Lila Joffe ’21
In these troubling times of police violence in our country, we can look to our own communities to educate and inform ourselves, making Country Day and the world around us safer and more comfortable for minority students and BIPOC. I spoke to members of CCD’s newly established Equity and Diversity Board (EDI for short) to discuss the experiences of black and minority students, and how we at Country Day can improve and empathize with our peers to better the collective experience. Many thanks to Mrs. Barber Joiner and Bijin Basu for making this Q&A possible!
q: What is the mission of the Diversity Board?
Kirstin Hayes: The EDI Council was established to help CCD facilitate an environment of inclusivity and acceptance. Every student should feel accepted in their learning environment, no matter anything that might set them apart from the majority of their peers. We want to better the experiences of every student so that they feel welcome and safe to be themselves.
q: How can Country Day make students of color more comfortable in our community?
Bijin Basu: Regarding the leave of Dr. Destin, many students of color were questioning representation in our CCDS community. Last year, the BCW (Black Cultural Workshop) discussed with Mr. Jaccaci and Mrs. Weinheimer to attempt to hire more teachers of different races. I was a part of a few of these meetings and not only spoke of my own issues in Country Day’s predominately white non-lbgtqia+ community, but heard many speak of micro-aggressions regarding their religion, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, etc. The Country Day Community can improve by accepting one another. If students do not see teachers and role models of different backgrounds, how will our non-minority learn about the struggles and racism that their POC peers endure? The effect of having more POC teachers can result in CCDS becoming a more comfortable space for our students. It is one step by speaking about these issues but acting upon these words is what will change our community to become a much more ideal learning environment.
q: What can the community learn from the murder of George Floyd and so many more and the continuing Black Lives Matter Movement & Protests?
Kirstin Hayes: As an African American, the murder of George Floyd was devastating to say the least, but not at all surprising. The long history of police brutality in this country has claimed the lives of far too many black people and is nothing new to any black person living in America. While George Floyd’s murder is certainly not an isolated incident, it is clearly a catalyst for long overdue change. Our community desperately needs to seize this opportunity to learn, grow, and change. We cannot let George Floyd’s name just become another name on the list of those who were victim to a system poised against them. People of the CCD community should be taking this time to educate themselves on the dark history of systemic racism, especially against black Americans. It is too easy for some to push this very prevalent issue out of their mind since it does not affect them, however I hope that those at CCD have been reaching for their compassion to empathize and stand with black people and the injustices we are facing.
q: Are there any changes we can make in the curriculum to highlight minority voices?
Bijin Basu: Yes. Once again, I think its important to have minority teachers to work at CCDS and teach specific topics. There have been moments where students, including me, learn history regarding their own identity by a teacher who has no relation to said topic. This creates a chaotic and uncomfortable environment for the student. A change in the curriculum can simply be learning history through perspective—through the interpretation of students living through oppression or the effects of that history along with the regular curriculum. Country Day is a great place to learn beyond a textbook. Creating a safe environment for minorities to speak without fear can change the way our faculty and students are accepting towards the world and people’s differences.
q: Do we need more minority peer mentors and leaders?
Bijin Basu: Yes. As I mentioned with teachers, its important for students to have other minority leaders such as peer mentors and or in council positions, for example the EDI. It is necessary for these students to use these positions to continue change in the CCDS community for the better.
q: Are there ways to socially support minority students?
Andrew Studebaker: I think the best way to socially support our students in a minority is to encourage our diverse peers and teachers as well as non-minority students to speak up about incidents of inequality and racism in the world and in our school when they occur. If the oppressed are silent about the injustices they face, it is a lot harder to fix the issues in the first place. If we as a community collectively support and acknowledge movements such as BLM and condemn racism and inequality, I hope that we will create an accepting and inclusive environment.
q: What are some initiatives that the Board has been working on to increase inclusivity?
Bijin Basu: Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 Coronavirus, the EDI council was not able to recently create any events or speak at the school. However, a few weeks ago, we created a new Instagram account so we can stay in touch with the CCDS student body. Our handle is @CCDSedi. I hope students will follow this account and be open to staying informed about issues regarding minorities around the Country Day community and world.