“We are more alike than we are different” was a theme running through the message presenter Rodney Glasgow gave our students on Tuesday afternoon. He was a dynamic, charismatic speaker, who captured the children’s attention, inviting them to ask questions and explore issues about diversity. Our students’ questions and answers were thoughtful and insightful. As a teacher, I was so proud of the depth of information and sensitivity to others that were reflected in our students’ comments.
Mr. Glasgow first opened the floor to questions about himself, not shying away from any topics the students wanted to discuss. He told us that when he was at home or in places where he felt welcomed, like our auditorium, he’d kick off his shoes, which he did. He expressed his desire to wear bright, blingy jewelry, non-gender specific clothing and colorful nail polish as ways to be unique and because they made him happy. He encouraged us to be true to ourselves.
He shared a story about how, when he was growing up, he was taught to be leery when others spoke in foreign languages because they might be saying something negative about him. He explained how creating fear like this plants the seeds for oppression. He told us that this fear leads to stereotypes, which creates prejudice, promotes oppression and finally becomes discrimination.
The second story he shared was about when a white student transferred into his fifth grade class of all black students. Mr. Glasgow was the teacher’s favorite student and felt threatened by this new student. He was afraid she might usurp his position, so he excluded her and plotted with the other students to make her feel unwelcomed. In the end, he realized that she was a really “cool kid” and that he missed out on being her friend because of his hurtful behavior. The following year he transferred to a predominately white, private school and he experienced, firsthand, the same kind of discrimination. It became an eye-opening experience that planted the seed for what would become his life’s mission.
Mr. Glasgow shared a video from Dr. Seuss’ “The Sneeches” to help the students better understand the concepts of discrimination and oppression. Hopefully, Mr. Glasgow’s presentation sparked interesting conversations that helped our students to be less judgmental when they view our diverse world.