dear veritas academy, thanks: a farewell letter from your first black mom
May the blessings of divine grace and supernatural peace that flow from God our wonderful Father, and our Messiah, the Lord Jesus, be upon your lives.
Dear Veritas Academy,
From our first visit to check out your school and your board, the parents, the teachers, and the administration have been nothing but kind. Seriously, you are a kind community. Even at drop-off where things can get a little tense and a little less polite, Veritas, you are consistently kind, warm and welcoming. If I’d had any worries about how I - a black, divorced mom remarried to a white guy and raising a black daughter - would be received into your community, they would have been wasted. From the start, you have eagerly embraced us with sincere care and genuine hospitality, not only into your fine academy but also into your homes and lives.
Your kindness makes leaving all the more harder. If we were a relationship on Facebook, our status would be “complicated”. From the outside looking in, our five years have been practically perfect. You delivered what you promised—a solid, university-model, classical education with a biblical worldview. But, nevertheless, we’re leaving you with our hearts sad, mad and yes, sometimes still glad that we were part of you for a little while. As I said, it’s complicated.
It would be easier if I could say that you blatantly offended us. It would be tidier. I could point to the offending incident and then, feeling justified, we could cleanly part ways. But your offenses haven’t been blatant. Mistakes, misspoken words, and awkward mishaps have occurred, but each and every time you have, in your trademarked kindness, opened your door to listen. So why are we leaving? What happened? Some of you have asked and I’ve been careful because I’m not sure how to answer.
It’s true: financially, it’s been a hard year for our family. But your school philosophy is that should not be a reason for any family to have to leave. The community has always generously provided help for families facing financial hardship. So, finances aren’t reason enough. It’s also true that my husband and I have many, many issues with your new Statement of Faith and Conduct. But, we also believe that being part of a community is sticking it out and working through differences. So the claim of "irreconcilable differences" isn’t exactly a reason for us to leave either. Lastly, up until this school year, I’ve been the only black mom. I gotta tell you that for many, this is reason enough. But I’m a bridge-builder, a reconciler, and that should give me every reason to stay.
Full disclosure: when we first came to Veritas, I was not surprised or discouraged that I was the only black mom. I had lived my entire life being the only black one thing or another: daughter, friend, employee, customer. I’d already lived in the neighborhood and sometimes went days without seeing a single other black person. So, the environment didn’t feel new. I was used to questions about my hair (how long does it take to do your hair?); my perceived, “exotic” accent (where are you from?); my bi-racial marriage (how did you meet your husband?); my presence in the room (how’d you hear about Veritas?). On the surface, these questions seem like just questions. But over the years, I’ve learned how to discern when a white person is sincerely asking me a question about my experience and when a white person is asking a question that implies their experience is superior to mine. Sometimes a question is really a statement in disguise that says, “White is normal, and anything other is not.” Unfortunately, at Veritas, most of the time when I was asked these - and similar - questions, the white person asking the question was coming (albeit unconsciously) from the point of view of the latter. Again, these minor incidents - micro-aggressions - aren’t enough to make us leave.
I’ve made many lovely friends here. I’ve deeply bonded, prayed, and served with many Veritas moms. Veritas moms are astonishingly brave, fierce, Jesus-loving women who are sold-out and committed to their families. We have sat over coffee and stood waiting for our kids in the parking lot, sharing our opinions about everything from meal-planning and screen time to feminism and gay rights. We’ve paid the same tuition, bought the same books and school supplies and uniforms. Our kids have sat in the same room and have hurdled the same milestones. But what we haven’t shared is the same experience. The saddest part about that truth is that no matter how true and how hard it is for me to explain, I’m not sure you would believe it.
Let me try to explain: Imagine you’ve been sent on a mission trip to Haiti. You arrive in the town you are serving and you immediately notice that everyone has noticed how very white and different you are. Now imagine everyone running the mission trip is Haitian. The pilots who flew you to Haiti are Haitian. Your handlers and escorts are Haitian. The church back home that sent you out to serve has a 99.9% Haitian congregation. The church board is 100% Haitian. Everyone serving with you on the mission trip except for you is Haitian. Even the books that you're reading and your study Bible translation are authored and edited by Haitians and speak only of the Haitian experience. Still, you know that you've been called to Haiti. That's why you went! However, you never expected that your experience would be so vastly different from those who sent you, those who planned the trip, and those serving with you on the trip. Although you love Haiti and the whole experience of the culture, you often feel misunderstood, alone, and awkward. You don't want to leave, but you're uncertain how to stay.
That’s the closest example of what it feels like to be the only black mom. There's no place to turn.
My daughter's experience isn't much different to mine. In every subject, all of the books that she's read over the last 5 years at Veritas have been written by white authors. All of the recitations of poems and historical documents that she has memorized over the last 5 years were written by white people. White teachers have taught 99.98% of all her classes. More and more each day, I find it increasingly harder and harder to convince her that she is beautiful and worthy. Each day it’s harder to convince her that her voice is just as powerful and as valid as every other voice in the room. It's a lonely battle.
We are leaving Veritas, and something about that is so profoundly sad. I wanted nothing more than to disprove statistics that have long separated my world from yours. I didn’t want our lives to imitate the ideals and opinions of the culture surrounding us — a culture that creates invisible barriers and false narratives that keep us apart. But, that’s exactly what has happened.
We’re leaving. And, I feel like we were a failed social experiment.
So, Veritas, how do we ever get past being pleasant and kind? For way too long I was the only black mom. But interestingly, my child was not the only black child. What will happen as you keep growing and families of varying races, ethnicities and cultures enroll? Please listen to me: an increased diverse presence won’t elevate the classroom experience of students of color, or how they perceive their worth. However, an increased presence of people of color sitting on your board, teaching classes, working on staff, presenting at assemblies and conferences, and informing decision and policy-making will. I know that you’ve already added authors of color to your summer reading list: thank you for that! But, it’s not enough. There’s so much more to do. But good news! There are lots of voices out there who are already doing this work who can help you expand your biblical worldview to truly represent the biblical world.
My beloved Veritas, you already have the kindest, most generous community on the planet. Do the rest of the work that you know you must do, and nothing will stop you.
Peace and Blessings.