An Independent School • Grades 5-12
Making privilege part of the discussion in Lakeside Athletics
Making privilege part of the discussion in Lakeside Athletics

by Chris Hartley, director of athletics

I could not have been more excited when I learned that diversity trainer and speaker Rosetta Lee would be speaking to parents and guardians at Lakeside. Her PGA lecture on Oct. 16, "Parenting with Identity in Mind," was inspirational. She helped the audience think about privilege and marginalization. She gave advice about how to talk with our students and what to think about as we help them navigate this world. She asked all of us to look at our world first. What privileges do we have? Who feels marginalized? Why? And what can each of us do to create an environment – whether at home, at school, in athletics, or in our other communities – to be inclusive? If you missed her presentation, you can watch a video of it here (please note it expires on Friday, Jan. 11).

I have heard Rosetta speak on several occasions, and, in the fall of 2016, I invited her to work with a large group of Lakeside coaches. I asked Rosetta to help lead the coaches in a discussion about equity and unity, thinking about each of our athletes as individuals, and making sure that assumptions and biases do not create roadblocks. One of our goals of Lakeside coaches is to create a team culture that brings everyone together, in which every player feels that their contribution is significant to the success of the team. If coaches are not aware of how their language, messages, and actions affect every person on our team, some kids might disconnect. Rosetta helped us look at our policies and practices with a lens of inclusivity, consider how we could proactively build unity, and be appropriately responsive when there are issues.

As a white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied man, I have a great deal of privilege. Twenty-five years ago, I did not recognize this in myself. I saw the world as a meritocracy in which success – including my own – was based on hard work and skill acquisition.

In the late-90s and early 2000s, I was working in Dallas at an independent school. I was lucky enough to become close friends with a colleague - a person of color - who showed great patience with me as I started to think about my identity as a white person with many privileges. During this process, my friend shared a short article with me that helped me recognize how my privileged life had been shaped and supported by generations of white people. The article was written by Peggy McIntosh; it is called "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack."

When thinking about privilege in the context of diversity, equity, and inclusion, McIntosh states, "Privilege exists when one group has something of value that is denied to others simply because of the groups they belong to, rather than because of anything they've done or failed to do. Access to privilege doesn't determine one's outcomes, but it is definitely an asset that makes it more likely that whatever talent, ability, and aspirations a person with privilege has will result in something positive for them."

This article – and the work of educators like Rosetta Lee – has deeply shaped how I approach our work in Lakeside Athletics. I am committed to equipping our coaches with perspectives and resources to help them work with our students in inclusive ways. Whether in coaches' meetings, professional development nights, or weekly emails I send out, our coaches are exposed to concepts and approaches that honor difference, allow for open communication, and strengthen supports for students.

Recently, I sent one of Rosetta Lee's articles, ""Privileged and Marginalized," to the coaches. In it, Lee asks the reader to think about times when they were in a position of privilege as well as when they might have been the one marginalized. After reading the article, I prompted the coaches to reflect: "I hope you think about how privilege lands on your athletes, those with and those without privilege. Additionally, I hope you reflect on times when you have been the person with privilege and times when you have been marginalized. How different do you feel? How do you act differently?"

This is work that will never be complete. We will all make mistakes and will have instances when we fall short. But to do this work in service to our students is an honor.

Chris Hartley is Lakeside's director of athletics. You can reach him at athleticsdept@lakesideschool.org and 206-440-2754.