BSU Hosts Candid Conversations on Race

As part of Campolindo’s initiative to increase diversity and inclusion, the Black Student Union and the Diversity and Equity Parents Committee collaborated to host Dr. Jane Elliott for a virtual webinar on September 1. Though the webinar combatted technical difficulties at the start because of weather in Iowa, the internet improved and stayed strong, paving way for a strong discussion.

Elliott is a diversity educator known for her “Blue eyes/Brown eyes” classroom experiment, which exposed participants to the experience of being a minority by labeling them as “inferior” or “superior” based on a factor they can’t control: eye color.

Diversity and Equity Parents Club president Ellide Smith reached out to Elliott and began planning the event in early June after the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Botham Jean began a nation-wide conversation about race and the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Being a member of the small black community in Moraga, I wanted to openly talk about race and identity, and was finding that it was a hot and difficult topic for our community,” said Smith. “Because Dr. Elliott has been opening eyes and minds for many, many years, I figured that she would be a good person to help ‘break the ice’, in the spirit of acknowledgment, healing and action.”

“Being a member of the small black community in Moraga, I wanted to openly talk about race and identity.””

— Ellide Smith

After an initial delay caused by weather-induced technical difficulties, Black Student Union president senior Amia Bonilla facilitated discussion and asked Elliot questions about America’s current state of racial equity. The questions were compiled by Smith.

“Through Ellide’s vision, patience, and persistence she lined this event up perfectly and timely. Personally, I believe that I have prepared to speak to Jane my whole life because I have always wanted to meet her from the 1st time I learned about the Brown/Blue eyed experiment,” said guidance counselor Patrick Turner, who opened up a Q&A forum for the audience at the end of the webinar.

According to Smith and Bonilla, the webinar had a positive turnout with 317 participants. “I think this will not only benefit Campolindo students but also the parents, staff, and the overall community. We had 317 people attend and that just shows that 317 people want to make a change in the community,” said Bonilla.

“It is also helpful for Campolindo students, and others, to see the large show of support. There are people out there that oppose and do not see the benefits of equity and diversity work, that would rather not talk about the disparity, lack of equity and the actual real-life history that got us here today,” said Smith. “Hearing the perspectives of varying leaders in the field gives validity and voice to those that are often silenced.”

“This event and the cohort [Academy racial equity lessons] are great 1st steps to getting the children to feel more comfortable on race, but as long as we keep it going the better it will be for future kids,” added Bonilla.

In the future, Smith would like to expand to a year-long speaker series that features speakers from a variety of backgrounds, such as the arts, athletics, and civics.