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Diversity Training: The World in Black and White

This is just my opinion based on my feelings while completing a diversity, equity, and inclusion training for work.

 

I started this post before the conversation about race became so prominent. Before George Floyd's murder became the tipping point for seeking justice and racial equality.


I can't say that I understand my place in the conversation any more than I did before, but I think what I finally do understand, is that we have to start somewhere. I understand that my narrative, my story, and my opinion are not the most important.


I could re-write this and make it more substantial.

But.

This is my honest viewpoint before I felt like I had to have a viewpoint. And it would feel wrong to change it to be something else.


 

I just finished the third session of a diversity training via ZOOM for my teaching job. My understanding is that the goal of this was to make everyone understand the importance of inclusion and to hear different perspectives on race identification and diversity from our co-workers.


One of the first things we were asked to do was to identify our race.


Y'all. When I tell you this is a struggle for me. It is the understatement of the century. I cannot tell you how many conversations I have had with people about what my "race" is and how many of those conversations turned into arguments and then moments of extreme discomfort.


Let me tell you how I see myself.


I am an American. My skin is brown. My parents and grandparents were born in Africa and ended up in a small town in Pennsylvania having been kicked out of their countries by Idi Amin. My great-grandparents were from Gujarat. My religion is Ismaili Muslim.


I grew up in Amish country in a predominantly white town surrounded by farmland and one of my favorite words is (and will always be) y'all.


So you see, my racial identity is not one that you find commonly. It is rich with history and stories and an understanding of a racial war that is not so commonly heard here in America. It has evolved as my family has evolved. As our ideals and priorities have evolved. As our cultural norms and expectations have evolved. And it continues to do so on a regular basis.


But because of the racial war we have in America. I am asked to fit myself into a category - even just for the purposes of this training. Here were the choices.


White anti-racist

Black educator

Latin/Hispanic

Immigrant


Where would you put me?


I was placed in the black educator group where I got to listen to women speak about how grateful and proud they are to be black and how proud they are of each other. It was lovely and beautiful to see that pride and to hear about how supported they feel by our administrators and our community overall.


But I didn't belong here. I was not "represented" in this group. And I wanted to be. I wanted to talk about my experiences and what they mean to me and how I view diversity. I wanted to be a part of the conversation and it just felt like I didn't get my turn. Ugh. How selfish does that sound? Or maybe it's not selfish at all. Maybe it's just cowardly... fuck, I don't know. Maybe it's not even bad at all. Maybe it's okay. Okay to feel like you want to relate and be relatable?


All I know is that I didn't feel good. I didn't feel happy. I felt like I was being asked to confront and recognize a part of myself and hold it up just for the world to tell me once again that my feelings and experiences are not "as important as". I know. I know. It's that selfish stuff again.


This training continued for several more weeks. We spoke in groups about biases, growth mindset, and the importance of talking about race with children. There were men and women, hispanics, white people, black people, administrators and substitutes all thrown into random groups where we were meant to speak frankly about these things and ask questions. I'm gonna be real y'all. I had all of the feelings. All of them.


Moments of "yes, preach"

Moments of "please, shut up"

Moments of "is this person ever going to give someone else a turn"

Moments of misunderstanding (and not brave enough to say it out loud)

Moments where I just wanted to scream - "all of you are wrong"

And many many moments where I wanted to say something and never got the chance.


After all the rollercoasters of emotions (yes, there were multiple roller-coasters of varying heights and speeds) - I decided that the right thing to do is to be grateful. Because my place of employment was giving us a platform to talk openly about something so controversial. And even among all of those other moments, I was given the opportunity to have moments of perspective.


I hope that someday, the racism I have experienced will be more understood in the world. I hope that there will come a time where racism won't need to be put into a hierarchy. And I won't feel bad for saying that out loud. Honestly, I hope that one day we will take accountability for the way we see other people, the way we react to people who are not the same as us, and the way we can't see beyond our own experiences.

 

I hope the world continues to talk about it so that we can all get a little bit of perspective.

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