Mar 15 2018

Workshop on Identity, Race, Bias, Stereotypes, and More to Build a More Inclusive Piedmont

Let’s Talk (About Listening)

Adults and students milled into the Piedmont Veterans’ Hall on Saturday, Feb. 10 at 8:30 in the morning. Boxes of coffee and bagels were sitting in a room adjacent to the main room and the attendees of the “Let’s Talk!” program took their turn waiting in line and smearing flavored cream cheese on bread. Less than ten minutes later, everyone was seated around one of twelve circular tables as Cheryl Wozniak introduced speaker Sara Wicht.

Sara Wicht, an educational consultant with over 20 years of experience in social justice and anti-bias education, led the “Let’s Talk!” program session with the help of Cheryl Wozniak, Director of Curriculum & Instruction. As may be indicated from the title “Let’s Talk! Building a More Inclusive Piedmont Through Deliberative Dialogue”, “Let’s Talk!” was hosted to open up discussions about diversity and, by association, identity. “Let’s Talk!” was hosted Feb. 5, 10, and 11 and it is unclear whether these sessions will be continued next year.

The major issues discussed at this meeting included identity and how it compares to others, the benefits and downfalls of race, how to respond to strong emotions, implicit bias and stereotypes, and selective attention.

Everyone participated in a set of activities and afterwards we, as table groups, discussed the deeper meaning behind the activity and then discussed the topic, such as what we consider the most important part of our identity and why.

Personally, I consider my race to be the most important part of my identity, because it is the part of me that I’ve been aware of the longest.  I also spent a couple of years grappling with what it means to be Asian, a Japanese-American, in a predominantly White school.  Now, it feels less urgent to represent Asians and be aware that I am Asian in Piedmont, but it was definitely a concept that I focused a long time on and, because of that, it is what I would consider the most important part of my identity. During the debrief, we discussed how we are not one part of our identity and that we are multi-faceted individuals, which I could not be more grateful for.

“Let’s Talk!” was a workshop that you had to sign up for to attend, which may have had some shortcomings. I think David Lindenbaum put it best when he said that “a majority of the people that are here are probably not the people who need to be here.”

Lindenbaum said that he attended the “Let’s Talk!” workshop to have a greater awareness of challenges that people of color face and how their view of the community and the world are different than his.

“I don’t know if I learned how to approach difficult subjects, because I think right now people are questioning what is fact,” said Lindenbaum. “I think this group is in the middle, open-minded.”

 Lindenbaum said having an open mind and listening to other peoples’ opinions is the way to bring positive change.

by Susan Kuroda, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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