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Focus on DEI

This month at AISZ we are focusing on DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion). We asked students in the upper school a few questions on a survey:

We are delving deeper into some of these conversations during our Frisory lessons this month.

One of our G10 students, Hana Urukalovic, wrote the following essay for her English class, focusing on the topics of bias, race, and identity:

Summative Non-fiction Unit 

In this unit, we focused on works of nonfiction and the topics of race and identity. The objective of studying these works was to deepen our understanding of race and identity, as well as to recognize our own experiences, biases and the impact of these concepts on our lives. Even though the connection between race, identity and our society had always been clear to me, the texts studied in class helped me understand some different aspects of this connection. The two most important works for my understanding of these concepts were the first article we studied, Secret Teacher: the UK has a complex racial history. Why aren’t we teaching it? (from The Guardian), and the podcast called The Air We Breathe. Additionally, these works led me to explore the issue of race and identity throughout history independently. 

The Secret Teacher article from The Guardian raised the question of why children in the UK are not taught about race at schools. This question was posed because it is known that the UK has a complicated history of race, yet these topics are not included in the curriculum. It also talked about the way this impacts students and how the decision to leave these topics out influences the society. The text recognizes that this decision has wide consequences, since the only way to

fundamentally change our society is to improve our understanding of race and identity. 

The Air We Breathe podcast focused on implicit bias more than it did on identity. However, the podcast helped me understand the connection between implicit bias, individuals and the society we live in. Specifically, the main understanding I took away from this podcast was that our implicit biases are shaped by the society we live in and that in turn, our implicit biases shape the society. This connection was fundamental to my understanding of race and identity because it gave me insight into what it truly takes to change this and move beyond our implicit biases, such as exposing yourself to diversity and learning about these topics. It also provided me with more information about police brutality, and how it is affected by implicit bias. 

The connection between these two texts is clear because their message is identical. If we wish to understand race and identity, and therefore be less biased, we must all work to improve our collective understanding of these concepts, which begins by including these topics in the school curriculum. This made me think about my own experiences with the issues of race and identity within the context of the school curriculum. I realized that these topics are rarely mentioned in class. This tells us a lot about our willingness, as a society, to focus on positive change and work on our collective implicit and explicit biases around race and identity. Because of the works we studied, I have a better understanding of the wide impact of something as simple as talking about race or identity at school could have on our collective society.

These understandings inspired me to learn more about these issues, since I believe that we all have to improve and reduce our biases. The Apes**t music video by The Carters that we analyzed in class made me question the connection between art, history and race. Titus Kaphar’s Ted talk called “Can Art Amend History?” connects these three concepts. It gave me an understanding of the long history of people of color being erased from the narrative and having very little representation in art. The message of the Ted talk was that we must shift our focus if we want to amend history through art, and that representation in art matters if we wish to combat these injustices. This Ted talk also helped me realize that representation in art has a significant impact on our society, since it expands the narrative of people of color and provides us with an understanding of their experiences and the history of discrimination, as well as progress. This connects to the impacts of learning about race and identity in our school curriculum. This connection helped me reflect on the impacts that representation of women, for instance, has had on me and how it connects to the representation of race and different identities. Personally, I believe that representation of women in science has had a great impact on me since representation showed me that I could also have a successful career in science. This allowed me to realize that representation was equally important as learning about race and identity at school, since both expanded the narrative on these topics. 

All of these works studied in class and beyond contributed to my comprehension of race and identity, as well as the real life context of these issues. Most importantly, they helped me realize the importance of studying these topics and representation. My view on race, bias, representation and identity changed fundamentally upon realizing that it would take collective, rather than individual

change, to rid us of our implicit and explicit biases. However, I also recognized some ways in which I could work on my biases, and how that could influence the people around me. I must recognize the ways in which the society shapes me, as well as recognizing my own influence on the society. Recognizing this is the first step to change.