What a great turnout at the film screening of “I’m Not Racist… Am I?” at Park School. Thank you to the many faculty, staff, parents, grandparents, friends, community members and colleagues who came out on a(nother) late night at Park!
I have been traveling as part of a facilitation team with the film for over a year. And, over the course of the screenings, there has always been a pattern of dialogue during the debrief. Every single time (with the exception of one very prepared and progressive school), the dialogue focuses on the question “Are all white people racist?” Despite 90 minutes of young people sharing their stories; letting viewers into their lives; the outrage of injustice; and the friendships that develop, dialogue focuses on a 6 second moment in the film.
But, I am thankful to add Park School, in my experience, to the community that asked more than that 6-second question.
At Park, the dialogue was rich, humble, assertive, and actionable. I’m sure people were individually wrestling with moments in the film. I’m sure people drove home with questions. I’m sure that partners wondered how the information related to their families.
But, in that theater, in that moment, people asked, “What do we do?”
As educators, parents and caring adults, we asked ourselves whether or not our children are ready for this type of work and this type of film. But, one follow up comment really moved us in a different — and thoughtful — direction: “Are we, as adults, ready to really talk about race? And, what does ready mean?”
So, Park School. Are we?
Are we ready to talk about Whiteness? Are we ready to talk about how we participate in racism? Are we ready to talk about how we benefit from systemic racism? How there are people in our community who, daily, are faced with racism and racial prejudice?
If last night was any indication, then I say “Yes.”
There were many wonderful ideas that were brought up last night:
- Another screening for all faculty and staff
- Another screening for parents, including some of our older students and children
- Opportunities to talk more deeply about race in affinity groups
- Opportunities to talk more deeply about race in mixed-groups
- Programs that our own children and students can participate in, similar to the ones the young people in the film went through
- Programs that we, as adults, can participate in, similar to the ones the young people in the film went through
- Opportunities to interact with other parents and students from other independent schools around issues of race
I say, “YES.”
Last night, I asked the audience to think about these questions:
- What is your definition of racism?
- Does racism still exist in the United States?
As we at Park continue to think about the film, the experiences of the students and their families, and our own roles in race and racism, I encourage you to seek out others who engage in this conversation. If you have not seen the film, you can still talk with others about race and racism.
As we move forward, remember these three steps: Learn. Say. Do.
Learn what you need to know.
Say what you’ve come to understand.
Do take action for justice.
Peace and Park,