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NOV. 10, 2015

Rethinking Identity, Prejudice and Privilege.

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Polly Averette, US History and French Teacher

Students spent the morning of Diversity Cornerstone Day, November 6 in workshops that created opportunities to rethink and experience different perceptions of identity, stereotypes, prejudice and privilege.

Activities of the first half of the morning highlighted the impact of identity markers and allowed students to feel what it means to be inside and outside the “normal.” They discussed obvious and not so obvious characterizations of identity groups that touched on majority and minority, wealthy and impoverished, power and privilege, religion, sexual orientation and ethnicity. They were encouraged to speak honestly from their own experience and to focus on listening quietly to each other. Even if the process was uncomfortable, students worked to define where stereotype markers come from and how they put pressure on “in” groups to conform to irresponsible behavior.

During the second half of the morning students discussed the invisibility of privilege to those who have unearned advantages and the emotional, psychological, social and economic damage to those left out of privilege. Activities were designed to illuminate the advantages of privilege, define earned and unearned privilege, and help students understand privilege, earned and unearned, in their own lives. Students concluded the morning experiencing different challenging situations and discussing how to use and influence others to use social power and privilege positively. They addressed the choices of joining the oppression, remaining non-committing bystanders or showing moral courage.

Lunch was a surprise Hunger Banquet. The largest group of students received a small bowl of rice, no utensils and sat on the floor. A few students received rice and beans, a spoon only and no condiments. The smallest group received a large delicious full meal served on a beautifully set table. Debrief included questions about fairness and feelings.

work crew 2

Students spent the afternoon in Community Centers in town working on a variety of service, revitalization and environmental projects. This semester’s OA students realize they have power and are set to be leaders. Their many questions are directed toward how they are going to use that power. The Cornerstone Friday on Diversity helped get their thoughts focused in meaningful directions.

Polly Averette, US History and French Teacher