Inclusion School podcast hosts, Simone Morris and Julie Kratz, share real live scenarios and stories about their children and communities. Listen in to this week’s real talk!

Julie Kratz: I think something that’s been near and dear to my heart has been the conversations that are happening around diversity, equity, and inclusion in our local school system. And I’ve mentioned this on a few of our interviews, and I know, Simone, it’s not as heated quite as much where you are in Connecticut, but what we’re experiencing here in the Midwest and all over central Indiana, where I live, is DEI, having a leader of DEI in our school system, and that’s new at the beginning of this year. And then, what was really unfortunate has been the backlash to DEI in our school system, and it’s very hard for me to watch this as somebody that lives in a community. I’d hate to think people are against really everything I stand for, honestly. It’s a very personal thing. It’s very associated with my values and how we live as a family, and to feel like your community’s not supportive has been very difficult.

I will say, through the journey, I’ve learned that the loudest voices aren’t always the biggest voices. I actually think the quieter inclusive group, although we’re not showing up at school board meetings and protesting and yelling and sometimes verbally assaulting the school board… While we haven’t done those things, I think there is strength in numbers, and so that gives me peace to know there’s more of us than sometimes… We’re just not as vocal. And it’s a good reminder. We need to use our voices more.

But also, two tools that Simone and I have shared on your resources page with the Inclusion School, and we personally listen to… Well, I have. The Nice White Parents podcast I thought was super eye opening to well-intentioned white people wanting to integrate curriculum and cultural celebration activities. Great intentions, but really bad outcomes. That was a good one for me, and the beauty of it’s only five episodes, and it has a really, really good message at the end, so listen to all of them.

But the other one that, Simone, I know you’ve had a chance to listen to, is Southlake, and this just came out. NBC News followed this school system from 2016 to present day, all the things that have happened, and it’s like a soap opera. I mean, I listen to it, I’m like… Part of me wants to scream and cry and every emotion possible in my neighborhood, but it’s really unbelievable what’s happened in this suburban community outside of Texas. Simone, what did you think about it?

Simone Morris: Yeah, I was just… When the other person won the election and I was listening to it, they were wanting people to show up and they didn’t get the result that they wanted. And the victory speech, I just was floored as I listened to it, just how much we are afraid. And we just talked about this in the previous conversation. Difference can be scary, and allowing things to change the status quo… People are well-steeped in keeping things the way they are because of the unknown and what will happen if we allow these changes to occur.

Julie Kratz: Yeah, I think the message I took from that, and it was so interesting, they really tried to have a balanced reporting, but every time they reached out to somebody that was anti-DEI, they always declined to comment.

Julie Kratz: They wouldn’t be interviewed. There was very, very little from the other side. And so, it was hard. It was hard, for me, to understand the other perspective, because they were unwilling to speak unless they were at a school board meeting, and so they could play some of the clips. But I think what hit me is I fear what I don’t understand.

Julie Kratz: Right. I’m white. I’ve never experienced racism, therefore it doesn’t happen. And some deeply disturbing comments in that community, white children on video, on social media, using the N-word. They also had a huge plethora of microaggressions and quite frankly, macroaggressions that were well documented in a book by their student activism council. And it was everything from telling a Black kid like, “You know how you get someone that’s Black out, down from a tree? You cut the rope.” I mean, things like that that were being said to kids in sixth grade. I just couldn’t believe that those types of comments were being made today by children.

And so, for me, it was the disbelief that this is really still where we’re at, and it was horrifying to know that people denied that lived experience, of all people, our children, right? No kid should ever be treated differently based on something as insignificant as their skin color. That should never be a means to be treated less than, and unfortunately, I know in our community it’s been well-documented, the microaggressions. This stuff’s happening everywhere.

Simone Morris: It’s happening.

Julie Kratz: Listen, open up your ears and talk to somebody different than you.

Simone Morris: Yeah, it’s definitely happening. I was just reading about a… I’m forgetting where the location was, but they had a Black principal and they, the parents, were pushing for this Black principal to get fired because he tried to institute some changes post George Floyd, and they just were not comfortable with the changes.

Simone Morris: And so, it talked about… And we could put this on the resource page, a link or in the show notes, but it talked about how students started to protest because they really, some of them really appreciated this new principle and what he was doing in the school, and it just… Again, the conversation about change. And so, yeah, I’ll find that article and share that with you. [crosstalk 00:18:15] an article, but I don’t know if you saw it.

Julie Kratz: I think there was a bonus episode on Southlake, in a similar situation. I don’t know if it was this… I’m sure it’s happening everywhere. I think for white communities, when you have a Black leader that starts making changes, you start to get a little scared, like, “Oh, maybe the tide is changing,” and I can understand that zero-sum game mentality at first, right. I can empathize a little bit, but come on. He was making some really minute changes and talking openly about issues that, quite frankly, the students were already experiencing and talking about. He was just giving them tools and resources. So, to think if we talk about racism or sexism or ableism or homophobia, that somehow we’re opening Pandora’s boxes.

Julie Kratz: It’s already there. It’s already there. We’re just providing some structure for, actually, a healthy conversation versus one that marginalizes people.

Simone Morris: Yeah. I… We have so much work to do. It feels like we’ve come so far, Julie, but it feels like there is still-

Simone Morris: So much to be done. And I think it’s going to be a very triggering time. The murder investigation of Ahmaud Arbery is about it to happen, and just like people were on pins and needles about Derek Chauvin, I think the emotional wounds and the trauma that… We’re just living in a very trying time. I…

Julie Kratz: Yeah, and I think sometimes for folks that… If you turn on the news and you see Ahmaud, or Trayvon, or George Floyd, even, if you were able to watch videos or just see it, I think no matter what, as a white person, you’re never going to understand what that feels like for a Black or brown person, because you’re seeing it from a different vantage point that that’s… You’re probably not identifying that you could have been that person or someone in your family or your children could have been that person, right. I’m looking at it as just like this is obviously wrong, right, but I don’t see myself in that scenario just because people, white women usually are not in that situation as victims. There’s a whole other set of issues with white women, but we don’t have enough time for that.

But I think that’s the part of empathy, of how must that feel for someone that’s different from me? How could I empathize with that feeling, when they see that that’s something that could happen to them or someone they love? And that’s not a feeling that I get, but how could I empathize and channel that feeling so that I’m showing up for people in a way that’s meaningful and heartfelt, and listening and understanding versus fearing and judging? And unfortunately, our brain, back to slowing down, our brain goes there so quick. I don’t understand. It can’t be happening, therefore I’m shutting down and I’m so scared.

Simone Morris: I think it’s just, it’s important to pause as parents and understand that potentially, the parents that you come up against, and especially different cultures who are experiencing these different horrific things that are happening in the world, that they carry a lot of baggage plus parenting. So, they are potentially showing up differently. How I engage with my daughter’s teacher is different based on my lived experiences-

Julie Kratz: Yep, yep.

Simone Morris: And it may not have anything to do with who she is as a teacher, but there are triggers that occur as a parent, in that your child might trigger you based on some feedback from school, playground, wherever, and that you’re showing up differently. So, it’s hard to shut that off and just be completely neutral. There’s a lot of baggage that we all carry, different lived experiences, as you said, Julie.

Julie Kratz: Yeah. Yeah, and you’re going to bring those lived experiences. And if you look at our K through 12 system, I think it’s 80% white women that are teachers, right. So, I really think as a white woman, we have an obligation, especially folks that if you’re a mother, an educator, we have an obligation to listen, to understand the lived experiences of people that are different, to understand what it’s like to be the only. If there is only one kid of color in your classroom, how can you create an environment where they feel welcomed and they feel a part of it, they feel really included and that they belong? As a parent, how can you diversify who your friends are? Who does your kid spend time with? Actively seeking out diversity in their friend circles and your own friend circles and extending that. There are tangible things that you can do.
Simone Morris: We’re going to bring more educators onto the podcast because of this.

Julie Kratz: It’s so frustrating. It’s so frustrating. And our first episode was with my school principal at my daughter’s school. Very well-intentioned white woman that supports DEI, we’re still having this issue with the school system, the school board level. I’m optimistic though.

For example, just finding small wins here and there. We have a private Facebook page where people will join and we are always sharing tools, resources, and things to keep the conversation going. And there’s 1,600 of us in that community. There’s the… The other parents call themselves the Unified Parents. I have no idea what’s going on in that community. I’ve heard it’s bigger, at least on Facebook, which doesn’t surprise me. But there’s competing forces and… All right, what if, what if we had more in common than we thought? What if, at the end of the day, you want your kid to have a good experience that prepares them for the world that just happens to be pretty culturally diverse?

Julie Kratz: Right, what if we looked at it as how we could win this together? So, I’ve got a yard sign out, love wins, right now, and we have all the aspects of diversity on that. I’m hoping it stands the test of time. I’m a little nervous about what might happen to it, but how can that message be controversial? I just don’t understand.

Julie Kratz: So, you’re right. We’ve got work to do but I think that’s what really helps center me on the work we do with Inclusion School and the conversation I’m having with little allies in the workplace.

Work and home have never been so together and they’re going to stay this way, right? I mean, most environments are going to be hybrid or virtual, whatever your workplace is doing. This isn’t a conversation that’s just going to happen at work or just happen at home.

Julie Kratz: The lines are blurred. So, getting ready and practicing being there for people that are different from you, I think is, now, more important than ever.

Simone Morris: Well said, Julie. A great way to wrap up this episode of the Real Talk on Inclusion School. Please join us again as we continue to explore this inclusive journey, and Julie, as always, it’s a pleasure to connect and to take this journey with you.

Julie Kratz: I have learned so much, Simone. Thank you for sharing your story and thank you for being a friend.
Simone Morris: Awesome. Likewise, Julie, likewise.