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Who’s Under that Mask?

One time, I went as a ghost. I’m talking the laziest version of myself cut out two eye-holes from a bed sheet and flung it over my head.screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-4-21-11-pm

Another time, I went as a blue crayon — I dressed up in a blue sweater, blue sweatpants and put a cone-shaped blue construction paper hat on my head. 

But, when my mother was feeling particularly generous (and annoyed that I was making a Halloween costume request on October 30th), we went to the store and bought a costume. 

Back then, in the 1980s and early 1990s, everything was fair game. And, thanks to marketing and appealing to the nostalgia of adults, most of the costumes that were on the shelves when I was growing up are back on the racks in 2016 — My Little Pony; Power Rangers; superhero costumes; zombies.

I remember, in junior high school, my friend and I were looking for cool ways to dress up for costume day at school. I can’t remember what I wore, honestly, but I absolutely remember what my friend dressed as. She dressed as her favorite reggae singer, Ziggy Marley. She threw lots of gel in her hair and twisted it in lots of little coils; put on her brightest colored shirts and bottoms; and walked around with the CD cover of Ziggy Marley. 

Oh, and she painted her face brown. Not quite black face. But, as a White girl, it was clear what look she was going for. 

Back then, in my own schooling in the mid-1980s, I didn’t learn a whole lot about race and racism or cultural appropriation. Not because it didn’t exist, but because we just didn’t talk about it. But, no one told us about these issues. 

I am grateful every single day that I get to work in a community that embraces dialogues and conversations about race. As I’ve written before, the hallway just outside of my office is covered with artwork and observations from 9-year old students who are actively interrogating stereotypes. Students learn about stereotypes in school, and they are tasked with exploring ways in which stereotypes exist in the world around them. 

I have to believe that NONE of these students will even want to wear culturally offensive costumes.

But, it’s hard to escape.

I went to the party store this past week to pick up some items with my daughter. We managed to check off the things she needed: a tutu, some tights, glitter. But, as we made our way to the cashier, she stopped me. She pointed over to an entire aisle called “cultural costumes.” Cultural costumes. She muttered, “You might as well call that the ‘totally racist costume aisle.'” Gleaming packages of ponchos and mustaches; fake feathers and headdresses; and costumes with the word “sexy” like “Sexy Alaskan” and “Sexy Mexican” and “Sexy Indian.” 

As parents and adults, it’s important to take some time to think about what messages we would like for our children to know about cultures and costumes. Is Halloween — or any dress up holiday — a free pass to be offensive? 

Often adults ask me, “How do I know if my child’s costume (or my own) is culturally offensive?” And, I have two pretty easy questions you should consider:

  1. If you were to dress up in that costume and go to a community (not just “my best friend said it’s fine”) but an actual community of people who would wear that, would they think you were honoring them? So, if you were to dress up like this costume package Indian and go to an actual pow wow or to a tribal ceremony or to a gathering of Indigenous People, would they appreciate your look? 
  2. Is your costume an expression of having fun or making fun? Having fun — totally good. Making fun — probably not.

That’s it. It’s quite simple.

Now, some of you may be reading this and saying to yourself, “Who cares! I’m doing it anyway.” Well, I can’t stop you. But, for anyone who is interested in being curious, kind and respectful, these tips might help you solidify your choice or guide you towards something else.

But after Halloween is over, we’ll all still be left with wondering, “Who’s under that mask?”

Peace and Park, 

Dr. T

Honoring Latinx and Hispanic Heritage Month

My mother in law makes the best rice and beans ever. I’m totally serious. She lives all the way in New York City, but when I know we are getting ready to visit her, my mouth begins to water. In fact, just typing this, I can already smell the beans simmering over her gas-lit stove; I can hear the whistle of the rice being steamed in the cast iron pot; and I can already see the breaded pork chops cooling on the kitchen countertop. 
There is so much I love about my husband’s family. They are kind. They put family-first. They are patient. They are warm and inviting. They have always been people to uplift you on a particularly bad day. They love to play board games (and sometimes they sneak extra play money over to one of the kids when they think no one’s looking). 
I especially love that they are Puerto Rican. 
Being Puerto Rican is a huge part of my husband’s family culture. They are proud to be who they are. 
My husband’s grandfather was a minister who preached in Spanish in his church in Brooklyn. His aunts are also ministers. 
And, my husband’s dad was a minister who committed his life to the betterment of people and communities.
Had I not met my husband or his family, I can’t say that I would have known a lot about Latino culture. And, of course, their family only represents a small slice of Latino culture. Latin America and Spain — though they share some similarities in language — are both incredibly different and incredibly   connected. It is impossible to generalize an entire people, region, and language. 
This diversity is why it is so important that we take the time to learn about Latino and Hispanic culture and heritage. 
hispanic-heritage-month-clip-art-1202001Nationally, the United States honors the dates between September 15 – October 15 as Hispanic Heritage Month. While we at Park strive to provide inclusive engagement of communities all year, this time allows us to pay particular attention to Hispanic and Latinx communities. 
(Note: This might be the first time you are seeing an “x” instead of the letter “o” or “a” at the end of Latinx. It’s intentional. Though it is a language that often delineates between masculine and feminine articles, there is a growing movement to remove the gender binary when using the word in English.)
Below are some helpful resources that you might try in your homes as an accompaniment to what’s being done in the classrooms. Sit together with your child and check out some of these great videos or activities. 
  • Visit our Park School library and check out one of these books that our fabulous librarians have related to Hispanic Heritage Month. Go to “resource list” then “public list.”
  • PBS has great video clips and discussion topics about diverse issues facing Latino and Hispanic Americans
  • National Education Association has a list of easy-to-adapt activities for grades K-12
  • Time Magazine for Kids is also a great resource for printable lessons and teaching resources
  • Finally, one of my favorite resources is Mamiverse, and this site includes a diverse list of books featuring themes, characters and issues related to Latino and Hispanic issues 

 

What can you do to further your own understanding or engagement with Latinx and Hispanic culture? What can you do as a family?

 

Peace and Park, 

Dr. T

MAKE DIVERSITY ACTIONABLE (a.k.a. Inclusion)

Diversity is who we are. Equity is what we strive to provide. Inclusion is how we get there. 

Here we go! 

It’s the end of Labor Day Weekend, and school is just about to begin (or perhaps you are reading this just after school has already started). 

One of the reasons I personally chose to work at The Park School is the organizational commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Heck, it’s my job title. Even more heck, it fits on a business card and my tiny name tag. Impressive!

The Park School is a community of diverse families, people, learners, and teachers. But, that diversity doesn’t mean much unless we all find ways to learn about inclusion_matters_thumbnail-02each other and to interact. We have to engage in INCLUSION. After all, INCLUSION is the result of making sure that people in a diverse community know how to interact with each other and that we take steps to make sure we are all part of the every day life of our school. 

Recently a fantastic article has been making its way around social media called “6 Ways Parents Can Teach Their Kids About Race and Diversity.” I loved it. It’s short, simple and to the point. The author briefly says these six things (I’m short-handing because I really hope you read the full piece!):

  1. Have a diverse group of friends. 

  2. Purchase books and toys that support diversity.

  3. Expose your child to diverse music, art, films and TV shows.

  4. Talk about current events.

  5. Go the extra mile (literally) to surround yourself with diverse groups.

  6. Don’t laugh at racist jokes or engage in banter that perpetuates racist stereotypes.

As we begin our year at The Park School, here are some very actionable ways that you can incorporate these six aspects into your life:

Have a diverse group of friends. Introduce yourself on the first day of school to other adults/parents/guardians in your child’s class. Surely, if you are a returning Parkie, you’ll know people. Go out of your way to introduce yourself to new folks — I promise you they’ll appreciate the radical kindness that you show them. Further, within the first two weeks of school, set up a little play date or even a “let’s meet a few minutes before school to have coffee in the lobby” together. This extra act of hospitality is especially important for any families who might have a different family structure, racial or ethnic background, or just new to The Park School. As a new family of color here at Park, I can tell you that I was incredibly nervous meeting other parents in my children’s grades; and I was so thankful for people who went out of their way to say “hello and welcome” to me!

Purchase books and toys that support diversity. Wander through your child’s classroom (especially in Lower and Middle Division) and see what books the teachers have on display. They have been very intentional about including diverse representation in their class. Ask to borrow that book or buy one for your home. Or, if you need those first few minutes to settle your child, choose one of those books to read together before drop off. If you are unable to come to Park in the mornings, email your teacher and ask for a few book recommendations or if the teacher can send a book home every week. For Upper Division, talk about the books they read this summer — they were intentionally chosen for their themes about diversity and inclusion.

Expose your child to diverse music, art, films and TV shows. Got a long car ride home? Play music from a community or culture that is not typically played in your house. Celebrate the first week of school by trying a new restaurant or flip through some art from different communities or culture.

Talk about current events. Current events — I mean, what isn’t happening in our world today? So much is going on. For younger students, what is the “first day of school” like in other countries? In other parts of the country? For older students, they can handle some of the current events politics — have some dinner talk about it so they can get used to engaging in these dialogues with you. 

Go the extra mile (literally) to surround yourself with diverse groups.This is my favorite! Choose an after school activity that is outside of your neighborhood or community. Join the Y in the next town over. SIgn up for lessons or a sport at a rec center different from the one you are currently in. Yes, this may mean a few extra minutes in the car or commuting or scheduling. That’s a choice we make. If not during the school year, be mindful about signing up for camps or lessons or sports during the summer in other neighborhoods.

Don’t laugh at racist jokes or engage in banter that perpetuates racist stereotypes. Walk away. Or, if you’re feeling prepared and brave, address the situation. Some of my favorite “verbal frisbees” (phrases I throw out hoping someone will “catch” them) are: “Ouch, that didn’t feel so good to hear that word”; or “I’m not sure what’s funny about that”; or “Hmm… that’s an interesting way to phrase that.” Our children are watching — they watch how we react, what we permit, and what we address. And, they take our cues about how to address issues of injustice and unkindness by what we allow in our own lives. 

Looking forward to a great school year filled with lots of learning and growing together!

 

Peace and Park,

Dr. T

TO BE KNOWN BY NAME

One of my favorite childhood memories during the summer was going to different destination locations. My father and mother, immigrants to the United States, wanted to make sure that their young family understood historical aspects of this country. So, each summer, all seven of us — my parents + me + my four brothers and sisters — packed into a brown and tan conversion van and drove around the continental United States. By the time I was in high school, we had visited nearly every state in the country. By the time I was in my mid-twenties, we had the privilege of adding Alaska and Hawaii. 

Remember, the 1980s and 1990s were pre-iPads and pre-DVD players in the cars. My siblings and I had to rely on car games like “Find all 50 state license plates” or, everyone’s favorite “I’m going on a picnic and I brought an A, apple.” (Note: I’m joking. That going-on-a-picnic game is not my favorite). 

A real treat, though, was when we stopped at a national monument or tourist destination. We tumbled out of the van, our legs cramped from sitting still for hours on end. Frankly, we were happy to stretch our legs and be more than an arms-length away from a brother or sister who had already been annoyed with another sibling for the last 100 miles.

While my parents “ooh’ed and ahhhh’ed” at whatever exciting and historical site we had just come upon, my siblings and I inevitably started each destination with the same enthusiastically adolescent line: “Can we go to the gift shop? Please? Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease??”

Yeah, that naturally occurring rock formation is nice… But, it can’t possibly be more awesome than the gift shop!

We drove thousands of miles, and can we go to the gift shop, was our most pressing question. 

(I admit, now that I am a parent of small children, I realize that the universe is imparting royal payback to me)

Frankly, friends, I’m not so sure why I was so eager to get to the gift shop. No matter if we were in Arizona or Georgia or Washington D.C. or South Carolina, I always had the same experience. Different state, same stuff. 

Whenever we arrived at a gift shop, my older sisters, who are named Mary and Grace, went right for the clothing section to look for cute t-shirts or sweatshirts that had the state logo or “I went all the way to Florida and all I got was this t-shirt” type slogans. My little brothers, who are named Paul and Jonathan, went right for the toys, trains, plastic wrapped decks of cards, stuffed animals with tiny t-shirts bearing the tourist destination’s image, and games. 

I always went to the personalized section which was conveniently located in a circular spinning rack near the cashier. Pencils. Keychains. Barrettes. Beaded bracelets.

My eyes scanned the shiny items organized alphabetically: Laura, Leslie, Lisa, Lynn….Margaret, Mary, Melissa…

I took a deep breath.

No Liza.

Of course, I spun through rows of “Mary, Grace, Paul and Jonathan….” I’m not jealous. I’m so jealous. Screen Shot 2016-09-02 at 10.49.34 AM

Sometimes there was an “Eliza” and if I was feeling particularly sassy, I would grab the “Lisa” pencil and beg my mom to give me a few dollars to pay for the item. And, each time, she looked me in the eyes and said simply, “That’s not your name. Put it back.” I would walk slowly away, likely mumbling something under my 11-year old breath like, “Well, it’s not my fault. YOU named me …” or “Why couldn’t you name ME Mary or Grace?”

State to state, the gift shop was always a disappointment. 

I shuffled back to the spinning racks of items, hoping the store manager had refilled the entire section of “Liza” items — which, I fantasized had been sold out that morning due to the overwhelming number of “Liza’s” that had come to the gift shop in the middle of North Dakota — since the last time I stood there (note: at most, I was gone for 3 minutes). I wandered the store looking for other personalized sections that, maybe, just maybe, I had missed.

No Liza.

At the ripe old age of 41, like a Pavlovian response, I go right to the personalized section of a gift shop to see if I can hand over my hard earned money in exchange for a “Liza” item handed to me by the cashier in a small, crisp, brown bag.

So far, no luck. 

As an educator, teacher, and diversity director, if there is one thing you know about me, you know that I believe names matter. 

I’m unafraid to say to you, “I’m so embarrassed, but could you tell me your name again?” or “Would you mind repeating that? I haven’t heard your name before, and it’s important for me to say it correctly.” I also believe strongly in calling people what they want to be called. There are some parents who, more informally, have told me “Oh, Liza, don’t call me Dr. So-and-So, call me John” or others who have made a point to sign their emails as “Mr. Smith” or “Dr. Jones.” You have told me your names, and I have honored what you’d like to be called. 

My daughter, Joli, may never find her name on a pencil in a random gift shop. My children, Jada and Evan, have a better shot at it. My husband? Sometimes we can find a Jorge, but only if we are in certain areas that pay attention to names that have origins in Spanish. You can probably guess how not-often that is….

As we begin the school year, I have two important words for you: NAMES MATTER.names matter sermon

Last week, as new faculty and staff arrived, they have gotten to know us by first name. For a week, we were “Kimberly” and “Alice” and “Pamela” and “Kim.” We have all introduced ourselves with our first names; yet, come Tuesday, we expect new colleagues to use our formal names in front of children. For example,  “Liza” becomes “Dr. Talusan” or “Cynthia” becomes “Ms. Harmon.” As a former new person, let me tell you, this isn’t easy.

While it’s not easy, friends, it’s important. Names matter. Titles matter. Salutations matter. 

As students and families return back to school, some of our colleagues have changed their names (e.g., Ms. Hyslop is now referred to as Mrs. Leonardelli). Some of our students might ask us to move from calling them nicknames like “Johnny” or “Jenny” in Lower Division to “John” or “Jen” as they arrive in Upper Division. As parents and caring adults, we have likely filled out forms for our child’s teacher that says, “My child’s formal name is _______ but he prefers to be called ________.”

And, as adults, we honor that. We honor that people have an option and want to be called their proper titles and names. 

This year, as you return to school, it is important to find out how people would like to be called. 

Change is all around us; and as a Park School community, we must be sure to honor how people would like to be called.

Mx.

One change I’d like to let you know about is the opportunity to use a more gender-inclusive salutation: Mx. This prefix — Mx. (pronounced mix) — allows individuals to use a gender-inclusive salutation that is neither male (Mr.) or female (Mrs., Ms., Miss). This year, we opened up our school year including this option as we affirm our commitment to identity and inclusivity. The salutation, Mx., may be new to The Park School, but it is not new to our English language. In fact, Mx. was entered into the Oxford English Dictionary two years ago. While the prefix was provided to create inclusive opportunities for individuals who do not identify with gender binaries, it is also gaining use from individuals who simply do not want to have their gender identified by a Mr. (male) or Ms./Miss/Mrs. (female) prefix. 

Friends, our history has seen this before when it introduced the prefix, Ms., as a way for women to not have to disclose whether or not they were married. Today, the prefix “Ms.” is one of the most frequently used ones for women at The Park School, regardless of marital status. 

As a family, if Mx. is a salutation you’d prefer, please let us know so that we may make those changes. If this is a salutation you’d like to use socially but not administratively (i.e., in our class lists or handbooks), please let us know. 

And, if others in our community invite you to refer to them using Mx., please do so.

As a community committed to the dignity of all people, it is important that you are known by the name you prefer. I am grateful for our leadership team at Park who have affirmed that The Park School is a place that honors the lives, individuality and naming of people. We realize this may be a new word/title for some in the community, and we are grateful to be working in education, schools, and learning environments in which we can all lean into ongoing growth.

Peace and Park, 

(Dr.) Liza Talusan

(Note: Yes, I’m going by Dr. Talusan as we start the new year! Hurray!)

Me with my proud parents at graduation!

Me with my proud parents at graduation! Two MDs and a PhD!

RESOURCES FOR TALKING WITH CHILDREN

During the school year, we find ourselves in close proximity to one another — popping into each other’s classrooms to see an interesting lesson; walking by each other in the hallways to say “hello”; or waiting by the copy machine and discussing the latest news story we’ve heard on our drive into work.

But, during the summer, we find ourselves in this absence of community. And, yet, in times and days like these, community is precisely what we need. During this week, there were times when I was thankful for colleagues who checked in on me and who were interested in discussing violence in our communities. At other times, I was grateful for my morning run when I tuned out the world and simply listened to my heart and my own breath.

3045915-poster-p-1-how-do-i-get-long-winded-job-candidates-to-stop-talking-during-interviewsAs educators, we have the privilege of engaging in dialogue around meaning and purpose. In many ways, we seek the comfort of our classrooms, hallways and offices where we can more easily find community. But, the summer time brings about new challenges — challenges to connecting, to seeking predictability, and to experiencing our comfort.

If you are a parent reading this list of resources, know that we, as teachers, struggle with how to have conversations with our students about the recent tragedies in our world. Children look for predictability. Children look for comforting responses from adults. Children look for cues that they are going to be alright. But, as adults, we have been forced to question these for ourselves. Know this this is difficult. Know that this is a struggle. Know that you are human and will experience conflicting feelings. And, know that these conversations with our children are important.

Over the past few weeks, I have heard from parents who are seeking resources about how to talk to their children about recent events in our country. I have provided resources for parents and caring adults; for children in our lower division ages (ages 4-8); for children in our middle division (ages 9-11); and for children in our upper division (ages 12-14). It is not an exhaustive list; rather, it is a simple list. I wanted to provide you with some activities or questions that you can “do now” rather than overwhelm you with feelings of “when do I have time to do this?” I have provided a few follow up discussion questions to each activity.

But, parents and families and caring adults, this list doesn’t do anything unless you have the conversation. I’m asking you to have these conversations. Note that the list below doesn’t explicitly prompt you to discuss mass shootings or racism in America or protocol for when you encounter law enforcement with your children. But, those are important, too. If you are just wading into these waters, I’m asking you to engage in conversations — early in the lives of children — where we normalize difference. I’m asking you to engage in conversations — early in the lives of children — where we highlight that people are treated differently and that we must work together to create equity (that people have access to resources and opportunities for success). I’m asking you to engage in conversations — early in the lives of children — where we co-create tools for ourselves to include the humanity of others in our own lives.

Diversity is who we are. Equity is what we strive to provide. Inclusion is how we get there. 

The other day, I dropped off one of my children at a sleepover. I was talking to the host parent about the incidents in our communities, and she simply asked, “So, what do we do? Where do we start?” I looked over her shoulder at the small group of children who were gathered for the sleepover, giddy over the fact that they hadn’t seen each other since June 18th, our last day of school. They were hugging and smiling and making plans for how late they would stay up that night. Looking deeper, they were children from different racial backgrounds; children from different family structures; children of same-sex parents; children of parents from different racial identities; children from different socioeconomic backgrounds; children with different interests and likes; children from different towns and communities; children with different abilities and disabilities. And, they were all going to spend time together.

I’m not implying that simply bringing together diversity helps our world. Just having diverse groups doesn’t change our world. I am saying that these children — early in their lives — have developed close relationships across identities. They see each other as people. They see each other as humans. They see each other as friends. They see each other’s differences and have come together across, not despite of, these differences. They have parents who have invited children to their homes and who have welcomed them for who they are. They have parents who have committed to driving across three or four towns to encourage friendships. They have parents who are proud of their cultures, families, class, and abilities and who have invited these difference into their lives.

I turned to the host parent and said, “This is where we start.” I’m not sure if she saw the tear roll from my eye. In the midst of writing about so much hate and violence, I had forgotten that this, too — this joy of friendship — exists.

Where will you start? What are you willing to do to invite difference into your life? What must you do in order to create a welcoming and inclusive environment in which others want to join you? 

Below are some resources where you can begin. I hope that these resources springboard you into other areas of literature, social media, conversation, dialogue and experience.

I continue to keep all of the families and communities that are affected by tragedy in our hearts. I hope you will engage in conversations with your children, your family, and your loved ones. And, I hope we commit ourselves to building community, compassion, and connection to all.

With peace,

Liza Talusan, Ph.D., Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

For Parents and Caring Adults

  • An article about how to talk to your kids about race
  • An article of by a mother reflecting on the lessons she hopes to teach her sons about #BlackLivesMatter
  • A StoryCorps about a White mother and a Black son (graphic warning included)
  • A NYT article highlighting structural class inequity and health
  • An article about how we inadvertently send negative messages about race to our children
  • An article about why it is important to talk about Whiteness
  • A TED talk from Bryan Stevenson titled “We Need to Talk About an Injustice”
  • A list of ways that well-meaning allies are counterproductive
  • The manuscript on the impact of racial trauma
  • Video of sports announcer Dale Hansen of WFAA TV as part of Hansen Unplugged talking about the tragedy in Dallas

 

For Students in Lower Division

  • A YouTube version of The Sneetches (by Dr. Seuss)
    • How do you think the different characters felt in this video?
    • Have you ever felt left out? What does that feel like?
    • How did the Sneetches change from the beginning to the end?
    • Do you think characters were peacemakers or troublemakers? What would you have done?
    • What things can we do to promote fairness?
    • How can we include everyone?
  • Activity: Crack eggs together for scrambled eggs, cake or meatloaf. Use brown and white eggs and discuss how even though they are different colors on the outside they are the same on the inside.
    • What type of eggs do we tend to buy for our house? Do you think we can try other eggs? What difference would that make? What kind of lesson do you think that would teach us in this house?
    • How might this example of the eggs relate to our friends or classmates or family?
  • Reading Rainbow (Season 1, Episode 24, free with a Prime membership)
    • “A simple misunderstanding almost kept the boys from becoming friends.” What are some examples where this has happened to you?
    • When you met the two girls, one said, “I just got kind of nervous because I was wondering about all the kinds of things in her house.” How do you feel when you meet someone new? What types of cultural things do we have in our house? What are some examples of cultural items you have seen in other houses?

 

For Students in Middle Division

  • A YouTube version of The Sneetches (by Dr. Seuss)
    • How do you think the different characters felt in this video?
    • Have you ever felt left out? What does that feel like?
    • How did the Sneetches change from the beginning to the end?
    • Do you think characters were peacemakers or troublemakers? What would you have done?
    • What things can we do to promote fairness?
    • How can we include everyone?
  • Video featuring children ages 8-11 talking about their reactions to Dr. King’s speech
    • What is your dream for our country?
    • People in our country experience inequality. What are 3 ideas you have for making our country more equal?

 

For Students in Upper Division

  • Video of sports announcer Dale Hansen of WFAA TV as part of Hansen Unplugged talking about the tragedy in Dallas
    • What are your reactions to this?
    • What is something the announcer said that you have heard before? What was something new?
    • What do you have questions about?
  • A video called “Which games are culturally insensitive”
    • Do you play these games? Have you noticed this occurring?
    • What can we do as a family to help you understand stereotypes?
    • What should we do when we encounter racial stereotypes in things that we enjoy, like video games or comic books or movies?
    • What impact do you think this is having on you? What kind of impact is it having on your friends or peers?
  • A series called “Being 12” which has a few areas addressing race
    • As a family, do you think we talk about race? What kinds of things have you learned from our family about race?
    • What do your peers say about race? Are they aware of racism?
    • If there was one thing you would tell your peers about racism, what would it be?
  • Rising Grade VIII students have summer reading assignments that lean into issues of race. We invite you to ask your child about their reading and to engage in conversations that connect their books to our real-world experience.
    • How does the topic of your book relate to what’s happening on our world right now?
    • What types of solutions are offered in your books?
    • What types of challenges to the characters face that are similar to ones we have heard about in the news?

 

 

WHAT BECOMES ROUTINE

It’s summer time here at The Park School. 

Summer time brings about summer schedule. Summer schedule brings about summer environment. Summer environment brings about summer attitudes.

Relaxation. Comfort. Peace. Quiet.

For some.

Just two days ago, I woke up to the news that a father named Alton Sterling had been shot by individual police officers. I wept. I watched his widow make a statement to the press. I watched his son, now fatherless, weep next to his mother and be removed from the podium so he could grieve privately. 

But, nothing about his grief was private. His crying and screams for his father were public. 

Just as his father’s death, broadcasted on social media. 

I woke the next morning to learn of the killing of Philando Castile, a man who worked in an elementary school, by an individual police officer. 

I heard the voice of his partner recount what was happening. I heard her say all the right things, all the things I have said to fellow Black and Brown men in my life (all of which they had heard from their caring adults growing up). I heard the familiar sounds of a young child. 

Friends, I have started and stopped this entry so many times, figuring, “When I stop crying, I’ll come back and write the rest.” And, each morning, I have woken up to a new need to write, to grieve, to scream, and to find a way to put words to any of this. Even now, as you read this, your eyes scanning a newly edited version. #Dallas happened. 

The other day, I received an email from a parent asking what we can do as a school and as a community to support and encourage our families who are deeply impacted by the tragedies of these last two days.

And, you know what my response was to her?

It’s summer.

I typed “It’s summer. I’m not sure how many people are paying attention.”

Because, you see, that’s what routine does to you. Routine makes you forget that out-of-the-ordinary things happen. Routine makes you forget that life goes on despite your own life slowing down. Routine makes you wonder if anyone else is thinking, feeling or angry about the same things. 

During the school year, in times of tragedy, my office revolves with faculty and parents who simply need someone to talk to, to process with, and to check in. During the summer, there are only a handful of us here, and my conversations about these deep issues become distant. Silent. Quiet. 

Writing this, I have mixed emotions. I feel something as an educator. I feel something as a parent. I feel something as a mother to a brown-skinned boy. I feel something as the wife of a man who lives in dark brown skin. I feel something as the daughter-in-law of a Pastor. I feel something as the cousin to Latino police officers. I feel something as the granddaughter of a police detective. I feel something as an Asian American woman. I feel something as a student affairs practitioner who held the hand of a young Black man who found out his friend was shot and killed while sitting in his car. I felt something as a director of a multicultural office who sat in the silence of young Black men as we read the names of their kin who had been killed. I feel something as a practitioner who works in an elementary school. I feel something as a sister-scholar to Black academics, professors, and researchers who have been using their agency to dismantle structures of oppression. 

And, I’m asking that you do the same. 

What do the events in this world have to do with your identities? What does this all mean for you as a parent? As a student? As a racialized person? As a teacher? As a neighbor, relative? As a person of faith or a practitioner of humanism? What does this mean for you as someone who lives in a town, city, community? 

By now, you’ve probably seen your fair share of social media posts. And, in different ways, I imagine you are digesting them. Through my multiple social identities, I am providing a brief list of ways that you might want to consider to move forward. This list isn’t meant to be comprehensive. It’s meant to just get you started however you want or need it. 

I’ll post the list below my sign-off. But I wanted to close with a request. A request to hold each other in the light of goodness. A request to hold each other’s humanity in the light of love. A request to hold each other in the act of care, in the act of good, and in the act of warmth. A request for you, individually, to reconcile both the hate you know and the hate you are unaware of in your own mind and in your own heart. I’m not naive to believe that “love heals everything.” I know that love is the stepping stone. And, I’m asking you to take those first steps.

Holding us all in the light of goodness. 

Peace and Park, 

Dr. T

  • Listen. Listen without judgment. Listen to hear. Listen to heal. Listen to connect. In times of hurt, we often think of ourselves and of our own judgment. I’m asking you to listen. 
  • Read. Not just social media blogs, but read books and scholarship and critical information. Read why Ta-Nahisi Coates had to write his book Between the World and Me.  And read that book. Read Blindspot by Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald.
  • Hold up that mirror. Figure out your hidden biases. Take Banaji and Greewald’s Harvard based Implicit Assumptions Test and better understand your own biases. 
  • Believe that it’s different. Many of us grew up getting different messages about what it means in our society to be a “boy or a girl.” I ask this question all the time in workshops and it’s one of the easier questions people can answer. So, I beg you to understand that we also grew up with different messages about what it means to be “Black and not-Black.” Why do I phrase it like that? Because people who are Black in this country have been given very explicit messages about what/who/and how they are valued — and not valued — in our society. Believe that these messages have been different, have been pervasive, and have been destructive. Believe that if you are not-Black, then you (we) have been given those same messages about the value — or not — of Black people in our society. That means something. 
  • Believe that talking about race matters. Here is a powerful StoryCorps (3 minutes) of a son and mother talking about race. It doesn’t help us to be color blind because the world isn’t color blind. For parents of older children, I believe this is a video that is helpful to start an honest dialogue. 
  • Ask questions. Find out what your community police department does related to anti-bias training. Ask/request that the officers have extensive training in anti-bias work. Write a letter or email. Many responsible and responsive police departments are already doing this and have role modeled its effectiveness. It is important to signal, as a member of the community, that this means something to you. 
  • Awareness in public. Be mindful that a community has memory. For example, though not all of us were in New York, many of us hold a community of memory around 9/11. For many Black and Brown people, the community of memory is filled with anxiety about violence; experiences with being targeted and questioned; and assumptions about goodness. Be aware that there are Black and Brown friends, colleagues and strangers who are experiencing a deep sense of anxiety at this time. Given the individually-acted killings in Dallas, there are police officers and families of police offers who are also experiencing a deep sense of anxiety at this time. Those can both exist. Act with compassion. 
  • Express love. Each night, I ask my son, “What are the three things I love about you?” And, depending on the day, he answers two of those differently. It might be “You love me because we had special time together and that we went to the movies today” or “You love me because I was kind to others today and that I tried my best today.” But, the third one, the third one is always the same. It’s always the same. “And, you love me because I am Brown.” As the mother of a son with brown skin, he needs to know that he is loved. He needs to hear, from his early age, affirmation that his brown skin has meaning. And, though the world may eventually tell him that his brown skin means something less, he’ll remember that, somewhere, at some time, someone told him that he is loved. How do you express this? How do you signal to the Black and Brown community that you believe in their lives? 
  • Take care of yourself. For people of color, for people who are Black, take care of yourselves. For years, months, and especially these past few days, you have woken up each morning to see someone who looks like your brother, your father, your sister, your auntie, your mother, your uncle on the news and on your social media feed. Half-awake, you may have even thought it was someone you knew. Maybe this human being was someone you did know. All of that is working it’s way through your own body, your own heart, your stress hormones, and your mind. Take care of how you need care. Ask for help. Give help to others if that’s what you need. Keep yourself in the light. For those of us who are not Black, we must participate in the care of communities in ways they need or want. I can’t tell you how each and every Black person needs or wants care — that will require you to listen, talk, share, and observe how others want you to show up. Remember when you called yourself an “ally” or put up that “ally sticker” on your door? Yeah. It’s time. 
  • Say their names. They are people. They are people. They are people. You are a person. You share a humanity. Do not distance yourself. When you are talking with your children, don’t just refer to Philando Castile as “the guy who was shot in Minnesota.” Be sure to talk about him as a partner, as a school employee, as a human being. Alton Sterling was a father and a husband. 
  • Seek resources. Finally, because so much is shifting beneath us, there has been an emergence of posts about how/when to talk to your children about these events. I found this resource to be helpful (and note that it’s still ongoing) about “How to talk to your kids about Dallas

 

I am asking that you individually and collectively adopt these above items as a part of your routine.