An Open Letter from Christian Educators on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in America

June 2, 2020

As Christian educators, we join together to stand against America’s persistent and insidious sin of racism. We lament the suffering of our black and brown brothers and sisters and stand alongside them in grief over the egregious injustices that persistently befall their communities. We also lament for the times when Christian schools individually and collectively are part of the problem rather than the solution. As Christian educators, we are committed to continuously educating ourselves and our students to root out racism and injustice in our own beliefs and practices, in our relationships and communities, in our schools, and in our country.

This commencement season, we send our graduates into the world with deep love, hope, and pride. Yet, amidst the celebration, we recognize the deep hurt and trauma that many of our students—particularly our black and brown students—are holding at the same time. For too long, they have had to conform to a triumphant story of American exceptionalism, absent the majority culture’s humble and personalized reflection on its own biases and ignorance to the lived reality of students of color and their families. These realities range from daily microaggressions at best to overt expressions of hate and inhumane loss of life at worst. Not unlike George Floyd, many are gasping for air as they suppress their pain, wondering if the promises and well wishes at commencement ceremonies are also genuinely meant for them.

And why shouldn’t they wonder? Our students of color have watched in the recent weeks the violent and deadly treatment of Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd. These names—which represent individuals created in the image of God and worthy of love, respect, and dignity (Genesis 1), and for whom Christ died (John 3:16)—are the most recent. From Emmett Till to Michael Brown, to Trayvon Martin to Eric Garner, to Kendra James to Sandra Bland—these are just a few of the more recent names, known widely because their deaths were photographed or filmed. But countless names remain unknown from over 400 years history of racially motivated violence and injustice—from slavery to Jim Crow, zoning laws to stop and frisk and mass incarceration, unemployment and inequitable compensation, and lack of access to healthcare and police brutality.

Our history has thrown up a constant, debilitating barrier to a God-intended flourishing life often preached in churches on Sundays and weekly chapels in Christian schools. The good news of the Gospel is for all, but it also places its emphasis on the marginalized and oppressed (Matthews 5); and, as we recently celebrated Pentecost Sunday, God birthed the Christian church on the foundation of linguistic and cultural diversity (Acts 2). Where our actions and commitments have deviated from what we have believed and preached, we collectively ask forgiveness from God and, as importantly (Matthew 5:24), from our brothers and sisters of color.

For the sake of the flourishing of all of our students, we must come together as an educational community and not only squarely face our country’s original sin of racism, but also combat its persistent poison. If Christian educators and leaders simply voice their sympathy and condemnation of the individual cases of injustice, we risk again ignoring, trivializing, or outright dismissing the lived realities of our students and colleagues of color. Instead we must stand together, shoulder to shoulder, to call out sin prophetically, minister humbly as a community to those who are hurting, and act meaningfully as a collective witness of God’s justice (Amos 5).

By signing our names to this letter, we, as Christ-centered educators and as representatives of the Christian education learning community, collectively:

  • Lament along with the black community for the violence (verbal, physical, cultural, and psychological) that they experience daily due to longstanding and ongoing racism;
  • Acknowledge humbly that racism and privilege are poison in our communities and we have long ignored their impact on all of us in our Christian schools;
  • Stand in solidarity with our black and brown students and colleagues and are ready to listen and humbly learn, while seeking to amplify their voices and experiences so as to take the first steps toward reconciliation and restoration; and
  • Acknowledge that some of our Christian schools were founded with the intent of white separatism, rooted in white supremacy culture, and together we share the burden to lead a vision of racial reconciliation and equity.

We also commit collectively and individually (either for the first time, or afresh) to the following actions, which demonstrate a tangible and real commitment to creating diverse, inclusive, and equitable educational communities:

  • Prioritizing diversity in our admissions processes, with an emphasis on increasing accessibility (financial and otherwise) to Christian education for historically underserved communities and families;
  • Diversifying our leadership, faculty, and staff through means of our hiring and promotion processes and decisions at all levels;
  • Providing ongoing training for leadership, faculty, and staff in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion, to engage them in honest self-reflection around these issues as well as equip them to foster a just and safe educational culture for students of all races and backgrounds;
  • Ensuring our curricula and classroom resources reflect the voices and perspectives of diverse groups, inclusive of race and ethnicity, so that students of all backgrounds can see themselves represented as well as learn from those different from themselves;
  • Fostering dialogue around diversity, equity, and inclusion in our educational communities, and amplify marginalized voices and experiences, acknowledge and address privilege, and be Gospel-centric with reconciliation and restoration as its aim;
  • Encouraging and supporting the leadership of students of color, first broadly throughout our schools and institutions, and additionally, specific to issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion;
  • Reducing cultural insularity by meaningfully connecting our schools/institutions, staff, and students with community and church partners in our area who are engaged in this and similar work; and
  • Holding each other mutually accountable to these commitments.

We believe that the above actions are first steps toward racial reconciliation and restoration in our Christian educational communities. But we know full well that the work will be hard and long. Yet this is the Gospel-centered work that our hurting country and communities need. We are reminded that Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35) and that Matthew 5:14-16 instructs us, “You are the light of the world… let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Through love and good deeds, empowered by God who works within us to fulfill His good purpose (Philippians 2:13), we can combat racism; promote diversity, equity, and inclusion; and build just educational communities together. In doing so, and through a Gospel-inspired imagination for a better future, we will ultimately “not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

An Open Letter from Christian Educators on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in America

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