Diversity and Inclusion Part 1

Diversity+and+Inclusion+Part+1

Our Purpose

     Senior Katy Barnard and sophomore Grace Pruitt will be diving head first into pressing topics of diversity, inclusion, racism, and privilege within the Ashland High School community. We will be writing a four part series about these issues in Rogue News papers to come. We feel personally affected by casual racism and want to influence our surrounding community. Our goal is to educate people about the pressing concerns for present and future generations of multiracial students. We want to give people the hope and the tools to create a change. We intend to educate others on this difficult and often unspoken subject. Change begins with you. Change begins today.

Aware of Injustice by Grace Pruitt

       I was born and raised in East Africa, Kenya. I moved from the capital of Kenya to Ashland, Oregon in the summer of 2011 with my two older brothers, Michael and Paul. I was in 7th grade. I had never gone to a public school and was scared, nervous, and excited all at the same time. In Kenya, I went to a private international school with people from all over the world. Ashland is quite liberal but not as diverse as I had thought. I am now living in a predominately white community. I have adapted but it still takes a bit of getting used to. My experience in Ashland has been, for the most part, enjoyable. I have made many friends and have participated in activities that I had never dreamed of doing. I had the opportunity to perform professionally at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, perform for Juneteenth at OSF and act in the school plays. All of these opportunities were spectacular, but being involved in these things opened my eyes to the lack of inclusion in our high school.

I have not experienced any physical discrimination due to my race but I have experienced verbal racism in middle school and high school. People are not aware of the fact that what they are saying is racist.  Last year, my friend made a comment about how I must be good at sports since I am black. I didn’t think much of it until I became more aware of this injustice. Racism takes many forms and jokes are one of them.

I was walking down the street the other day in baggy sweatpants, Uggs and an oversized sweatshirt. I got looks from people that implied that I was dangerous or a “thug”. Would this same situation have happened if I was white? Probably not. I can’t force people to change their stereotypical views but I can educate them. Ashland High School is taking a step in the right direction with the Change Project and Diversity and Inclusion training for the teachers. The Change Project is a club that supports social justice in our school.

Furthermore, Ashland High School has an almost entirely white staff of teachers. They cannot relate to my problems in the same way a black teacher could. Maybe English class wouldn’t feel so awkward when talking about slavery or black poets; and suddenly every eye in the room lands on me.

Staring, joking and judging in a discriminating way is hurtful to people like me. To spark a change, people need to become aware of this atrocity and rise above it. Discrimination does not have to be a part of our society. Ashland High School students can begin to make a difference today. It is time to be set free from this white-walled prison.

 

Invisible Privilege by Katy Barnard

I just received an email from my favorite store revealing a secret 50% off sale. I got the promotion because I have been a long-standing customer who spends at least $200 a year on its products. To be on that email list is a privilege that comes with being a loyal customer.

Every day I receive that kind of “promotional” privilege for just being a white citizen of the United States. It is a warped reality of our society that white Americans have invisible advantages over minority cultures.

Growing up in Ohio, I was surrounded by a mixture of cultures. While the demographics were skewed towards light-skinned people like the rest of the country, I had many friends and teachers who looked differently than me. In fact, one of my best friends was Korean. Spending nearly every day after school at her house with her traditional Korean family opened my eyes to the wonders of diversity. Also, I have been lucky enough to have traveled to six countries around the world. When I was in Indonesia, I observed how content the people are with having just their family and few material possessions. It is inspiring to experience cultural diversity through total emersion. Traveling has shaped my growing yearn for equality among all types of people.

In sixth grade, I moved from Ohio to Ashland. Now I am living in a dominantly white town, attending a white-filled school in a state where 88% of the citizens are of my own race. In the six years that I have resided in Ashland, I have only had one teacher that looked differently than me. I am surrounded by people who look like me, talk like me and walk like me. It makes my aspirations a reality when I am able to see people like myself succeed in my community. Everywhere I go, I see my own reflection looking back at me.

In government class, we discussed the hardships faced by minority cultures in America including unemployment, socioeconomic status, housing and political equality. This information is not foreign to me in content, but I feel like it’s missing something. As a white person, I have never had to fight for my rights because of my skin color, unlike the growing population of minorities.

As entitled as it may sound, my skin color has made aspects of my life easy. I was never picked on because of my color. I was never suspected to be a drug dealer, thug or thief because my skin is white. I know that my opportunities and outlook on life would be different if I was not white.

Recognizing my invisible white privileges has made me want to fight for equality. It made me realize that I have options with my coupon of privilege. I can join forces with the other customers that did not receive the email and complain to the company. Or, I can inform the other recipients of their privilege and bring awareness to the inequality in practice.

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