Parish Episcopal Addresses Nativist Senior Quote

One of Parish Episcopal School’s core tenets is inclusivity – it’s on the front page of the school’s website, which also touts the schools efforts toward inclusivity and diversity.

But that was tested last week after one student’s senior quote was shared on the school’s social media channels.

“As a school founded on the values of Wisdom, Honor and Service, Parish Episcopal School believes that embracing our inclusive community facilitates our social, spiritual, and intellectual growth, and drives excellence in teaching and learning,” the school’s diversity statement reads. “We empower our students to be authentic and prepare them to lead by demonstrating knowledge of and respect for the rich variety of people and points of view that exist in our complex global society.”

“There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism,” read the Theodore Roosevelt quote of choice for a Parish senior identified as Matt T.

The reaction was swift and largely student-driven.

Natalie Pham started a petition on Change.org beseeching the school to “do something.”

“I personally knew this senior and knew him as someone who is someone who often times defended the ‘controversial’ ideals to have those debate esk conversations,” Pham said in her petition. “I don’t agree with him whatsoever, but I know people who have the same ideals as him. But the part that truly truly pisses me off, ticks me off, and makes me fully upset is that Parish let the quote be approved.”

Parish students past and present began commenting on the petition, and said that the school could do more to make sure all students are welcome and heard.

“I’ve only been here for two years. Parish needs to know that we are aware of every single incident y’all have swept under the rug,” one student commented. “From getting offended at a student who brought up the disgusting locker room talk among football players, to denying a homily from members of the lgbtq+ community, to sending emails that have an incredible lack of compassion in them. All eyes are on you, Parish. Now stop being so awful to your students.”

One Parish student we spoke to agreed with Pham, and doesn’t know how the statement ever got published.

“That is what I can’t understand. Because there is an approval process for senior quotes and I know peoples who’s senior quotes have been denied for way more harmless reasons and just being ‘too sarcastic,'” Rachel Wilson said. “But then for it also to go past yearbook to be posted on social media. Multiple people had to have seen the quote before it got posted and published.”

According to a letter from Allen Meyer Family Head of School Dave Monaco sent to parents, and later uploaded to the school’s webpage, the quote has been removed from the school’s social media platforms, and will not appear in the yearbook.

“This quote should not have made it through the School’s approval process due its ethnic and racial insensitivity,” Monaco wrote. “Parish Episcopal School does not condone any cultural insensitivity or bias and as an institution we failed to live up to our inclusive values in this instance.”

Monaco said that the quote was posted on Instagram Friday morning, and removed as soon as administration learned of it. An investigation began regarding the quote. Senior quotes were gathered last Fall.

“In communicating with the student involved, when the quote was chosen in the fall it was ‘without the intent of offending others,’ and the student and his family asked to be involved in helping remedy this unfortunate situation,” Monaco continued. “We recognize that the quote is inarguably offensive and we will continue our work heightening our cultural competence and evaluating our systems so that we will be better positioned to avoid an incident like this in the future.

“Likewise, we applaud those, particularly our students, who showed support for our inclusive Parish community on social media while expressing their concerns that the quote was not in-line with our community environment; and we implore our community to take the civil road to discourse and help support and educate versus demean and tear down.”

Monaco’s entire letter can be found here.

Wilson said that she feels the school could do more than it has in the past to live up to its mission of inclusivity.

“Parish does do a lot with diversity and claims to be inclusive. This is the first very public form of racism however there have been many more things subtle that have happened. Like denying LGBTQ+ presentations,” she said. “People have tried to get the school to make changes in the past but have just swept it under the rug.

“There needs to be more representation and discussions surrounding POC and LGBTQ+ in the classrooms. There also needs to be discussions around privilege that exists in the school.”

Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, deputy editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at bethany.erickson@peoplenewspapers.com.

7 thoughts on “Parish Episcopal Addresses Nativist Senior Quote

  • June 29, 2020 at 3:40 pm
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    I think people are overreacting to this quote. People need to research and read Roosevelt’s entire speech and understand why he said what he said. His statement was about allegiance to the U.S. and a concern that there was less than a 100% allegiance to the US when people would hyphenate their citizenship. In his speech he further explained that he had no problem with naturalized citizens in general. I believe what we can take from Roosevelt’s words today is that as Americans we should come together and be undivided. No matter our backgrounds, race, culture, etc we are ALL Americans and should come together as such in all matters, even in how we are dealing with COVID19.

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    • June 29, 2020 at 6:02 pm
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      I completely agree with Texan-American. This one member of the student body is ostracizing a fellow student for quoting one of the greatest Presidents our country has ever had. If Ms. Pham would simply google this speech and read it, she would see Roosevelt was asking for all
      Americans to stand together as a country. Stop being a victim.

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      • June 29, 2020 at 9:37 pm
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        Roosevelt was a believer in literacy tests and assimilation. He did not believe that immigrants should keep and cultural and national identity from which they came. In our modern society, we have learned to embrace different cultures and identities as a positive, not something to be snuffed out. Do not get me wrong I love Teddy Roosevelt, the man was a true progressive and is in my top 5 favorite presidents and added a lot to our nation but that does not make what he said right or acceptable in modern society.

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    • June 29, 2020 at 6:14 pm
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      “Texan-American” thank you for including a hyphenated identification in your profile name. America is built from identities that reach beyond our nation, if we ignore our unique experiences we can never move forward. the fact of the matter is that i, as a parish student look to the diverse experiences of my peers as inspiration and hope, a guiding tenet of an educational institution. i appreciate the assumption that we “people” have not read the entire speech. we have, in fact “nativism” is a concept that we all learn in our curriculum. we believe there is no place for a self righteous, exclusionary, and ignorant narrative of a one homogenous America. blind allegiance to any nation without self examination is a people under tyranny. we are not overreacting to the quote, the quote speaks to a pattern of failed responses and a desire for realignment with our core values as a school.

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  • June 29, 2020 at 6:34 pm
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    A majority of the Parish community agrees with Texas-American. In fact, I sent the quote to my brother whose kids attend another school and he said, “Wait that is a very include quote, saying we should all be one not divided. I think these students need to open their history book and read what the comment is really about before making accusations. I have been a part of four different school communities in Dallas and Parish is by far the most diverse and inclusive. In fact, it is the reason I am proud to send my child there to be exposed to the diverse and inclusive environment. I think we all know what is going on here.

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    • June 29, 2020 at 9:46 pm
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      Hi parish lifer what exactly do you think is going on here? Please do enlighten us. Maybe if YOU opened up an already whitewashed history book and read another one of Roosevelt’s quotes saying that “… the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else…” So, you’re agreeing with Roosevelt that the only way for someone to be treated equally is if they leave all of their past cultures behind? Now how is that creating a diverse place? And what diverse environment are you exposing your child to? The one that allowed students to hail Hitler with zero repercussions? The one that filters all content that the SDLC (student diversity leadership council) wants to educate the students about? You aren’t allowed to speak for the majority of any community until you realize the repercussions of your statement and how it may impact people who are NOT in the majority. I ask that you look at the Instagram account @poc_at_parish to educate yourself on the racism running rampant in our community. Please don’t silence the anger of students and alumni! Just because you yourself had a good experience at Parish, doesn’t mean everyone does. PSA: If a POC or discriminated group tells you something is racist/offensive, it most likely means you should step down and LISTEN.

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  • June 29, 2020 at 9:30 pm
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    As a minority myself, I think it is important to discuss the historical context of the quote and the importance of a hyphen to minorities. The speech the quote was from was made during WWI (by the way i’ve opened several history books in my life) during a time when nationalism was really important. Nationalism meant showing complete allegiance to your country; although, it is also important to note that nationalism also led to the rise of the Nazi regime. In short, nationalism is not always good. During his speech, President Roosevelt emphasized the importance of nationalism by saying that a “hyphenated American is not an American at all”. Roosevelt is trying to explain that if you identified with a hyphen, whether that be Polish-American, Italian-American, or even Asian-American, you were showing allegiance to your former country (throughout the speech the President only used examples of countries from Europe and failed to acknowledge countries where non-white people come from). I’m sure that back in the early 1900s, this made sense. America was on the brink of war and they needed to uplift the American ideology. Even if the quote wasn’t offensive back then, it certainly is now. Many minorities in America whether they be immigrants, first generation, or any generation identify with a hyphen. For them it is a way to recognize that they are not just “American”, because America is mostly white and without a distinct culture akin to other foreign countries. Identity is important to those who feel like they don’t belong and is also a way to pay homage to their heritage. Many people practice and live their life with influence from their heritage that cannot be categorized as “American. By saying that if you use a hyphen you are not an American citizen you are basically telling people that they don’t belong here and that they should “go back to where they came from”. The hyphen is an important aspect of minority culture in America as a way to feel belonging. While it may have been okay 100 years ago, the quote submitted is not acceptable in today’s society. The student who submitted it obviously did not know the importance of the hyphen to minority culture, and that is an ignorance on his part. However, the person who proofed it before submission should have noticed that it was problematic in today’s setting and used it as a way to educate the student. It is unfortunate that whoever proofed the quote didn’t realize this, and the incident should be an example that we have a far way to go in terms of educating those on diversity.

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