To Megyn (with a Y),
After your grievous outcry about how a “woke” essay, If You Really Want to Make a Difference in Black Lives, Change How You Teach White Kids, supposedly led you to withdraw your sons from the Collegiate School for Boys and move your family out of New York, I happened to be on a Zoom call with 30 alumni of color from our alma mater.
The essay you claim sparked your decision spoke directly to our experience as survivors of an archaic, elitist institution that continues to visit violence on boys just like we were. And you rebuffed it in the same trite ways, with the same callous dismissals we’re used to. But we won’t be ignored.
On that two-hour call, where heated words and kind remembrances and austere plans flew out from laptop mics with verve, your name didn’t come up. We’re from different professions, hold different beliefs and live in different places, yet all expressed a need to mitigate the effects of racism on current students. We’ve gathered for over a year in a series of ongoing meetings for a common purpose: to support the 2019 class, whose open letter in the school paper demanded an end to the prevalent racist culture still alive in Collegiate’s halls, a letter that bears an uncanny resemblance to Nahliah Webber’s essay. The essay you claim triggered your decision, which was circulated on some email list, hasn’t been a topic of conversation at Collegiate. But the letter from the class of 2019, not so easily dismissed as the work of outsiders or agitators, very much has been—and that’s a truth you appear to be running from to preserve your pretty white lie
Let me tell you as a bastard child of Jamaican limestone and Brooklyn concrete who slashed an uncommon path through thorny patches to live rosier than my caste and skin preordained, the idea that a $55,900-a-year school in the richest neighborhood in America is now a bastion of the far left is a ridiculous lie.
The truth is you pulled your boys from Collegiate because you’re a coward who sees her nativist grift creeping up on certain doom but you’re too stunted, sad, and inchoate to choose courage. Because society bends into a spine-snapping limbo to believe Megyns with a Y, the black headline printed on gray paper solidifies your “reverse racist” persecution fantasy and stokes the flame of paranoia that keeps your gulag of malcontent followers warm at night. Your news clip accomplished, you can skitter off into the fringes of conspiracy platforms to resurrect your rep as the nation’s most famous misspelled Megan.
On your podcast, you railed: “This summer, in the wake of George Floyd, they circulated amongst the diversity group—which includes white parents like us, people who want to be allies and stay attuned to what we can do—an article. And afterwards they re-circulated it. And wanted every member of the faculty to read it. It was written by a woman named Nahliah Webber, who says she's the Executive Director of the New Orleans Public Education Network. She works in education advocacy. Give me one minute to give you some highlights of what she writes. She said 'there is a killer cop sitting in every school where white children learn.'”
And then you asked “Which boy in my school is the future killer cop? Which boy? Is it my boy?”
Several Collegiate insiders noted that the essay you cited as coming from Collegiate got to you by way of an email list between parents, not from the school.
And you chopped off the part of Webber’s essay that mirrors what your sons’ classmates wrote about Collegiate: “White children are left unchecked and unbothered in their schools, homes and communities to join, advance and protect systems that take away Black life. We never talk about this moral and human failing in White culture as something that needs to get fixed now. Instead, we pour millions of dollars into discussions, conferences, professional development, curriculum and consultancies that talk about fixing Black people.”
Your podcast focuses on these mythical Black pathologies, citing stats from the Chicago education system as a rusty dog whistle, dismissing expressions of pain from Black alums as “milquetoast,” and roundly repeating the same Bell Curve pseudoscience of racists past.
The thoughts below, expressed in the 2019 open letter, reflect Webber’s laments about how oppressive white systems fail students of color:
Collegiate is a deeply flawed and imperfect community. Collegiate is a place where jokes about rape and gender and sexuality identification have been normalized [...] Collegiate is a place where many students of color unfairly feel the need to internalize racist and harmful “jokes” in order to assimilate and survive. None of these things are acceptable.
But you’re Megyn (with a Y) Kelly, from Champaign, Illinois, and you’re using a letter that circulated on an email chain, not even sent by the school, to resuscitate your gasping relevance because no one had been talking about you, or your failed stint on the Today show, or your ignoble tenure at Fox News, or your latest run at alt-right laureate. There’s no worse death knell for Megyns than booming silence.
Perhaps to your chagrin, the alums understood that scrubbing a rich, white, elite school of its heinous traditions was neither our job nor what we met on Zoom to do. That frivolous diversion of debating what counts as “real culture” is more your style than ours. Instead, we recalled our experiences and brainstormed tactics to further empower the young people we knew would face backlash from a reeling country, uneasy with the dark vestiges hanging from poplar trees. We spoke about how to match the school’s commitment to academic rigor with modern texts written by authors who share their experience, how to apply rules that punish instances of bias, and how to hire faculty members who actively work to undo racism instead of feeding it.
You use platforms to strengthen those prejudices and give new names to old tricks. It’s no wonder you’ve gotten nervous as the generation after you clears the smoke of burning crosses around you to reveal the ember’s source.
Megyn, you’re stuck with basic lies that cash in on basic evils and basic archetypes meant for Megyns with a Y. You’ve lived exactly the life you wanted in exactly the enclaves you chose with exactly zero interruptions to dull your power, challenge your status, or unmesh your persona from the constant gore of white supremacy.
In your fantasy, 50-year-old blond TV hosts bravely suffer a system meant to stymie their true-school American values. In your fantasy, Christmas trees smolder in heretic effigies, inconvenient Black life crowds your cul-de-sac, the queer agenda plagues the bathroom door signs until you’re so infringed upon that you vanish. There are enough floundering zealots out there to give you another shot but it’s a better bet to flee New England ivies and dig those six-inch heels into cracked red clay.
When I reached out for comment, the school administration didn’t wish to comment on the record. But my sources at Collegiate told me the students laughed at your cowardice, knowing a scam when they see one. The parents who circulated the evocative letter damning racism did so out of the same anxiety you hold about the power structure shifting and not knowing what to do. Their children, on the other hand, are forcing our awareness of the struggle we’ve clumsily bequeathed to them.
Meanwhile, the Collegiate community continues to wrestle with the old loving marriage of capitalism and racism. We are undeterred, indignant, and impassioned about change. We’ll also be penning letters, shouting down fools, and smashing decayed pillars. We have difficult names with difficult stories that need to be heard. You have the arduous chore of announcing to all who’ll hear that it’s pronounced “Megan, but with a Y.”