Webbies gather for third community read discussion

Students+joined+Dr.+Derik+Smith+on+Zoom+to+discuss+the+book%2C+%22How+to+be+an+Antiracist.%22

Laura Haushalter

Students joined Dr. Derik Smith on Zoom to discuss the book, “How to be an Antiracist.”

More than 90 students and faculty gathered on Zoom on Monday, December 7th for the third discussion of Webb’s first ever community read: How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. The discussion featured Dr. Derik Smith, Associate Professor of Literature at Claremont McKenna College, as a guest speaker. 

Before the discussion, students read up to chapter 13 of How to be an Antiracist and came prepared to discuss. The session saw the highest turnout since the first community read discussion in September. 

“It has to do with timing, advertisement,” said John Choi, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coordinator. “But people are hungry to get involved in these conversations… we have a small population of people who want to get involved in these conversations from the get-go… it’s something people have a lot of passion around.” 

For the better part of the session, students listened to Dr. Derik Smith speak about his experiences working with incarcerated individuals, his own encounters with racism, as well as working with Mr. Kendi at the University of Albany. Professor Smith credited Mr. Kendi with introducing the idea of antiracism into the cultural zeitgeist.  

“If we just keep it in neutral,” Professor Smith said, “then what we are submitting to is satisfaction with a racist reality… the only way to overcome that is not to declare ourselves ‘not racist’ … but to commit ourselves to anti-racism.” 

“I thought that his experience as a professor in university as well as prison was very insightful to how education can create spaces of growth and empowerment,” Abbie Oh Arroyo (‘21) said.  

Afterwards, students were placed in breakout rooms with faculty facilitators to discuss what stood out to them in the reading, as well as what it means for a school like Webb to be antiracist and the steps that we can take in our individual lives to pursue antiracism.  

“Chapter 13 of How to be an Antiracist dealt with creating spaces to create affinity,” Abbie said, “and share stories so we can build and empathetic environment and stand in solidarity with those who do not share our privileges.” 

This discussion was the last opportunity for students to voluntarily discuss the thoughts they had while reading How to be an Antiracist. Once the community read is finished, a culminating, school-wide event is scheduled to take place on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.