December 11, 2018
Telling Your Story
Seniors Callie Rabanovitz and Ranna Shahbazi started the first auditorium assembly of the Asking for Courage day by introducing the nine speakers who would take the stage in the “Telling Your Stories” event and the day’s goal to encourage compassion and acknowledge racism and privilege in Brookline.
Senior Roger Burtonpatel discussed how racism affected him, as a white-passing male, and his father, an Indian man, very differently. He recalled his freedom to walk without fear despite police presence, while his father would be stopped at an airport under suspicion of being a terrorist.
Burtonpatel also made a call to action for people to get involved, saying that they, like him, might not be doing all they can, but need to start to try.
Junior Ifunanyaife Richardson recited a powerful poem, questioning if certain characteristics took away from her Black identity.
“I like country music, I am not the best dancer, I don’t know the proper setting to use the word finesse; am I still black?” Richardson asked.
While Richardson said she does not feel Black, she said she knows that the stereotypes around her race are still imposed on her. Richardson recalled a personal story where she felt unsafe after she called the police to help her and her family get off a highway in Florida.
“I wanted to leave, leave the highway, leave Florida, but I couldn’t, so we waited for the police officers to come,” Richardson said. “‘What would happen when they did come?’ I thought. ‘Would they be racist? Would I be safe?’”
This experience made Richardson question the way that how she perceived Florida due to the prevalent racism.
“I saw Florida in a very different way,” Richardson said. “This time I saw Florida where a man in his 40s shot and killed a black teenage boy because he felt threatened, a Florida where so many Black people have been killed under the pretense of the Stand Your Ground law.”
Senior William McCormick spoke of how he felt insecure as the only Japanese student in his Japanese class, especially with the weeaboo culture at the high school.
“I questioned whether I was really Japanese enough to call myself mixed-race,” McCormick said. “Whenever I spoke in class, or even to my mother, I felt reluctant and extremely nervous because anything I did was too weird or too different from today’s fetishized pop version of Japan that many Americans share.”
McCormick spoke of situations where he called his identity into question because of comments made by classmates.
“Someone said to me that my celebrity, who I idolized as a child, didn’t create real Japanese music,” McCormick said. “Just because she’s older doesn’t mean she’s any less Japanese. Hey, Beach Boys are still American right? This comment completely turned my world upside-down.”
Junior Anjoli Mathew discussed the lasting impact that childhood has and how, for her, the sense of never really fitting in affected her.
“It’s like they were trying to fit me into a box of ‘just Indian,’ which didn’t make sense to me, just as ‘just American’ wouldn’t make sense either,” Mathew said. “But reconciling that gray area between the two parts of my identity didn’t make sense to other people, making me acutely aware that I didn’t fit in anyone’s expectation of me, and I never could.”