Sandy Spring Friends School



The One About the Pandemic of Racism

The One About the Pandemic of Racism

To the Sandy Spring Friends School Community,

Currently, our school is inwardly focused due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We are busy, distracted, and fully occupied with what must be done to wrap up the current academic year and prepare for what the Fall might bring. We accept these responsibilities with gratitude because it is our life’s work to support our students as they grow into young people leading lives of character and influence.

As a school community, what do we want to be known for at this time? That we rose to the occasion. We sought advice from experts, we viewed every decision through the prism of compassion. We never forgot to put the health and safety of all members of our community first.  We remained true to our mission. We kept our promises.

But there is another pandemic ravaging our country, one that is routinely dismissed and quickly forgotten despite its lethal nature: systemic racism. This scourge deserves—requires—the same urgent attention we are giving to Covid-19.

I urge us to leave room to feel real anger and revulsion about the recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery in Atlanta, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and George Floyd in Minneapolis.

These tragic events and countless others demand a response. In our own community, as our understanding of the impact of the coronavirus grew, we were made aware that matters of diversity, equity, and inclusion would slip from top-of-mind. This is unacceptable.

As a white male, I understand the advantage of going about my daily life largely unaware of my race and unconcerned about violence against me. That this level of safety and security is withheld from vast numbers of our fellow citizens—that countless people of color across this country are forced to carry a daily burden of anxiety and fear—is a betrayal of every principle we aim to teach our children.

Many Sandy Spring Friends School students, parents, faculty, and staff are suffering from these violent reminders that their lives are not protected from the consequences of hatred and brutality. Members of our community are experiencing trauma and fear for their loved ones’ lives.

We are in the midst of two pandemics. Each of us needs to ask what changes we—as individuals and as institutions—are capable of making to bring about the world we want and our children deserve. We must reflect on our own biases, actions, and inactions. Then, we must set about making those changes. We must act with a sense of urgency. Our lives depend on it.

To the families of color in the Sandy Spring Friends School community: you are seen, you are heard, you belong. The SSFS community is committed to doing all that we can to understand and relieve the significant burden you are bearing.

What do we want to be known for at this time?

Please join me in holding in the Light all those impacted by these tragedies.

With a loving and heavy heart,

Tom Gibian


For parents - How to talk to your children about race and racial incidents:

Lower school student resources:

5th grade and up (may be a bit too complicated for younger children, but could be adapted):

Books for parents, faculty, staff:

  • The Condemnation of Blackness Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America By Khalil Gibran Muhammad
    Offers historical account of systemic and structural racism
  • Your Silence Will Not Protect You by Audre Lorde
  • Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

The resources below are mostly geared toward teenagers and adults, and mainly aimed at inspiring white people to engage in work to recognize privilege and actively dismantle white supremacy and systemic oppression. There are opportunities with these resources for families to engage with their children, with parents to engage with one another, for us to model our own personal work toward ending systemic violence.  

  • Article: "Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" by Peggy McIntosh 
  • Article: "When White Women Cry" by Mamta Accpadi 
  • Book: How to be an Antiracist by Ibram Kendi
  • Book: Blindspot by Mahzarin Banaji
  • Article/call to action program: "Unpacking White Feminism" - Rachel Cargle
  • Book/call to action program: Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad

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