Let’s Talk About Differences

Earlier this week, “06880” posted about TEAM Westport’s 2023 Teen Diversity Essay Contest.

The 10th annual event focuses on “The Dialogue Challenge: Effective Engagement on Race, Ethnicity, Religion and LGBTQIA+.”

The prompt says:

Team Westport’s mission is to make Westport a more welcoming community with regard to race, religion, ethnicity, and LGBTQIA+.  In order to achieve its mission, one of TEAM Westport’s goals has been to promote opportunities for people to come together in dialogue to better understand each other’s experiences, decrease bias, and learn what we have in common. Meaningful dialogue depends on a good faith effort to set aside preconceived beliefs or what we think we know about other people.

In 1,000 words or less, reflect on your own interactions with people who have different racial, ethnic, religious, and/or LGBTQIA+ identities and/or perspectives. What kinds of conversations were particularly helpful in prompting you to rethink your beliefs or opinions, perhaps causing you to change your mind or enabling you to better understand others’ points of view? Based on these experiences, what specific actions would you suggest that individuals, schools, and/or town entities in Westport take to promote good-faith dialogue, reduce bias, and foster understanding?

It’s an important, in-depth and nuanced question.

But there’s no reason it should be limited to high school students.

Alert “06880” reader — and back-in-the-last-millennium Staples High School graduate — Clark Thiemann wrote in the Comments section:

Would love to see a version of this contest for all town residents. While I’ve found our high school students among the most thoughtful on these topics, I’d like to hear about how to have good conversations with people of different backgrounds and generations that might help break through walls.

Clark nailed it.

So let’s open it up to all “06880” readers.

What do you think? How can we have “good conversations with people of different backgrounds and generations that might help break through walls”?

Feel free to post in the Comments section. You can email too: 06880blog@gmail.com. I can post those in a stand-alone story.

Unlike the TEAM Westport Teen Essay Contest, there are no cash prizes.

But the payoff will be a much-needed town-wide discussion, on a topic that’s crucial to us all.

(NOTE: Most readers often fire off their comments — that’s the nature of a blog. For this one, please take time to consider what you’re saying, and how you say it. Please be civil; no ad hominem attacks. And of course, please use your full, real name.)

(“06880” is your place for discussions — important, interesting and occasionally trivial. Please click here to support our work. Thank you!)

52 responses to “Let’s Talk About Differences

  1. Travel.
    “So many of the good times travelling this world relate directly to finding a human face to associate with your destination, the food you eat, and the memories you’ll keep with you forever. The best times are when it’s impossible to be cynical about anything. When you find yourself letting go of the past, and your preconceptions, and feel yourself and your basic nature, the snarkiness and suspicion, the irony and doubt, disappear, at least for a time. When, for a few hours, you change.” — Anthony Bourdain

  2. Carl Addison Swanson, SHS '66

    While communication is obviously the key, the approach to such is paramount. I am an American. I have served this country in war and peace. Instead of harping on our differences, as it seems the tendency is to glorify our differences by designated ethnic “weeks” or “months,” let’s build on what we all have in common: we are residents of this country and as such, share not only responsibilities but also a common bond of American pride. That mindset will unite us and hopefully, one day, stamp out the bigotry which makes the need for this essay moot.

  3. Tracy Porosoff

    Interact with each other. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with someone who doesn’t look or talk or dress like you. Offer them a smile, or a compliment. Don’t limit yourself only to people who are similar to you.

  4. Dawna touched on it, with the wonderful Anthony Bourdain quote, but nothing impacts ones view of the world like immersive travel.

    I grew up in the Deep South in a pretty typical white, middle class, conservative family. At the time I graduated college, I hadn’t been north of Cincinnati, northeast of Washington, or west of Atlanta. That is a pretty narrow worldview. I grew up amongst folks who thought of history in terms of 1492 and 1776. (I would guess that even until 2000, the USA was still largely populated by folks who saw Western Europe as a place still recovering from WWII and filled with people clamoring to board a boat to Ellis Island.)

    As an adult, I’ve visited almost every state, lived in a number of diverse places and traveled widely in Europe which, to be honest, does NOT make me feel well traveled, as I haven’t been to Asia, Africa, or South America.

    The average American visits only 12 states in their lifetime. 27% of Americans never leave the country and nearly half travel to two or fewer other nations. And international travel numbers include those who serve in the military – without those included, the number of Americans who travel overseas is certainly much smaller.

    Nothing has impacted my world view as much as my travel and my privilege of living and working amongst diverse communities. It opens ones eyes. My core values didn’t change, but my perspectives changed when I recognized that my background was very narrow. And, to be clear, *everyone’s* background is narrow until they open themselves other places and people.

  5. Stephanie Frankel

    Learn about our differences / beautiful diversity including : religion, race, and gender. Talk about our struggles and accomplishments throughout history. Share insights about the struggles we have experienced and how we might have overcome them or the work that we still need to do. I know as a Jewish woman, I have heard some misconceptions about Jewish women and even the Holocaust. Do not be afraid to talk about our differences. Listen to people rather than throw out conspiracy theories that you hear. Welcome the diversity that makes America truly great! Join groups with diverse people, not just your church or synogogue or group of friends that might all be very similar. I joined DEI to learn more from people who are different than me or my typical group of friends.

  6. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    Keep up the good work TEAM Westport.
    Just a couple of caveats:
    Take more showers and fewer tub baths. Methane gas is toxic.

  7. I’ve also found reading–both fiction and non-fiction–a good way to educate myself about other people’s experiences and feelings.

  8. Barbara Sherburne '67

    I agree with Carl Swanson. I think we should be thinking about similarities and not differences. One slogan in particular appeared during COVID that just hit me the wrong way. “Let’s build on what we all have in common.”

  9. Barbara Sherburne '67

    That is not the slogan that hit me the wrong way. I was quoting Carl Swanson. Sorry if that was unclear.

    • Stephanie Frankel

      Ok, Barbabara. How are you and I similar exactly? What makes our similarity equivalent to unified? So I would love to discuss what our similarities are.

      • Barbara Sherburne '67

        I am afraid I am probably not intelligent enough to answer your questions. I think similarity can certainly lead to unified. If we keep pointing out how different we are from one another, I’m not sure if that leads to unified. If we are American citizens, that unifies us. As Lee Greenwood wrote: “I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me. And I’d gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today ‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land! God bless the U.S.A.” I think the similarity can begin there.

        • Stephanie Frankel

          Doanld J Trump plays that song at all his rallies. I do not feel unified with anyone who supports that racist, bigot, bully, liar, cult leader, and ANTI- DEMOCRACY anti- patriot. So he ruined and batched that song.
          Doanld Trump hates Americans and hates America. He is the leader of division and feeds off division. He hates diversity with a passion.
          Our differences and diversity are exactly what makes us Americans and makes America.Denying and discounting differences is what leads to racism and Facism.
          And not every American is free bTW, Barbara. LGBTQ are being directly attacked in Florida and other places. Black history is being attacked which is attack on their freedom to teach about their past and struggles in American life.

  10. Barbara, You’re too modest. Your answer was very helpful.

  11. As a Marine “brat,” I have always advocated that every 18 year old male or female American should serve two years in the military or community service. For three reasons: they will grow up, they will gain a sense of patriotism unknown to the majority and lastly, learn the color of one’s skin, religion and/or ethnicity matters little when you are “covering a comrade’s back.” Not to worry, Mom, only 2% of our troops seek combat. Semper Fi.

  12. Stephanie Frankel

    I am learning a lot from reading these comments. Some people have commented that we should not discuss our differences or diversity at all and rather highlight how we are similar in being Americans. I wish I could say that I see their perspective or understand it , but I do not. I think that when we deny talking about differences or diversity we are saying we SHOULD all be the same. Something about that does not sit very well with me. I do not want to live in a country where everyone is the same. How boring! Our differences and diversity make us who we are as Americans. I think saying we all need to highlight how we are similar or the same is a step in the direction of Facism actually. We are not all white. We are not all Christian. We are not all heterosexual. I would like to learn more from people who are different than me and have different experiences than myself

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

      Hi Stephanie!!!
      You are rapidly earning a place as my favorite element of Dan’s blog. Dan and I are planning a sit-down dinner at Tutti’s sometime in the spring. I’m thinking it would be great if you could join us. My treat, of course. Thanks for helping me stay young.

  13. Stanley Warshaw

    So long as TEAM Westport remains in its current form and with current leadership (i.e. dominated by hard core DEI progressives), we will NEVER have productive discussions on race, diversity, etc in Westport. They are ideologues who are trying to force us to accept their depraved DEI theology which runs counter to every important American ideal. Not only does half this town reject this Kendi/DiAngelo garbage, we loathe it with every fibre of our being. And not because we are racist – because IT is racist. The more TEAM tries to do, the more difficult it will be to have good conversations on this subject in Westport- because the ideas TEAM pushes and imposes on all of us – through its coerced Town DEI statements, through its below the radar infiltration of our schools, through its smearing and intimidation of any and all critics as racists, through its destruction of public art that fails to meet the standards of its woke religion – are disgusting and will always be rejected by good people. Nationwide, the tide is turning. The racist “antiracist” equity agenda is being exposed as the fraud it is. Once we move past this regrettable phase in American history, we will be able to have good honest reality-based conversations about diversity.

    • Stephanie Frankel

      I would like to personally invite you as my guest to a DEI or Team Westport meeting. I would also like to accompany you in speaking to real life Westport students about what they learn in school.

      You seem like a nice human. When can we meet up?

      • Let me check my calendar. I am going to be in Florida much of the next several weeks. Will you be there by any chance? Such a wonderful state, agreed?

        • Stephanie Frankel

          Oh that state! Lol! The most free and welcoming of diversity, LGBTQ and black history state!
          I will indeed be in Florida in April for Spring Break! See ya at some anti- Facism anti book banning, anti- white supremacist hate group Moms for Liberty rallies?

          Do you actually live in Westport and have children in the schools here or do you just hate this town and schools?!

        • I lived on South Ocean Blvd, five miles south of Mar a Lago, and found that there were a lot of negatives to living in Florida, 16 feet from the beach! Let’s start with my $42,000 Special Assessment I paid in 2005, two years after I bought. Every owner paid either $36,000, or $42,000, depending on their square footage, and had 18 months to pay it! Many other special assessments followed. Then there’s the sugar cane burning which I suspect landed me in the hospital with pneumonia in 2010. Trust me, the medical is horrible in Florida! I could go on and on and on.

    • Stephanie Frankel

      Where do you get the numbers that half of this town rejects DEI? This is not a good way to converse to start off by lying. You sound like a Moms for Liberty white supremacist with white anger and rage. This town seems pretty welcoming of learning about other races and religions that are the minority in this town.

      • Stephanie, you’ve just made my point. I philosophically oppose the DEI movement like so many intelligent people who understand the dangers of radical identity politics. Yet, in keeping with the pattern established by Mr Bailey and TEAM, you immediately smear me as a white supremacist, racist, etc. So there can be no productive dialogue. Yes, I believe, half this town at least has had it up to here with TEAM’s radical bs – from the BLM style anti-white racial rhetoric to the aggressive advocacy of transgenderism. But people are reluctant to speak out because we are all just trying to survive in this hostile Soviet-like environment known as Biden’s America (and more locally Bailey’s Westport). You are a case in point. As a hard leftist, you can spew bile all day long without repercussions. Mild thoughtful criticism from the other direction is by contrast “hate speech.” So we are a very long way from having productive dialogue.

        • Stephanie Frankel

          You believe is not a fact.
          Moms for Liberty is a hate group and is being filed as such by the ADL and Southern Poverty law center.
          I feel the hate.
          Do you live in Naples or Westport? Do you have kids in the Westport school system?

          • Actually, Steph, you make a good point. Westport should hire a market research firm to conduct an anonymous but scientific and in-depth survey of town residents on TEAM Westport and more broadly DEI, porn in schools, family friendly drag shows at Moca, etc. And not some biased bs that frames every question in a favorable way for the progressives. Let’s see who the small vocal minority really is. Thanks to cancel culture, no one can speak their mind, not even elected officials. Therefore normal democratic processes are broken. As a practical matter, we don’t have free speech. In October 2021, Mr Bailey and friends made sure views that conflict with theirs are disallowed in the public square. So let’s do this scientifically.

            • Stephanie Frankel

              Anyone is free to speak. Your group is anonymous for some strange reason. My guess is that hate has no home here like Florida.
              We have gay pride flags on our bridge sometimes. We have gay pride celebrations. That might put you over the edge.

        • Stephanie Frankel

          How is Team Westport or DEI anti- white exactly? Can you back that assertion up by facts and examples please? I always teach my students that they have to back up their accusations with facts to make them valid is a fact. So give examples of Team Westport and DEI being anti- white. I will wait for your response. Maybe ai will learn something from you…

          • Well, the entire DEI framework identifies whiteness, white fragility, white privilege and white supremacy as the root of all evil. Is that not anti-white? Imagine if people were calling for Jewishness to be dismantled because it is the source of all oppression. Actually, you don’t have to, just read some history books about 1930s Germany. And don’t go calling me an antisemite for making this very relevant analogy – many members of my family were killed in the Holocaust. I know an ideology of hate when I see it and DEI is that. It’s like we’ve learned nothing.

            • Stephanie Frankel

              You mean banning books about topics you disagree with like Facist Ron DeSantis and Moms for Liberty? Setting books on fire like Nazis? Trying to eradicate LGBTQ people and kids like Nazis did? Erase the teaching of real history and facts like the Nazis did? That kind of white fragility? Yep.
              In Texas, the Governor made it a mandate to teach about the opposite perspective of the Holocaust. What does that even mean?

            • Stephanie Frankel

              I am Jewish and what is happening in Florida is reminiscent of what the Nazis did before the killings.

              • I am too and what is happening in Florida is the exact opposite of what you say. Desantis is defending equality and the traditional fight against racial discrimination. DEI resurrects discrimination as a valid political position in America. It pits one identity group against another. It blames one race of people for the problems of another (just as Jews were blamed for the systemic oppression of gentile Germans). It’s sad that you don’t see this. The only way our country survives is if we see each other as human beings and not through the prism of tribal affiliation and historical grievances. MLK understood this… Stephi, just think about the tone of what you write across social media platforms, how much contempt you have, how quick you are to demonize and personally attack anyone who challenges your viewpoint. You are looking for scapegoats- just like the poor Germans in the Weimar Republic, just like 15th century Spanish peasants. My sincere advice to you is to seek professional help, you have a lot of anger. But so do many people nowadays, especially in Westport, and it manifests as a unhinged woke zealotry, of which you are the poster child.

                • Please do not tell people that they need “professional help “. It is uncalled for and only puts gasoline on the fire.

                  • I really mean it. If I were in her circle of friends and family, I would be concerned. A lot of inappropriate conduct.

                    • Stephanie Frankel

                      hi Stan! Give me a call sometime. DM me. I have some friends and family for you to speak with.
                      Inappropriate conduct? I am sorry, but I’m, I have never met you in my entire lifetime and you live in Florida.
                      Are you interested in defamation?!
                      I want to hear what inappropriate behavior I have. Spill it buddy.

                • Stephanie Frankel

                  I am sorry, but are you seriously saying with a straight face that I can not see that Ron SeSanris is fighting FOR equality??? Lmfao!!!!!!
                  Um, do you live under a rock?
                  He literally has a bill called Don’t say gay! His bills are literally discriminating against LGBTQ people! His bills are banning black history course teachings !
                  There are people in Florida talking about banning gay people and their rights. Calling them mentally ill!
                  You have GOT to be kidding me that you say Ron DeSantis is ffghting for equality!!!
                  Wow, a fellow Jew Gaslighting. It is disturbing! You kind of disgust me a lot.

                • Stephanie Frankel

                  And I wear being woke and kind as a badge of honor.
                  Now, maybe you have an anti- gay LGBTQ protest to attend with the Proud Boys in that state that is fighting so hard for equality!
                  I have a party to go to with fun gay people who make this world a better place!

            • Stephanie Frankel

              I agree we have learned nothing if people are banning books and people.

              • Your inappropriate behavior is simply what we all see across various online platforms. You remind me of a mentally ill homeless person picking fights with and trying to terrorize random passers by. Your rhetoric is incoherent, repetitive and hyperbolic. If I were a relative, I’d be concerned, it’s all I’m saying. But by all means, continue to do this. In a sense, you are the perfect ambassador for the woke progressive perspective: intellectually deficient, reliant on empty slogans, governed by emotion, delusional, under-informed, historically ignorant, angry, erratic and nasty nasty nasty.

  14. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    A great start. All that’s needed is a pivot person. Would Valentine’s Day be too soon? Perhaps Winslow Park (where active Westporters meet, greet and eat).

    • But they will each need to bring a book so to recognize each other… how about “Pride and Prejudice “?

      • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

        Perhaps. But I was thinking maybe “It Takes A Village” by U No Hoo.

      • Stephanie Frankel

        I will bring my Gay Pride flag. He or they can bring their Trump flag. Then we will talk about love, kindness, respect, diversity, American values, being a good leader, Inclusion, patriotism, Democracy ect..

        • That is a very ambitious and idealistic agenda you are setting. Maybe start out with more pragmatic topics. Or, ask him how he would like to begin.

  15. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    Perhaps one of Dan’s books. Didn’t he write one about soccer called We Kick Balls? I’d be afraid somebody or worse yet both parties at the intervention might take it literally.

  16. Raymond Skidgell

    Bless your heart Stephanie. Such an angry social Justice Warrior.

  17. My comment has to do with politics – which I realize is not the only area that divides us. But from the above comments, it seems that we often end up there…. I’d love to introduce you all to a new party in the U.S. It’s called the Forward Party. The motto is: “Not Right, Not Left, Forward”. It was started by Andrew Yang (D), and Christine Todd Whitman (R) and the core principles are (1) free people; (2) thriving communities; and (3) vibrant democracy. It welcomes all political persuasions and instead of dividing, seeks to encourage dialogue and finding common ground and getting things done. Some of the main objectives are to break the current problems we have with a 2 party system by encouraging voting reforms in the vein of ranked choice voting and open primaries. I’m excited about them and there are currently chapters in most states (CT included). Read more here: http://www.forwardparty.com. Let’s fix our democracy!

  18. Lauren MacNeill

    “Stan” Just as a reader, I have to point out your hypocrisy. You jumped on this thread at 9 am this morning and immediately went negative, which was contrary to the whole purpose of this thread. You called those that had different perspectives as you depraved, racist , against American Ideals,garbage, infiltrating school, smearing and intimidating critics, disgusting and a fraud. Then a number of interactions later you told Stephanie that SHE has proved YOUR point – “in keeping with the pattern established by Mr Bailey and TEAM, you immediately smear me as a white supremacist, racist, etc. So there can be no productive dialogue” . This just honestly makes no sense and its in keeping with the cry of the fascists we are now facing. Get up at school meetings and tell people they are racist, pedophiles etc and then say you are the victims for just having an intellectual difference. Uh no – those who speak out intelligently about their different views are not called racists and fascists. Those that do exactly what you did are called out for it. Own it at least.

  19. I apologize that this thread has gotten out of hand and repetitive. I have been away all day, and could not monitor it. It is now closed to further comments.