As the collective discussed racism and the students’ experiences with racism, one thing that become clear was how unclear it all was.
Was that really racism? It felt like it to me, but maybe it wasn’t? Maybe she didn’t mean to make me feel that way. But did she? Did she know what she was saying? Did he understand how that made me feel? And if he didn’t, did that really matter, if it felt like racism to me?
These types of questions became central to our exploration of racism and racial aggression at Atkinville High School.
So, Mrs. James and Meagan suggested drawing out a “Spectrum of Racism,” to give the group the the time and space to reflect on how and where we position our own experiences and the experiences of others on that spectrum.
To help us figure out where we located each experience on the spectrum, we asked ourselves questions like, “How did that feel to you?” and “How might it have felt to him [the perpetrator]?” We located gaps and wondered why they existed. For example, we saw lots of experiences located toward the “racist” side of center and talked about why.
What do you see as you look at their spectrum? To hear the students’ experiences in their own words, click on the descriptions beneath the spectrum.
Are you sure you want to do this for her?
They were trying to talk in Spanish, and mocking it.
Someone else raised their hand, and the teacher goes over to them.
It made me feel like she was discriminating against me.
The group didn’t really find any answers, but we began to realize that there were differences between racist intentions and racist effects of actions, and that we located experiences in different parts of the spectrum, depending on which one of those (effects or intentions) we focused on.
The students, in written reflections on the spectrum discussions, said that the time we spent talking about our experiences was some of the most meaningful time we spent together; it allowed them to vent and it also helped to build bonds among the students as they were free to express how they felt in a safe place and saw that others had similar experiences to their own.
Tear Down Racism, Build Up Unity