Seattle Academy, a private school in Seattle, WA
There are many benefits to attending an independent school. Students have access to more rigorous courses, often there is more college prep focus, and there is usually an experiential learning aspect. Additionally, students gain a connection to a large network of people and even businesses through the school.
However, for a BIPOC student attending a private school comes with its issues. Since these schools are most often predominantly white, this leads to a lack of diversity and it means that BIPOC students have a limited community that they identify with. More often than not, when issues arise around racism at these schools, it is BIPOC students that are forced to bear the burden of teaching antiracism to their fellow peers, teachers, and school administrations. One example of this is the black@ movement that happened on Instagram earlier this year. The black@ movement was one where current and former black students could share their experiences at their private schools. These pages have many posts that share students’ negative experiences with teachers and other students. Although BIPOC students attend private schools to gain a good education and have access to resources that have not been provided or available to BIPOC communities, there are many issues that they have to face.
A post on the page @blackatloomis that emphasizes the covert racism that many student experience.
Although BIPOC students attend private schools to gain a good education and have access to resources that have not been provided or available to BIPOC communities, there are many issues that they have to face.
Through an interview with a student that attends Lakeside School in Seattle, WA, for my changemaker project I learned about an issue that she is fighting against.
Denisse A. a 12th grader at Lakeside School in Seattle, WA
What are some changes that you are working on now?
“Something that I am currently working on at my school is a project to diversify the counselors in our mental health office. I believe this is necessary because currently, we have two white counselors, and they’re both female. I believe that, especially when it comes to mental health, there is a lot of stigma within POC communities. I believe that having someone that comes from a similar identity to them will allow students of lower-income, specifically low-income BIPOC students, to want to use these resources because it’s a lot easier for you to open up to someone who has similar experiences or similar background to you.”
Why did you feel that you had to create change?
“I felt that I needed to create change here because over the years, what we’ve seen is that a lot of the white students typically do have access to therapists and counselors by their own means. However, it is the low-income BIPOC students that need these resources and are unfortunately unable to access them not because they’re not there but rather because they are not receiving the help they need from the people currently in the office. Also, they find it harder to open up to them.”
BIPOC students face microaggressions and covert racism, issues that they and their families know they will have to face in the world. Yet these young students should not have to struggle with these problems in their schools, instead, schools should be safe spaces for them. BIPOC students deserve the right to attend these elite private schools and they should be able to without having the conscious reminder of their skin, religion, or culture negatively affecting their lives.
As mentioned in my intro video, I am not discouraging BIPOC from attending private schools, on the contrary, I believe that we should have the opportunity to attend these schools. However, I want to point out that being a BIPOC student is not easy. Therefore I would like to instead that everyone strives to become better educated in anti-racism work, whether or not you do attend an independent school. Becoming an inclusive community both on a smaller scale and a whole world scale means that everyone has to work together. I hope that a large takeaway from my project is a reminder to all that even though we are making progress towards inclusivity and diversity, there is still a long way to go.
Ways to Help:
- Take the time to read some of the black@ Instagram posts such as @blackatloomis or @blackatexeter
- Read books on anti-racism (Click here for a link to some recommendations)
- Engage in conversations with those around you, even if they are uncomfortable conversations
- Pay attention to the news
- Follow BIPOC creators on social media
Leave a comment with at least one action (from the previous list or another) you will take to better educate yourself or an action that encourages anti-racism around you.