Racism in Private Schools

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Racism in Private Schools

Asa Khalid, Staff Writer

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It took me about 5 months to finish this article or even begin to make a dent in it. A lot of times, for situations that deal with discrimination, it takes a while and feels somewhat impossible to put what happened in words.
In January, I decided to make a survey for the Berkeley Carroll Community to write down their thoughts on racism in private schools. After recent events, I thought it was important to collect the thoughts of the community as a whole and at least try to figure out the place we’re in as far as racism goes.
In these past five months since the incident I’ve been writing down pages of writing and deleting it all the next second, I learned to realize that I’m never really gonna figure this out. And I don’t need to because it’s not my job.
As I’m writing this I’m sitting next to my father in the car silently typing on my phone while half listening to his conversation. He’s talking to a coworker about the racism they have to deal with in the workplace and what they can do to fix it. So if a 48-year-old man is dealing with almost an identical situation to mine at his job and having a hard time, then how the hell am I, 15-year-old girl, supposed to deal with it?
I don’t get paid to sit down and evaluate the mental state of the greasy teenagers in the atrium saying the N-word and calling WOC ugly,  or the psychological adversities that any adults in the school have had to deal because they called me by some other Black girl’s name. But the fact that students of color are expected to simply correct a teacher or a student if they say something problematic, and if we don’t it’s “our fault” and we should’ve “said something sooner” is an absurdly ridiculous expectation. But nonetheless, an expectation.

But what I also have come to understand is that we are not all unified in opinion. Just because I may think what I believe is ethically right, doesn’t mean that I have the one right answer and therefore superior. This is what I found so interesting about what my grandmother wrote to me in a text when I told her about the Blackface incident at Poly Prep. She wrote,

“The news channels always will show the Black males as a criminal they will always talk on Black-on-Black crime,  they will always talk about police arresting Blacks for crimes etcetera etcetera etcetera… hidden from us are the mass murders committed by white people, the horrible things that they actually do and have done for centuries. Many people fail to look at the crimes labeled as mental illness and other perverted acts that are typically assigned to the whites. So my thoughts are a way to come up with the funny stereotypes that make us all laugh and perhaps that is what the Blackface jumping around like a monkey trying to make us all laugh instead of cry.”

While I don’t agree with these opinions entirely, I knew that it was important to include it in this article because firstly, she’s an older Black woman living in America, and varying opinions are important.

So without further ado, here are the results from the survey I did about racism in private schools.

 

What was your first experience with racism or learning about it? How did it affect your perspective on life?

  • I feel like as a young Black girl I have been experiencing racism and have been under scrutiny for as long as I can remember. It comes from store managers watching my every move every time I walk into a store, to white adults moving their kids away from the side I’m walking on because they think I might do something. I have always been aware of racism and discrimination because as a scholar I feel like it’s important to know our history, so I make it my duty to be knowledgeable on the subject matter. However, the first time I’ve experienced racism outright was when I came to BC. A few of my friends and I who are majority POC were discriminated against and harassed by this kid who we considered to be our friend. It turned out to be that he was an ignorant white boy with undeserved privilege who thought that he could do and say whatever he wanted to us because he was “white and didn’t know any better.” Although the large amount of disrespect wasn’t directed towards me, he did make many remarks on how I spoke and would mock me and say things like “Y’all are mad annoying” and tried to mock the way in which I speak in a very stereotypical way that was to represent how “ghetto” I was. This was very hurtful because it made me think about how people view me, and if I only come off as a ratchet Black girl who is unintelligent, which is far from the truth. So after that incident, I have tried to change the way I speak and be more cognizant of the words I say and how I say it. I am aware of my body language, hand gestures, and tonality when I speak to white people because I don’t want them to think that I’m that uneducated Black girl who doesn’t know anything but how to act ghetto.
  • Growing up as a mixed kid in Hispanic/Black neighborhood with a white mom
  • My first experience was when I was maybe 5 years old. I did not fully understand why, how and the impact it had on me. It made me very fearful in some situations. The feeling to fade away.
  • Honestly when I was pretty young. The school I went to was pretty vocal about it.
  • My friend said “I look like you when I get sunburnt”
  • Islamophobic bullying in school
  • I remember in elementary school this kid saying that he believed that people with darker skin had darker skin because God ‘burnt’ them. I remember thinking: that’s racist.
  • It has been a conscious and unconscious factor for the entirety of my life and thus I never really had a “first experience”.

 

Do you feel racism affects you? Why or why not?

  • Racism affects everyone, even white people like myself. We benefit from institutional racism, and if we can’t see that as something that affects us, we will never dismantle it.
  • Yes, I feel like it affects me probably more than anyone else I know because I don’t just get it from white people.
  • Not directly, but being white, I often catch myself saying a lot of things unconsciously and then feeling shitty about them right after, but then also people make fun of us for being real ignorant(which we are to be completely honest) but that only causes further conflict and isn’t really solving the problem, which makes me get this urge to say something else, but if I do, I’ll get called out. So I do think that it is often white people who incite these kinds of things, knowing it or not, but when POC then make fun of all of us for the shitty things some of us say more than others(we all do it, of course, don’t get me wrong) and then that gets everybody pissed at each other and only separates us further, unnecessarily. I know POC need a place to vent, but please let us know if we do something unconsciously. If we do something consciously, you do get to make fun of us 100%. But if it was an accident, please don’t.
  • Everywhere I go I have to change every single attribute about myself
  • It does affect me because it also affects people I love.
  • I benefit from white privilege, so in a way, I am affected. Also, when it hurts my friends, it hurts me
  • Yes; I’m Black, and as a Black person people see me as “inferior” for my skin tone, thus meaning that we all encounter racism at some point. since racism is an institutional construct, it can (and probably will) affect my quality of life.
  • Yes, because it is an institutionalized social construct that affects the entirety of American society. Obviously, I to some extent have subconsciously adopted racist forms of thought as I have been essentially indoctrinated to think in a racist manner through subliminal messaging for my whole life. Some of these unconscious forms I have managed to intentionally fight off, others go unnoticed. I see this as true for essentially the entire white American population of the United States.

 

Do you care about racism? Do you feel you need to? Why or why not?

  • I do care about racism and some people may think that I don’t have to because they think that it’s just unnecessary drama. I know that there are people that look like me that are discriminated against and treated a type of way because of the language they speak or where they come from etc. Me not caring, or anyone not caring, allows for more and more people to face this discrimination.
  • Yes, obviously, but often I find people almost don’t think I have any right to because I’m not Black and I don’t “act Black”

 

What are your thoughts on recent events in the private school community?

  • I hate it. I feel like more could have been done and it wasn’t. I really wish people wouldn’t be so ignorant all the time and that they could just see that something is wrong and has to change. I am willing to help, but there’s only so much I can do if people are not willing to change their minds and do better for not only themselves but the community.
  • I think they put too much blame on white people. POC have just resorted to scapegoating all white people with being this ominous evil racism regime and being a POC myself it’s really frustrating. Not all white people are racist, and I think saying so is offensive and just incorrect considering I have encountered tons of racist POC.
  • The one at Berkeley Carroll wasn’t an act of racial violence. it was a douchey white kid who was afraid of Black people that hit a Black student for alienating him from their friend group. No excuse for what happened at Poly Prep with the black face. no possible way to make it seem like “just a joke”.
  • We are beginning to see what has been hidden for so long. Finally, stories of racism deemed so “uncommon” by most within our communities are being recognized as far more common than we had previously thought. The acts of racism usually may not be as blatant as blackface, but what happens every day within our school and other’s can certainly be just as harmful.
  • They’re shitty if I’m honest. I’ve lost hope in a lot of my friends/school administrators.

 

How do you feel about the conversations BC is already having? Do you feel they’re necessary? How can they improve?

  • I feel like it’s a bunch of actually offended students and self-righteous white knights yelling at me for not doing anything, and vaguely saying “if you aren’t helping, you’re part of the problem” without stating what “helping” is. It’s just gone in circles. I feel it is a waste of time. Especially when some people said, “you white people have the power in this school” as if white people have a secret white council meeting where they determine how to ruin the lives of black people. In this school, we have equal power, if not more power for the minorities.
  • BC is on the right track. Discussions are necessary because they open-up communications.
  • I’m not sure if they are handled perfectly, but we definitely need to have them. I think having more integrated conversations rather than white teachers telling white kids how to act will be better.
  • They’re good and all, but they can be improved and can contain *less* alligator tears 🙂
  • I think they’re necessary but people say things and then nothing really happens. However, I do feel like the administration is doing a lot and I think that’s good.
  • I feel like some are necessary, but sometimes certain meetings just feel repetitive. I want to see action now.
  • Some of the conversations feel too long-winded and not useful while, to me, others need to go longer/continue. I do appreciate the effort that the school is making and I hope we’re heading in the right direction.
  • I feel like these conversations are very necessary but we need to stop sugar coating everything. People don’t sugarcoat anything when they are saying racist slurs so why should be held back from exposing this? We need to address the issue head-on because until we do that, people are going to just keep going.
  • I think we could stop seeing race as just a Black and white thing.

 

What is something you’d like to say to Berkeley Carroll – or private schools in general – about race?

  • Be aware of all of your actions, even the small ones. If you think something might be controversial, don’t say it.
  • Do better.
  • Stop caring about your image.
  • You are a school and thus it is your job to educate us about race and racism throughout our history and the present, from an early age. Your failure to do this is a fundamental failure of your education system.
  • So far Berkeley Carroll has contributed to the social construct of racism, not help fight it. The problem is compounded by your use of tokenism in lower and middle school. This is also true for other private schools in Brooklyn as well. Mostly white communities of children are taught to think from an exclusively white perspective, isolating nonwhite students and growing a largely racist white student base and culture.
  • Berkeley Carroll has made immense strides in discussing race. I finally feel like our thoughts and voices are no longer being stifled, ignored, or even swept under the rug by the school. I applaud Berkeley Carroll for this. But, there is definitely still room for growth and improvement.
  • Changes must be made to the student/parent handbook regarding race. I also think it is HUGELY important for it to be made clear the immediate consequences of saying the N-word as a person who does not identify as black.
  • It’s impossible to be void of racism but you can’t blame the school for what happened. were they supposed to magically know this kid was a violent racist? do they have a racism radar to calculate how racist new students are? what could they do if they didn’t know about it until weeks later? people are just blaming the school for a societal issue to feel like they have some form of control over anything.
  • Alayna T. ’19 put it perfectly — it’s not cool not to care. It’s not cool to make fun of discussions about race right after they take place. It’s not cool to be white and therefore not take part in conversations and action because you think it doesn’t affect you. This is real. This is serious. Everyone needs to care.
  • BC needs to be open to having more of these discussions, and I’m not just talking about BC talks but actually wanting to participate and be engaged in the conversation because they want to find a solution. White people and POC need to be open to being uncomfortable when we have these conversations because when we hold back nothing is going to be solved. We need to delve deeper than just not saying the N-word we need to learn how to communicate with one another and be respectful in general.
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