Black at RCDS — 8 Years in Silence

Darren Douglas
5 min readJun 17, 2020

On campus, we were and are writers, varsity athletes and captains, singers, artists, mentors, award winners, and scholars.

We were also too often: outcasts, minorities, and victims that were belittled, racially abused and largely ignored.

We are now: college graduates, masters students, PhDs, doctors, non-profit leaders, teachers, startup-founders, ivy-league graduates, philanthropists, creatives, technologists, designers, and activists.

When I first enrolled at RCDS as a wide-eyed 5th grader, I had culture shock. What’s a bar-mitzvah? What’s Apawamis? But over the years, I was fortunate to be exposed to and learn from the life of the 1%. At the same time, what was RCDS doing to teach students and faculty about my culture?

The recent murders of Black lives like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Oluwatoyin Salau have led to protests and rallies across the US. Through the @blackatrcds Instagram, the Black alumni and current students of Rye Country Day School have unified to speak out on our experiences. It’s been too long and we are still waiting for action.

I am proud to see young students and alum using their voices to share their stories. Racial bias is everywhere; we need to recognize the signs and patterns. These experiences did not happen in a vacuum.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” — Desmomd Tutu

There were often witnesses that didn’t know what was going on, or did, but chose not to speak out.

When I initially opened the Instagram account, I thought about how lucky I was to have been spared from the racist experiences fellow RCDS students were recalling. My mom quickly corrected me, reminding me of my struggles on the basketball team. Still skeptical, I pushed back. My disbelief shifted to confusion, and then anger once she shared with me this letter.

For 8 years, I did not realize I had suppressed troubling memories from my time in high school. My mom reminded me that we delayed delivering the letter because I said, “I’m not trying to be Martin Luther King, I just want to play basketball”. Since then, I have missed every donation opportunity, alumni reunion, and Wildcat weekend. I haven’t been back to our home court once. I finally pulled up my highlight tape for the first time in a while last weekend, it brought me to tears. I saw a younger version of myself, in love with the game of basketball, but being exploited by a racist coach. Like many young hoopers, my dream was to play at the next level. I had the grades, the passion, but I just needed the connections.

As a numbers person, I have always tried my best to keep track of my stats. Once I reached 980 points during my senior campaign, I remember inquiring about the 1000 point process. To my surprise, the Athletic Director told me my coach reported that I had 200 points fewer. How was this discrepancy possible? To this day, my point total remains a mystery.

When a college coach called looking for a shooting guard, my coach said I was a point guard. If the coach was looking for a point guard, he said I was a shooting guard. After the season ended, I visited the campus of my top choice and their coach told me I had secured a spot on the roster. A few weeks later I didn’t get in; I was shocked. At this point, we delivered the above letter to the headmaster and updated him on my college search. He informed me that the varsity basketball coach made clear I wasn’t interested in attending this university. Although I did end up playing ball in college, the coach had to recruit me directly. He came to a game in person and let me know the RCDS coach was unresponsive. Had he demonstrated interest to my coach first, I doubt I would have ever received the message.

RCDS is a private school with private interests. As such. we need to make sure athletics at RCDS can exist without unjust influence from the faculty, staff, and parents. My family wasn’t buying the coach fancy dinners or promising the school big donations, but were others? While there was obviously a problem with the coach, the larger problem is the system that allows minority students to be taken advantage of.

While I commend the administration for getting rid of this “bad apple,” it’s clear from other posts on the Instagram account that this was not an isolated incident but rather a pattern of racial discrimination at rye country day school. Within the athletic department, there’s a trend of coaches actively blocking the growth of student-athletes of color, which leads to athletes losing their confidence and love for the sport. When sports are supposed to help build courage and confidence in a person, this sort of behavior does exactly the opposite of that — seriously hurting a person’s self-worth and esteem.

Within the athletic department, coaches and administrators need to be trained on diversity and inclusion. School-wide, our curriculum requires major reform to highlight black history and black voices. For more suggestions on long-term actions the school can take, please reference the letter from Black Alumni to Greenwich Academy and Brunswick. The privileged students who walk your halls have a high likelihood of becoming our country’s future leaders, so it’s critical that we expose them to the breadth of both anti-racist practices and historical knowledge of systemic racism within our society. A concerted effort should be made to avoid a purely Euro-centric way of teaching all subjects.

Instead of equipping students and faculty alike to recognize and speak up regarding instances of unjust bias, you quietly removed the coach and ignored the larger problem. This coach is still working, still jeopardizing young athletes’ confidence and self-esteem. You buried this letter, hoping it would never resurface, but it did. I’m here and I’m telling my story.