June 3, 2020
Dear SEA Community,
My colleagues and I have spent the past days and weeks thinking about George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and the countless others whose lives have been tragically lost because of racial violence. The senseless killing of black people by fellow citizens and the very people charged to protect them is an outrage. It is heartbreaking that we live in a country where people can feel unsafe walking in public parks or going for a jog simply because of their race.
In this moment, SEA wants to make our position clear. We stand in solidarity with the students, alumni, and staff throughout our network — and all people — who peacefully protest police brutality, racial violence, and institutional racism. We commit ourselves as an organization and a network to fight racism in all its forms.
When I was growing up in the 1980’s and 1990’s, virtually everyone that I came across in the squash community was, like me, white and economically privileged. Today, more than 2,000 students from underserved communities across the country are enrolled in SEA member programs, and 96% of those students identify as people of color. But the progress the SEA network has made — thanks to the hard work and accomplishments of our students and alumni — does not exempt us from the responsibility to further advance the fight against racism. As a start, all of us in the SEA network should be honest about the ways in which our particular community has yet to achieve the promise of racial equity.
While squash in the U.S. is more accessible than it was just a few decades ago, the sport remains predominantly wealthy, and some of the places where it is played can make people of color feel alienated and unwelcome. For years, our students have privately talked about the challenges of navigating the world that our programs introduce them to, from having to wear all-white clothing at clubs that appear to have no black members, to being suspected of theft at junior tournaments when a racquet has temporarily gone missing. I’ve been a part of this network since its founding, and over the years I haven’t appreciated well enough the impact such experiences have had on our students emotionally and psychologically. As a community, we need to be more intentional about the environments we create. As staff, volunteers, and supporters, we need to be better equipped with the language and tools that will enable our students to feel fully included and equal.
Many of the same racial imbalances that exist in society at large remain within the SEA network organizationally. A large majority of the leaders of our member programs are white, and people of color are not well represented on our boards, including at SEA. We are missing an opportunity to live the values we believe in and to make our organizations even stronger and more successful.
As we protest the most conspicuous and hateful forms of anti-black racism, we must challenge ourselves to examine the subtler forms of racism that surround us, and that at times we unwittingly perpetuate. This starts with opening our minds and hearts, with listening to our students and alumni and the people whose communities we serve.
In the coming months, SEA will create dedicated spaces for honest — and sometimes uncomfortable — conversations about race and identity, and we will ensure that those conversations lead to concrete actions. We will partner with experts in the field to provide race-equity trainings for staff, volunteers, and board members, and we will implement measures that increase the number of people of color who serve in leadership roles throughout the network.
As we develop these initiatives, we will make sure our students, alumni, and staff of color are co-creators of our response and centered in our conversation. We invite anyone with reflections, stories, or thoughts to submit them, anonymously or by name, at Race Equity. I also invite anyone to reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 917-608-6327. My colleagues and I are eager to hear suggestions about how our network can more effectively live up to its ideals.
For twenty-five years, the SEA network has been driven by the desire to make the world a more fair and just place. Today, we recommit ourselves to that effort.
Squash and Education Alliance