Speaker Spotlight

Homa Tavangar, Author, Growing Up Global: Raising Children to Be at Home in the World

What are the biggest obstacles schools face in the quest for racial justice and relationships?

I think one of the biggest challenges is that schools will focus on “diversity.” Diversity is necessary but not sufficient. As my colleague Eric Dozier points out, “the plantation was diverse.” So, this is a stark reminder that simply having diverse humans in a space does not address the power and privilege dynamics. Ultimately, going deeper than diversity is about the quality of relationships. Diversity might also be hurtful. For example, if your brochure touts a diverse student body but a student portrayed on the brochure realizes that it was window treatment and not the reality of your culture, that can feel like a betrayal. Through OnenessLab, Eric and I have built a model that helps build relationships, based on racial justice, comprised of Proximity, Frequency, Reciprocity, Imagination and Knowledge. So, the absence of these elements forms the obstacles.

What can schools do to influence views held by parents?

Just as relationship lies at the heart of going deeper than diversity, building relationships with parents – across the spectrum of perspective, background and experience – is vital. I always think world peace starts at the dinner table. So never underestimate the power of breaking bread together. The work of racial justice is heavy and often painful, but it also can be joyful and deeply enriching – for all parties involved. So, consider important conversations taking place around shared meals. This builds relationship and safety to interact, while creating shared learning experiences, and we are all learning.

I have a few resources that are my immediate go-to’s in educating and influencing views, that would be great for parents, too: the podcast Seeing White from Scene on Radio, Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility, and either White Rage or Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria. Since it’s hard to expect busy parents to do a lot of reading, I suggest some shortcuts: listen to all the podcast episodes of Seeing White; listen to Robin DiAngelo’s talk at the Seattle Public Library and Beverly Daniel Tatum’s TED talks or other media. Follow accounts focused on racial justice on social media (like Embrace Race, the Conscious Kid and Teaching Tolerance). I just recorded a podcast on My American Melting Pot for parents about “Talking to Kids About Race.” Schools can create opportunities for book or podcast discussion groups at varied times of the day and also possibly on protected digital platforms (like a closed Facebook group).

What are you reading now? What’s on your reading “to do” list?

I recently wrapped up a huge project, Global Kids (just went on sale!), so it feels great to catch up on general reading! I’m currently reading Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. It’s rocking my world. I thought I had a pretty good understanding of American history, but the way the book is framed (400 years through the lens of 5 key lives) and the information that I am gaining from it is deeply compelling, informative and enlightening to me.  Anyone who fancies themselves a student of American history needs to read this book! I recently finished Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese, on audio book. I LOVE audio books, especially for books set outside the U.S., since diverse accents and pronunciations bring stories to life. Some of the books on my bedside are Emergent Strategy by adrienne marie brown, Sapiens by Yuval Noah Hariri, Educated by Tara Westover and Selections from the Writings of the Bab. The 200th anniversary of the birth of the Bab is being celebrated around the world in the coming month. The Bab is one of the central figures of the Baha’i Faith and his writings are deeply inspiring to me.