WHAT IS DIVERSITY ?
Diversity consists of individuals from a spectrum of different demographic backgrounds. This may be someone you do not share one of your identities with, but are still able to accept, and respect. What keeps a diverse community together is the ability to share and listen to each other’s experiences.
WHAT IT FEELS LIKE BEING A STUDENT OF COLOR ATTENDING INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS –
Reaching a stage where you can connect with someone on a deeper level is extremely challenging while attending a school when there are little to none who look like you. It’s clear to the eye that you are different, and it becomes difficult to make a good impression when people have a preconceived idea of what type of person they think you are. Although you may wear the same clothes, and have the same shoes, the underlying fact is that you aren’t the same. Through social media and western beauty standards, children of color feel as though they are not enough. At a young age, it’s hard to appreciate your uniqueness, especially when you are constantly compared to the majority in your community. These standards convince young children of color that their name, ethnic food, languages, and culture isn’t good enough. Children spend so much of their time putting on a mask, and pretending to be someone they’re not to the point where it gets tiring. Children, teenagers, and adults who are struggling with their identity is very common. I want them to realize that they are enough, and that they do not need to assimilate into any culture, or change the way they are to fulfill someone else’s standards.
“I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background.”
– Zora Neale Hurston
WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?
- The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
- The mental state by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while having the ability to acknowledge and accept one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.
HOW CAN WE PRACTICE MINDFULNESS?
*Mindful Listening Group Exercise
- Step 1: Invite participants to think of one thing they are stressed about and one thing they look forward to
- Step 2: Once everyone is finished, each participant takes their turn in sharing their story with the group
- Step 3: Encourage each participant to direct attention to how it feels to speak, how it feels to talk about something stressful as well as how it feels to share something positive
- Step 4: Participants are instructed to observe their own thoughts, feelings, and body sensations both when talking and when listening
- Step 5: after each participant has shared, you can break into small groups and answer the questions below. Next, regroup and have a discussion and debrief with the following questions.
- How did you feel when speaking during the exercise?
- How did you feel when listening during the exercise?
- Did you notice any mind-wandering?
- If so, what was the distraction?
- What helped you to bring your attention back to the present?
- Did your mind judge while listening to others?
- If so, how did “judging” feel in the body?
- Were there times where you felt empathy?
- If so, how did this feel in the body?
- How did your body feel right before speaking?
- How did your body feel right after speaking?
- What are you feeling right now?
- What would happen if you practiced mindful listening with each person that you spoke with?
OTHER WAYS TO SUPPORT STUDENTS OF COLOR:
- Look into SDLC/POCC from the NAIS (Explanation below)
- Attend affinity groups at your school! – If your school doesn’t have a club that you identify with, consider reaching out to someone and start one!
- Host a multicultural night, with food, presentations, and performances from a variety of cultures.
The NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conference is a multiracial, multicultural gathering of upper school student leaders (grades 9-12) from across the U.S. and abroad. SDLC focuses on self-reflecting, forming allies, and building community. Led by a diverse team of trained adult and peer facilitators, participating students develop cross-cultural communication skills, design effective strategies for social justice practice through dialogue and the arts, and learn the foundations of allyship and networking principles. In addition to large group sessions, SDLC “family groups” and “home groups” allow for dialogue and sharing in smaller units.
CALL TO ACTION:
- Now that you’ve learned the importance of mindfulness practices, and what it means for a community to be diverse, I would love for you to reflect on your community, and find ways to help. In the comment section, respond to the following questions –
- What does diversity look like in your school/community?
- What can you do to learn about others experiences that are different from yours?
“Brown v Board at Fifty: ‘With an Even Hand.'” Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/exhibits/brown/brown-segregation.html. Accessed 19 Apr. 2020.
National Association of Independent Schools. pocc.nais.org/About/Student-Diversity-Leadership-Conference.
National Women’s History Museum. 2015, www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/ruby-bridges.
Ohikuare, Judith. “When Minority Students Attend Elite Private Schools.” The Atlantic, 17 Dec. 2013, www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/12/when-minority-students-attend-elite-private-schools/282416/.