charisse

Racism: Moving Forward

By Charisse Gilmer

Over the past few weeks, the Concord, Carlisle and Boston communities have been plagued by graffiti that was found on Monday, March 11th in the Concord Carlisle High School library; a racial slur
pieced together with sticky candy on a study carrel wall. It was a racially charged message of hate that has created a flood of emotions, an outcry for answers and a movement for justice where hate and negativity will not be accepted.

Because of the nature of this message, it resonates in a specific tone with all three communities – especially students of color, living in Boston and in Concord. As a CCHS METCO alumnus of almost 10 years now, it troubled me to learn that such a thing happened at my alma mater and in such a day and time as this.

In a recent Concord METCO parent meeting, it was great to sit in and witness parents and students come together to discuss solutions and ways to prevent these kinds of incidents from happening
again in the future. A variety of ideas were raised for how to help prevent a lack of awareness – everything from field trips to mandatory diversity trainings. CCHS METCO Director Aaron Joncas led the parent meeting and brought up feelings from Concord students who were quoted saying that “this is being blown out of proportion” and expressing the feeling that White students don’t “want to be grouped together.” “Well,” says Joncas, “oftentimes this is how METCO students feel. Like they’re always being grouped together.” And of course that statement isn’t meant to point fingers at any students and say “well now you know how it feels,” but rather to create a common ground with empathy and to be able to see opportunities for growth arise in these settings where now one community can truly feel where the other is coming from.

The beauty in all of this (when you choose to look on the bright side) is that this incident, which in the eyes of many was created for negative expression, has created an environment where conversation and discussion is welcomed. Students and administrators have come together to have school-wide assemblies to address what has happened, what it means, and what are the next steps. Powerful conversations took place in grade-level assemblies where a panel of nine students of various backgrounds spoke about their reactions to the graffiti, and audience members from special education, gay and Jewish populations spoke up to echo their feelings. An audience member apologized for thinking the incident was “blown out of proportion,” saying he no longer felt this way after hearing the panel speak. Other students asked what could be done next; panel members suggested getting to know each other better. Students have brought back the “No H8 (Hate)” pins as a symbol of racial equality (these pins were once worn as a symbol for LGBTQ equality) and students who wear them sign a pledge board located in the cafeteria where they vow to stand for equality and justice and to take a stand against hate. Talk has also circulated around the school about forming a group called “Beyond the Skin” where students from all communities would be able to come together as a melting pot of CCHS and discuss a variety of issues that allow them to see their classmates as individuals beyond their skin color.

As I mentioned earlier, as a CCHS METCO alumnus of almost 10 years, I was troubled and had mixed emotions when I saw this issue appear in the news. I can honestly say that with everything that has been done over the past few weeks to bring light to this situation, I firmly believe that CCHS is standing strong and showing that it’s ready to take the action necessary to bring about change
within the community and to grow a community that is even stronger than before this incident as a result of being open to discussion and moving forward.