Anti-Racism

Anti-Racism at CA

Our Commitment

Racism in the United States is no less a crisis, no less pressing, and presents no less a threat to our society and our community than the current coronavirus pandemic. And it must be met with the same sense of urgency and thoughtful, proactive response.

In June 2020, Cary Academy issued a letter to the community reaffirming our values and reiterating CA’s longstanding commitment to the hard—at times uncomfortable—introspective work of diversity, equity, and inclusion that have been core values since we first opened our doors.

We pledge to be part of the solution and to work together to engage in anti-racist work to ensure that CA is a safe space for all our students to thrive. And to prepare our faculty, staff, and students to combat racism and to be the positive change that is so needed in our world.

Our Approach

We recognize that anti-racist work is thoughtfully proactive, demanding large-scale individual and institutional introspection coupled with meaningful action.

To that end, we will spend significant time doing important, guided individual and community work. This includes engaging in active listening within our community, engaging in empathetic dialogue with our peers, and learning more about the structures of systemic racism while grappling with our individual roles within them. Armed with this heightened understanding, we will turn our focus to a more macro lens to consider ways that we can combat racism at an instutional level, from ongoing community-building work, to reconsidering disciplinary practices to our curricular choices, and beyond

About this Page
Anti-racist work is complex, crucial, and never-ending, our planning efforts–by necessity–fluid and ongoing. As we move forward, we feel it essential to be transparent in our thinking and planning as we engage in what is sometimes messy and challenging work.

To that end, we have launched this page for the 2020/2021 academic year. Here, we will provide information about our equity work of the last few years—a foundation on which we will be building. We will also offer regular updates on new anti-racist efforts, sharing our planning process and the thoughts shaping those efforts, as well as the lessons that we are learning together. We welcome your feedback and engagement as we continue to pursue this important work now and in the years to come.

Foundations

CA Diversity Mission Statement

Cary Academy fosters a learning community where the richness of diversity is recognized, respected, and embraced. Our view in diversity includes, but is not limited to ability, age, appearance, gender, national origin, personal qualities, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. Our vision is to nurture and sustain an equitable and inclusive environment where everyone is valued.

History of Equity Work at CA

Cary Academy has been committed to diversity and inclusion since its founding in 1996. Work in this area has been embedded in all aspects of school operations, and we have sought to evolve and adapt to meet evolving community needs over the years. Here are a few highlights:

  • We were one of the first schools to create a full-time, dedicated senior-level Director of Diversity and Inclusion in 2007.  In 2018, we expanded the scope of that role, as reflected in a new title: the Director of Equity and Community Engagement.
  • We began a detailed community assessment of our diversity work in 2008 with the NAIS Assessment on Inclusion and Multiculturalism (AIM). We deployed the community survey again in 2014, using an outside facilitator, Dr. Jodi Barnes. Data gathered from those surveys have informed the school’s strategic plan work, as well as new programs and professional development trainings.
  • In 2019, following a board-level review that led to the creation of the Director of Equity and Community Engagement position, the Board created a new standing committee to provide oversight of the school’s work in this area. The Equity and Inclusion Committee is comprised of board members, school employees, and community members.
  • The current Board of Directors is comprised of 32% people of color.
  • We launched the Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity (SEED) program in 2015 with a visit from Dr. Peggy McIntosh. The program included cohorts for CA faculty, staff, and parents, as well as a cohort that included faculty from peer independent schools.
  • Students regularly participate in equity programming and annual conferences through our involvement in the Triangle Diversity Alliance with other peer independent schools.
  • Students have other training and leadership opportunities through Co-Exist, affinity groups, NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conference, and Dialogue Across Difference training. Collectively, these groups, events, and initiatives provide a broad range of activities and learning experiences for students and the wider community.
  • As an outcome of an early strategic plan, the school offers annual training in recognizing and preventing Thoughtless and Hurtful language in the MS and US.
  • In addition to regular all-school equity workshops, CA’s senior managers undertook training on inclusive hiring practices in January 2019.
  • Our founders generously created endowments that support both general financial aid as well as specific aid targeted to students from diverse backgrounds. In addition, the school funds a “social equity” fund to provide all students on aid with additional support for non-tuition but educationally important expenses.
  • The Admissions Office increased engagement with prospective families of color.

Ongoing Initiatives

Board of Trustees Equity Committee

Established in July 2019, the Equity and Inclusion Committee ensures that the board has in place policies and procedures that promote the principles of equity and justice in general, and those that support and encourage increased diversity in student enrollment, faculty, and administration, and helps to cultivate an appreciation of diversity within the school.

New Faculty Equity Training

It is important that every new member of our community be informed about CA’s commitment to equity work. We want to ensure that antiracist teaching is at the forefront of everything we do and we know that new members of our community will need to be given language and additional support as they begin to navigate our learning community. We know that one session is not enough but it is important to begin the conversation before the school year begins.

PTAA Diversity Committee
This committee provides support for families of different racial and ethnic groups, religious traditions, sexual orientations, ages, and socioeconomic statuses. Events include student Ubuntu, which celebrates the sights, sounds, and food of various cultures, Trivia Night, and a dinner/panel.
Affinity Groups

Our affinity and alliance groups bring students together around shared identities to connect and socialize, identify issues and common concerns, and support each other. An intersectional student-led advisory board—CoExist—bridges different identities to strengthen campus-wide equity efforts. 

CoExist Mission Statement 

CoExist provides a space for members of the Cary Academy community to learn about and engage with diverse perspectives and identities through dialogue, workshops, and affinity groups. We design an intersectional curriculum that encourages students to create and foster a better, more equitable CA community. By equipping students with the necessary tools to embrace and respect salient perspectives and identities, we prepare students to effectively collaborate and build relationships in their future beyond CA.    

 

Upper School 

African American Affinity Group 

Asian American Affinity Group 

Catholic Affinity Group

Christian Affinity Group

Gender and Sexuality Affinity Group 

Gender Equality Affinity Group 

Hispanic/Latinx Affinity Group 

Immigrant Affinity Group 

Indian Subcontinent Affinity Group 

Jewish Affinity Group 

Multi-Cultural Affinity Group 

 

Middle School 

African American Affinity Group 

Christian Affinity Group

Hispanic/Latinx Affinity Group 

Indian Subcontinent Affinity Group 

Jewish Affinity Group 

UNIQUE Affinity Group 

 

 

 

Dialogue Across Difference

Now in its fourth year, the Dialogue Across Difference initiative provides a framework for community members to engage in difficult conversations around important–and even polarizing issues. Participants “meet in the middle” to develop a common understanding and respectfully and thoughtfully engage each other’s differences in a productive, validating, and community-building way.

Dialogue across Difference launched at CA in 2017, after CA’s leadership identified a need to help facilitate challenging conversations on campus. After an exhaustive search, they ultimately chose the Reflective Structured Dialogue method employed by Cambridge, Massachusetts-based consulting firm, Essential Partners, having encountered the approach in use at the University of North Carolina.

Reflective Structured Dialogue relies on personal narratives to break down stereotypes and create a sense of common ground and shared humanity. Participants are encouraged to listen and reflect upon what they hear, rather than react. All of this happens within a guided, structured format that ensures everyone has the chance to speak and to be heard in an open, thoughtful environment.

NAIS People of Color Conference

Cary Academy has invested in sending faculty and staff to the NAIS People of Color Conference (PoCC) for over 16 years. The PoCC is the flagship of the National Association of Independent Schools’ commitment to equity and justice in teaching, learning, and organizational development. The mission of the conference is to provide a safe space for leadership, professional development, and networking for people of color and allies of all backgrounds in independent schools.

NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conference

The NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conference is a multiracial, multicultural gathering of upper school student leaders (grades 9-12) from across the U.S. and abroad. SDLC focuses on self-reflecting, forming allies, and building community. Led by a diverse team of trained adult and peer facilitators, participating students develop cross-cultural communication skills, design effective strategies for social justice practice through dialogue and the arts, and learn the foundations of allyship and networking principles. In addition to large group sessions, SDLC “family groups” and “home groups” allow for dialogue and sharing in smaller units.

Triangle Diversity Alliance

Cary Academy has been a member of the Triangle Diversity Alliance for many years. TDA is an alliance of diversity practitioners from independent schools in the Triangle area. We host an annual conference so students from our schools can come together as one and discuss the underlying equity/inclusion issues that we have experienced or seen at our schools.

New Initiatives

Active Listening: Community Feedback

This summer, Director of Equity and Community Engagement Danielle Johnson-Webb reached out through a series of Zoom calls to initiate conversations with alums, parents, and students in which they shared their stories, experiences, and perspectives—both good and bad—of their time at CA. These ongoing conversations will help to inform the work that lies ahead, including professional development efforts; ongoing dialogue work with Essential Partners; curriculum audits, refinements, and additions; and policy review.  

Anti-Racist White Teacher Group

This year CA teachers are coming together to create a space for CA educators to talk about whiteness, white supremacy, and their role as allies/disrupters in the CA community. This group will take a deep dive into the book Me and White Supremacy (Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor) by Layla F. Saad.

Anti-Racist Professional Development Opportunities

Anti-racist professional development opportunities will be a core component of the work of the coming months. To kick-off this effort, this summer, every employee in the Cary Academy community read and discussed the following books, laying a foundation and shared vocabulary for the work of the coming year.

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
Robin DiAngelo

 

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
Bryan Stevenson

 

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other
Beverly Daniel Tatum

 

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You
Ibram X. Kendi

 

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
Michelle Alexander

 

White Awake: An Honest Look at What It Means to be White
Daniel Hill

 

Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People
Mahzarin R. Banaji

 

Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race
Debby Irving

 

How to be an Anti-racist
Ibram X. Kendi

 

We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom
Bettina Love

 

Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing
Dr. Joy Degruy

The Racial Healing Handbook: Practical Activities to Help You Challenge Privilege, Confront Systemic Racism, and Engage in Collective Healing
Anneliese A. Singh, Derald Wing Sue, et al.

 

Accountability

Share Your Experience and Feedback

The hard work of equity and anti-racism demands that we, as an institution, engage in introspection and active listening from our community members about their personal experiences—even if that might be difficult.

For some of our alums, our equity and inclusivity work may have come too late, taking place after you left CA. We also recognize that, at times, we have fallen short of the goals we set out in that work. For that, we apologize.

If you have feedback and/or an experience that you would like to share, please complete this form. 

It is our hope that by listening to shared stories, we can come together to learn, heal, and, ultimately, do better.

Open Letter to DearCaryAcademy Administrators and Contributors

DearCaryAcademy administrators and contributors, let me start by thanking you. I appreciate your courage and vulnerability in sharing your experiences.

This summer, we shared a statement reiterating CA’s commitment to antiracism. It is clear that much work remains, and we are committed to taking it up.

Our commitment to this work—and to healing our community—demands introspection, even when it may be difficult. It requires that we solicit and thoughtfully listen to the accounts of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) members of our community that may have had negative, even traumatic, experiences; to acknowledge our roles within those experiences and those times where we did not rise to our stated values; and to learn and do better as a result.

To that end, this summer, I held a series of Zoom calls with alums and parents of alums to listen to their experiences. We also issued a standing open call on our anti-racism action page to our broader community, asking individuals to share their stories and perspectives—the good and the bad–directly. Many thanks to everyone that has participated in these conversations. They have been instrumental in shaping our planning moving forward.

“Dear@” and “Black@” Instagram accounts such as these are part of a powerful larger national movement, as independent schools and universities across the United States have rightfully been called to account for their roles in perpetuating systemic racism. We know that CA is not exempt from this charge and we have made it an institutional priority to address racism is our community. You can follow our evolving anti-racist work and planning at http://united.cary.academy/anti-racism/.

Equally troubling as the reports of racism in our campus community are the stories of alleged sexism, sexual assault, and sexual harassment that have been posted. We take these allegations and violations of our community values and compact very seriously. I am partnering with our Head of School, Dr. Mike Ehrhardt, to investigate and address any such claims.

Social media is a powerful outlet. And we understand that some may feel more comfortable sharing their experiences in anonymity. We are thankful for those that are coming forward to share their stories. CA’s Leadership Team is listening. We take your experiences very seriously.

We are reaching out to the owner of the DearCaryAcademy account to inquire whether they would like to formally partner in CA’s anti-racist work. I would also like to invite anyone that submits a post to DearCaryAcademy to also reach out to me directly. While I recognize that this invitation may include an implicit request to relive past trauma, I pledge to create a safe space to hear your experiences and concerns and to create a plan to address them.

It is imperative to me that all individuals that are coming forward feel safe, protected, and respected in doing so. I assure you that we share the same aim—a heartening and crucial one—to fight racism and sexism, and to create a safe and equitable environment for all of our community members; we can do so more effectively when we work together transparently.

Our hope is that in listening, acknowledging, and creating a plan to address these troubling experiences of BIPOC members of our community, that we can heal as a community and chart a more equitable, anti-racist future. Thank you for partnering with us in this crucial work.

Danielle Johnson-Webb
Director of Equity and Community Engagement

Guiding Resources

Anti-Racist Resources

White Fragility:
Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
Robin DiAngelo

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
Bryan Stevenson

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other
Beverly Daniel Tatum

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You
Ibram X. Kendi

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
Michelle Alexander

White Awake: An Honest Look at What It Means to be White
Daniel Hill

Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People
Mahzarin R. Banaji

Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race
Debby Irving

How to be an Anti-racist
Ibram X. Kendi

We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom
Bettina Love

Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing
Dr. Joy Degruy

The Racial Healing Handbook: Practical Activities to Help You Challenge Privilege, Confront Systemic Racism, and Engage in Collective Healing
Anneliese A. Singh, Derald Wing Sue, et al.