On Our Multicultural Alliance

By Kristin Sanderson

November 18, 2013

In thinking about the upcoming gathering of our new multicultural alliance, the following quotation came to me.  It’s a Buddhist teaching, but it made me think of how a minority in our community is regularly aware of — and discomfited by — the currents that are unfelt by most of us.  I’d like our school to be a place where the minority groups among us are regularly able to bring attention to slights and exclusions and speak up for what they feel would be equitable.

To me, the multicultural alliance, and our ongoing diversity efforts, are the necessary groundwork for that dialogue to happen.  And, of course, our responsibility as teachers is to be alert and sensitive to the children in our midst who might be struggling to be their fullest selves in our classrooms.  We miss out when they hide parts of themselves from us.

The Buddha described the dharma as ‘going against the stream.’ As long as one swims with the current of a river, one remains unaware of it. But if one chooses to turn against it, suddenly it is revealed as a powerful, discomforting force. The ‘stream’ refers to the accumulated habits of conditioning. The practice of dharma means to turn around midstream, to observe mindfully and intelligently the forces of conditioning instead of impulsively reacting to their promptings.  –Stephen Batchelor, “Dharma in the War Zone”

And, I also was reminded during recent teacher conversations on this topic of something I read by e.e. cummings several years ago in his “i six non lectures” about his father.  Apparently, the senior Cummings was a well-regarded intellectual and became quite fierce and ruthless when arguing.  But, after debating his opponents, he could also be found with them at the local bar sharing a drink and much fellowship.  My hope is that we can be a community that models that kind of distinction between the positions we hold and our common humanity.  It is rare now in our black/white (red/blue!) culture where the complexities need to be reduced to their simplest sound byte and also be so utterly personal.   I imagine that we could, at some level, agree to disagree and yet work together respectfully and enthusiastically.

Indeed, there are tender seeds here that need nurturing still.  I am interested in carrying the conversation on – it is so important for us all to be non-defensive and recognize the great efforts each of us does every day in our classrooms and elsewhere to make Miquon an open-minded and open-hearted community.

Thank you all.

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