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Weights of Reality

Weights of Reality

On November 10, 2022, Associate Head of School Tyrone Black trained the leaders of the Student Diversity Board in Weights of Reality, a program he created in 2005. Weights of Reality encourages participants to experience life in the identity of others, and by doing so, understand the difference between diversity and inclusion.

The training begins with participants in a circle, each receiving a background different from their own to embody. One by one they take turns stepping to the center of the circle, where they are unable to speak. “We take their voice away, because sometimes in reality no one is hearing us,” says Black.

Those around the perimeter of the circle represent society. They share aloud stereotypes and with each judgement they put a chain on the person in the center, each chain symbolizing 100 pounds of oppression. This approach allows participants to visualize the weight of being chastised and imagine having to carry it.

“By learning what it’s like to really walk in someone else’s shoes, the individuals in the group are learning that diversity is more than just a color. The goal is not to break people, the goal is to give them the tools to be held accountable in uncomfortable situations, and to make them more self-aware,” says Black.

While carrying the chains, the participant in the center reflects on how the criticisms made them feel. According to Black, they share comments like, “I feel confused because I was blamed for something that happened to me,” and “This is not who I really am, but yet I feel deeply offended.”

In the final tier of Weights of Reality, individuals from the perimeter walk up to the person in the center and take a chain while affirming, “I heard you.”

“It is wonderful to see participants take on the identity without realizing it. They move beyond the actual activity, and you can see when they start becoming the new person. Empathy rises to a new level,” reflects Black. “My hope is that this program will raise participants’ level of sensitivity towards others who are different than themselves. Before we can celebrate diversity, we must listen to each other’s stories to better understand their challenges.”

After the initial training session of Weights of Reality, the student leaders went on to direct a session of their own, consisting of 15-16 participants. Black hopes to continue the programming throughout the year and is currently working with the leaders of the Student Diversity Board to organize a campus-wide Weights of Reality event in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.