Letters to the Editor / Opinion

The conversation continues: The need to talk about race at Dana Hall

Jacqueline Hayre-Pérez ’17 continues the conversation about discussions of race at Dana Hall.

To the editors of The Hallmanac:

Recently, I read Gloria Revanche’s “Editorial on Freddie Gray and How Dana Has Handled It.” As a student of color myself, I find myself surrounded by peers and teachers who come from different, predominately white backgrounds. I love Dana’s international side and the range of perspectives presented in having shared classes; the vibrant community I frequently see at events and in the dorms, my favorite being the parade of flags, is also something I enjoy.

However, more and more I find myself being one of only a handful students of color in class, usually one of two or three in a class of eighteen. I deeply respect so many of my teachers, yet at the same time I am beginning to realize that the majority of the faculty is white; the people I look up to do not share and cannot understand my experience. A couple of years ago, I brought to the school’s attention that I had received a degrading comment based on my skin color, only to be told that this was not possible in such a diverse and accepting community. Remembering that, I still remain hesitant to report anything, unless I see an active change. There are individuals who have supported me, and I am extremely grateful, but as a system there is more work to be done.

In regards to the editorial, I feel the same way. It took over two weeks for so much as a comment to be made about Freddie Gray, yet the school quickly rose to the challenge to support Nepal, another important issue itself. The editorial says, “when Dana Hall fails to talk about issues surrounding student of color, it is an act of erasure and it is perpetuating anti-blackness.” While I disagree that what is being perpetuated is “anti-blackness,” I do believe the lack of conversation definitely contributes to a sense of being “other.”

Violence, discrimination, and injustice in our government, society, and our own communities are still present and real, yet the lack of conversation addressing the constant situations we, particularly students of color, navigate, trivializes the issue and sends us a message of indifference. The community, despite efforts made in the past, still does not seem to fully recognize the problem as something pervading our everyday lives. Life goes on at Dana, without even a mention of Freddie Gray, even though people in a fellow American city took to the streets protesting and struggling for the justice they have been so clearly deprived of. I waited through several morning meetings, all the while reading updates, photos, interviews, and all forms of notifications about the issue outside of school. No conversation at school was to be had. As a member of Model UN, I considered proposing an announcement, though fortunately, Ms. Hays and Ms. Falcone stepped up with a morning presentation.

The editorial says these “discussions on race and equality that do occur at this school have felt like an afterthought, or an obligation people are unwilling to do but have to.” The announcement was given, but, as was seen by what little has been done in light of Baltimore, it felt like the “afterthought” Gloria described; instead of being genuine and real, the conversation was pushed off until it had to be done.

Dana Hall prides itself on its diversity, a distinguishing characteristic of the school; overall I have had a fabulous experience rich with opportunities. For example, I was recently given the chance by the school to attend the ASINE conference for students of color, during which I was able to have open, thoughtful, and meaningful conversations about race, religion, prejudice, and a range of topics. Dana needs to have the same level and depth of conversation in its own community in order for all students, particularly students of color, to feel the same sense of inclusion and recognition as the rest of our peers. Through having constant conversations instead of sporadic ones every once in a while, Dana will more effectively realize its diversity statement of being a school that “values the many peoples and perspectives of our community and the world.”


Jacqueline Hayre-Pérez