I have been silent. Silent during the pandemic, silent before. Until this morning, there was no contribution I could make that seemed worthy. There probably still is not. And yet…I cannot be silent anymore.
In a world where systemic racism is pervasive and I am cloaked in white privilege, I didn’t know what I could say that mattered. I heard President Obama, I have read all the news.
I felt powerless until this morning, when a letter from the headmaster of my American high school in Rome came to my attention through social media. And then I could not be silent anymore. The letter distracted me from my current very worthwhile read (Robin Diangelo’s White Fragility) and finally inspired me to put words to “paper”. And so, here is what I wrote to Dr. Mayer. The next steps will require awareness, self-reflection, and action.
I am writing in response to your letter dated June 4th—which I only discovered today through a reference on Instagram! (And we thought social media was useless!)
Thank you. I truly want to express my gratitude for your thoughtfulness—and your call to CARE.
To paraphrase Robin Diangielo from her book White Fragility, this moment in history calls each one of us to ask how our identity has shaped us and what we are bringing to the world and contributing to a system that is oppressive of minorities.
Indifference cannot be the answer. We owe it to the world and to our better selves, to engage in “ongoing self-awareness, continuing education, relationship building, and actual antiracist practices.” (White Fragility, p. 4)
I often ask myself what my Italian grandparents thought in the 1930s when Fascism was rising in Italy. My mom said that her father did not really think the regime was affecting him—until he found himself on the war front, as a medical officer who lacked the medicines necessary to save the lives of the soldiers sent to fight. History shows us what the fruit of that indifference brought—a devastating war and millions of lives lost. And yet, even the winning powers continued to perpetuate on their own soils a war on their own people.
Now we are asked to look deep into ourselves and we must ask, how will I stand up and make sure I am not indifferent?
When at St. Stephen’s, I was honored with the PTA award as the “Student who did the most to build bridges among cultures.” I have spent my entire adulthood living in the US, married to an American, but I still have ties to Italy—in fact, my parents still live in Via Aventina and pass by your doors every day. And today, as I live between Florida, NYC, and Rome, I am looking deeply into myself to reflect on what I can contribute and how do I show that I care so that we may create real change. The question is uncomfortable even for someone who has made a habit of building bridges—and well it should be—and yet it is important. I can tell you I am going to vote—and that is not enough for me. But what I will do, I don’t know yet.
I thank you for writing a piece that, in the midst of a lot of words spoken, stood out with a call to CARE, which is also a call to action. Each one of us, your alumni and your students, will have individual answers, but we all must stand to make sure our voices are heard and we become educated. We must find answers not just for the good of humanity, but for our very own humanity. What we do and how we speak matters now more than ever. Thanks for reminding us that indifference is not the answer.
Find the letter from Dr. Mayer here