On Monday morning, the upper school hosted a special assembly featuring cultural commentator Jay Smooth, who runs the popular video blog Ill Doctrine and also founded Underground Railroad, the longest-running hip-hop radio program in New York City.
Smooth referenced the history of hip-hop as an example of how communities can make each other better. Just as rappers, DJs, dancers and other members of New York’s hip-hop communities challenged one another to become better artists and people, so too should other communities make sure that its members are conscious of their own privileges of race, gender, class or ability, and show a willingness to receive criticism. “We need to change how we receive these critiques,” he said, “by fundamentally changing how we think about what being racist is, or sexist or ableist.”
Many people, Smooth said, have treated racism like having their tonsils removed, when it is “more like the plaque that builds up on your teeth every day,” something that must be addressed diligently throughout one’s life. “We are all naturally susceptible to implicit bias,” he said, “and we are all a part of systems we can contribute to, without being conscious of it.”
When being criticized by someone, Smooth advised to “listen with humility, and consider that they’re speaking from an experience we’ve never had.”