With Mission in Mind—May 10, 2021

Reflection from Casey Marx, Preschool Teacher

My Responsibility Towards the World Our Children Will Inherit

It’s likely not advised to admit one’s guilt of racist behavior to the school community at which one has worked for the past 11 years, but I am not necessarily one who shies away from risk, especially not over the past three years. So, here it is. My name is Casey Marx–White educator, human, momma to three, wife, daughter, auntie, sister, friend, and general work in progress. I have engaged in racist and stereotypical thoughts, microaggressions and have used my white, affluent privilege more times than I could likely ever account for. Here’s my story.

I was born and raised in Skevanston (the Skokie-Evanston pocket) that we tell ourselves is the more approachable, down to earth of the North Shore suburbs. I am the youngest of four kids spanning 16 years. Essentially there were two different rounds of parenting my Mom and Dad did. My parents were experiencing the joys of being grandparents for the first time while still attending my 7th grade basketball games. I loved to pretend my siblings were my parents, and that my actual parents were my grandparents because apparently, I had an aversion to my parents being the only grown-ups in my class with gray hair. That certainly has come back to haunt me as I look at my own head in the mirror these days…but I digress. I absolutely adored and relished in my lot in our unique family structure. I mostly still do. 

I spent my entire life attending Catholic schools, went to mass on Sundays and had parents who I truly believe did their best to instill the values in us to be good, hard-working, generous, humble people. We traveled and talked about the importance of money and saving. We experienced different cultures in a “safe” way. For much of my life, we belonged to a country club and always gave back knowing that most people had struggles we could never imagine. There was a great deal of pride in the little bubble my parents created for us. We have also had a decent share of unique struggles, or the Woodward curse, as we affectionately call it.

I mentioned the little bubble, pride, white privilege and affluence. It turns out the combination of those can create a perfect storm. In July 2018, my oldest brother brother, Gavin, died by suicide. He was jobless. He was homeless. He checked himself into the hospital to get help and his discharge instructions read “Patient will stay at hotel and follow up with therapist.” He did not make it another day. Thirty-four years into life, I finally understood first hand that systems are designed to keep marginalized groups separate from ‘us”. I read. I studied. I questioned. I shared and I listened for a couple years. Then the pandemic hit, and there was civil unrest and oppression literally in front of my eyes at every turn, and yet I somehow was still not part of the problem. 

I knew struggle–from surviving suicide, foreclosure, addiction, mental illness to rat infestation and sewage backups, and every other random fluke. I would not wish my family’s pain or traveling circus act on my worst enemy. I was a good, aware, and empathetic white person. And then one day, I found myself taking my babies on a walk through a quiet nature path last summer when I saw a Black person sitting on a bench. The individual was sitting turned a bit away from me looking like they were trying to hide something in their lap. Without even thinking, my almost conditioned response it felt like, was to cross to the other side of the path. I never saw what they were doing. I truthfully don’t even think they ever looked up at us, but I am forever grateful our paths crossed that day. That was the moment my heart and my head finally acknowledged that I. Am. The. Problem. I have spent every day since fighting for better. 

I came to the full realization that every aspect of life is easier when less melanin is present in one’s body. The arbitrary system of race–created by man centuries ago for easier categorization–ensures this is true. It is incredibly uncomfortable to admit this as I think about the pain of Gavin’s last hours on earth; however, I sincerely doubt if he were a Black man, his discharge instructions would have been to find a hotel and follow-up with a therapist. I am learning to acknowledge that uncomfortable reality and hold space for my pain, grief and struggles. That acknowledgement and my feelings are not exclusive of one another. It’s taken quite a bit of digging in, digging deep and gaining a tremendous amount of comfort with being uncomfortable to get to this point.

What I have discovered is exclusive is this continuing, again almost gut reflex, to make choices that, when stripped down, are serving or in the interest of serving our individual families. You want to talk about discomfort? I remember the exact day when my husband and I discussed this and just began to touch on how our choices are mostly with our own kids’ immediate best interest at the forefront–not so much of the long game and what’s best for society’s interest as we had been telling ourselves. Where we choose to live, what jobs we hold, what schools we attend and pick for our children, travel destinations, aspirations for a certain level of success are all difficult to imagine without sacrifice. At least for my house, because my husband and I have worked so hard for this life we have created. 

What I am working to condition myself to do regularly now is to think along these lines: What will change in this society if I continue to think in terms of what’s best for me and mine instead of truly best for most? Is what I am doing serving a greater good? It’s not a perfect approach. It’s not enough, but it is our start–a small start to continuing to do better. If you’ve made it thus far by doing this…whoa, THANK YOU. And I look forward to fighting for and serving the greater good together.

—Casey Marx, Preschool Teacher 

In addition to being an incredible preschool teacher, Casey appeared on several episodes ofThe Oprah Conversation (available only on Apple TV) with Oprah Winfrey last summer in her questtowards the greater good. How to Be an Antiracist with Dr. Ibram X. Kendi (Episode 3, Season 1) and Caste: Part 1 and 2 with author Isabel Wilkerson (Episode 6 & 7, Season 1).

FXW’s Equity and Justice Forum Community Committee hosts One Book FXW
For the first time, FXW will host One Book FXW to offer our adult community the opportunity to connect through a shared summer reading book specifically focused upon our Charism of being Intentionally Diverse and Purposefully Inclusive–selected for us by us!

The goal of One Book FXW is to build community by creating opt-in spaces for engagement during the summer months and to come together in the fall to discuss the selected title in a more structured setting guided by the Equity and Justice Forum’s Community Committee. We are hoping for 100% participation in the fall.

Thanks to the generosity of Amy and Tim Kennedy (parents to students in Grades 3, 6, and 7), every household in our community will be given the chosen summer reading book before the end of school to take home this summer.

Please click here to complete the form and cast your book title nomination by May 11. You will also be able to indicate if you would like a hard copy or audiobook. The book receiving the highest number of votes will be announced in mid-May.

Family SEED Seminars –Adult caregivers of FXW students (formerly Parent SEED)
SEED is a peer-led professional development program that promotes change through self-reflection and interpersonal dialogue and builds capacity for more equitable curriculum, campuses, and communities. A SEED seminar involves participants in a series of monthly two-hour seminars during the academic year. Participants explore their own education in relation to race, gender, socioeconomic status, religion, sexual identity, abilities, and age, and how these factors currently impact their school community. Family SEED 2021-22 will be led by Erin Horne, Director of Education/Principal and Andrew Miller, OSP Campus School Psychologist. Erin is the parent of two alums and a fifth grader and Andrew is the parent of a high school freshman. For more information click here. To complete a survey with your interest, click here. Please know participants are limited to 20. A lottery will be utilized if registrants exceed available slots.