Confronting Prejudice At Central: Turning From Tolerant to Anti-Racist

By Kate Ratner

In the past week, racial intolerance at Central High School has resurfaced and been discussed by frustrated members of the school community. Multiple students used Instagram to spread screenshots of group chats between the wrestling team and friend groups made up of Central students. Just three weeks ago, the African American Student Union (AASU) and the Black Student Coalition at Central hosted a conversation with members of administration, faculty, alumni, and the student body to discuss the issues that students of color face at school. During which, students of Central’s past and present shared testimonies of racial incidents they experienced at school. The conversation ended with three members of the AASU listing off ten comprehensive demands that were created with the help of those who participated in the discussion. These demands include ways to make school events and functions more accessible for working black families, to reach out to more primarily black middle school students about attending Central, and to slowly transform Central into not just a “tolerant” institution that limits its black students’ pride to International Days and African American History Month, but an antiracist institution that encourages black students to feel comfortable and heard every day of school. Between the inhumane and unlawful extortions of black and brown bodies on American streets and the racial insensitivity festering in my school community right now, these demands are more necessary than ever. 

Youma Diabira - Central High School AASU

A member of Central’s 279th graduating class, Mariame Sissoko, shares her stance as a Central alumna of color and a student dedicated to improving black student life at Central: “It is time for black students to be seen, to be heard, and to demand change now more than ever. Central High School functions off of the myth of meritocracy. That every student who enters the red doors located on 1700 W. Olney Avenue is granted the same opportunities, perceived the same way, and if a student fails then it is their fault. This is simply not the case for countless of Black students who are admitted at Central. It is clear from the protests outside that we don’t live in an equal nor equitable society. Meritocracy does not exist in an inequitable world. By operating as if it does, Central unwittingly erases the disenchantment of Black and Brown students. The purpose of the ten demands is to level out Central’s inequities and foster a pro-black affirming culture where all students will prosper. The seven testimonies of alumni and current students shared during the panel are a microcosm for the wider experiences of the black student body at Central. It is time we understand that racism hides in the rearview, festering in every single one of us like  cancer. Poisoning society until we no longer can breathe. As a school community, We can not hope to address the larger inequities in society without first reflecting on ourselves. We are the 2nd oldest public high school in the entire nation. The students who participated (in the panel)shared their experiences and crafted our demands here because we love our Alma mater, and we wish to see changes implemented at Central because It does not seem to love black students back.” 

 

I encourage all students to read through the list of demands and learn that we must hold our schools accountable when we feel not all members of our student bodies are being properly represented. 

 

All of the demands can also be found on:

Screen Shot 2020-07-02 at 6.04.28 PM.png