Last spring, as Kaleidoscope prepared for Visitation's annual Diversity Day, the coronavirus pandemic threw planning off track. Diversity Day was postponed, and the plan for it - the Defamation Experience play - was up in the air. Diversity & Inclusion co-coordinators Raynetta Jackson-Clay and Peggy Hamilton continued working with "DefEx" to pivot this year's Diversity Day to a virtual experience.
Students, faculty, and staff spent the morning of April 12 hearing a fictional court case - a civil suit around defamation, which brought up conversations around identity markers like race, class, and religion. Then the audience became the jury, debating which side should win the suit and why.
Hamilton shared they originally chose the Defamation Experience to be a change of pace from Diversity Day's typical workshops. The conversation and debate that began on Diversity Day continued this past week. "I think it would be great to continue to discuss the concept of how our individual lens affects the way we view issues and people," said Hamilton following Diversity Day. "In asking my students about it... they loved the trial and said they were so affected by all the issues that come into play making a decision in a case."
Following the court case production and discussion, students were able to choose from three workshops presented by Kaleidoscope leaders and alumnae, focused on privilege, how we internalize ourselves through stereotypes, and friendship.
"It has always been a highlight of my career to work with alums on varying topics or issues which concern them," said Jackson-Clay. They brought in three alumnae already in the field of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging - Rachel Jones '08, Gabby Abebe '12, and Destiny Allen '12. Jones ran the session on "Healing the Effects of Internalized Oppression," while Abebe and Allen together ran a session on allyship and friendship.
Kaleidoscope club leaders and seniors Ellie Rubin, Lucia Rathke, Carolina Permuy, and Annie Paxton led a student session on privilege. These students attended the NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conference in December, and determined that "white privilege was a key concept that students at Visi needed to understand in order to make Visitation a better place for all," shared Hamilton.
"It’s felt like I’ve been preparing to lead this workshop for the three years I’ve been a member of Kaleidoscope," said Ellie. Attending the leadership conference made a big impact. "I attended a White affinity group, in which over a hundred other high school students from across the country discussed our whiteness and how we combat white privilege going forward. The conversations were confrontational: they asked us to examine not just white privilege in general, but how we benefit from it and how we can use it to uplift people of color," she shared, adding that they designed their session using the knowledge gained in that experience.
"I hope that our workshop helped students and faculty to realize that it’s not simply enough to not be racist. The current issues in our country stem not just from blatant racism, but the subtle and pervasive message that people of color are alien and unwelcome in a society dominated by white people," said Ellie. "Coming to terms with one’s unearned advantages in society is never comfortable, but engaging in the difficult conversations is the only way to grow as an individual and heal our country."