September 10, 2015

Student hopes to address racial disparities at West High

Student hopes to address racial disparities at West High
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By The West View

Conversations with my peers at West High School began in front of a TV screen during lunch amid questions and confusion surrounding the countless headlines of unarmed black men killed by police. We interpreted them as society’s eulogy for any black male under the age of 30, living in an area plagued by misfortune that permitted violent responses from police. We concluded that we could no longer ignore pervasive racial disparities in the areas of law enforcement, housing, and for us, our education.

It is not a government-held secret that there are a greater number of white students than students of color in white-dominated upper level classes, and if it was, I hope it is no longer. We initially wanted to add our voice to the many others advocating for acknowledgement of and solutions to institutional racism that exists in law enforcement. This led us to a similar mission more focused on acknowledging the institutional racism that exists in education.

This is not to declare that our current school administration at West actively seeks to oppress students of color. It is more to declare and demand that these numbers are acknowledged and that the racial disparities between the number of white students and students of color in higher level classes, such as AP or IB, are acknowledged and no longer maintained and accepted as normal.

As youth we recognize the knowledge, resilience and dedication achieving our mission at West High School will require and realize that equal educational opportunity is an issue with many facets requiring many different solutions. However, come rain or high wind…we are ready.

My peers and I plan to create a school-supported club that would address the afore-mentioned racial disparity and encourage conversations about social justice. Our club will give students of color the opportunity to experience for themselves AP and IB course loads and content by providing sample assignments and general information about the courses and programs. The information about these courses will be given in presentations at multiple intervals throughout the school year in a peer-to-peer format.

To encourage conversation about social justice and youth leadership, optional school assemblies will take place. Topics would be decided by the student body, and facilitated by a youth leader. During these assemblies the audience has an opportunity to ask questions.

It is our hope that we will see in the not too distant future more people like us occupying seats in white-dominated classrooms; a vision where it is no longer the exception to standards of achievement in America for a Black, Latino, Pacific Islander, or other – male or female – to become a person of influence, wherever that influence may be.

By providing spaces where youth, both of color and not of color, can find a sense of leadership in advocating and creating solutions to various problems and social injustices, we hope that we will see this leadership elsewhere, such as in educational pursuits, and in response to harmful social norms, etc.

The avenues we will use to fully establish this club are still being explored. Thus, begins a period of educating ourselves so that we may have an opportunity to bring this club to life and provide each door of opportunity with a sign that no longer reads: “Not for the following identities…” but “Available for Pursuit."