Westminster Addresses Racial Equity Amid Societal Tensions

Westminster+Addresses+Racial+Equity+Amid+Societal+Tensions

Amir Mason

With racial tensions at large in society, Westminster has revamped its commitment to racial equity and inclusion among the Westminster community. 

 Even amid a pandemic, the world was shaken by the recurring killings and social injustices towards African American men and women across America. From Japan to Westminster’s home, Buckhead, protests ensued worldwide in a unified stand against racism.

Displaying the actual injustices in America, these discriminations, injustices, and, consequently, protests, had a substantial impact on the Westminster community. “One of the emotions that I remember vividly from this summer was grief,” Danette Morton, Head of the Middle School, stated. “The reality of [the fact] that we are really not as far as we would like to pretend we are as a nation . . . There was a lot of grief in that.” 

Buckhead4BlackLives' march to spotlight racism in private schools - Reporter Newspapers

These events led to the creation of the Instagram page “Black at Westminster,” a student-run account that serves as a safe space for current and past black students to share their Westminster experiences. One of the many alarming posts read, “In 7th grade, a student declared that ‘black people should have been grateful that they had gotten out of slavery and not have been so greedy and upset by Jim Crow and segregation.’’’ 

In the wake of the turmoil, Westminster, a school of 37% students of color and 20% faculty of color, decided to take action in its community. The school held several virtual meetings on June 11, June 12, and June 16, with alumni, students, parents, trustees, and faculty and staff members sharing their ideas on how Westminster can have a more inclusive community. 

Following the meetings, President Keith Evans and Board of Trustees Chairman Joel Murphy declared in a message, “We must resolve to envision the school we can become for every member of our community and the beacon we can be to others in this long-overdue transformation.”

Westminster, now with this sense of direction, began taking action steps. Nonetheless, much of Westminster’s extensive list of actions remain unseen by students. These include the new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, the Black Alumni Council, and a $5 million endowment to provide resources and support needed for the school’s future diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Also, faculty and staff participated in an equity seminar titled “Raising Race Questions: Personal Learning for Institutional Transformation” with Ali Michael. Westminster’s meaningful steps will gradually produce a more equitable and inclusive community for all. 

Specifically for students, Westminster has done or is planning to do work across all three academic divisions. In the lower school, Westminster launched its CARE Initiative (Conversations Around Race and Equity). Once per every seven-day rotation, Lower School students will explore social awareness and racial identity. Likewise, the Middle School is kicking off “Think About it Thursdays.” Beginning on October 8, students will engage in contemplative conversations across homerooms and grade levels based on specific prompts. Lastly, the Upper School has now implemented an anti-discrimination pledge that will now stand alongside the honor pledge in laying down the Westminster community’s basic principles.

All in all, Westminster has done a great deal of work in hopes of an equitable and inclusive community. In response to Westminster’s actions, Dana Weeks Ugwonali, a Westminster parent and Chair of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee declared, “I do think that they [Westminster] immediately started to take action . . . But to change the culture of a large school that has been in existence for decades and to change the systemic racism that’s been around for hundreds of years, you have to be very systematic with it so that this is a long-term change and not just a quick fix.”