Convocation speech by Headmaster Trip Darrin
September 10, 2017
Racism, bigotry, the oppression of others, hatred – these things exist in this country and in our world.
Of course, we all know that to be true. Likely, or at least hopefully, we agree they’re wrong, yet these kinds of dark forces don’t usually affect our daily lives, so we acknowledge their existence while pushing them into closed boxes in the backs of our minds. That is, until things happen like four weeks ago, when a group of white supremacists, brandishing Nazi symbology and spewing hatred, came to our backyard to protest the planned removal of a Robert E. Lee statue.
Standing by the downtown mall, among other counter-protesters, a young woman from Ruckersville was killed.
At least temporarily, these events rip open those mental boxes and force us to take a prolonged stare at ugliness, at violence against the innocent, at the worst parts of what it is to be human.
Some call it subhuman, but don’t make that mistake. Those neo-Nazi protesters are human and, while they may have lost touch with reality and in some cases even could be called insane, what we loath about them is still some version of things that are indeed human: Fear. Anger. Hatred.
History, at least here in the States, brings references to the Civil War and the fight against slavery. Indeed, this very protest in Charlottesville started because folks continue to grapple over stone-carved monuments honoring a past some would like to forget and others, for differing reasons, would like to preserve. But racism, born from those base human forces, has a much longer history. While we humans have made some advances as a species, we’ve not yet made it to an evolutionary phase where the oppression of others is no longer something we do.
Sadly, I don’t think we’re that close, though I love what UVA’s Rector, Frank M. Conner, III said in the wake of what many have declared an act of terrorism in Charlottesville.
Mr. Conner stated, “Such terrorism could lead us to succumb to hopelessness, to believe these acts have halted, if not reversed, the progress of racial reconciliation and social pluralism we have made over the past half century. But progress on these fronts is never linear. We all need to transform our anger, to rededicate our energy, our talents, and our hearts to the purpose of evolving to a more perfect union. If we are to succeed in that purpose, we must be honest about the issues facing our society.”
The optimistic and hopeful side of me loves it when Trae Crowder, the self-appointed “liberal redneck,” says these alt-right protests are the death throes of a dark era of oppression.
I hope he’s right.
The path forward for our species seems so obvious to me as to almost not need vocalizing: our progress is only made together; we strive for greater acceptance and tolerance; we actively seek understanding across lines of difference; we promote the coming together of races, ethnicities, religions, beliefs, differing ways of expressing identity, the melding of our very DNA.
I hope every single one of you in this room, when you hear what I’m about to say next, has a reaction like, “yeah, well duh!”
Whatever is going on outside of St. George, Virginia, we at Blue Ridge School stand against bigotry and intolerance. Recognizing and accepting that we ourselves are imperfect, we endeavor to understand, respect, and accept one another, no matter what. We wish to learn from and through our points of difference. We seek relationships and true kinship with all kinds of people.
To take steps towards these ideals, this year, we as a School community will endeavor to improve the culture that binds us and that influences us. We launch a Culture of Consideration, one in which our actions and the words we choose to vocalize are more closely aligned with the humanity that resides in our hearts.
I’ll rely on all students to aid with this culture change, most heavily on the student leaders who in a few short moments will be charged with the responsibilities of their office.
I don’t pretend that I or we can change the world, but our scope is much narrower than that, and therefore something achievable. Working together conscientiously I believe we can change our world – this community.
I’ve been blown away already the last couple weeks, witnessing exemplary behavior and acts of authentic generosity from one Blue Ridge student to another. The movement towards a stronger culture has already begun; may what we create here become the higher standard.
All of you have it within you; this very student body assembled in front of me today contains the potential to embody all the good that is meant by the word “Brotherhood.”
For photos of the Convocation, click here.