Amidst a global pandemic, widespread protests for racial equality, and a tumultuous US presidential election, discussing politics — however difficult — has been more important than ever. As a result, Deerfield student Bliss Vernon ’22 decided to create Let’s Talk, Deerfield: an inclusive environment that aims to foster these important conversations. With weekly meetings on Zoom, students gather to discuss or simply observe discussions about topics which have ranged from redlining, to the death penalty, to President Biden’s first week as president.
When asked about her inspiration for starting the club, Vernon credited her friends and classmates at her hometown high school in Wellesley, Massachusetts. They created a similar initiative after the murder of George Floyd to jumpstart tough yet much needed discussions surrounding race and politics. Their goal was to educate, listen, learn, and grow, she said, and Vernon has employed that same philosophy here at Deerfield. “[The club’s] ultimate end game objective was to create a more accepting, educated, conscious, anti-racist environment for our classmates,” she said.
So far, it seems, Deerfield’s participation in the club has been enthusiastic. Lila Deluca ’24 shared that her favorite thing about Let’s Talk, Deerfield is the openness of the community. “It’s just students, so there isn’t the pressure of teachers,” she said. “In class, people may feel pressured or uncomfortable saying something in front of an adult.” She explained that such an environment made her feel as though everyone’s opinion is honored.
All of Vernon’s goals for this club, no matter the size, start with eliminating the silence around sensitive subjects. She shared that a lot of topics surrounding race and racism are considered “touchy” or “too uncomfortable.”
She said, “I want students, through the Let’s Talk conversations, to begin to repeal these comments, and instead have the knowledge and confidence to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.” In the future, Vernon hopes that these students will end up leading their own conversations with friends, family members, and even strangers.
Clara Chae ’23, another student who has attended Let’s Talk meetings, said that she really likes the concept behind the club. She elaborated, “The idea of bringing more conversation around social injustices to campus is helpful, because it can sometimes feel like campus is a bubble where we’re just in our own world. Making sure that we keep having these conversations even at school is really important.”
Vernon said that she has heard almost only positive responses about the club, sharing that, “I’ve heard that so many students have learned more, thought about topics they never would have without Let’s Talk, contributed to these types of conversations for the first time, became more comfortable with expressing their views, and that honestly makes me so happy and so excited to continue Let’s Talk!” She explained that students have told her that the club provides a safe space to talk and brings more awareness and social engagement to campus. Always open to improve the experience for everyone, Vernon expressed that she will be working with all club members to address criticism received in a recent survey that requested the club to be more inclusive by addressing both political sides of the issues discussed. Bliss specified that their plans to make the club more inclusive involve specifying that Let’s Talk is not an alliance and rather a place of discussion where all perspectives are welcome. Additionally, the leaders have been thinking about different topics to draw in more people for productive conversations as well as ensuring that when conservative minded classmates share their views – they are listened to and respected.
For now though, students can look forward to participating in these weekly discussions and hopefully learning more from them too!