Diversity Evening Feedback
It started with a question from our guest, Thola Antamu: Look at your skin. What colour is it? How do you identify with or relate to this?
And so we dropped into a real conversation about diversity. It was a remarkable evening. Powerful, thought-provoking, humbling, inspiring, catalysing... The room was alive with keenness to be talking about diversity in our schools and in our lives. The honesty and sincerity of the comments was moving and encouraging as the discussion was led, stories were told and poems read by this inspiring Waldorf educated young woman.
It was made even richer by the fact that included in the 60 people who attended were parents and teachers from various schools: Grove, Islamia, Wynberg, Imhoff and Constantia Waldorf - who felt moved to engage in this much needed conversation and were inspired to have similar evenings.
Thola reminded us that diversity is, first and foremost, an attitude. It is an attitude of openness to other ways of being, other worldviews, other ways of doing things. It is an openness to have the conversations with others who do things differently. It is about acknowledging that how I see the world including how I see you is not necessarily how you see yourself or the world. Diversity is looking at everything with the full understanding that it has its own story and if I want to know you more, I need to ask you to tell me your story. I cannot assume I already know. I need to allow myself to be vulnerable in my not-knowing.
There were so many rich moments that stood out:
- When and how to have the conversation of race with your child.
- Being a black child adopted by white parents.
- How people feel about their skin colour and whether they identify with it.
- Why and how our children keep gravitating to friends of the same culture as themselves.
- The difficulties of integrating Xhosa-speaking children into a school that doesn't offer Xhosa as a language option.
- Being white and having what one man described as "diversity fatigue" because of having to re-examine every single area of life from perspectives other than what he has been taught and taken for granted.
- The privilege or whiteness and how various people see it, don't see it, are learning to hold it.
- The concept of our school as a ‘white space’ and how this impacts on teachers, parents and children of colour.
One metaphor stands out for me as underpinning the experience. Thola asked us that first question and challenged us not to remain in the black/white stereotypes. As a result people described their skin colours as dark chocolate, mocha, reddish, salted caramel, peaches and cream, rose, yellow with brown spots, pale, gold… and many of these descriptions came with a poignant story of what it is like to wear that skin.
One man then said, “I have been told my skin is brown but I don’t know what shade of brown because I am completely blind. I have always understood that people have either brown or white skins. Now I am being told there are chocolate and caramel and pink and yellow spotted skins.”
I was left to imagine what this new information has done to his inner world. What has it done to mine? While on the one hand it was again another ‘beginning of this conversation’ - and therefore a bit ‘unsatisfying’ as Alphonso so well expressed it in his thank you - on the other hand it was another step forward in creating an attitude of diversity, as Thola called it, in our community.
To our growing consciousness.
With love – the Diversity Group