“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
~Lilla Watson, Indigenous Australian visual artist, activist, and academic
Northwest Catholic’s mission statement begins: “We are a diverse, Catholic, co-ed, college preparatory community.” Read it again slowly. Diverse. Catholic. Co-ed. College preparatory. Community. Let it sink in.
This is who we are. It’s not what we do: it’s who we are. There’s a difference.
Being a diverse community doesn’t mean we understand everything about diversity. It doesn’t mean we are always engaged in the work. It certainly doesn’t mean we’ve arrived. What it means is we are diverse. It’s our first descriptor, our first claim, our first statement. When we look in the mirror, it’s the first thing we see; when we talk about ourselves, it’s the first thing we say.
Critics might respond that’s nice but so what? Well, we think being a diverse community matters. A diverse community is a stronger community. A diverse community thinks better, learns better, prays better, serves better, plays better, and performs better. A diverse community works together, not perfectly and not all the time, but better.
Northwest Catholic needs more diversity, equity, and inclusion education — more programming, more professional development, more awareness, more accountability. But we don’t need to change our DNA. For 2000 years Christian teaching has instilled in us that every human being is created in the likeness of God. Every person regardless of what he looks like or how she lives is worthy of respect and deserves dignity. It’s not complicated.
What’s complicated, and what we as a diverse community must unknot together, is a long and painful history of discrimination right here at home.
A diverse community doesn’t hope a few will do for the rest. A diverse community doesn’t mean a person is Black or Brown in relation to white. It doesn’t mean someone exists as the other and adjusts to who is at the center. A diverse community means we are all at the center and our successes and failures are tied up with one another.
Like the activist Lilla Watson said, if you understand that your freedom is bound to mine, then we can work together. There are no saviors, no favors, no do-gooders. None of us are free if one of us is not free. Nelson Mandela wrote, “The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.” This is what a diverse community embodies. It’s in the ether. It’s who we are. Whether we make good on it is our charge. That’s when we ask what do we do?
Northwest Catholic has grown increasingly diverse over its 60 years. Every graduating class since 1965 has included students of color. As the years have unfolded, the student body has become more diverse. Last year 35.5% of Northwest Catholic’s student body were students of color — approximately 5% below U.S. projections and 5% above Connecticut’s. We are a Catholic, co-ed, college preparatory community, and we are a diverse one. It’s in our mission statement, and it’s one of our five core values.
We know who we are. At Northwest Catholic we are breathing our values in and out, in and out, everyday. We know our mission guides us and our core values drive all decisions. Whatever we do next is the burning question. What we know, however, is that a diverse community working together is the right place to start.