Why you should come to the Parent Education Event on February 22nd
Linda Banks-Santilli, LMS Parent and Board member, on behalf of the Parent Education Diversity Committee
My husband picked our daughter, Chloe up from school one day, and I could hear them both come through our front door. I was working on my computer in the kitchen when I heard our dog, Bella, bolt down the stairs like a rocket barking at them both as if they were intruders.
Chloe hoisted her backpack up onto the counter and announced indignantly, “There are no groups for Italians and Irish people at my school.” “What do you mean?” I asked. “No lunch groups for Italians or Irish,” she clarified. It didn’t take me long to realize that she was referring to the affinity groups that exist at LMS for children who speak Spanish, identify as Asian, have same sex parents or share the same religious background. I learned about these groups myself when I volunteered to serve on the Diversity Committee and was representing the committee at a school event. A parent had mentioned to me that she wondered about whether or not her daughter’s affinity group had any impact on how she understood her family. I listened at the time.
“Well….but Italians (the ethnic group my husband identifies with) and Irish (the ethnic group that I identify with) are all around you. They’re everywhere, Chloe, so the school doesn’t have a group for children whose ethnic groups are more common,” I explained slowly and sensitively, in my best Fred Rogers voice. “I know”…”it’s okay, anyway,” she responded (trying to both dismiss it and console herself). She then went on to tell me that she is sometimes invited to attend an affinity group by one of her classmates since they have a “bring along a friend,” policy. She had already attended the Asian Affinity lunch. Just when I thought that our discussion had moved to a place of mutual understanding, Chloe added, “But I might start an Irish group,” as she exited the room. It was then that I heard her desire to “belong.” Something we all want no matter where we are or what groups we find ourselves in.
Have you ever felt that you truly belonged somewhere? To a group of people who share your language, beliefs, values, customs, or life experiences? I feel this way with a group of five other women none of whom are related to me “by blood,” but all of whom have become my sisters “by heart.” We are each other’s families when and if our biological ones fail us.
As an educator myself, I am familiar with the research that supports affinity groups, and I understand why they are important. Some students of color at the predominantly White college where I work, for example, talk about the need for a safe space to be among other students who also identify as Black. It’s a place for them to breathe, be themselves and not have to worry about the fear of being judged. They can remove the masks that they have to wear for protection in the social world.
“But I thought we got away from all of that?” some people ask, (usually people from majority groups) “I thought with desegregation, the goal was integration.” “We need both,” others argue especially for people who are viewed as “different” by dominant groups in the U.S. simply for being themselves (immigrants, women, gays or lesbians, speakers of languages other than English, Jews, Muslims, people with learning differences …the list goes on).
Our daughter, Chloe was born to Christian parents but has always wanted to be Jewish. In preschool, (not at LMS) she told the teacher that I was Jewish, and I was asked to come in to do something for Hanukkah. I explained that we celebrated Christmas and the teacher told to me that Chloe insisted on sitting at the Dreidel table during activity period. As parents, we were happy that she wanted to learn as much as she could about other religions. (Her best friend Victoria was Jewish). “I just feel more comfortable being Jewish,” she said recently with such conviction that it was hard not to laugh. …”But you do know that you are not Jewish, right?” we’d ask.
Belonging to any group brings with it a collection of beliefs and values that are deeply held within us like an iceberg partially submerged in the ocean. We only show some of ourselves in public. How do we explain who we are to our children and what meaning do they make of it? How do our collective identities shape how we act, what we believe and value, and what we decide to speak up for or against in our families, neighborhoods, and communities? How do we see difference and how does the social world reflect who we are back to us?
The Diversity Committee conducted a survey this year at the LMS Community Day/Pancake Breakfast and 82% of you indicated that you valued diversity at LMS. You identified three areas that you’d like us to address: Issues of race, social-class and gender.
We’d like to start the conversation with you on Saturday, February 22nd from 5:00pm to 8:00pm.
Come have some soups to warm the soul and engage in some educational activities to stimulate the mind. We are honored to have Brian Walker, author of Black Boy/White School join us for the first hour and then we will facilitate some interactive exercises on identity, race, and social class. We don’t propose to know all of the answers, but we know together that we can ask the right questions.
Please join us on February 22nd - we look forward to seeing you!
RSVP for the event, childcare and/or to bring food to share here:
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