“I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in a circus sideshow, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination—indeed, everything and anything except me.”
Dear Hopkins Families,
Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man captures a sentiment that many people of color, including myself, are feeling right now, and have felt for a very long time. For another person not to see your dignity; for another person not to see your hopes, dreams, or identity; for another person not to see your humanity, creates a painful reality that suffocates the soul.
Many in our various shared communities are frightened, frustrated, grieving and angered by the growing list of senseless killings. This list has grown by four recently: Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and George Floyd. Now, as much as ever before, we are witnessing the anger and hearing the cries of many of our fellow citizens who are tired of being invisible and demanding to be seen. As an African American, I have felt much, seen much, cried much, feared for much, and hoped for much more from our society.
While I do not condone the violence and looting happening in many American cities, I do both understand and feel the deeply rooted frustration behind the protests. As people experience the unfortunate fear caused by some of the activity on our city streets this past week, it’s important to acknowledge that many people of color have felt fear their entire lives—even when doing some of the simplest of things such as driving in a car, walking in a park, or going into a store. This racial tension is real—sometimes palpable, often subtle—and omnipresent.
The recent rash of incidents of identity-based violence begs the question how might we support our community members—particularly those of color—during this period of time. I know that we will only begin to heal and bring about meaningful change when we learn to see one another through the eyes of love, compassion, and respect. Hopkins is not a perfect institution, but at this moment, we re-commit our ongoing efforts to teach our students to be caretakers of each other, regardless of color, and we will continue examining ourselves as an institution for flaws where hurt may still be hidden. In the coming days, our Office of Equity and Community will be hosting a series of dialogues for our students, faculty and staff and alumni to speak about the most recent events that have unfolded in our country. Invitations will be forthcoming.
As we continue to wade through the anguish and anger of the senseless killings, and the protests that have resulted, we should embrace the space we have to be together as a community. When we begin to see, we begin to listen. It is time for us to open up our eyes and ears…and hearts.
With love, respect, and hope,
Head of School