Community / Opinion

Do #BlackLivesMatter at Dana Hall?

As a student at Dana Hall have you ever heard:

“You’re Asian, so you must be smart”

“Can you teach me how to twerk?”

“Speak English, please, so I can understand the conversation that I am not a part of!”

These are just a few example of micro-aggressions people of color at Dan Hall experience on a daily basis. In December, I attended the Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) with six other students, and it made me realize that Dana Hall School as a whole needs not only to accept diversity but also to acknowledge that those who are not white are not treated equally in this world.

I am talking about white privilege; we talked about it a bit in Ms. Martin’s eigth grade Social Justice class, but very little now when we can fully understand it. White privilege is when white people enjoy advantages that non-whites do not. This could mean that you are more likely to get called back for a job, you see more people in the media that look like you, or you are less susceptible to police brutality if your skin is white. White privilege is also being able to hear or see terrible things being done to non-white people and selectively choose to ignore it. We need to talk about white privilege because the aforementioned comments and ignorance are becoming far too common at Dana Hall.

The Dana Hall community is not as open-minded or culturally aware as we would like to think. We need to have a sensitivity training where all members of the communities can voice their opinions and hear others’. I feel that many students, white and non-white, want to speak out but are afraid to face the judgment of their peers. Interestingly, I felt more at home at SDLC with people that I only knew for two days than I did in my whole career at Dana Hall. Perhaps it was because I didn’t have to conform too much. That is another example of white privilege: every space is created for you. At SDLC, non-white kids from independent schools finally felt like they mattered; for once there was a space meant for us.

SDLC made marginalized kids feel worthy again by separating all 1600 attendants into smaller groups called “families.” We could talk about our experiences and bond about our pain with our families. Most importantly, we completed workshops with our families that attacked issues of privilege, race, and sexual orientation head-on. After completing workshops, there was a balance of teaching done by our chaperones and student-led discussions. If Dana Hall could do something to this degree, I believe we could resolve the issue of insensitivity and willful ignorance in our community.

One of the most meaningful workshops conducted at SDLC was “Bridgewalk.” The students were arranged in a row, as though in a race, and chaperones of the family groups would read questions to students from all backgrounds, such as “were your ancestors forced out of their home country?,” “were you told you were beautiful as a child?,” and “did your parents take you to museums as a child?” If these questions affected you, you would either step back or forward. At the end of the workshop, whoever hit the wall first would receive most of the wealth. As a person who barely reached the middle, I felt so defeated that I did not even want to try to touch the wall. Yet for some people, it was simply a step to the end. This workshop perfectly illustrated how some people have to work twice as hard only to get half as far; privilege is when success is predetermined for you.

Dana Hall rarely speaks about inequality, most likely because it ruins the image of “amor caritas,” but by doing so we further perpetuate the cycle of oppression. If we do not speak about these topics, our community will not be willing to create a more level playing field. The hard part about talking about privilege and micro-aggressions at Dana Hall is that they are hard to see, hard to prove, and very small. One comment will probably not break somebody. But one comment, every day, by multiple people, can have a serious effect on someone’s mental state. Think of a papercut; they are small but they hurt like crazy. Now multiply that pain by a thousand.

Dana Hall can solve this problem by addressing micro-aggressions at our school. The fact that it is a small group of us that experience them on a daily basis does not justify ignoring this issue. I know I can’t ignore them. In fact, it smacks me in the face every day I step foot on this campus.

Photo: Students at the Student Diversity Leadership Conference pose with hands in the air, part of ongoing political protest over a fatal shooting by police in Ferguson, Missouri.

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