On November 7, Alumni of Color and Students of Color came together to discuss the presidential election and the impact of the messaging that emerged from the campaigning. The group started out by sharing a range of emotions connected to the election season, but some were hopeful that the election outcome would favor a positive shift in the biases being displayed in the media, during rallies, and debates. More than that, participants hoped to see changes in daily interactions with peers and colleagues.
After watching this video, students commented on some of the things they’ve experienced in Packer’s halls and classrooms. Alums asked questions that allowed for deeper reflection on the root of the micro-aggressions and the response of the adults within the Packer community. Others, weren’t surprised to hear what students reported out, commenting that some of the interactions mirrored what they had experienced when they attended Packer. Luckily the conversation didn’t end there, but shifted into ways of addressing the need for inclusion and cultural competency.
Strategies suggested included:
- Using their time as Upper School students to strengthen their voices and finding the strength and language to speak up against injustice. This “is the best time to practice these skills” because when you’re in college and enter the workforce, you will face similar challenges and need to know how to protect yourself.
- Students were told they should look for allies. While most students will freeze up when they witness a micro-aggression, there are other students of color and a few white students that will collaborate with you to address the situation. “Collaborating with allies is important” because in a school like Packer, where we are in smaller numbers, it’s powerful when you can get others involved.
- Seeking out supportive adults and unpacking scenarios with them. Alums spoke fondly of the support they received from individual teachers while at Packer. Teachers like Carol Britton, were instrumental in their ability to navigate this mostly white institution. When current students discussed the low numbers of teachers of color, the alumni were surprised to hear that number of teachers of color had dropped significantly from when they were at Packer. A few alums are looking into how they can follow up on this matter.
Overall, the conversation started out by focusing on the cultural bias amplified by the presidential election and ended with a comparison of experiences at Packer then and now. As a result of pre-election conversation, a few alums have decided to follow up with the current administration to see what’s being done to increase the number of educators of color, particularly in the MS and US. Another outcome of this meeting was a student panel in December, with many of the examples being shared with the current administration. Next month, that same body of administrators will participate in a Anti-bias training workshop and we hope that this can improve the educational experience for all students, but especially students of color.
Thank you to all of the attendees for sparking some of these changes. We are especially appreciative of the support Paul Forbes and Tené Howard offered as this made for a productive session between current students and alumni of color and to Ronnette Hope for this collection of empowering resources.
Understanding the Election 2016: Resources
People of Color and Elections