Today was my third day of HN/CP Option Psychology. Entering the fifth floor classroom post-homeroom I joined the pre-class scramble for “good” seats, landing in the front row between one friend from AP Statistics and another from AP Physics. A glance over my shoulder showed the same phenomenon unfolding across the classroom, students anxiously scanning the room for familiar faces, lunging for desks next to friends.
We were halfway through the class when I noticed that I knew every student in the front row, and not one in the back. And that all of those front row students were white—and every single back row student was not. Needing to share my realization but paralyzed by the awkwardness of it, I called Mr. Kells over. Frustration panned across his face as he grimaced; “That’s CRLS for you.”
This is not unique to Psychology; our school is segregated and we are not addressing it. We boast diversity over prejudiced, homogenous suburban kids—we know George Washington had slaves and Abe Lincoln was racist. The rest of the nation may be racist, but us? Of course not, only them.
But why, then, are we so uncomfortable around race? Why does our diction change based on whether our correspondent is black or white? Why can we so easily name “black” lunch spots, “black” activities, “black” courses, and compare them to “white” alternatives? Our progressive curriculum has taught us black pride and white shame, but not racial indifference. We look at our skin colors and associate a value, good or bad. We look at our lineage and fancy ourselves victors of a battle we never fought, bearers of debt we never accrued. We look at ourselves and make distinctions based upon race. We look at ourselves and we divide.
Does reading this make you uncomfortable? Writing it makes me uncomfortable. And yet, this discomfort is the very reason we must forge ahead in discussing this issue. We pretend that there is no issue to address, that we’re above and beyond it all. But this is both arrogant and inaccurate. We need to stop pretending we’re above and beyond issues of race and take a hard look at ourselves. We need to desegregate our classrooms.
I do not know what the solution is, but I know what it’s not. The constant “I have black friends, so I can’t be racist”; “My grandma is Jewish, so I can’t be racist”; “We’re from diverse Cambridge, MA, so we can’t be racist” has to stop. We have to open our eyes, brace ourselves for discomfort, emotion, hardship even, and have the tough discussions. It’s not suburban or southern whites who are segregating our classrooms. It’s us.