Above: Divya Purswani, Naomi Desalegne, and Samaya Joshi explain what microagressions are, how to idenitfy them, how to respond to them in a way that hints at the mistake, and what can be done to prevent them from being said– both unintentionally and intentionally.
Change is happening. On April 26th, 2019, over 200 students gathered at the Del Valle Education Center in Rossmore, Walnut Creek to discuss diversity and everything that goes into it. Students from Las Lomas, Campolindo, Miramonte, Acalanes, and even middle school students came together to talk about the diversity issues in our community, more specifically our schools. There are so many topics that we, as a school, are uneducated about.
All students attended a large group session titled: Continuing the Courageous Conversation about Race. Then they went to break out sessions: Culturally Competent Curriculum, The Immigration Story: Navigating the School System in AUHSD, Queer Culture on Campus, Microaggressions, and the “N” word. Of the breakout sessions offered, the students that attended picked two to go and listen to.
I chose to go the “N” word and Microaggression breakout sessions. Both were presentations in classrooms, created and lead by students. The first breakout session was the “N” word, the student presenter started out by informing the audience where the word even came from and then how it later in history became a slur. Then she went into detail about who is “allowed” to say it and when, where and with and around whom. Then she lead a discussion with students about any questions or comments they had. Next, I went to the Microaggression breakout lead by Naomi Desalegne, Samaya Joshi, and Divya Purswani, juniors at Las Lomas. They started their presentation with what microaggression are and examples of them. They then had a discuss what experiences we have had with microaggressions and how we dealt with them, we then discussed how they should be dealt with. Both of these sessions were really informative and they taught me things that I didn’t know about. After that we all ate lunch together and had a chance to take in everything we had just learned. Following that everyone at the summit broke off into their schools and discussed what they had been educated on and what they want to change or improve at their schools based off what they have learned that day.
I learned so many things that I will carry with me throughout high school and beyond. For one, I learned about the “N” word. The student presenter, started off her talk with some history of the word. It originated from the word negro and was used by whites and specifically by white slave owners to dehumanize members of the black community. Then she went into talking about the word in today’s world. So many people use the word when they do not have the right to. She talked about how people go around using the “N” word like it has no deep meaning, that is it just a word. She continued talking about how the word should not be used to mean friend, brother, or anything else for that matter. Often white people use the word, many do not know the history of the word, but that does not give anyone the right to use it.
The next breakout session I went to was on microaggressions. This is a topic that I never really knew about and it was interesting to listen to so many people’s experiences with microaggressions. As stated from Merriam-Webster, a microaggression is, “ a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority).” We hear microaggressions around us everyday without even realizing it. If someone does realize it, when does one ever hear someone correct the person who said the microaggression? One example of a common microaggression is “So, like, what are you?”
The summit started out with a guest speaker, Dr. Lori Watson. She gave a room full of students, parents, teachers, and admin everything to tools of how to talk or begin a conversation about race to hope that change is possible. She opened everyone in that room’s eyes that change needs to happen and people need to be educated. Las Lomas is trying to fix the diversity issues we have our on campus, anything from people using the “N” word to lacking diversity and knowledge in school events. Junior Naomi Desalegne said: “We want to start [equitable] teams for sure next year, [as] Acalanes and Miramonte I think already have it… the head of each diversity club would meet, so then we’re able to plan Care Week and all the diversity events better.” At the Student Diversity Summit, all of the people that were there met together at the end of the day discussed what we can do better as a school, and individually. Las Lomas teachers and staff, including Ms. Fisher, Ms. Miranda, Ms. Lansmen, Mrs. Jurgens and Ms. Bensen, were there and all contributed to the discussion and helped us, as students, go deeper into our thinking. As a group, we talked about making our curriculum more diverse, as many people learned this idea is already in the works. The students in Diversity Council at Las Lomas went to the Diversity District Council meeting and each school in the district was given a grade for english. Las Lomas was given senior-year English changes to try to make it more diverse as a whole. So far, lists have been started regarding books and poems, that go with American literature, that are by non-white, LGBTQ, women or other minority authors.
BSU president, Faith Spencer is graduating this year and will be consequently stepping down as the BSU president. Freshmen Mateo Requejo-Tejada and Cael Hill will be taking over as BSU presidents next year. They plan to work together to make changes, but also continue some aspects that Spencer has already put in place.