With Mission in Mind⁠— December 7, 2020

Are We Developing Moral Rebels?

At 3:45 a.m. on March 8, 2020, my husband and I were rudely awakened by the sound of my cell phone ringing by my bedside. On the other end of that call was our eldest son (FXW ‘12). He was atypically hysterical as he called from the ambulance that was pulling away from the lacrosse team house on campus where he lived at Amherst College during his senior year. He had been the target of a racial incident on campus and to this day, my mind wonders where the moral rebels were on that frigid Massachusetts morning. There were certainly enough bystanders for there to be at least one among those involved.

In her book Why We Act: Turning Bystanders into Moral Rebels, Amherst College Psychology Professor Catherine Sanderson defines a moral rebel as “someone who feels comfortable, or at least willing, to call out bad behavior, even when that means defying or standing up to people around them who may not be acting. Moral rebels are more able to buck social norms and speak out in the face of bad behavior, whether it’s sexual misconduct, or a racist slur, or corporate fraud.” In other writings, Professor Sanderson notes that if the three bystander officers in the case of George Floyd’s death had intervened, had operated as moral rebels, chances are he would still be alive today. For three decades, FXW has not only been developing globally minded, compassionate, analytical Thinkers and Leaders, but also, we endeavor to graduate moral rebels a.k.a. upstanders. 

And in spite of the spin on headlines that swirled amid the northeast this spring about the incident, Amherst College itself was not a moral rebel. In fact, now in its bicentennial year, the highly selective institution is just adding language to its student code of conduct about hate speech—in large part due to this racial incident and the moral rebels who are pushing that agenda. Even FXW, in its brief 31-year history is ahead of Amherst in that regard, and yet we too have to do our part to dismantle systemic racism.

Listen to alum Avonlea Hong ‘20 in the video above as she recounts some of her highlights and lowlights as a student at FXW. And through her testimonial, see every FXW student, family and staff member who doesn’t fit our community’s majority via their ability, age, citizenship, ethnicity, faith, gender, race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic class and more.

This Wednesday join the FXW Board of Trustees and committee members of the Equity and Justice Forum by taking part in our Maggie Daley Speaker Series’ Community Conversation on Race. Together let’s do our part in helping history not repeat itself. Register here. We look forward to seeing you there.


⁠—Kendall Mallette, Director of Mission Integration