By Elizabeth Nguyen
This past week, Garnet Valley’s Humanity in Ethnicity, Race, and Equality (HERE) Club launched its long awaited Perspectives Campaign for the 2020-21 school year. A remarkable 58 people came to participate, with some faculty and club founders Tori Husain and Wendy Lam joining the discussion as well. Although the event lasted much longer than expected (nearly two hours), it was filled with naturally flowing, open, and honest discussion about topics such as prejudice, microaggressions, stereotypes, and how these factor into life growing up in Garnet Valley. As HERE’s Treasurer, I’m more than excited to recap the event for you today in the form of a series of hot takes (recorded by none other than officer Nimi Shoyinka) edited for clarity.
We started with advocacy…
- “Being an ally is more of a verb”
- “People have good intentions but don’t have good information”
- “…constant process of unlearning.”
- “Listening is the most important thing.”
- “You made a mistake and listened to correct it – issues occur when people refuse to admit that they have room to grow.”
- “Systems are created to make us think in different ways.”
- “The system isn’t broken, it was born this way.”
- “The way society is just so obviously racist and people still don’t see it, is heartbreaking.”
- “When looking at prejudice, break down the isms and where they come from: systems, personal experiences, and ideologies.”
- “Ask questions – why are they saying that, and what structure was created to make that happen?”
…followed by the Black Lives Matter movement (and the associated All Lives Matter movement).
- “Movements like All Lives Matter are about protecting the privilege you already have”
- All Houses Matter
- “All lives matter do not matter until black (and black trans) lives matter.”
- “The All Lives Matter movement didn’t exist until Black Lives Matter.”
- “Also, all lives matter ppl do not seem to care about kids in cages at the border or children in the foster care system…”
- “If you really believe that all lives matter, then you wouldn’t have a problem with Black Lives Matter.”
- “ALM supporters don’t actually believe that all lives matter!! they just want something to say that goes against blm!!”
- “It’s clear that even after clarifying that “black lives matter” means “black lives matter TOO” and not “black lives matter MORE” that “all lives matter” was never meant to be inclusive in the first place.”
Tools such as the model minority myth detract from the experiences of many, creating divides among people that should instead be fighting together against the greater common enemy.
- “Racism towards the Asian community is normalized and it’s evident.”
- “The racism towards Asians especially during the pandemic is so awful and the fact that it’s promoted by our president is so disgusting.”
- “Virus started in China ≠ blame all Asian people for it.”
- “There’s even research being done suggesting the virus didn’t even start in China.”
- “Xenophobia against Asians (and immigrants) is a mechanism used to bring unity in the worst way.”
- “The model minority myth pits people of color against each other.”
Racial prejudice affects all areas of life.
- “Your best has to be twice as much”
- “Gotta work twice as much to get to half of where a white person is.”
- “On people not wanting Black people to succeed—there are so many videos of Black people carrying expensive items that they bought THEMSELVES being racially profiled by the police. It seemed like the police genuinely believed that there was no way a Black person could succeed and afford that item. But, they worked for it themselves. Not believing that they worked for it and deserve it invalidates them.”
HERE Club is a safe space where vulnerability is appreciated and welcomed. Here are some personal experiences that highlight racism’s reality even in our own communities.
- “How do you think it feels when every head turns to you in that situation or when that topic’s brought up?”
- “There are slurs with the same amount of weight as the N-word.”
- “I think teachers should not believe they can say the N-word, even when they read To Kill a Mockingbird, because it can still hurt anyone. They should’ve just skipped that word and moved on.”
- “Yes, I’ve seen POC make self-hating jokes for white validation.”
Prejudice can even spark cruelty over something as culturally significant as food.
- “White people and their discomfort with ethnic lunches while they love tacos and ‘Chinese food’ is a whole other can of beans.”
- “Lunch was so hard for me—I stopped eating at lunch altogether because I was bullied for how my food smelled.”
- “Those types of comments definitely distanced me from Indian food. There was a point of time where I would refuse to eat it because I started to believe what people were telling me about it.”
- “Sorry foods you’re unfamiliar with make you uncomfy; keep it to yourself—stop being disrespectful”
The importance of names, central to one’s core identity, is completely understated.
- “When teachers don’t even try to pronounce certain names haha”
- “It just feels dehumanizing when your name isn’t taken into consideration when referring to you.”
- “I’ve seen teachers say ‘I’m not even going to try to say this’ audibly and then the student already knew it was them because they’ve already gone through it countless times before.”
- “And it isn’t that they aren’t capable of saying your name; they just don’t care.”
- “People have been pronouncing my name incorrectly for so long that it’s gotten to the point where I have to develop like 10 different nicknames just to make it easier for people to reference my name when talking to me.”
- “I introduce myself to people as a different pronunciation than my actual name, because I’ve just given up on trying to get people to say it right.”
- “Can you make that easier for ME?”
- “My name is not meant for your convenience.”
- “My name has been through a lot. Wow, yeah.”
- “Like in middle and elementary school, some of my friends would assume my last name is pronounced as “new-jin” or “na-guy-yen”.”
- “I had an experience where a teacher called a student the nickname “Sing Sang Sung”, which all of the students felt was wrong but he continued to say it all year.”
- “That’s not a choice, it’s my name.”
- “It’s the fact that this problem has been so diminished for so long. This is not ok and this isn’t a small problem. The fact that they don’t even view this as an issue and will just brush it off and convince you that it isn’t a big deal and convince you so much that it’s normalized from an early age will never be ok.”
Why does it take so much courage to speak up?
- “If you confront them, it’ll change the relationship. You keep your head down to get by.”
- “You want to build that good relationship, and confrontation might rupture that.”
- “Feeling forced to disrespect yourself in order to make them feel comfortable.”
- “Feeling ostracized for speaking out for who you are.”
- “Teachers have a responsibility to teach by example.
On behalf of myself and the other officers, this event was absolutely amazing to host. With every single face seen, every piece of vulnerability shared, and every single chat message added to the discussion in that Zoom, the more confident we became in how our generation will change our society. The fact that so many students showed up ready to share perspectives and listen to others’ is utterly astounding. Creating dialogue is so important to us at HERE Club because raising awareness is the first of many steps towards fighting racism and reforming prejudice ingrained within our modern institutions. If anything particularly jumped out at you, please share your thoughts in the comments down below!
The best part of all of this? There’s so much more to discuss and so much more opportunity. At our next Perspectives Campaign event, we hope to see everyone there and ready to get real! HERE’s to 2021, the start of something better—stay safe and keep your heads up!