Dr. Jay Bauer’s experience with racial identity and bias was about as deeply personal as you can get—it came from his own family.
Speaking to Canterbury students at a Social Justice Series event hosted by the School’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (DEIJ) Council, Dr. Bauer shared anecdotes from his life as a person of mixed racial identity and the discrimination and bias he faced, even from his own flesh and blood.
Having learned that the white side of his family had long ago rejected any real relationship with his black relatives, he was determined to reconnect with those white relatives. He succeeded—only to find that, even today, they said speaking with him still violated their elders’ wishes. For the first time, he experienced the familial rejection and segregation that defined his father’s childhood.
His story touched students in attendance. “As a person who lives at the intersection of many different identities myself, including racial identities, Dr. Bauer's presentation truly resonated with me,” said Sarina Sheth ’22. “It helped me to better understand, accept, and embrace the varied aspects of my identity. His story was eye-opening and inspirational as we heard about both the explicit discrimination and implicit bias that he faced even as a young child.”
Using photos to visually illustrate the hidden aspects of race that we all embody in one way or another, Dr. Bauer spoke of how these preconceived reactions lead us on a path of continued bias and discrimination. He stressed the importance of addressing implicit and explicit bias in school curricula, saying the lack of such teaching continues to perpetuate and influence the social emotions of students. Indeed, when he was just eight, it was a white teacher, Nancy Molnar, who advocated for him, tutored him, and, according to Dr. Bauer, saved his life.
Attendee Kylee Henderson ’25 came away from the presentation ready to make a difference. “It was great to see how much Dr. Bauer was interested in his family's history and what he was able to learn from his family’s past,” she shared. “I am now even more determined to not judge someone by what they look like but by who they are on the inside. It really inspired me to want to make a change in our society and how we perceive one another.”
Sarina was equally inspired. “A crucial takeaway for me personally was that the most productive way to engage in difficult conversations on race, identity, and discrimination is to truly educate yourself and others, exploring different perspectives and not jumping to conclusions or making assumptions,” she said.
Dr. Bauer is an alumnus of Tufts University in Massachusetts and works as a dentist in Woodbury, Connecticut. He continues to lead these important conversations with students at institutions such as Colgate University, the University of Connecticut, Taft School, and The Frederick Gunn School.
The DEIJ Council—composed of 13 student leaders, student life faculty, and faculty advisors—sponsors activities and initiatives that support Canterbury’s pledge to build and sustain a diverse, equitable, inclusive, safe, and just community.