It is the least surprising news we’ve reported recently. Least surprising when you take that step forward and look anew at the culture of racism we’ve built, we’ve allowed, and, for those among us who are white, we have greatly benefitted from.
Fenwick High School has a serious problem with racism. And now it faces up to a profound hurt being expressed with rage and eloquence by its Black and Brown students and alums. Their stories, posted to social media, are wrenching, stupefying and, in many cases, played out in plain sight.
That Fenwick, an elite Catholic prep school more likely to draw students from Western Springs than the adjacent West Side, has a culture imbued with systemic racism is inevitable. Every institution, our local media institution among them, has failed to even grasp the depth and the perversity of this racism.
So now that we are actually talking about this, now that, remarkably, white people and white-made institutions are talking about this as supplicants and not from a demanding and defensive crouch, what are we to do? What is Fenwick High School to do?
Confession is a Catholic sacrament, a psychological necessity on a path toward grace.
“The outpouring of anger, pain and frustrations from so many of Fenwick’s alumni and students of color over the past few weeks has been deafening. We have heard and are deeply saddened. It is clear that we have failed our students of color, and all of our students, in many ways.”
That public declaration was an opening good-faith effort by the school’s president, Rev. Richard Peddicord, and the chair of its board, John Barron. They pledged to create a committee on diversity, equity and inclusion. The first meeting of that nascent committee was to have been held just last week. The DEI Committee, an acronym reflecting the Latin word for God, is aspirational. And that is fine. But the road to aspiration has to be earned through a humbling penance. And that penance is to hear the stories. To listen to the pain. To see, perhaps to begin to understand, the endless moments when eyes were averted, ears were covered, minds were shut tight to the racist aggressions allowed, even encouraged by a culture that was revered when it ought to have been upended.
We wish healing to those who were victims. We wish humility to those tasked with the servant leadership that will be necessary to find Fenwick’s new path.