Commitment to Anti-Racism

Q & A with D.E.I. Director Dr. Domonic Rollins

Q&A with Dr. Domonic Rollins

List of 4 frequently asked questions.

  • Why are we focusing on anti-racism work and how is that different from diversity, equity, and inclusion work?


    The terms diversity, equity, inclusion are broad and can include different forms of exclusion or oppression, including racism. We're focusing on anti-racism work because racism is one of the primary forms of oppression and exclusion and is endemic to the founding of this country. Because racism has been so hard for our society to deal with, there's a need to center it — but not at the exclusion of other forms of difference in organizations (e.g., gender, sexual orientation, or religion). To name our focus as anti-racism work centers it — and in this moment, and actually in a lot of moments historically and contemporarily, this has been necessary to do.

  • Where does anti-Blackness enter into the current conversation?

     
    If we lead from the place of anti-racism, then a question follows: Which races are we talking about? One of the hardest conversations about race and racism in the United States is that, in some ways, it’s a black-white conversation. But it's not only a black-white conversation because of the racial hierarchy, and because people who do not identify as Black or White are also racialized in the United States. On one side, if you will, are Black folks, and the other side are White folks — and in between is a very palpable sense of colorism. So if you really want to unearth racism, if you really want to be “anti,” then you have to be able to talk about anti-Black. If you don't talk about anti-Black, then you're not actually talking about the penultimate form of racism. Looking at this more broadly, a group of people of color has some version of anti-Black racism, and I think there's an assumption that there is solidarity among people of color that doesn't actually exist. So when you start having the conversation about “what is anti-Black” and “what does that look like to you,” other folks of color can start to investigate and think about their own racist behaviors and attitudes.
     
  • Can you talk about engagement and accountability and their importance in diversity equity and inclusion work?

     
    Engagement and accountability in diversity, equity and inclusion work are unlike other work in organizations. Typically in an organization something can be done for you, you receive it, you're told it, and you and the organization can follow suit. File that report, run those data, have that meeting - much work is transactional. Diversity, equity, and inclusion work implicates our entire lives and our lived experiences; it’s transformational. If we leave out an individual’s set of life experiences, this person is not going to be engaged, and the work will lack staying power. Engagement seeks to have community members as full participants in the process. As they immerse themselves in this work, their own understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion grows. Engaged community members can help shape what this work looks like and help the entire organization move forward. This kind of organizational work really does take on a life of its own because it lives within each of us. 
     
    And this work requires accountability at an organizational, interpersonal, and individual level. If we're actually making an organization, making a school more inclusive, it requires contributions from everyone. So, to make a place more inclusive and anti-racist, people have to be held accountable at the individual level. In other words, everyone has to be “all in.” And while we all may be in different places in our thinking, we all must move in the same direction. That's when accountability becomes really key. The question that usually comes up is: “What are you holding people accountable to? I’m holding people accountable to the work that they need to do to achieve the goals they have set for themselves.”
     
    Certain norms and behaviors are necessary to be an inclusive and anti-racist place. But the dilemma is, how can we address behaviors we do not see (e.g., interactions between students, between faculty and students, and between colleagues)? One way to help folks understand and move closer to more inclusive behaviors is talking about what this work looks like in action. An example is microaggressions. The question “Where are you from?” can be perceived as a microaggression. Questioners earnestly say, “I ask because I'm just curious.” What they didn't know is that question always situates people who are not American and not White as the perpetual outsider. The questioner assumes that you aren't from here. But, this new perspective can be hard for folks to understand until you talk it through. 
     
    The bottom line is that to move the organization forward, everyone must engage in the work and be held accountable.
     
  • What work has been ongoing at Dalton to engage community members and foster accountability and what must Dalton focus on to get this work right?

     
    Before my arrival at Dalton a year ago, the priority has been raising awareness, diversifying our student body, diversifying our faculty and staff, and shifting practices and policies when possible. Now, adding the accountability piece to the mix presents a real opportunity to ensure that this work has teeth. 
     
    At this moment, when people are willing to share their experiences, our top priority is to listen closely to what they’re saying. But this work is not just about individual or anecdotal stories — not to discount those, as they’re really important. To be accountable at the organizational level, we need to gather good aggregate data about behavior and engagement that will provide insights into what's going well, critiques, and opportunities for growth. 
     
    Right now, we have to focus on organization, structure, roles, and responsibilities. Our faculty’s autonomy should be grounded in what teaching and learning is for us. It’s really about teachers’ deeply knowing all of their students and being accountable for including varied perspectives and inclusive content in their classrooms. We need to take action to bolster our 21st century students’ education regarding topics such as race, racism, exclusion, protests, sexism, and the histories of these movements. And, finally, if teaching and learning is about analytic skills and critical thinking, then we should ask our students questions that matter. And what better question is there than: How do you solve the world's inequality?
     

The D.E.I. Office

List of 3 members.

  • Photo of Domonic Rollins

    Domonic Rollins 

    Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Photo of Juliet Baker

    Juliet Baker 

    Diversity Coordinator for Student Life
  • Photo of Ilia Castro

    Ilia Castro 

    Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Assistant
212.423.5200 | info@dalton.org
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(4-12) 108 East 89th Street, New York, NY 10128