Contributed by Maya Gunaseharan ‘08, Director of Student Activities
Upper School students began a series of broader conversations around race during the annual commemoration assembly of Black History Month. They were divided by grade and led through an exercise that provided them the opportunity to reflect on their perspectives on and experiences with race.
Six norms were listed at the onset:
- Be fully present and Speak from the “I” perspective.
- Lean into discomfort.
- Listen. And Be comfortable with silence.
- Suspend judgment of yourself and others.
- Be crisp; say what’s core.
- Respect the candidness of others here and outside of this space as you process throughout the rest of the day.
Beginning with a pair share, students partnered up to ask each other:
- What is your definition of race?
- When did you first became aware of race? Share that experience with your partner.
- Did this experience affect your perceptions of race?
- Does race matter to you?
Then, the majority of the assembly was occupied by “The Race Spectrum” activity, which is designed to help us reflect individually and collectively on how we feel about race-related matters. Adapted from the 2010 “The Diversity Spectrum – Where Do You Stand” (originally created by Liz Fernandez and Rodney Glasgow with revisions by Oscar Gonzalez and Davy Knittle), students were given a series of prompts and the opportunity to respond to them by placing themselves on the “spectrum” created in the room, depending on whether they agreed or disagreed with the prompt. Students who were unsure or preferred not to share their opinion stayed in the middle.
Students were told that “this is an exercise designed to help us reflect individually and collectively on how we feel about race-related matters. We don’t always have time dedicated to discussing these matters, and this is a time for us to do so.” Eleven questions were asked, including:
- Knowing someone’s race or ethnicity changes the way I see that person.
- Anyone can be a victim or a perpetrator of biased behavior and discrimination.
- It is difficult or unsafe to challenge someone who is making a prejudice or hateful comment.
- Members of majority groups have the responsibility of speaking up for underrepresented groups.
- I believe that race played a role in the cases of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
- We live in a post-racial society (race is no longer an issue in America).
To close the assembly, a full group debrief was held in the last ten minutes, where the students as a collective group were asked:
- What did you find interesting about this exercise?
- Did you change your thinking or hear a new perspective that you hadn’t considered regarding any of the statements?
- Which statement was the most difficult for you to take a position on?