June 20, 2020
The first time I wrote an article about racism, I was frustrated. Now, I am angry, overwhelmed and quite frankly, concerned.
We have all seen the news, the riots, the black squares and the stories. We have witnessed the disgusting responses of the US President in regards to what is going on in his country. We have said their names. George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Tamir Rice. Too many others. All that has been going on in the world is forcing me to speak about the issues within our own school.
We need to ask ourselves if we really live up to the title of an “International” school. The students of the community have been creating an atmosphere for years that is unwelcoming to students of color. Racism at ISL is everywhere, including the cafeteria. A student has said that she feels uncomfortable doing small things such as bringing traditional food to the cafeteria because her fellow white classmates feel the need to comment. This is a shared experience among other students of color, such as myself.
The social hierarchy at ISL has been built and feeds off of racist or offensive behavior (this has also been pointed out by members of staff and students). It has become apparent that in order for someone to reach and remain at the top, particularly for the male members of the community, their humor must be offensive. This automatically creates ridiculous excuses: “I was just kidding”, “it was a joke”, “It’s not like I said it to a (insert race/sexuality/sex here) person”.
Nonetheless, the case that I find the most dangerous and saddening is the fact that by standing up to racist behavior, you are more vulnerable to being ostracized by your peers. Over the past year, I have personally witnessed three cases of this, and it is disgusting and unacceptable. These students have gotten phone calls to their homes, have been ganged up upon and have had horrible things said about them and even their family. This attitude of shaming, harassing and bullying people who are brave enough to stand up for what is right will stop others from doing the same. Everyone should, as I do myself, find this incredibly concerning.
An infuriating but common statement I have heard numerous times about racism at ISL is: “It’s worse in other places, why are we making such a big deal about it here?”. It sickens me for two reasons. The first is because it carries disregard for people of color in a community that are experiencing discrimination, whether it is physical abuse or microagressions. The second is because the statement says that racism is tolerable when it’s on a smaller scale. I will not stand for that, and neither should any of you.
Racism is present at ISL. Ask the students of color, the majority will agree. Seeing as past articles, posts or even personal accounts of experiences did not sink in, there are countless students walking through the halls saying the N-word, making childish jokes that “unintentionally” target a particular race and calling students of color horrifying names. It appears that students at this school only consider racism as racism when they hear news of a black person being lynched or murdered by police (and even then, people still make excuses)
The definition of racism is “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race […]”. All of the examples above fit this definition. One cannot redefine racism to fit their racist behavior.
Nevertheless, on a more positive note, I am starting to regain hope. ISL’s staff is doing more to combat racism in the community than I have ever seen in my long time at this school, and we can expect to see changes and most importantly, conversation next year. Most of all, I am seeing a change in the student body. More and more people are beginning to stand up and speak out, whether they are people of color or white.
But now, how can we, as a community, create a truly accepting and welcoming environment for everyone? The first thing we need to do is to stop normalizing racist behavior and normalize speaking up against it. Some people are so unaffected by racism, because it has unfortunately become normalized in our society and that needs to end now. Being racist is not okay, under any circumstances. Why is it that people are applauded for being racist, but are cast out for doing the right thing?
Next, we need to have conversations. Not ones where there are clear divides and attacks, but calm, mediated discussions, where people can have their opinions but are open to hearing other opinions as well. However, let me clearly state that there is not excuse for discrimination against any minority. It is wrong.
Finally, we need to educate. It is unfortunate that the curriculum at our school is so Eurocentric, but we can hope to see some change soon. But educate yourself. Understand what you are saying when you say the N-word, watch movies and read books to find out why white privilege is (despite popular belief) real. There are so many resources and it is about time we start using them.
People of color everywhere should not be fighting this battle anymore. It has been 60 years since the Civil Rights Movement, 400+ years since the slave trade, and we are still here in 2020. Anyone who says “we have come so far” might want to rethink.
None of this should sit right with any decent person. We all bleed the same. No one should be treated as though they are lesser than.
I would like to leave you with some questions: why do people fight still for racism? What makes you think it is okay to participate, but also to watch it and allow it to happen to others. What if the roles were reversed?