Administrators host first of several community conversations on race & equity


Celina Fratzscher

MCPS Equity Initiative Unit member John Landesman introduces himself to a group of parents at a Parent Equity and Race meeting Dec. 17. The event was created in hopes to educate parents on how to lead meaningful and respectful conversations on race.

By Celina Fratzscher

In order to address recent racial concerns, Whitman’s Race, Equity, and Wellness Coalition’s Parent Engagement committee held the first of several parent conversations on race and equity Dec. 17 in the media center. The event educated parents on how to address and discuss racism.

Principal Robert Dodd facilitated the conversation along with three members of the MCPS Equity Initiatives Unit, a task force that MCPS created to educate students and staff on equity and cultural issues. 

The presentation began with a brief overview of Whitman’s racial makeup and the OneWhitman program. Facilitators then instructed parents on how to lead meaningful, respectful conversations on race in their communities and with their children. 

“I was surprised at all of the instruction we were given about being careful and listening,” parent Leslie Hinkson said. “It was very clear early on that there would be no hostility here and that even people who didn’t agree would be open [to discuss].”

A major focus of the event was the small group discussions at the end. After showing the parents a short video the Minority Scholars Program created, the facilitators gave attendees 15 minutes to discuss the contents of the video while encouraging them to keep in mind what the presentation mentioned about leading respectful conversations about race. 

“It’s our responsibility as parents to raise our children in the right way,” Hinkson said. “I think that part of the problem is that a lot of these parents don’t have an understanding, and they need to be educated themselves. That’s what the value of this is — ensuring that parents are educated.”

Last year, the school held multiple affinity group meetings where facilitators separated parents by race to discuss racial issues. Many parents found the past affinity group meetings highly unproductive because they did little to effectively address racial issues at Whitman, Hinkson said. After the meetings, parents reached out to MCPS Equity Initiative Unit member John Landesman to organize the meeting this December, and they have made plans to hold three or four more of these conversations throughout the year, principal Robert Dodd said. 

The meeting left many participants emotional, including MCPS Equity Initiatives Unit member Marya Hay. As a former Whitman student and person of color, Hay found many of the experiences that current Whitman students shared in the Minority Scholars’ video to be extremely relatable, and she expressed concern that since her time at Whitman, things have yet to improve for students of color.

“This event is a long time coming from my point of view having been a student here over 20 years ago,” Hay said. “ When you have incident after incident after incident, you start to realize that there are patterns which are part of the culture.”

The Black & White adviser Ryan Derenberger and online managing editor Anna Yuan serve on the Council on Race, Equity and Wellness.