer team despite minimal understanding of the game or his new national home. In the first episode, Coach Lasso, realizing that his players come from all over the world, points to one and asks, “He must be from England, yeah?” “Wales,” his assistant coach corrects him. “Is that another country?” “Yes and no.” Lasso is incredulous. “How many countries are in this country?!?” “Four.” He pauses and then says, “Kind of like America these days.”
Our spring break at MICDS had hardly begun before the killings of eight people in Atlanta, six of them Asian-American women, prompted widespread reflection on stereotypes and attitudes that infect perceptions of persons of Asian ancestry in the United States, and that sometimes lead to violence against them. Anti-Asian bias has unfortunately only increased in the last year. Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Pew Research, Asian Americans report being subjected to hateful slurs or jokes and experiencing fear of physical harm at higher rates than members of any other major demographic group in our country.
Wesley Yang, whose book of essays The Souls of Yellow Folk was published shortly before the COVID-19 outbreak, observed in 2016 that “any system that requires exceptional fortitude from certain categories of people is an unjust one.” My hope for and expectation of us at MICDS is that we require equal fortitude from all categories of people in our school community, to borrow Yang’s incisive phrasing, but that we require exceptional fortitude from no one. Yang describes it as “an impossible wish” that a Korean-American like himself—or the African-American college students about whom he was writing—should “never have cause to think of themselves as the other.” This must not be an impossible wish at MICDS. It betrays our Mission that any child or young person would ever be “the other” here. We all belong equally.
On January 14, 1963, the same day that Governor George Wallace of Alabama declared “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever,” Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel made a contrary and embracing declaration of his own at the National Conference of Christians and Jews on Religion and Race. “We must never be oblivious of the equality of the divine dignity of all men,” he said. “Humanity is one.”
This weekend we celebrate the culmination of Passover, this weekend we celebrate Easter, and just after next weekend we will celebrate the commencement of Ramadan. Last weekend we celebrated Holi, the Hindu festival of love, and this weekend we celebrate Qingming, the Chinese festival of ancestors and family. This weekend we celebrate the arrival of the third week of our long-awaited spring, and we look forward to our continuing journey together. We all belong on it equally. Humanity is one.
Always reason, always compassion, always courage. I wish you a happy weekend of celebration with your families and loved ones.
Head of School