Student Editorial: “Not White Like You”

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Photo by Mike Von on Unsplash

Ava Moran

I don’t want to die and nothing has changed. I don’t want to live in a country that refuses to address systemic racism and neglects the harm being done to the black community. Do you understand? No? Okay, then let’s dial it down to a smaller and more personal scale. I did not want to stay at the school whose students did not treat me as an equal, whose environment made me feel uncomfortable, whose halls felt lonely, whose administration did not give white people consequences, and whose principal got orders from a superintendent that, at best was indifferent, and at worst could give less of a crap about our experiences as persons of color (POC) at this school, but I had to stay. Now, I do not want to leave a district that has intentionally segregated our schools (banning inter-district transfers) to diminish the diversity that has been so beneficial in taking the first steps to create an environment that’s more than just bearable for the students of color, instead I want to make it a better place for people like me. My name is Ava Moran, and you don’t have to say my name. My neck has not been knelt on for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, I have not been shot 8 times in my sleep nor have I been murdered while jogging, but I am still important, my life still matters.

I have lived here my entire life. I have seen the way the administration treats racial issues, sweeping them under the rug, and telling POC that it “never happened” or to “get over it”, only to preserve the narrative of Lamorinda being the “utopian society”. Here they don’t want to have to deal with the uncomfortable, or with anything that could possibly challenge this false narrative and tarnish its reputation. The administrations on a school and district level in the Lamorinda community, have failed POC, specifically black people, leaving them to suffer and deal with these traumatic experiences in silence without any real support. Yes, I say suffer, because that’s exactly what I mean. Let me tell you about what happens at school, for those who don’t understand my perspective. In preschool, I came home to ask my mom if it was true that ladybugs bugs don’t like brown hands. Why, because a little white girl had told me that was why I couldn’t hold the bug we had found at school. In 3rd grade, I am with my friends, a white boy wants to get my attention and I’m ignoring him. He gets angry then yells “Nigger” at me, I look at him and am stunned. I’m left crying, and when my mother goes to the administration to find out what is being done to address this, they say they’ve spoken with his parents about it. In 4th grade, my teacher accused me of cheating on my homework because my handwriting was different from usual. All I wanted to do was practice good handwriting. She interrogated me in front of the class and said to ¨stop lying¨ when I told her that I had just wanted to have good handwriting for once. She berated me about something I was proud of, I went home crying. I gave her no reason to doubt me. I was a good student and never had disrupted the class. Yet for some reason, she didn’t believe me. Was it a coincidence that I was the one getting in trouble when I was the only black kid in class? I never got an apology.

I almost transferred out of Miramonte because I couldn’t handle the students. Navigating through a white-dominated institution as one of the few black people was hard. It just got harder watching countless videos of white classmates drunk saying the N-word, or getting backlash from students after trying to educate them on cultural appropriation, or sitting behind Water Polo boys talking about the new deconstructing race class saying “It’s stupid to talk about race” and “the only reason people would take the class is because it’s an easy A”. It got to the point where the only way to protect myself from the pain of the willful ignorance and racism was to normalize it, so maybe I could forget. The administration’s job is to hold school community members accountable for their actions, but I guess in Lamorinda it means only holding POC accountable. We (as POC) have had to take it upon ourselves to have that conversation with other students, our teachers, school administrators, and now district administrators. We have had to grow up and be the adults when we are only kids. Is that fair? How is it that the school administrators get paid the amount they do when students of color are doing half of their job? Right now we are just surviving in this community, we are not thriving. The administration has failed me and failed my fellow students of color.

There have been countless stories of a parent of a POC or even a student of color going to the administration about horrific encounters and experiences they have had, and yet every time that grievance is dismissed. The administration has not held themselves accountable for perpetuating this racist environment that traumatizes the people of color here. Not only do we face daily microaggressions and the blunt racism found in the halls, but we are forced to go into classrooms where History class involves a debate about whether Andrew Jackson’s actions of forcibly removing indigenous people from their lands, causing the trail of tears, was justified and upheld the constitution. Meanwhile going to an English class that has us reading the same books, almost solely written by white men, with the justification that “They’re American classics”. This Eurocentric patriarchal curriculum plays a part in preserving the ¨comfortable environment¨ in which white people can feel safe. The curriculum does not challenge our perspective on the world, especially when our perspective is a privileged one. 

We need to teach how to be anti racist because being neutral has never defeated the problem of a false belief. Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” We need to teach kids early on so they become comfortable with having conversations about race and its dynamics. People are uncomfortable because 1) they’ve not been taught our history in an inclusive way, 2) they don’t understand the effects of institutionalized racism, and 3) they have never talked about it, let alone with those negatively affected by it. If we teach kids about this in elementary school then the conversations will get easier throughout middle and high school. Yet, in order to have these conversations, we need assurance that ALL staff is taught properly on how to have these discussions. It should not fall on the students of color or their families to spend their life and their time to educate school staff, let alone other students. That is not our job. 

If we start this education and discourse early, then we can prevent further traumatizing experiences from happening. As we transition from where we are now into an antiracist environment, we also need to make sure we are holding those who insist on perpetuating racist behavior accountable for their actions. The administration needs to stop talking, take responsibility, and do more acting. Their inaction speaks volumes and right now we are seeing just how incompetent and apathetic this district is around racial issues. Because they have been so slow to change, I (like many others) have taken it upon myself to call for the community to step up. Help dismantle this toxic system by educating and encouraging social change, because ultimately this system, if not changed, will harm the next generation in this community.