Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Perspective: DEI Work Gets Personal

By Maija Judelson 
Truth be told, I joined the NCCS DEI Parent Task Force for a very selfish reason – I wanted to learn. I wanted to advance my knowledge of issues surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion and how these were impacting my children’s experience at NCCS. What I didn’t know was how personal the work would be and how it would impact me so profoundly.
I had read the text, Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor, by Layla F. Saad during a summer book club and realized quickly how little I knew about true racism as a white woman growing up in North America. I had always considered myself very open-minded and certainly not racist. But learning terms like white privilege, white savior and tone policing showed me just how much I had to learn on my journey of anti-racism.

The DEI Task Force then opened my eyes to even more opportunities for growth for both myself and my children. I participated in the 21-day Racial Equity Challenge that challenges you to watch, read, listen, engage, notice, connect, act or reflect to further your understanding of power, privilege, supremacy, oppression, and equity. I encountered numerous “ah-ha” moments that have changed my perspective and thinking greatly. One of the “watch” resources is a short 3-min film titled “Racism is Real,” which depicts how black and white lived experiences can be drastically different. Examples in the film such as a resume with a seemingly “black name” garners 50% fewer call backs on job applications or that black car buyers are charged $700 more on average when buying a new car seem unbelievable to fathom, but true. And the more unbelievable is that I have never felt these inequalities simply because I have white skin.
To be honest, this learning is tough stuff: challenging topics, deep questioning of morals and values, recognizing defensive tendencies and a true ‘unlearning’ of damaging biases. But for me, as a white woman, it is also a choice. I have the choice to turn a blind eye, think about it at another time or engage in a process of change. A choice that Black, Indigenous & other People of Color (BIPOC) do not have. BIPOC have no choice to escape systemic racism in our society – every single day. This is critical, important work for us, for our children and for our NCCS community.

We are so fortunate that NCCS has recognized the need and made the intentional choice to focus on issues surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion. Kojo Clarke, our Director of DEI at NCCS and the presence of the DEI Department, provide an incredible resource and partner for all of us to deepen our knowledge of diversity, equity and inclusion in a non-judgmental, open environment. We are all coming into the conversation of race with different backgrounds and experiences. The DEI Parent Task Force was created to start more conversation, more sharing, more learning and, in turn, a more connected, respectful community.

As Daryl Davis said in his address to the faculty and parents, “At the end, ignorance is the source of biases. If we cure that, there's nothing to fear and hate.”

We hope you will join us at an upcoming Parent DEI event, book share or as a member of the Task Force to continue your learning. All are welcome.

Members of the DEI Parent Task Force include:
Kojo Clarke (Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion)
Michelle Saldivar (Parent Association Vice President of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion)
Nuria Gavidia (Task Force Member)
Nicole Harder (Task Force Member)
Maija Judelson (Task Force Member)
Jen Kline (Task Force Member)
Sonya Mital (Task Force Member)
Andree Palmgren (Task Force Member)
Kathryn Sellschop (Task Force Member)
New Canaan Country School admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin and are afforded all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, age, sex, sexual orientation, national origin or ancestry, or disability in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, financial aid policies or any other school-administered programs.