Shedding My Moderation To Become Antiracist

Type: Article
Topics: Equity, School Administrator Magazine

August 01, 2021

My View

I learned about my white privilege and what it means to be antiracist, rather than “not racist,” over the past year. My inspiration came from the June 2020 commencement speech by a Whitefish High School graduating senior, Grace Benkelman, and was furthered by conversations with a former school board chair, Shawn Watts.

Soon after, I left the superintendency in Whitefish, Mont., for the same position with the Target Range Schools in Missoula, Mont., and was hired by NWEA, a research-based nonprofit that creates student assessment solutions, as a learning consultant on a part-time basis.

The convergence of these events prompted my launch into the literature on racism. I read Born a Crime by Trevor Noah, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. I re-read Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech and his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. I read an article in The Atlantic by Lawrence Glickman titled “How White Backlash Controls American Progress.”

I also wrote about racism and shared my white privilege with the Whitefish community through an e-mail to families. My message was posted by others on social media, generating a debate about whether it was appropriate to use my role as superintendent to share personal opinions about racism and white privilege. As a result, I became the target of bitter attacks via e-mail and social media from parents and the broader community, occasionally threatening but mostly denying that white privilege exists. Others were positive and supportive.

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Heather Davis Schmidt


Target Range School District in Missoula, Mont.