Racism at West End Secondary School And Responses From Students  

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“Fight Racism!” by Daquella manera is marked with CC0 1.0

Have you ever seen racism or microaggressions here at West End Secondary School? I have. I wanted to write about it because of the videos and pictures on social media from WESS students as well as the racism I’ve seen and experienced at WESS. I felt the need to write this because as a person of color I am fed up with dealing with racism in our own school and call on our community to do better. 

 

I interviewed WESS students on what they think the actions our school should take about this problem. A number of students told me what they saw, heard, and experienced in the school building. I am reporting their exact words because hearing what people of color have to say is essential for any change. 

 

“People often say they dont wanna date dark skins because they don’t see them as “pretty” as light skins and make jokes about not being able to see them in the dark.”

 

“Racism against Asians…is normalized, making fun of their language and the foods they eat.”

 

“From my own experience as a Mexican, people would say I’m illegal or I’m getting deported.” 

 

“I think WESS is racially divided. I know it exists in our community and it’s scarier when we don’t even acknowledge that it exists in the first place. I also know that for the most part people really want WESS to be an accepting community and I think that we pride ourselves on being accepting before realizing that we don’t live in a perfect society or even school.”

 

 “WESS never said they have a zero tolerance policy for racism. [They need to take more severe action]l. WESS should make a required class to teach students things they should and shouldn’t say which I think would be cool. During crew WESS could speak about racism and what allies can do to help out.”

 

I feel like the WESS community should work on giving equal opportunities to everyone and make it so that everyone is treated the same way.”

 

“Around the school building I have heard students making fun of Chinese language and Indian accents.” 

 

In my own experience, a student called me out and said that I was the only person who was good at math since I was the only Asian student in the class. I was humiliated and I remember [no one reacted]. I’ve also heard students scream down the halls “Ching Chong, Ling Long.” 

“Students have pulled their eyes back in the incredibly offensive way and said “herro” as a way of mocking accented English.”

 

My parents and I have spoken to leaders in the school administration but this behavior continues. The offense is not limited to one race or ethnicity — I would venture that many people of color at our school feel this way – and this culture of daily microaggressions and derogatory comments speaks to a larger problem in the WESS community. Students walk in the school to get an education, not to be harassed about what they look like and to be made fun of their backgrounds. Likewise, students must take it upon themselves to be aware of the power of their words, the butt of their jokes, and to call out this harmful behavior when they see it. 

 

I believe that all students should acknowledge that even if they don’t consider themselves racist, we all have implicit bias and we need to be educated and learn more about how enacting or standing by these microaggressions harm our fellow students. I would like WESS to have a systematic change that includes educating students about racism and about the experiences of being a person of color  in our city and in our country. WESS should include more books about racism and race in the curricula, hire more adults of color, and enroll more students of color. It would also be helpful if the school could bring in guest speakers to talk about race. 

 

If you see students make racist comments in the building please tell a teacher right away, or please go down to the office and report to an adult. Also there will be a new person of color affinity club at WESS that Kiki Dattoma and I will be leading. This club seeks to talk about the struggles we face as being people of color at WESS and what the club members can do to educate students around the building. We will also be discussing what we can do by changing the culture of racism at WESS. If anyone is interested in joining this club please email me [email protected] or [email protected].   

 

West End Secondary School needs to take better action right now to combat racism not only in our city and country, but within the walls of our own school building.