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Conversation Circle: What does protest look like?

The Conversation Circle Series is an opportunity for Park School faculty and staff to come together and discuss a current event related to diversity, equity and inclusion. These topics tend to be the ones that are “trending” on social media or in the news, and these conversation circles allow us some time and space to talk about these issues face to face.
Born out of the frustration that there simply is not enough time in the day to talk about important and relevant current events, this group gathers from 2:05pm-2:25pm (the time between dismissal and the start of faculty meetings) on Tuesdays in rotating rooms. It’s amazing what you can discuss in 20 minutes!


For many of our families, winter break was a chance to get away from the regular routine of school, to spend time together, and to possibly seek out new adventures. Those were all certainly true for my family. I’m happy to say I actually saw two movies at the theater, wrote the final chapters of my dissertation, and enjoyed watching my family from California revel in both the 68 degree Christmas weather and the 25 degree slushy snow that followed.

While my professional career has focused on examining issues of race, equity, and inclusion, it is impossible for me to simply put those three areas of my life on hold when school/work are not in session. During our break, the grand jury decision to not indict the officers in the killing of a young 12-year old boy named Tamir Rice was heartbreaking. In this focused time of caring, forgiveness and peace, I was angry, sad, and frustrated. How could this be? How could this young boy, who looks similar to some of the young people I work with each day, be mistaken for an adult? How could his life be taken so quickly?

Both personally and professionally, I have followed the many protests emerging around our shared country: Black Lives Matter, #Mizzou, Women’s Rights, Marriage Equality. And, it has not gone unnoticed that the responses to these protests have largely been impacted by race and gender.

Jorge Vega, Park’s Director of Technology, had been engaging on social media about the happenings in Oregon. Even now, I’m not sure what to call it — domestic terrorism? Insurgency? Militia? Protesters? Freedom Fighters? Patriots?

What do these words mean? What does protest even look like? Who gets to protest and who gets shut down?

These are all big questions both for our world and for our school.

In the discussion, Mr. Vega pointed out that it will be important to see what happens as a result of the Oregon terrorists, militia, protesters, insurgents, organizers, group. We talked about how some people have moved to making fun of the group — calling them #VanilaISIS or #YallQueda. Does belittling their cause dismiss their impact, or rather, does it simply give them an “out”? Because, when they walk away from this all, will they be held accountable for their actions or dismissed as “crazy, silly, bunch of yahoos”? What should our response be – our local response, our community response, our country’s response?

How is it that a group of white, armed men can take over a federal building and not be bothered, yet a group of Black peaceful protesters are thrown in jail, faced with the armed officers, and depicted as animals?

I mean, What does protest look like?

Peace and Park,

Ms. Talusan