Race and Ethnicity
March 10, 2018
Wayzata High School has hundreds of extracurricular activities, yet there seems to be a social stigma wherever you end up going. Our school offers standard sports, robotics, and band kids,
each one more different than the last.
Most large after-school clubs tend to have a stereotype of who’s involved. Speech has been
dominated by Indian females for the longest time, debate is criticized for being a rich kids club,
and many other activities seem to be dominated by one or two ethnicities. Sports are usually dominated by people of Caucasian or African-American descent.
If you see a person of Asian/Indian descent, you’d most likely think that they’re involved in debate, robotics, or quiz bowl. These stereotypes being commonly enforced creates an expectation that is often followed.
This same phenom can be seen in academics as well. In a 1995 study conducted by by psychologists Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson, Stanford students were required to take an academic exam accompanied by questions regarding their race. According to Steele, “Just listing their race undermined the black students’ performance.”
This study demonstrates how people will often conform to the stereotypes given. If it’s a common assertion that a particular race is not as smart, it is likely this will become true.
By directing stereotypes towards what sorts of people construct different clubs, society sets students up to fail by only participating in activities they are expected to do.
Looking around the school, there aren’t many clubs that have a wide range of diversity. There is a diversity club and more social groups that promote the melting pot, but they haven’t gained the popularity of larger extracurriculars.
People tend to hang out with those in their clubs or social circles, meaning that less and less people have friends of other backgrounds.
What They Don’t Tell You About Black History
They don’t tell you that Wall Street was the first place to operate a slave market. Thousands
of slaves and free blacks were buried in that area.
In 1851 New York Mayor Ambrose Kingsland decided to create a park ranging from 59th to
106th street. There was a community already there. That community was two-thirds black and the rest was Irish. New York ignored them and created Central Park.
They don’t tell you that 15-year-old Claudette Colvin refused her bus seat nine months before Rosa Parks.
They don’t tell you that 600 black men were lied to for 40 years by the Public Health Service in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, starting in 1932. 399 of the men had latent syphilis; the others were the control group. Antibiotic treatment of syphilis became effective in 1940. The men
with the disease were not helped when they started to die from the disease. They do tell you that the study was very useful for medical science. In 1972, the study was shut down after public outrage.
They don’t tell you about redlining, in which banks and insurance companies refused or limited loans, mortgages or insurance within specific geographic areas, especially inner-city neighborhoods. This almost exclusively affected black/POC communities. They don’t tell you that redlining still exists.
They don’t tell you about the poet Audre Lorde, a black feminist and lesbian mother first published in 1951.
They don’t tell you about how the Underground Railroad worked. They don’t tell you about black codes.
They don’t tell you about the hundreds of slaves that invented things we use every day but which don’t bear their inventors’ names.
The “they” I have been referring to is the education system. The education system is an institution. This lack of knowledge that is being hidden from us is institutionalized racism.
Our society has a great share of issues, and its refusal to identify and stop all forms of racism is, I believe, one of its most disgusting. Initially, this piece was intended to depict a single kind of racism, but as I worked on the project more and more, I expanded my subjects. And with each new shade or form of racism, I added a new hand to my painting.
Coming to Terms with my Identity
I give myself a voice because it is important to represent my identities and speak up. Each person is born into this world with a name and has to discover their identity later in life to fully know themselves as a human.
Fear always crossed my mind as a child. I always knew I was interested in boys, but telling your family is the scariest thing ever.
Being a Mexican American comes with illegal or “crossing the border” jokes.
This combined with being part Native American affected the way people viewed and talked about me.
Society feels that it is allowed to impersonate and represent diverse cultures, yet it believe that diverse populations must forget and move to American culture.
Most importantly, no one tells you that being two races is awesome, because you are able to learn and embrace new parts of your people’s traditions. Being Mexican and
Native American taught me that family and lineage is significant to hold close to your heart and keep with you.
And being gay is just a sexuality and not a name you should be called.
How a person chooses to represent themself is important because you have to learn how to show your identities and use your voice.
My Name is…
My name is Alexis, but at home, it’s Lex or Lexie. To my family in Nigeria, I’m Adaeze, which means “king’s daughter” in Igbo. When I teach at Kumon Wednesdays and Thursdays, my name is Teacher.
Every day, like you, I am Student, Sister, Daughter. I am Junior in High School, but I’m not sure where I’ll be in a year. My name is Teenager Scared to Leave Minnesota. My name is Double-Takes when I’m out with my family. My name is Are You Adopted? since I don’t look like my white mother. My name is Worrying About my Brother leaving the house with his hood up. Maybe his name is Always Have Your Hands Visible when a cop approaches. Maybe his name is Don’t Make any Sudden Movements.
On formal documents, I don’t have a name. There’s no option for me, no option for my white mom and black dad. I suppose then my name is Check All that Apply.
My name is Curly Hair that attracts spectators as if I’m an animal at a petting zoo– “Can I touch your hair?” “Your hair isn’t professional enough for this work setting.” “Is that your natural hair or is it a weave?”
In a store, my name is Thieving Black Teen, Too Poor to afford those Nikes. On the street, my name is Thug who’s most likely on drugs and doesn’t know who her dad is.
When I talk in class or write for the student newspaper my name is That Black Person who makes every little thing about race, or maybe She Who Calls Every Police Officer Racist after one of them kills an unarmed black man.
My name is Alexis Loges. My name is 17-year-old American Girl who’s just trying to figure the world out.
A System Built to Support “Commonwealth”
There are still many people suffering from the effects of historic oppression and discrimination towards their race.
The percentage of African Americans in the United States who fell below the poverty line in 2016 was 22.0% (9.2 million people), about twice as high as the national percentage of Americans under the poverty line (12.7%, 40.6 million people).
Currently, African Americans are in neighborhoods that are considered “dangerous” and live in areas where there is a lack of funding going towards their schools. This started with racially restrictive covenants and other methods of preventing integration in housing and prohibiting resale to African Americans in the late 1960’s, often in suburban areas–and often in the north and west.
In order to receive a solid amount of aid when it comes to career searching, extra curricular activities, and after school help, one must go into a more suburban area. How must African Americans get the best education and career training that society so desperately wants for children when they have no motivation to start from the bottom?
Knowing that you have a disadvantage in every aspect of becoming a successful citizen drains motivation for African American children.
Some parents have to work overtime seven days a week to get their child an average education and to pay for their child’s needs, such as doctor’s appointments or school supplies. When do they get a break? What gives them the motivation to wake up every day, knowing they won’t make as much as the average white American due to inequality in job opportunities, education, and housing?
Suburban people take grocery stores for granted. Within a mile of this spot there are four large, well-stocked supermarkets, including two Cub Foods stores. But in impoverished areas there are few stores like this; the profits are not there. That forces people to buy essentials at convenience stores and corner markets, which have poor selection and high prices.
I have seen both situations first hand. My parents came from Kenya with only $500; and I live in Wayzata. Some people just don’t see the amount of opportunity and privilege they have.
Some people have to take hour-long bus rides just to get to a school which offers so many resources for each student. When will these standards of living be rubbed off onto African Americans? How can we move past being at the bottom of the social hierarchy?
“Strength is Beauty is Strength”
Student Discipline: Is Wayzata Just a Stop on the School-to-Prison Pipeline?
Minnesota is known for being progressive, especially when it comes to educational funding policies and to the criminal justice system. The state spends more money per student than most according to Governing Magazine, and the StarTribune has said Minnesota crime rates are now at a fifty-year low. But still, the state struggles with aggressive and unyielding disparities between white and minority individuals.
In fact, racial discrepancies are particularly bad in Minnesota. In 2017, the state was ranked the “second-most unequal” in the country, just behind Wisconsin, by the website 24/7 Wall Street. While this particular study only considered the various deviations between white and minority individuals in things like unemployment, income, and home ownership, it is clear that Minnesota struggles with race in every category.
In March 2018, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights published a study stating that 66 percent of all high school suspensions and expulsions are received by minority students, who exist as only 31 percent of Minnesota’s public school enrollment.
According to MinnPost, black individuals existed as 35 percent of Minnesota’s prison population in January 2015, despite making up less than six percent of the state’s population in the previous census. But how exactly do inequalities in school discipline and inequalities in the criminal justice system relate?
The school-to-prison pipeline is defined as an arrangement which disproportionately places disadvantaged and minority students into the criminal justice system for trivial disciplinary matters in schools. And, according to St. Catherine Sociology Professor Nancy A. Heitzeg, it has become a dangerous staple of the United States education system.
Heitzeg’s recent study entitled “Criminalizing Education” states that school districts and legal systems have been slowly converging in the past years, forcing certain students to face harsher punishments than others who commit similar infractions.
The pipeline, said Heitzeg, has appeared in part because of “the larger context of media hysteria over youth violence and the mass incarceration that characterize both the juvenile and adult legal systems.” Heitzeg identified the increasing use of “zero-tolerance” policies within schools as catalysts for inequity because the pipeline itself is “connected to a sociopolitical climate that is increasingly fearful and punitive.”
Zero-tolerance policies, which were described by Heitzeg as “harsh,” “predefined,” and “mandatory,” are the set consequences assigned to specific school rule violations, without any regard to the conditions under which student actions occurred. According to her, they “provide the direct mechanism by which students are removed from school by suspension or expulsion, pushed toward dropping out, charged in juvenile court, and routed into the prison pipeline.”
Heitzeg said these policies are closely associated with growing police presence at schools, metal detectors and security equipment, person searches, and everything connected to formal legal actions.
In Minnesota, it is clear that the stereotypes and preconceptions regarding race even determine they ways in which students are discussed. Former Minneapolis Schools Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson found that “descriptions of white children by teachers included ‘gifted but can’t use his words’ and ‘high strung,’ with their actions excused because they ‘had a hard day.’” According to the New York Times, black children were seen as “destructive,” “violent,” and “unmanageable.”
Senior Kennedy Skipper said that teachers and other faculty members at Wayzata seem to speak with students of color differently than they do with white students.
“Of course, every teacher doesn’t do it, but certain individuals clearly feel like they need to justify themselves when they are around minority individuals,” she said.
Skipper identified misunderstanding as one of the causes for these differences in treatment. “Lots of times, it seems that these issues deal with underlying racism or stigmas, but I think it’s also an issue of different cultural norms,” said Skipper. “Many of the people of color who
are involved in altercations or disagreements with teachers are in the situation because of those differences. Those situations always end up being much bigger than they initially needed to be.”
Deans of Students Lisa Barnholdt said, “we use district policy that is established by our school board in order to enforce consequences.”
To combat issues in inequality, school administrators and teachers are beginning to support or to participate in programs like Top 20 Strategies, Dare2BeReal, Beyond Diversity, and ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) training. There have been noticeable changes since these
options were provided, according to Barnholdt. Since 2015 the number of suspensions have decreased by ten percent.
Teacher Diversity: it “definitely affects behavior.”
According to the National Center of Education Statistics and numbers given by Laura Hoffman Hordyk, the Human Resource Supervisor for the Wayzata School District, in Wayzata High School, the ratio of nonwhite students to nonwhite teachers is 97:1. The ratio of African American students to teachers that identify as African American is 42:1.
“Diversity is important for students so they can just be able to identify with someone else and not feel as alone. Knowing that someone looks like you and is accomplishing their goals is important,” said WHS Achievement Interventionist Roger Brown.
According to Hordyk, there are 9 teachers at Wayzata High School who identify as a race other than white. 5 of those 9 teachers identify as African American.
“The low number of teachers of color definitely affects behavior. There could be that one comment and as a person of color, we have heard that exchange so many times. To us, it means something so completely different,” said Achievement Interventionist Joyce Hayden.
Wayzata High School paraprofessional Tracey Hill grew up and went to school in Chicago. Hayden said, “It was very diverse and the teachers exposed us to so much. There were so many different views that it really made you think outside of the box. I feel like having a diverse staff definitely helps students.”
“Everyone continues to say that they are there for you and that they understand, but they have never gone through the things that I have. I feel like we should have more African American teachers who can be there” for students of color, “especially in a school that is mostly white students,” said Junior Shania Gregory.
According to Hill, many students of color feel as if teachers don’t understand them.
“There is that chip on one’s shoulder that makes a student feel like they can’t let anyone in because they don’t feel understood. I hear that no one cares a lot. I hear that everyday, ‘they don’t care about us,’” said Hill.
“I am really self-conscious about what I look like to others so if I was in a situation where I needed to talk to an adult, I would be really scared,” said Junior Pavit Kohli.
According to Kohli, if he ever wanted to talk to one of his teachers about his race, it would be very hard to.
According to the National Center of Education Statistics, there are 871 students at Wayzata High School who identify as a race other than white. Of these 871 students, 210 identify as African American.
“Life is hard enough as it is anyway. This should be a place where you should be supported and accepted for who you are. I feel like us teachers are all here to build you guys up and to show you all of the possibilities that you can do,” said Hill.
Social studies teacher Adam Woods said, “The more teachers of color in the building, the better the school will be as a whole. The amount of role models available will only bring more success to our student body.”
Hill said, “We all have to keep in mind what it is like to be a teenager. I feel like a lot of adults in this building lose sight of that. You guys are still kids and are just trying to evolve and find yourselves.”
Struggles of Being Biracial
When I was young, I would ask my dad about our ethnicity and why we were some of the only colored people in our family. He never would elaborate on the topic, except to say he was very thankful to be adopted by his loving parents.
My father was adopted from South Korea by my grandparents after he was left at an orphanage. My mother was born in South Dakota to a nice four-person family. Being mixed comes with a lot of self-identity issues. One of the main struggles I have dealt with throughout my life is confusion with my cultural identity and where I fit.
I was raised mainly by my mother throughout my life. My mom is a short beautiful blonde. I thought I was white for those years. I would always go to the store and look at barbies and dolls and I would always want one that looked like me, and I would always pick one that was blonde with blue eyes like my mom.
I think part of my cultural confusion came from the fact that my father is similar to me. When he grew up and found out about his past, he had no interest in exploring his culture.
Throughout my middle school years, I was friends mainly with Caucasian girls. The concept of “whitewashed” was first introduced to me in about sixth grade.
I wasn’t an honor student. When I needed academic help in 8th grade the jokes about being a “dumb Asian” came along. This made me feel as if I was an outsider in my own culture.
My little sisters have a different father than I do: they are Caucasian and I am biracial.
It was my little sister Maggie’s 8th birthday and she yelled “Sissy!” and all of her friends gave us both a confused look. They then pulled her aside and said with disbelief on their face, “That’s your sister?” When I saw Maggie’s face, it broke my heart.
She was confused and hurt by the fact that they didn’t accept me as her sister because of something as meaningless as my skin tone. I heard this and was immediately hurt and felt isolated since I was the only colored person in the room.
My mom simply laughed and said, “Kids will be kids.”
It was eye-opening to realize that these children had never seen different colored siblings and were simply not educated on this topic.
Throughout this struggle of self-identity and wanting to belong, I have come across many people who feel the same way. Even though both of us feel confused and long to belong, for once I have felt the true sense of acceptance and understanding from others.
Privilege has been just as defining in the United States as the Constitution or the American Flag has. It has been written and rewritten in the legislation guiding Americans, and it has established the ways in which they interact.
Just like the nation itself, the word has a long history. According to Merriam-Webster, the word has existed, in some form or another, since Roman times, as it is derived from the Latin privilegium. But the true notion of privilege, at least in the context of diversity, is a little more recent.
In the 1930s, writer, activist, and sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois stated that, through some sort of “psychological wage,” white individuals have been allowed to feel superior to people of color, no matter the situation. According to Du Bois, newspapers would flatter “the poor whites and almost utterly ignore the Negro, except in crime and ridicule.”
In the following years, the terms “white skin privilege” and “white race privilege” first started to appear. In 1965, Theodore W. Allen urged white Americans to “repudiate their white skin privileges.” In 1977, Bernardine Dohrn wrote that “by assuming that I was beyond white privilege… I prepared and led the way for a totally opportunist direction which infected all of our work and betrayed revolutionary principles.” And in the late 1980s, feminist and anti-racism activist Peggy McIntosh, published “White Privilege and Male Privilege.”
While the contributions of Du Bois, of Allen, and of Dohrn built the idea of privilege as it is seen today, the work of McIntosh was probably most influential. In her 1988 essay, she provided a concrete description of the privileges from which she benefitted. In fact, she provided 46 concrete descriptions, which ranged from “No. 7: When I am told about our national heritage or about ‘civilization,’ I am shown that people of my color made it what it is” to “No. 40: I can choose public accommodation without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.”
But despite the rich history of privilege and the abundance of meaning which resides behind the it, it seems that the phrase has lost some of its potency. It has been reduced to something of a slur, or a nagging reminder from someone who spews rhetoric without practicing what he or she preaches. While it has become easy to hear the term with a growing frequency, nothing has resulted from it.
The conditions behind privilege haven’t changed. White men and women still experience unwarranted and undeserved benefits, simply as a result of their race, and there’s nothing that can be said to negate that fact. But just because the term has lost is clarity and its power in recent years, does not mean that it cannot be returned. And just because racism and inequality run rampant now, does not mean that they always will.
In modern America, it is crucial for all individuals, regardless of their identities, to understand the history of their privilege, or their lack thereof. And while it is the responsibility of all Americans to publicize and understand the conditions, the history, and the events which have developed their nation, it is especially crucial for white individuals.
It is the responsibility for any person with privilege to understand the institutional experiences from which they benefit. It is the responsibility for any person with privilege to support others both publicly and privately. And it is the responsibility for any person with privilege to reject any racism, no matter where they see it. Otherwise, the next step in the history of privilege will be stagnation.
Civil Rights Research Experience
44 students and teachers from various Minnesota school districts travelled on the Civil Rights Research experience over spring break. The ensemble of students and teachers flew from Minneapolis to Memphis, according to Junior Issy Hackley. The Wayzata school district was joined by students from St. Louis Park, St. Anthony, Armstrong, and the Minneapolis districts.
The purpose of the Civil Rights Research Experience was for students of African American and Native American descent to be exposed to their culture and heritage. According to Hackley, the students “div[ed]into the untold stories and history of African and Native Americans, and applied that knowledge on the trip.”
The students travelled to Memphis by plane, and then to Montgomery, Birmingham, Selma, Tuskegee, and Ft. Jackson by bus according to Hackley. This route was originally intended for just African American students and the research experience was originally split into two strands, the other route for Native American students travelling to the Dakotas, according to Junior Dakota Shelton-Norunner.
According to Hackley, not enough Native American students showed up to the educational classes leading up to the trip.
The students met once a week for a month to learn “what schools don’t typically teach” about African and Native American history, according to Shelton-Norunner.
Due to the lack of Native American students, it was too expensive to have a separate trip to the Dakotas, according to Hackley.
Although Shelton-Norunner and Hackley expressed their regrets of not being able to travel to the Dakotas, Hackley stated that traveling on the African American strand was an unforgettable experience. Hackley stated, “Seeing those around me and how affected they were was a very emotional experience, I can’t put it into words.” Junior Camille Winston stated, “It was a lot of fun to be able to understand someone else’s culture, and pay respect.”
The students spent the trip visiting historical sites such as 16th Street Baptist Church, Edmund Pettus Bridge, and Tuskegee University, according to Winston. “My favorite moment was walking around the 16th Street Baptist Church, where four girls died, and that was really powerful,” said Winston.
According to the Washington Post, the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church was carried out by Ku Klux Klan members; “dynamite reduced the church to rubble, mangling cars in the parking lot and stopping clocks.”
Shelton-Norunner stated his favorite part of the trip was the shocking reenactment the journey of the middle passage, the route taken by slave ships from West Africa to the West Indies, “We weren’t told that we were going to do a reenactment” stated Shelton No-runner.
“It was cool to pay respect to my ancestors who built my world for me,” said Winston,“My greatest takeaway from the experience was learning to be proud of who I am.”