December 12, 2018
“I wish I had more days like today,” English teacher Kevin Wang said as he opened the assembly on Asian American identity in the Roberts-Dubbs Auditorium. Wang spoke about how every time he was stereotyped as an Asian American, he wished there were more days like Asking for Courage Day.
The assembly focused on the stereotypes that plague Asian Americans in today’s society and at the high school. Student and faculty speakers shared their personal stories and experiences with these stereotypes and how they believe we can strive towards change.
Sophomore Sol Heo believes that the issues impacting the high school need more attention in the effort to fix them.
“I do not want to be standing in the stage again next year, complaining about the same issues I am complaining about now,” Heo said.
Many of the speakers spoke about their the issue of misidentifying Asian students by calling them by the wrong names. Seniors Alishah Khan and Vishni Samaraweera spoke together about their hatred of this issue.
“My name is Vishni Samaraweera,” Samaraweera said. “And my name is Alishah Khan,” Khan said. “Remember the difference,” they both emphatically stated, concluding the speech.
Adding an artistic element to the assembly, junior Sarah Tanabe recited an adapted poem about her experiences with her multiracial identity of half white and half Asian.
“There is no best of both worlds when neither one wants you,” Tanabe said. “There is no community to fall back on.”
Probably the most evident theme of the assembly was the call to action by the speakers. None of them seemed content with simply talking about the issues but wanted to act. They hope that the high school can provide a space for society to improve upon these issues.
“Instead of sitting around and complaining, although that did feel good to get off our chest,” Khan and Samaraweera said. “We use your words of hatred as a catalyst for change.”
Race Reels “Shorts”
Social studies teacher Malcolm Cawthorne surveyed the packed MLK room and, after allowing the final few students to file in, began to speak. He introduced the film of the day: a 14-minute short by the New Yorker. Titled “The History of Black Protests in Sports,” the short opened with an interview with Harry Edwards, a sociologist and social worker with various NFL teams, and his voice silenced the crowds and returned them to their seats as it began.
“There is no such thing as staying in your own lane in sports,” Edwards said. “You’re engaged in politics.”
Cawthorne holds a Race Reels every month, but typically they are after school on Thursdays. This one, however, was stuffed into one school block. The Race Reels “Shorts” took place on the Asking for Courage Day, during D-block.
After setting the background with a modern analysis of the national anthem, the video essay listed several black athletes ahead of their time with their handling of politics.
“The athletes of the 1960’s are much different than the generation of athletes that preceded them,” Jelani Cobb, a reporter with the New Yorker, said. “You saw things like Lew Alcindor becoming Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Muhammad Ali refusing to go to Vietnam.”
Cobb then shifted focus to current events, referencing NFL protests as an important example of black athlete activism.
“I think that what’s happened now with the current generation of athletes,” Cobb said. “We’ve been inundated with video of people being killed by police under at best questionable circumstances. And we’ve seen it again and again and again and again and again.”
The video pointed at the spread of police brutality as one of the causes for the rise in sports protests, such as the Cavaliers wearing “I can’t breathe” shirts during warmup and Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem.
Following the video, the group held a brief discussion about its contents and various thoughts on the subject. Cawthorne prompted the audience to think about the bravery required to speak out for what you believe in.
“It’s important to think about that in the moment, and to think about what has happened with other athletes, who have been perceived as anti-American,” Cawthorne said. “But what does the First Amendment give you the right to? To free speech and to assemble, free press and religion. So it’s important to remember that in all this zeal, he’s doing the most American thing possible. In the midst of all this fire, he might be doing everything the Founding Fathers wanted Americans to do.”
The Hate U Give
“Police killed 1,147 people in 2017. Black people were 25 percent of those killed, despite being only 13 percent of the population.” This is one of the many facts that provoked a discussion on police brutality during the D-block assembly based on the book and movie The Hate U Give (THUG) in the Black Box.
The presentation started out with a “hands up, hands down” activity, where members of the audience raised their hand when a statement applied to them. It started off simple, with statements such as “Raise your hand if you have seen or read THUG,” where most students raised their hands. As time progressed, the statements became more thought-provoking and fewer students raised their hands. Such statements included “Raise your hand if police brutality affects your life.”
After this short introduction, students were introduced to Angie Thomas’ book, The Hate U Give. The first letters of each word in the title spell “THUG,” short for “THUG LIFE,” which stands for “The Hate U Give, Little Infants F’s Everyone”. The book tells the story of African American girl Starr who is forced to find her voice after witnessing the murder of her friend, Khalil, by a cop.
The first question open for discussion was “What does THUG LIFE mean to you?” Sophomore Meg Hitchcock-Smith responded to the question by acknowledging that racism is largely passed on by society.
“Children aren’t born to be racist or prejudiced,” Hitchcock-Smith said. “It’s what we pass down as a society and what parents outright tell them. We raise a generation of children who don’t recognize that it is wrong.”
Sophomore Amita Polumbaum shared how the training of police officers have can play a role in police brutality.
“Police, in general, just have so little training. The whole ‘shoot first, ask questions later,’ that’s partially an issue of training,” Polumbaum said.
Following this initial discussion, more interesting statistics were presented. For example, “fewer than one in three Black people killed by police in America in 2014 were suspected of a violent crime and allegedly armed.” Also, the presentation revealed that the incarceration rate for African American men is about six times that for white men.
Students shared ways to combat police brutality and other forms of racism through social media and activism. For guidance counselor Sara Aggeler, it is essential that people play active roles, such as planning an activity that has a clear goal or having conversations with communities.
“We’re all on this escalator, and we are all moving towards racism,” Aggeler said. “And the only way to do anything about that is to actively walk in the opposite direction.”