During this year’s third Parent Institute event on Thursday night, CNN rnchor Kate Bolduan P ’32 and CNN contributor and author Bakari Sellers educated parents about the racial and social injustices in the United States.
“We’re bringing in people with various experiences, perspectives, and published writings around unconscious bias to help all of us within the parent community become more sensitized and educated,” Director of the Parent Institute Wendy Reiter said. Through this series, she also hopes that the parent community will develop a different set of skills that will allow them to be more effective in having difficult conversations surrounding race with their children, she said.
As an active watcher of CNN, Reiter decided to invite Bolduan after seeing her work as a journalist, she wrote. Reiter had also seen Sellers appear on CNN as a consultant, and thought that he was extremely thoughtful and reflective on the current social unrest in the United States, she said.
Bolduan joined CNN as a national correspondent in 2007 and has anchored multiple shows on the network since then. Currently, she hosts the daily show “At this Hour with Kate Bolduan,” and she was a reporter for CNN’s coverage of the 2020 election, according to CNN’s website.
Sellers is a civil rights attorney from South Carolina, and is also a contributor for CNN. In 2006, he was elected into the South Carolina House of Representatives and was the youngest African-American elected official in the country at age 22. His recently published memoir “My Vanishing Country, A Memoir,” outlines his early life and tells the story of the Black working class in the south through his personal experiences, his website wrote.
Bolduan and Sellers are not only colleagues, but also good friends outside of work, Reiter said. Because of this, the event was structured to allow for a conversation between the speakers.
The event began with Bolduan asking Sellers about his book and how George Floyd’s death days after its release placed it into the bigger context of what it is like to be Black in America. “When writing the book at this moment, there was a lot of sadness,” he said. Sellers said that being Black is like living in a perpetual state of grieving and that he hopes to break that cycle of racism by having conversations about race.
As a father of two Black daughters, Sellers discussed what it was like to answer questions about parenting Black children from white parents. When other parents ask him what he teaches his children about race, he said he turns the question around and asks them about their own techniques, he said. “How are you teaching your kids to give my children the benefit of their humanity?” he asked.
Sellers said it is important to not only to teach children about race through not only discussion, but also through their parents’ actions. “The example we set by either the people that work for us, or with us, our friends, the way we communicate about them, the news we watch, the things we take in at home — a lot of those things have an impact on the children and their upbringing behind us.”
From Sellers’ perspective, the one strategy to avoid when teaching children about race is color blindness, he said. “Nobody wants you to be colorblind,” he said. “I want you to see me for my experiences in the diversity I bring to the table. I want you to see the race of whomever you’re talking to and appreciate it, lift it up, and give it voice.”
School Photographer Barry Mason, who attended the event, was already familiar with both of the speakers after watching them on CNN, he wrote in an email. For Mason, watching Sellers and Bolduan present on cable television was different from seeing them at Thursday’s event. “I felt I got to see Bakari the person,” he said.
Gita Shaari P’22 ’20 ’17 ‘16 also attended the conversation, and enjoyed the honesty and candidness of the speakers, she said.