Monday is a long day at Chewonki – every class meets, so school does not end until 4:15. However, I always look forward to Chewonki time after school on Mondays because it is when diversity chat takes place. During diversity chat, we talk about social justice/diversity issues in current society. The topics that we have discussed include Cards against Humanity, LGBTQ terminology, race and ethnicity, and stereotypes of different groups. Coming from China, where there is not so much racial diversity, I have always been interested in studying social justice issues in the US. It was hard for me to find a space at my home school where everyone is willing to share their experience and learn about others. The “No Judgment” agreement that we made at the beginning of the semester, I think, is the key to the success of diversity chat in our semester. The best part of diversity chat for me is that we might have contradictory opinions but everyone is so willing to be engaged in the conversation. It is great for me to feel completely comfortable in this place to address my opinions on the topics that I am interested in and hear others’ perspectives. Though I already learned a lot before I came here, I am developing a better understanding of certain problems.
Taking the Environmental Issues class (EI) helps me understand the intersection between social justice and the environmental movement. For the first three weeks in EI, we had many readings to help us see various opinions developed by environmentalists. The reading from Van Jones’ book The Green Collar Economy is the most exciting to me. Before Chewonki I had heard the term “Environmental Justice” but I had never had the chance to study it. In his book, Van Jones explains the history of the environmentalist movements in detail as well as the gaps among different social classes in the engagement of the movements. In both of my Literature and the Land class and EI, we talked a lot about the relationship between human and nature. Lack of natural experience in today’s society separates the human society from the natural world. Being in nature seems to be the best way for human beings to understand, appreciate and protect the natural world. However, it is sad how much it can cost to have access to nature – it is expensive to get gear and to have the transportation tools. It is harder for people from poor urban areas to have experiences in the natural world. This concept makes me appreciate the opportunities that I have and reinforces my determination to participate in equality and environmentalist movements in the future.
Through all the conversations I am having here, I feel I am becoming more and more confident in talking about diversity issues. At the same time, I have a clearer sense of what I should be in the future. I can see myself being a better leader in diversity issues at my home school when I go back.
-Written by Hans Zhou, St. Mark’s School, Hangzhou, China