Tower

Letter to the Editor: If you see something, say something– loudly

Phoenix Jackson, Contributing Writer

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Throughout my four years at Masters I have allowed my white friends to grab my hair and call it “a fluffer,” and I have sat, silent, as white students use the N-word with a casualness reserved for words like “hey.” As a freshman, I grappled with my own identity, trying to fit at a predominantly white school. I straightened my hair, wore Vineyard Vines, and subconsciously added “like’ in between every word I uttered. As I became increasingly uncomfortable with de-racializing myself by conforming to the white norm, I began to not only learn to love my blackness but also learn about it. Since my history class would only teach me about slavery but not discuss the profound racial implications of a white student grabbing my hair, similar to slave masters grabbing their slaves hair for good luck, I would have to make the conscious effort to “get woke,” on my own.

 

After going on this journey to understand issues the black community face, I quickly learned that these problems exist far beyond this institution. However, what makes Masters unique is that it advertises and sells itself to prospective families on Harkness – a philosophy of challenging ideas and thoughts through dialogue. In reality, though, we are taught to speak and debate only within the socially accepted norms of white comfort. But any opinion that does not fit within the realms of this comfort is almost always seen as radical, aggressive or simply, not true. Why bother teaching students to use their voice if often times both the students and the administration in this institution are quick to dismiss our experiences as falsehoods?

 

In a school that teaches students to think and learn through discussion, it is ironic that a dialogue that could lead to an uncomfortable conversation is immediately shut down. A video, created by students, intended to shed light as to the unfortunate and sometimes oppressive experiences of black students was seen by both black and white administration as “angry, aggressive, misinformed and attacking.”  According to the day’s organizer Mr. Cornigans, MLK day at Masters is meant to “celebrate diversity and injustices”. As I sat in the theater to hear students voice their opinions on injustices in and outside of Masters, I was left with nothing more than a profound feeling of indifference.  On a day that is supposed to be about blackness, the response to the video by the administration truly diluted the voices of black students. I couldn’t help but feel as though this day has come to be about everything except Martin Luther King, Jr. January 11th and 12th, were excellent “diversity days” in my eyes. To call them anything more is a disrespect, dismissal, and erasure of Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

With the theme of “See Something, Say Something,” imagine my shock when the school that taught me how to speak up on injustice basically told me to speak a little quieter. I have come to the unfortunate realization that Masters loves to encourage dialogue and challenge normative values. Once the dialogue threatens the brand that Masters profits off of, students are silenced.

 

Is it so wrong and outlandish to be angry, though? And why are we centering those feelings of “attack” as if they are the only feelings that matter? What about those deeply expressed in the video? I came to Masters on the premise that I could speak my truth, feel valued and make a lasting impact. After holding a leadership position in Executive Committee, passing Indigenous People’s Day, being in Gold Key, and sitting on the Community Council, I can confidently say that I was misled. The appealing progressive liberal persona Masters proclaims casts a huge shadow on the truth. In reality, I am writing an article for Tower as my last chance to be heard in this community that has spent four years encouraging my activism while simultaneously silencing me. You will not silence me as I go forth and be a “power for good in the world.”

 

Want to read about other viewpoints on the day and see some photo footage?  Check out our fourth print issue here.

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7 Comments

7 Responses to “Letter to the Editor: If you see something, say something– loudly”

  1. Patrick Mann on February 20th, 2018 9:57 AM

    Girl,

    Please keep your your wokeness. They do not want us to speak up, they want us to fit in their little box. Its called the game and any successful person of color has mastered The Game. They cannot handle our opinions, our differences or our success. Find your crew and keep excelling. Good luck my young sister! Go find your voice and use it well!

    [Reply]

  2. Judith Becker on February 21st, 2018 12:13 PM

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Your writing is spectacular and your point is well taken. I thank you for speaking out and not being more appreciated. Take what you’ve learned into your new life, where grownups are waiting to meet and understand “you”. I think you will find your mature life much different. Please continue to let us hear from you.
    God Bless. Judi

    [Reply]

  3. Gary Kogan on February 22nd, 2018 7:00 AM

    How brave and clearly spoken. As a social worker I’ve seen so many instances of unthinking racism and sexism, and know that I need to continually challenge my own thinking.

    Change occurs when anger is used to take forward motion and the unspoken patriarchal stance is that anger is dangerous, particularly anger from non-white (partial) citizens. Full citizenship would mean that no child will become habituated to insults. Not to speak of facing violence and death by virtue of skin colour alone.

    I’m a while Canadian taught that challenging white privilege is an ongoing, lifelong process. We aren’t a lot better than that in Canada but I hope you will consider getting a higher education there because you will encounter critical, queer and anti-racist thinking that you are unlikely to find in the US.

    [Reply]

  4. Victoria Love '88 on February 22nd, 2018 11:01 AM

    You are a powerful eloquent young woman! I applaud your article! Speak loudly always.

    [Reply]

  5. Patricia Easterling on March 7th, 2018 8:41 AM

    Awesome.

    [Reply]

  6. Sherry Ransom on March 15th, 2018 10:44 AM

    What a powerful article! You have grown up to be a lady with a purpose! I know from the inquisitive young girl you were at four years old that you would go on to great things and deed so. Continue to go forth in your endeavors I have looked over the mountaintop and girllllllllu r going to be great❤️❤️❤️

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  7. Nadia (Farrah) Anthony, Class of 1982 on May 1st, 2018 3:02 PM

    Thank you for your powerful article. As an alumni of color, I totally understand the dichotomy between hearing the wonderful empowering words that our school stands upon and having them diluted when applied to matters of race and equality. Don’t be discouraged! Even though imperfect, the beautiful thing about Masters is that you can still have your views published. You can still speak your truth. How that truth is received does not reflect upon you but upon those who would suppress it. I am so proud of you for using your platform to address uncomfortable issues. I wish you well and look forward to hearing great things from you in the future!

    [Reply]

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