By Brooke Lovelace
HERE Club is an organization in Garnet Valley High School that focuses on an emphasis on diversity and having meaningful conversations that enlight the listeners about racial issues and events. This club is led by six strong women who have made it their mission to see a change in the hallways of Garnet Valley. After being asked to respond to several important questions, these leaders gave their insight into what they have experienced as minorities while attending this school, what ways GV is successfully spreading diversity, and how racism still exists even in the Garnet Valley bubble. Their responses led to extremely vital conversations that emphasized ideas such as inclusion, awareness, ignorance, community, and acceptance.
When asked about what it was like being a person of color while attending a primarily white school, the officers of HERE Club expressed that they had faced things like micro-aggressions and hateful comments that made them insecure about their culture and race. They spoke about how these incidents made them feel alone and misunderstood by their fellow classmates.
“ When experiencing racially-charged comments in class, I feel like there is no one to back me up so I feel like I just have to sit there and take it. I always want to say something and let the person know that what they’re doing/saying is wrong, but I just feel like I can’t.” (Nashetah Thomas-EL, Junior HERE Club Leader)
They go on to say how these comments have become normalized within the school and how they are often used without much thought to who they are affecting.
“They are thrown around so often that it has no weight to it. It has become normalized. I started hearing things in the third grade. “
Most of the officers said that at one point or another, they felt that they had to hide their culture or be ashamed of it. They continued to discuss that they felt outcasted and alone because of their race and how it was hard to connect with people because no one understood their experiences.
“So, at a young age, I was insecure about my own culture and for simply being Filipino because it was so different from all of my white friends” (Mika Delacruz, Junior HERE Club Leader)
After discussing their various encounters of racism and micro-aggressions within school walls, they were asked to respond to what they believe the school is doing right and wrong when addressing the topics of diversity and inclusion. All agreed that the Administration has given them multiple opportunities to be apart of discussions that would help to make Garnet Valley more diverse and that they were grateful for these chances, but there is still a lot of work to be done. The officers agreed that Administrators were doing all they could virtually, but the students and staff have to be more aware of racial issues and that educators need to teach these things in their classrooms. Rachel Jason, President of HERE Club, says that, “I [she] think it is important for teachers to encourage and educate students about these types of topics and make an open space. Make students vulnerable.” She discussed the word vulnerability multiple times in which she explained was vital when discussing racism and diversity. In being vulnerable, you are allowing yourself to be understanding and empathize with those around you. People who are not apart of minority groups will never understand their experiences, but we can make ourselves better allies and listeners as well as amplifying their voices. That being said, Garnet Valley needs to start including more POC when teaching students and educate them about these groups as it is crucial for young kids to learn about these topics and histories.
“ Education is extremely important and I want to see more normalizing of cultures in other classes.” (Elizabeth Nguyen, HERE Senior Club Leader)
The girls went on to say that they feel there is a lack of representation of POC taught in history classes. They wanted students to learn more about Black History Month, Native American History, and women who were influential in the making of America. Most of the officers agreed that they just wanted to see women who looked like them being celebrated in the classroom.
“I want to be represented in history.” (Mika Delacruz)
“I want to learn about women who look like me. These are the women that make us feel powerful. I don’t think people give them the power they deserve.” (Rachel Jason)
We are often just taught about the white side of history books and only learn about people of color when they affect this white narrative. POC are often neglected out of history books with makes certain students feel neglected and undervalued. They often don’t see their history taught when compared to white classmates. The education system would vastly improve with the increased discussions of minority groups as it would teach diversity at a young age and make students more aware of the parts of history that are often overlooked. This would also increase the confidence of students if they were able to learn about people who looked like them.
The leaders didn’t stop there and went on to explain how educators need to teach students about how history reflects the racial disparities we see today in our current world.
“ I’m [Nimi] aware that history classes primarily focus on events that have already happened but there are parallels between events that happened 70 years ago and now that might help with understanding the current world.” (Nimi Shoyinka, Junior HERE Club Leader)
By teaching about how historical events connect to our present world, people would be aware of how POC have been impacted by things like slavery and discrimination and how these events still have a major weight on them today.
“We are given these statistics that have racial disparities, but we never get the why. We have to learn how these date back in history.” (Elizabeth Nguyen).
As the interview concluded, the officers left me with some final words that really stuck out and impacted the way Garnet Valley should look at topics that revolve around people of color. The final quote that I want to leave the readers with is this…
“Promote anti-racism, not just diversity. “ (Rachel Jason)
By saying this, Jason meant that schools need to no longer be about the promotion of diversity, but instead educate students and staff on how to be anti-racist. This would improve our society as a whole because it would make people more aware of racial issues and decrease the probability of them happening. Education is vital to the movement and schools need to take bigger steps in preparing students.