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Town, school staff learn about racism in April

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Arlington town and school employees participated for a second year in sessions by YW Boston’s 2022 Stand Against Racism campaign aimed toward expanding knowledge about race and equity. Throughout April, the town’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Division was the host for four separate virtual sessions.

The purpose of the Stand Against Racism campaign is to spread awareness and inspire action to eliminate racism. Sessions held empowered employees to broaden their knowledge of racism and to be a part of positive social change.

The sessions included staff and community facilitators including Joan Roman, Arlington’s public-information officer, and Julie Wayman, town management analyst, as well as Hina Jolin, Drake Pusey and journalist Crystal Haynes, all members of Arlington’s Human Right’s Commission. Town and School Diversity, Equity and Inclusion directors Jillian Harvey (town) and Margaret Credle Thomas (school district) both facilitated and moderated sessions.

Reawakening, microaggressions

The first session, "They Came, They Saw, They Reckoned: A Conversation About Racial Reawakening," was a guided podcast discussion based on an episode from NPR’s "Code Switch." Before the session, participants listened to the episode from Jan. 12, 2022, and engaged in conversation on the main topic of the episode: It's been over a year since summer 2020, what’s been deemed the biggest “racial reckoning” since the civil rights movement; what has changed? Who has been affected?

Jillian Harvey began work Dec. 30.  / Arlington Health and Human Services photoJillian Harvey, diversity  coordinator. /  Health and Human Services photo

The following week both DEI directors led a session focused on understanding bias and how it leads to microaggressions.

Harvey was excited to facilitate this session, as she notes that, “Bias is something we all inherently have, but openly discussing and learning about how our brains and biases work, is an important way to help us recognize when we are acting on our biases, and how to interrupt those behaviors.”

This session included examples for responding to micro and macroaggressions when you see one or you are the victim.

Racial identity

In the third week of Aprilm, participants joined a session titled "Exploring Racial Identity," in which the cycle of socialization was discussed and folks were able to dissect social constructs. While race is a social construct, racial identity is assigned to each and every one of us, whether we are aware of it or not.

The group took space to share how we identify ourselves and how others perceive us, based on how our racial identities are externally imposed and internally constructed.

Closing out the month’s programming was a session on "Why Representation in Communications & Media Matters."

Representation in images and language have influence to inspire and lack of representation can alienate. Choosing the right images and words will have an impact on people and we must be mindful in how we communicate.

Each session’s follow-up materials were provided for continued learning, and the YW-curated content was also made available to all who were unable to attend or who wished to further their learning.

This programming is a part of the effort to continue normalizing talking about race and racism since the town has committed to improving equity.

Many participants made pledges and commitments to actions they will take to fight racism. These actions ranged from personal to professional, and some of the pledge boards can be viewed below. 

YW Stand Against Racism

This town news release was published Tuesday, May 3, 2022.

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