Diversity at Dana: Part 2

Co-Editor Sarah Syed’s Consideration of the complexity of diversity at Dana Hall continues:

With a more inclusive space comes the concept of allyship. In taking these next steps toward a more active stance in allyship, students should be the ones to decide what that means for them. The idea, as simple as it may be, can be hard for people to understand simply because with this day and age of media and movements, being an ally can get confused with hopping on a bandwagon. Simply put, allies are in it. They confront and take action. That is different from social media posts with a hashtag or doing whatever your friend is doing because you’re being watched. I would rather have a person not be an ally than a fake one. At least then, people are honest about what their actions are and have clear intentions and purposeful meaning to their words. Dana is a place made of people who are good at going to club meetings to discuss relevant topics, but those club goers–and all students in general–need to start being proactive and on guard in situations rather than mute or indifferent.

Basic allyship to Brittney Smith ‘19 can be described as a car ride. Imagine you’re in the car with your friend. If a song with the N-word comes on, and your friend who is not black says it, don’t turn the music down or change the song. Tell your friend that saying that word is not okay. In fact, it’s offensive. “Call people out,” Brittney says. “When there is Black Lives Matter protest happening, you don’t have to be in the front line, taking the microphone out of people’s hands. That’s when you should step back. But it’s all about knowing when to step back and step forward. And I think that’s where Dana Hall allies have the step back part down pat. They have got that down.” Brittney adds. Yet our community still has a lot to learn about stepping forward.

As a solution, Bink Vijitkasemkij ‘20 offers that this educating needs to be offered for all and in a place where everyone can access it, such as forum: “we are all required to take forum, and so we should turn those classes into a place for discussion of these important topics where students surely will hear and be educated.” This idea of an effective forum discussion is helpful, yet points out a larger flaw in our community: if we feel a need to force all students to be educated because they aren’t willing to be, then are we wasting our time?

Slowly, ally group attendance has grown in promising number throughout the years. Sometimes, these groups can have overwhelming participation after some current events. There was a big Kesher turnout after the egregious Pittsburgh shooting that occured in October. In this light, diversity at Dana has seen lots of reassuring changes over the years. During her freshman year, Brittney had not seen many girls of color in the entire school. At the end of the first SHADES meeting she attended (and would soon lead in two years), all the girls of color came up to her and said they were really happy she had come to Dana. Then, she felt a true like a sisterhood among those girls because they were rare. Since then, Dana has brought in so many other girls from all different backgrounds. Now, it’s become so regular that if you see a brown or black girl walking in the Dining Center or in Shipley, no one feels the particular need to especially reach out to her solely because of her race. Even though that means the sisterly bond that Brittney felt during her Freshman year may be weaker, it indicates a positive change in the community as it is expanding to the point where no one feels obligated to talk to the new brown girl because girls like her are so rare.

Already, it is clear that we are going down a hopeful path, but just like any community that is intended to nurture its members, we can always improve. With our new Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Ms. Ramirez, Dana has already started to identify these issues as something as a place to focus on. Ms. Ramirez has also started to get a feel for the community, and she plans on continuing to learn about everyone and their perspectives, which is the first step in our long journey for overall improvement. To her, the mere existence of a role and position to work on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion of a community reveals that there is still much work to be done. So as she says, “my goal is that in the future, this role doesn’t need to exist,” and she hopes that there will be no problems or issues that students face that would require a position to work on some of those struggles. Still, she says, “I’m conscious that this work is never over, and systemic racism and injustice are not things that you check a box for.” Ms. Ramirez offers a valuable insight that reveals a great deal about how our current situation should impact our goals as a school community. To Brittney, “anything that has to do with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is going against what society has placed, and Dana is going to have to make an effort.”

One thing Dana can do is hire more faculty of color. When new teachers of color come to Dana, it shouldn’t come as a shock that they are black or brown, rather it should be an excitement that we have a new addition to the staff at our school despite their skin color. Having teachers of color should be more common than what we already have. To Brittney, “If I could say anything to the people in charge of hiring at Dana, it is keep in mind that it might be good to hire some people who reflect the diverse student body of Dana Hall because that itself makes it a more comfortable space.”

In our next steps as a community, nothing should be comfortable. As we continue to begin new helpful positions, clubs, and conversations, people need to start feeling uncomfortable. As Brittney says, “we are not having those hard hitting conversations that we need to be because everyone is comfortable. High school is meant prepare us for the real world. If the next step is being socially aware, that is Dana’s job.” Part of preparing students for college and their lives after entails introducing them to real world circumstances where unwanted, uncomfortable conversations may be more common. The Dana Bubble has its many perks, but it can start to dangerous when people use it as an excuse to say things or act in certain ways. Being protected in a safe environment like Dana can often enable people to forget that their words still matter and their actions can hurt others. This is why we need to start having compelling conversations to remind people that part of what makes Dana so great is our ever growing endeavors to be our best selves. That is when change and improvement can start to happen. So I’m not saying Dana’s handling of diversity is in bad shape. I’m saying it’s in danger of becoming inadequate, and we all need to improve.

Comments are closed.