The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

The Beacon

The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

The Beacon

The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

The Beacon

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Dear white people,

Would you consider yourself to be socially conscious? Would you say the demographics of your advanced courses accurately represent our diverse student body? Have you ever taken a second to notice the three, maybe four, Black, Latino, or Indigenous students sitting in the back corner of your Advanced Placement (AP) class? Do you find yourself assuming this isolation is by choice? Maybe subconsciously resorting to internalized, negative ideas of marginalized students and their home lives or worldview, failing to consider that maybe you are the problem. Maybe you are racist?

Now we know what you’re thinking, racism isn’t the right word. A word with such an extreme history feels far too strong to ever be used for what can so easily be written off as a joke or a passing judgment. But, avoiding the term ‘racism’, is what fosters an environment of willing ignorance, where white people at our school can move through life blissfully unaware of the age-old issue of racism they are unconsciously perpetuating in their everyday lives. So we are not going to continue to sugarcoat it, plain and simple: it is racism.

In AP classes, being white is synonymous with belonging while for marginalized students, the way we look is what isolates us. This imbalance in inclusion is what creates an environment in which far too many white students feel entitled to their adoption of holier-than-thou attitudes and senses of superiority. The sense of ingrained entitlement is almost tangible, and it is what leads marginalized students to seek refuge at the back of the class, shying away from the space they cannot find room for themselves in. 

White students are taught from a young age that they have a right to take up space. A right to exist. They are permitted to grow and thrive and learn, to build identities and big presences. As a result of this, the exclusivity that is so worshiped in AP classes extends to foster the individuality these white students were allowed to develop. They speak up, ask questions, and challenge one another. They exist, they take up space, all the while ignoring the students of color whom they are speaking over, and whose silence they are abusing. 

In AP classes, when we marginalized students–already uncomfortable, already perceiving ourselves to be outsiders in hostile territory–are forced into corners and consistently spoken over while we watch our white counterparts thrive in the space that we could all fit into, it is frighteningly easy to see the value we as students have been awarded and impossibly difficult to separate it from our own self worth.

This issue of assimilation is only exacerbated by how blaringly easy it is for white students to categorize their actions as anything but racism. We understand that many of you may not be intentionally racist, and we want to give you that benefit of the doubt. However, much of the issue stems from the fact that this racism is unintentional. These subtle, nearly innate biases are so incredibly dangerous because they are subconscious. And without opening your mind to the truth behind your actions and the experiences of minority students, they become impossible to combat.

Therefore, white students, what we are trying to say is it is time for you to address the greatly uncomfortable possibility that you may be the problem. The microaggressive entitlement that continually pushes marginalized students out of Advanced Placement courses seeps like a virus through communities, only growing and worsening with time. 

We will never be able to move forward as a community without acknowledging these poisons that have infected us and sabotaged our mutual successes. But never fear glorious cornstarch crusaders, for we have the antidote: stop talking!! Open up your ears and your mind and do your part to make space for all the students in your classes to thrive, we promise it is easier than you think.


The Students in the Back

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