A message from the firm’s President, Nicholas de Wolff:

I have been struggling these past days with how I, a middle-aged white man (albeit of Hispanic ancestry), might express my present despair, disappointment, frustration, and solidarity in a constructive and meaningful way. Reading and sharing the words of a Person of Color, a Woman, an individual more intelligent and eloquent than I, proved to be the most constructive thing I could do. Recognizing that her words are far better than mine might ever be, I append here below a letter written by the Head of School of one of our nation’s most impressive High Schools, which happens to be exclusively for Girls, and happens also to be one of the most inclusive I have ever come across. Dr. Meera Viswanathan is a cultural warrior, and I hope her words affect you as they do me:

Dear Walker’s Students and Walker’s Community,

We have been dealing with a crisis for the last few months in the form of a pandemic beyond our control that has threatened the stability of our nation and our world. Now we are confronting another that is even more serious and tragic because it is one over which we do have control — systemic racism that has resulted in a pattern of killing Black people across the nation because they are Black. This is not new, but it has been exacerbated by the pandemic at hand, as so many inequalities have been.

In times of crisis, people often reach back to their traditions, their ideals, their values. At Walker’s we have our mission, our vision and our meditation as a guide. Our school meditation concludes, as every student knows, with the line “In love lies the key to life.” The philosopher and activist Dr. Cornel West, reminds us that “Justice is what love looks like in public.” If we are to be true to our values at Walker’s, we must be committed to justice because that too is the key to our lives as a society. If some of us have the right to jog, walk home at the end of the day, sleep in our beds without worry that harm may come to us, then all of us must share that same right, that same freedom equally. Again, our meditation enjoins, “Help us to look beyond ourselves and recognize the needs of others.”

Many members of our community, Black and Brown, worry daily about their safety and well-being; they worry especially about their parents and caretakers, their siblings, their relatives and their communities, wondering how to keep them safe and worrying that some day they may be targeted for what has been termed, “living while Black.” Former First Lady Michelle Obama described this as “a heartbreak that never seems to stop.” This cannot continue. All of us need to ask ourselves if the ideals to which we aspire are simply fairy tales which we tell ourselves to go to sleep at night. Or, are they ideals that we are determined to achieve, working every day to get closer to realizing them? This is not about politics; this is about who we are and what we believe in as human beings in terms of justice for all.

It is not enough to be saddened or angry by all that has happened, because those emotions usually dissipate after a week or two as people return to the status quo ante. Now we must ask ourselves something very different — how have these recent events altered how we see the world and ourselves within it? Can we commit ourselves to justice as the embodiment of our love for our Walker’s community? Are we courageous enough to be willing to see our own blind spots, those places of bias within us? Remember again our meditation, “Let us never be afraid to follow where the truth may lead us.”

These killings have engendered protests and uprisings that have resulted in more unrest. It is not enough to condemn the unrest, we must ask ourselves why people en masse are so compelled to abandon the rule of law. The answer can only be because they have felt abandoned by the rule of law. Violence in any form cannot be glorified; it must be abjured. Again our meditation offers guidance, “May we have insight to understand each other, And wisdom to know why we are sometimes misunderstood.”

To the memory of Emmett Till, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and all those countless others who have lost their lives simply because someone did not like the color of their skin. Or where they were from. Or their religion. Or their political affiliation. Or…

Yours,

 Dr. Meera Viswanathan
 Head of School