America’s Private, White, Elite Schools Need Reform. Now.

Their diversity statements are long on words but short on action

Tikia K. Hamilton, Ph.D.
Momentum
Published in
6 min readJun 27, 2020

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Harvard University. Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

All across the United States and at least three other continents, protestors insist: Black lives do in fact matter. The United States seems to be experiencing a seismic shift in what counts — to some White people at least — as an acceptable protest. A chorus of usual suspects has begun to lend a voice to matters that, just weeks ago, enjoyed their decades-long silence. As of now, the list includes Microsoft, Amazon, Airbnb, Nike, and, among others, the NFL. Now, in a come-to-Jesus moment, these organizations claim to be in solidarity with the Black community.

Of those, the latest organizations vying for the title of Grand Ambassador to the Black Lives Matter Movement are a slew of educational institutions that have issued diversity statements calling for more nuanced and extended conversations about race and identity. Harvard University, Emory University, and Boston College are among those who issued statements, as well as Princeton University and Dartmouth College, schools I attended.

While it’s nice to hear from these predominantly White institutions, much of what they are saying either falls flat or is mystifying in that the statements tiptoe around the issue of racism. For example, my former employer issued a diversity statement that reads: “As a school community that includes many races and ethnicities, we seek to see, hear, and value everyone equally. Our work to create an inclusive learning experience compels us to understand and acknowledge all of the identities that students, faculty, staff, and families bring to school each day, and how those identities impact learning.”

I read this statement with surprise since, at no point during my time serving this predominantly White institution did I experience anything resembling “equity” or “inclusion.” This was the principal reason I packed up my PhD — one of few in the entire school — and my many years of teaching experience and bounced.

The latest organizations vying for the title of Grand Ambassador to the Black Lives Matter Movement are a slew of educational institutions who have…

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