With hard work we could become a leader in race relations

The Pulse (Grosse Pointe, Michigan)

By Liam Walsh

Sigh. It’s quite interesting how in this day of change and acceptance we are still talking about an issue that should have died hundreds of years ago. How do I still need to write about this topic? How does my school (Like many others), that I love so dearly, appear under the microscope again for stupid actions pulled off by a drunk student? That previous sentence already fuels many of the stereotypes people have about South: inebriated white rich kids who throw around racial slurs willy-nilly.

I want to make it clear. South students should not be typecasted in that image, as most of us do not fit that mold. Sometimes things just come together to create this perfect storm of pretentiousness and arrogance we are perceived for.

There are still racial problems in this world and especially in Grosse Pointe and the rest of the United States. We are behind the times. We are stuck in our ways. We like to wrap ourselves in tradition as if we are wearing it like a coat. South is soaked in tradition, a tradition of excellence and superiority, to the point where it is dripping down the walls. It reminds us of our past glory and our commitment to keep that pride and continue our excellence.

It’s not totally negative, as it has helped us continue to hold our high academic standards and remain one of the top high schools in Michigan. But it also causes some issues to be brushed under the rug. We don’t want to look at the elephant in the room, because why should we? But that’s not an excuse to ignore the racial divides and tensions that are growing.

South is also always under a microscope. People want to see the best fail. They want success to be imperfect because then that means they can be imperfect. It is a blessing and a curse as it is constantly pushing us to be the best, but everything South students do is criticized. We have to accept it and work with it to our advantage.

Administrators are not, and should not, be considered as some sort of shadowy figures who are only out to protect themselves. Administrators are here for the benefit of the school and its students. Some have claimed administrator’s’ response to the recent racist video as reactionary, “but if there’s a fire, you have to put it out,” Principal Moussa Hamka said.

He’s right. Administrators haves to do something about the video, but they are doing a lot behind the scenes and these things take time. And there have been actions in the past to talk about racism.

There was a race forum a few days before the video itself surfaced where Dr. Jay Marks, the Least Restrictive Environment Consultant at Southfield High School and an adjunct professor at Concordia University, came to speak. The school has been trying to partner with the University of Michigan Youth Dialogs. There are plans, in the works for a while, to add a multicultural class at South.

BASE, the Black American Society for Education, has had open meetings every Friday. There was serious discussion in the fall  about removing “Huckleberry Finn” from the curriculum because of its use of racial slurs. This year was the first year that it was mandated to celebrate Black History Month once a week. Everything has to be considered and calculated, but administrators can’t do everything.

A lot of this culture of racism is out of their control. They can’t control Grosse Pointe’s hive mind. They can’t change the thoughts of the parents, also known as the most formative people in a person’s life. That is going to have to come by way of the parents themselves and maybe some community outreach programs.

Some say that it won’t happen. Grosse Pointe is too set in its ways to want to accept this change. But I don’t think we should just sit idly by and accept that. It may take time. It may be difficult. It might not be fun. But change needs to happen.

I’m not suggesting we tear up the roots of Grosse Pointe and start anew. I’m talking about educating people and showing them  a change of mindset from one of isolationism to a more connected and accepting tone. It’s not that drastic, and openness isn’t something that should be shunned. Change is uncomfortable, but comfort is the enemy of progress. Ask and answer yourself honestly, “Am I open minded? Do I resist change? Do I believe the racial situation where I live is OK?”

The suspension is one of the things dividing South right now. Many claim it is inappropriate for administrators to walk all over student’s’ First Amendment rights and punish them for situations that happen outside of school.

These people fear a slippery slope of administrators becoming the social media secret police.

But administrators say they  get students every day coming in to try to turn in other students for actions done on social media. They don’t have the time or the want to pursue all of those actions. The only reason they suspended the students involved in the video was because it was causing a clear disruption to the school day, as some students were coming to administrators and saying they didn’t feel safe at South.. Let’s not focus on the semantics of the punishment and come together around the real problem instead of a non-existent one.

I think there are two paths South could go down right now. We could let this blow over and move on. Or we could go down a more grueling path. A path that will in the long run turn this situation from a stain on our history to one of the greatest moments in our history. We could become the epicenter for racial change. I want us to have big-name race leaders come in and speak to us, than a year later come back and commend us for our achievements.

The people who truly could fix the racial problem are the students. We are the ones who are living through this change and control our futures. We know the difference between right and wrong and need to cut through the fog to make our school a better place. We are the change. Nobody owes us anything. Only we can truly change this culture and heal the wounds.

I want to be an example for the rest of the country about how to fix race issues. I want people to strive to be like our school. I want South to have a good connotation instead of one of hate. I want my school to be celebrated again.

We are in a period of change, and we should be leading the charge. I want CNN to have cameras at our school next year because of the job we are doing. It is going to be hard. It is going to be ugly at times. But it is what has to happen.

I’m going to do this. There are rumblings at South, rumblings that could become something great and historic, but these rumblings could also tear us apart at the seams. We need to unite around this as students and create that monument to our triumphs. Let’s take this opportunity as it is given to us and use it to our full advantage to make the South, the United States, and the world, a better place.

 

 Photo Credit: Katchooo

About Grace Masback

Grace Masback, 17, aspires to give voice to the voiceless and holds the modest ambition of becoming the voice of Gen Z. Frustrated by the dearth of impactful platforms for teen journalists, she founded WANT, a news, sports, and entertainment website that aggregates the best in high school journalism from school newspapers and teen bloggers around the world (www.wantnewsforteens.com).

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