EDITORIAL: Urban school needs to bring discussions of race to outside of classroom

   It recently came to light that for multiple years, Saint Ignatius College Preparatory students have been sponsoring parties with a clearly racist theme. At Stern Grove, students have been dressing up to imitate black culture, naming the theme “wigga,” a combination of “white” and a racial slur for African Americans.  While it’s easy for the Urban community to be shocked by this event, the difficult question is: what responsibility do Urban students hold for a local youth culture that tolerates racism?

   All it should have taken to prevent this incident was a few students to step up and question the racist theme of this party.  If Urban students had foreknowledge of the event, why didn’t we speak out?

   Urban does an excellent job of creating spaces for students to openly discuss and explore issues surrounding race. We’re taught to practice sensitivity around racial privileges and social inequities. We are taught that race is a social construction, but knowing this is not enough. When we recognize that overt racism is happening in our community, particularly among our peers, we have a social responsibility to take a stand.

   However, just calling out a peer is not enough to stop racism from occurring inside and outside of Urban’s halls. We also need to be open to being called in. Urban students need to be willing and comfortable to engage in difficult conversations about race with each other, we need to learn to be okay when someone calls us out for a remark that is offensive.

   We, the Urban community, can take action to promote a racially conscious culture amongst our teenage peer groups in San Francisco. In class, the support of the teacher is apparent when we  tell our peers that the use of the N-word is wrong. However, the real responsibility for racial sensitivity ultimately lies in our actions outside of Urban’s walls. Many of us have heard the N-word dropped casually at parties and other social events outside of school. We listen to songs containing racial slurs referring to identities that may not be our own, and perhaps sing along. Maybe we have laughed at racially offensive jokes our peers make, and might watch our friends appropriate cultures that they do not belong to. All of these are examples of racism happening right before our eyes. We must respond in these moments, whether it be speaking up or being open to being called out.

   It can be uncomfortable to speak out against racial slurs or racially insensitive humor in social settings. However, when racism appears during social situations, the fear of being socially shattered is not an excuse for us to ignore them. We need to be alert and be courageous enough to act when something discriminatory is done. Urban, we have to be better at taking the leap from inside the classroom to outside the classroom.  

   While all of us are responsible for keeping our peers accountable, a different sort of responsibility falls on the white students of Urban to speak out in instances of racism. This is because one aspect of white privilege is not having to think about your race. Recently at All School Meeting speaker W. Kamau Bell shared his opinion, that white people have “created racism … except white people seem to not claim their racial category.”

   It is not the responsibility of people of color to inform others of racist remarks. Particularly because white people have the option to opt out of thinking, speaking, and living with a consciousness of race, it specifically important for white students to hold each other accountable. Ultimately, we, the Urban community, are stronger when we all take responsibility for racism.

   We don’t get to decide what makes another person uncomfortable or not. Only the individual can understand that, and we need to accept it when he or she tells us it does. We, The Urban Legend staff, are asking that Urban students carry what we learn in the classroom into social situations. We want the Urban community to be a place where peers feel more accountable for each other’s actions, as this will make the San Francisco high school community more inclusive and racially aware. Although calling out a peer for an inappropriate word choice or racial slur may seem a small act, it is these very moments that can add up to an entire culture.