An Open Letter From OCSA’s Invisible Population
Whether it’s a riot at the Thanksgiving dinner table over grandma’s Jim Crow beliefs, or a class discussion that lets you know exactly which classmates aren’t invited to the cookout, race is a topic that makes many uncomfortable. For those privileged enough to usually avoid a conversation about the existence of others, the following might make you upset. The point of this letter, however, is not to make people feel attacked. It is a long overdue call out of behavior at OCSA that is as unacceptable as it is harmful. While it is impossible to speak for every single student of color, the following issues come up for many of us way too often. In light of Black History Month and the conversation that has opened up regarding Gala’s theme this year, it is time we finally talk about the reality of what it’s like being Black and Latinx at OCSA.
“My first week here someone told me that being Mexican at OCSA wasn’t allowed. For a little 7th grader going to a completely new school, that was really hard to understand,” says an anonymous student. Many others have vocalized similar experiences. It often feels as though culture and identity need to be suppressed in order to make it through the school day. All around us people seem to partake in aspects of brown and black culture, yet the students wearing hoop earrings and speaking in slang that stems from our communities are the same ones who call us ghetto. Everyone loves getting down to rap songs on 10th Street, but when discussions about Colin Kaepernick and Black Lives Matter come up they are condemned and called unnecessary.
Speaking of 10th street music, it seems that every time a song is being played the n-word is heard at a much louder rate than the number of black students in the audience. The answer to the problem isn’t banning this music (although administration does seem to have a vendetta against black music, specifically Pulitzer Prize winner, Kendrick Lamar), it is teaching nonblack people that under no scenario is saying the n-word acceptable.
This doesn’t merely extend to students. Teachers— this is at you. Stop saying the n-word in the classroom. Period. As an educator, you are responsible for creating a safe space for every single student, saying the n-word when a simple pause will do, serves only to create shock value out of our trauma. A teaching credential is not a free pass, and feminism posters are hypocritical when joined with a curriculum that focuses solely on white men. We are thrown an MLK speech and maybe a Gabriel Garcia Marquez short story once a year, but believe it or not there is a whole world of writers of color that are just as acclaimed as Faulkner or Golding. Give us Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Sandra Cisneros, and Langston Hughes. Give us anything that acknowledges our great contributions to art and literature.
This is not just valuable to those of us with melanin; this is a necessary step in combating the idea that students of color aren’t as talented or artistically inclined. “There aren’t [black and latino] students here because they aren’t good at arts,” ”you don’t look like an actress because of your braids,” “aren’t all of you just in international dance.” These are all things that have been said to us. Comments that are deeply rooted in racism but are never called out by other students or administration.
So please stop touching our hair, stop asking us where we’re “really from.” Stop disguising bigotry as being “devil’s advocate” in class debates. Stop condensing us into stereotypes and burying us in microaggressions. Students of color not only deserve but demand better treatment. It’s time to acknowledge that we exist here. It’s time to acknowledge that we matter.