Students Disappointed but not Surprised by Administration’s Response to Racist Video

Students+Disappointed+but+not+Surprised+by+Administrations+Response+to+Racist+Video

Jackson Juzang, Staff Writer

I arrived at basketball practice on a Tuesday afternoon, and immediately, I noticed something off about the energy throughout the Athletic Wing. I continued to mind my business until I got to the locker room, where people were asking each other, “Did you see the video?! Did you see the video?!” I asked what they were referring to, assuming it was a kind of meme or funny clip. With a blank face, someone gave me his phone to watch. The first things I noticed were the Upper School carpets and one of my peers on top of someone, and as the video goes on, I heard George Floyd’s references come out of the screen. I gave him back his phone and continued to get ready for basketball. The room was expecting an emotional response, something that involved tears in my eyes or punching a locker. Still, they didn’t understand that the video isn’t too outlandish or unexpected. In that video, all that I saw was a part of our school that many students of color have experienced and live through regularly. 

 

Now it is one thing to break down the video itself and explain why it is so incredibly wrong. Still, I feel like students of this academic powerhouse of a school have enough common sense to know why the video is evil. Let’s stop questioning the individuals who created or are a part of the video. Let’s instead discuss why this is another day at school, and why many students viewed this not as a shock, but as an affirmation of what many of us already know: this school is deeply and fundamentally flawed and has been inadequate in creating a strong, supportive, and non-racist environment. Our school is run by a group of administrators that espouse their school mottoes and statements but takes no real actions toward equity and inclusion. I’ve been here for four years, and I am still waiting for the day the school makes meaningful steps towards creating an equitable and safe environment for all students. 

 

After the video came to the administration/higher-ups’ attention, we got a real example of what this lack of action or support looks like. As the student body became aware of the video, they in turn anticipated a statement from the administration. But when the assembly came, there was no acknowledgement for those who were suffering and no clear or obvious accountability for those who had caused such a vicious act. Without skipping a beat, the host ended the zoom meeting. Boom. Precisely what we thought would happen. Another day on Morewood Avenue. Students were left with so many questions: where is our administration? Where is the support for the parts of the student body that need it most? Where is the transparency about a situation that has hurt so many? 

 

I have summarized enough of the school wrongdoings. Now I can add my perspective as black person who goes to WT. It does not matter how “strong” the push for equity and inclusion may seem from the outside looking in: what matters is that when you step inside the bubble of WT, it is evident that the equity and inclusion statements/plans are poorly executed throughout the schools’ student body and administration. As good as it may seem compared to public schools that are not as comprehensive when it comes to even discussing racial inequality, there is a lot to improve. To give some perspective on meetings with the administration, those conversations couldn’t have felt more meaningless. There are plenty of students of color who hope for a better and more inclusive future at WT. When you have the Head of School constantly explaining that there is nothing he can share due to legal reasons, we get the sense that there is more urgency around protecting the schools’ image than trying to heal the wounds of black students in the Upper School. The statements from the administration couldn’t have felt any more impersonal. No eye contact, a statement read off a screen or piece of paper, an email that says nothing, a stressed narrative that what happened does not follow the school’s equity and inclusion plans and statements, no verification of what part of the student body is suffering, and no accountability for what part of the student body has caused such a vicious act. The administration not being physically present to discuss the severity of the video shows how little they care about healing the community. The outcry and calls from the black community have gone completely unanswered, and that is disappointing, but not surprising.

 

When you see a place like Winchester Thurston come under fire for a video of students mocking the death of George Floyd, what am I possibly supposed to believe in? I don’t know. How am I supposed to believe or have hope that the school will make real change? I do know that there are still kids who have hope that this world is primed to go to the promised land at some point. I hope that WT realizes they’ll be losing plenty if they don’t start to care about the many bright black minds at the school. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to care and make decisions that support the comfortability of minorities in school. It just takes good hearts. Although you have lost the respect and trust (if you ever had any) from the black community at WT, there’s never a wrong time to start having your actions meet your words.