Affinity Groups Discuss Hate at Open Forum
BY ADI RAMAN '23
Multiple ABRHS affinity groups discussed the acts of hate their communities have faced and the administration’s response to said acts in an open forum after school on December 15.
Dear Asian Youth (DAY) hosted the forum in East Commons, collaborating with the Jewish Student Union, Black Student Union, Latinx Affinity Group, Common Ground, the high school’s LGBTQIA+ alliance, and Girl Up/UNICEF/Human Rights, a group dedicated to the health and safety of girls in developing countries. DAY’s Rebecca Zhang ’22 and Ashley Liu ’22 explained the intention behind the meeting: “We want to channel our anger and frustration into something productive.” They hoped that conversations would lead to ideas that could be the basis for greater change in the community.
The moderators, members from each attending group, shared experiences their respective groups have faced. Common Ground expressed how the club has often been considered a joke to many AB students: the club has received harassment emails, and negative sentiments surrounding the discussion of gender and sexuality often prevent new students from joining, threatening the safe space the group hopes to provide.
Dear Asian Youth recounted the racist and homophobic messages sent in the group’s new Discord server: a moderator commented how “it was shocking and heartbreaking for this to happen in a group that works to combat hate.” The group also reflected on Asian representation in the high school curriculum. After sending out a Google Form to garner student feedback on the topic, a response stated that Asian history and culture is not relevant to American history. One moderator said that even in a town with a prominent Asian American community, Asian American experiences and identities continue to be placed on the back burner.
Girl Up continued the discussion, highlighting the sexual harrassment and assault at AB: “female student voices go unheard.” The group said that female students have been dismissed or blamed by administration while excuses have been made for the students responsible.
The Jewish Student Union noted the rampant acts of anti-Semitism at the high school, specifically the swastika graffiti that has been repeatedly found in bathrooms. In day-to-day interactions, Jewish students have also been subject to historic stereotypes at the hands of their peers; such incidents can “invoke a sense of shame.”
After the moderators finished sharing, students in attendance then gathered in smaller groups to continue the conversation. Many said that ABRHS does not fully acknowledge all issues that plague the community to preserve the school’s reputation. Students believed that addressing these problems in the community with full transparency and intolerance will have a more beneficial impact on the school.
Principal Dean, Associate Principal Baker, among other faculty and administrators observed the forum proceedings as the attendees reconvened as a large group to share their conversations. Most prominently, the groups discussed how affinity groups could most effectively combat bias and create tangible change. In response to the circulating belief that affinity clubs are performative, one student commented, “it is hard to do anything when there is not much support from people outside of our groups.” Many felt that a more unified effort was needed among the student body to fully combat hate. There was not a consensus on the role of administration when navigating harassment and hate; some argued it is solely the administration's responsibility to fight against hate in the community, while others felt “students are more likely to listen to other students.”
Opinions also varied on the means to educate about hate as well. Many agreed that safe spaces to share personal experiences and complaints are necessary, but the usage of social media to spread information became a point of contention. One student felt “there is a fine line between spreading information and performativity,” the latter a mere tool for self-satisfaction. Moreover, many emphasized that it was more difficult to spread information during school hours now that advisory periods are on a monthly basis.
While no definitive decisions were made during the forum, that was not its purpose; rather, it was intended to be a gathering where students could share their struggles, suggest ideas to improve the community, and brainstorm ways they—along with the administration—could condemn the hate that persists in the AB community. The forum served as a stepping stone to visible condemnation of discrimination and harrassment and full transparency between students and administration. Marking an attempt on administration’s behalf to listen to student voices, the meeting will hopefully create room for further discussion between students and staff on confronting community hate.