A strongly-worded letter for an anti-racist community



While issues of racism are not scarce at the high school, preliminary steps towards change are being made. These should be the start of an effort towards an anti-racist school.

Dear administration and staff,
I am writing to you yet again from a place of hurt, frustration, anger, and disappointment. Head of School Anthony Meyer likes to reiterate “we create the culture we want,” when in actuality, we create the culture we allow, as stated by Nyla Sullivan. Despite all that, the message coming from the administration is that the culture at the high school is one of racism and intolerance. The act of pulling several Black 9th grade students from their classes to come up with consequences for their peer’s racist actions is absolutely unacceptable. Jokes being made about racism and the trauma these children, among others, have gone through is unacceptable. An apology without the sincerity of regret is unacceptable. Students of color don’t have to accept that apology. We aren’t accepting your apology.
Earlier this year, I, along with another Asian student and a Jewish student, was kept after class for over an hour to discuss how our minute actions of surprise and disgust at some of our cisgender heterosexual white classmates’ ignorance on topics surrounding race, gender and sexuality had made them feel silenced and uncomfortable. I expressed that people of color feel silenced and uncomfortable every day of our lives. Throughout this conversation, we felt the responsibility of trying to explain the intricacies of our intersecting identities to our white teachers. We expressed that we should not have to explain to white students why their words or actions are harmful, despite their intent. We are all high schoolers, most of whom convey their passion for justice on social media but are silent when faced with real issues. These kids, as well as administrators and staff, can and should take the time to educate themselves so students of color don’t have to do it for them.
You will never know the feeling of begging your teachers to read a book in class because you’ve never read a book about a family like yours in school or in the seventeen years you have spent alive. Or going to great lengths to ensure your family’s history is taught in general classes. Having to explain why things are racist, wondering how adults could not know that letting students make dog-eating jokes in front of the whole school is hurtful.
I’m still waiting for an apology for that.
I urge all my white readers to sit in their discomfort while consuming this. I urge the white staff and administrators to take careful note of what we have to say. You have the privilege of thinking seriously about race-related issues for thirty minutes during a student-led walkout. We think about it constantly. We think about it when we see people who look like us be senselessly murdered. And no, emails expressing your condolences do nothing. Announcements about the latest hate crimes do nothing.
I feel the need to specifically call white audiences in because you will never know the feeling of fear to be the next victim of race-related violence. You will never know how it feels to go home and be so exhausted you break down from trying to explain your existence to people. To know this will never end, unless we make systematic change, because you were born a person of color.
All of these things severely harm students’ mental health. Another issue you claim to care so deeply about. If you’re wondering what students expect you to do moving forward, we expect real change. Amend the way we teach about race, the lens through which we teach history, down to the topics we learn in history. We expect genuine apologies, following through on your promises to do something to combat the racism in our school, and taking the time to educate yourself to the best of your ability and knowing you will never fully understand our lives. We expect you to acknowledge your privilege and put it to good use. Stop using empty words and over-inflated promises to the students of color.
I hope you found something impactful in my words that left you with something to think about moving forward.
Olivia Lee (they, she)
Grade 11