Sep 5 2018

Discussing Diversity

Let’s Talk Meeting

The Piedmont community met on August 26th to discuss diversity in our city. The meeting was put on by the Piedmont Appreciating Diversity Committee and led by the Let’s Talk program produced by K12 Insight and Sarah Wicht.

The organization’s mission is to foster discussions and acknowledgement of community diversity. The purpose of this forum was to talk about diversity in the schools and the community in general.

The focus of the dialogue was to explore ways for parents to engage their children in this topic of race, gender and identity. The leader of this session was Sara Wicht who is an educational consultant with over 20 years of anti-bias educational experience. Her main tenets are fourfold, that of identity, action, diversity and justice.

The main goals of the meeting were to discuss how our identities influence our actions, celebrate diversity, build understanding for community engagement and learn the tools necessary to have productive discussions on equity topics relevant to Piedmont.

This meeting is held twice a year on consecutive weekend days. The meeting is organized into morning and afternoon sessions. The morning session is arranged to identify our personal opinions and identities, engage in diversity discussions, and learn how to have these discussions without offending or avoiding hard issues.

After lunch we got back together to form an action plan for our community. We engaged in discussion relying on our own opinions. Following this, we practiced learning to listen to opposing views and then to try to come to a resolution on the subject discussed. The format was very productive.

The specific topics were introduced using case studies. In one scenario we discussed hypothetical dialogues between neighbors of different races and some implicit bias that may come through in those interactions.

In another role playing example an Asian student with the highest grade was selected to be a tutor for the math class but the teacher was concerned that because he was the only Asian person, he would feel uncomfortable. Both examples produced productive dialogue surrounding this difficult topic.

The meeting brought out active members of the community mostly in favor of more diversity and awareness. One Piedmont resident offered that “PC shouldn’t be considered as politically correct but rather politely considerate”. This sentiment presented the viewpoint that we shouldn’t be avoiding the topic of race in the classroom or community but rather be considerate when discussing this subject.

Another attendee, a special education teacher who works with children as young as 5, spoke on her experience in the schools, “The district offers professional development opportunities as a way to increase our paycheck and knowledge….Let’s Talk offers ways to talk to kids about diversity”, and held the opinion that the subject of race should be open in the classroom and not held in the same regard as curse words and sex as taboo for topics to teach little kids. I believe that this subject of race and implicit bias is an important matter to continue to include in our classes and should be discussed openly.

by Caroline Kraetzer, Piedmont High School Senior


On Sunday, August 26th, I attended the Let’s Talk Workshop sponsored by the Piedmont Unified School District, the Piedmont Appreciating Diversity Committee, and the City of Piedmont. The main goal of this workshop was to put residents of Piedmont in an environment where they are forced to talk about diversity or lack thereof in Piedmont. To do this, discussion was mainly focused around 4 central themes: identity, diversity, justice, and action.

People are put into small groups, where they can discuss questions posed by the leader of the session, Sara Wicht, in a more informal manner. After every group is completed, people are then asked to share what their group had talked about with everyone else attending the session. This was an effective way to hear the voice of everyone who attended while not necessarily listening to everyone speak.

In addition to participating in discussions about diversity, attendees also do various activities, each with the purpose of letting people look at the issues discussed from a new perspective. We were asked to figure out what the most important part of our identity is to us, to analyze implicit bias in certain situations, and even mirror exactly what another person is doing.. When we talked about implicit bias, I realized that it is something that happens all around me, all the time. People all around me are unconsciously judging people even when they mean the best. I believe that in order to stop this kind of thing from happening, people must first acknowledge that they are doing it. Having this opinion and speaking with other people about it didn’t scare me at all. In general, the environment was very safe and almost everyone was able to speak about their own opinions.

Throughout the meeting, I had the pleasure of sitting with Piedmont City Councilmember Jen Cavenaugh. She was one of the organizers for the event and feels very strongly about addressing these issues as a town. Cavenaugh believes that talking about diversity and brainstorming ideas about how to improve it in Piedmont is a great step towards positive change. She tries to make sure that each of her family members come to at least one session every weekend this meeting happens, which is at least once a year.

One topic that we discussed were the 8 aspects of identity. We were asked to cross off “unimportant” parts until we narrowed in on the one thing that explains us. I had a difficult time understanding this exercise.

To me, each of the 8 aspects: gender, sexual orientation, race, socioeconomic status, nationality, home language, religion, and ability all contribute to my identity. There is no one of them that completely encompasses my personality. I brought this up in my small group discussion and again later to the big group, and in general, people seemed to agree with me. It was cool to see that my words actually made an impact on other people’s thoughts or opinions.

All in all, attending this workshop was a good experience. I got to learn more about my neighbors and about the issues that Piedmont faces as a town. I think spending my Sunday morning there was valuable and I would recommend it to anyone who is contemplating attending the next one.

By Robin Disco, Piedmont High School Senior

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