Racial Divides in East High School

Kayla Lien, Opinion Writer

We may have done away with forced segregation in schools, but racial divides still exist. Whether students are consciously seperating themselves or are internalizing harmful stereotypes, many of our student body are still not represented in what East High considers important.

Accelerated classes, like Honors and AP, have very little diversity in the students who attend them. This is in part due to “tracking,” where elementary and middle school students are filtered into classes based on their race. It also stems from students of color being discouraged from taking such courses due to being looked down on by peers, believing they aren’t capable, or being blatantly told they cannot take a class. Some may be qualified to take a class, but superiors won’t sign off for them to do so. Many are often hurt by “affirmative action,” a program that forces schools, political positions, and government jobs to adopt race-based quotas. While the plan is good ideologically, it ends up hurting people of color who aren’t accepted due to the quota being reached.

Asian-Americans are often graded unfairly during the Harvard admissions process, “described as smart and hardworking yet uninteresting and indistinguishable from other Asian-American applicants,” according to lawyers working on a case against the college. Seven African-American and Hispanic families sued Hartford, Connecticut, officials as well as state officials of high-performing magnet schools, saying that race-based quotas are unconstitutional and kept their children from attending.

Even students here, within East High School, admitted that there is too little representation within accelerated courses. A survey was administered to Mr. Call’s Honors Secondary III Math, Madame Nelson’s Concurrent French, Mrs. Peterson’s Language Arts 11, Mrs. Wilson-Steffes’ Journalism, Creative Writing, and Language Arts 10. This survey inquired about student opinions’ on racial bias or discrimination within East’s athletics and accelerated classes.

In this survey, many East High minority students remarked that honors and AP courses often have only one demographic. A Hispanic student wrote that her, “math honors class just had one race. [She] didn’t feel comfortable so [she] switched out.” There were two instances exactly like this, where minority students were alone and left for a regularly-paced class because they felt alone. Another believed that “teachers question if a person of color can handle “rigorous” courses, which can discourage POC because there’s [little] support.”

This segregation isn’t just for the academics, students believe it plagues East’s athletics as well. A common thread within the responses regarded our football team, noting the dominance of a specific demographic and the lack of others. Many shared the same concerns: “the white kids with money are dominating the sports,” “the system of choosing players favors white students,” “you see all the football kids picking on others based on race.”

Brandon Matich, head coach for the football team, remarked that, “from a football standpoint, it’s pretty multicultural, probably more multicultural than most football programs in the state of Utah.” While as a school this is true, there seems to be a discrepancy within the students that are represented on the team. Matich also commented that this varies from sport to sport and that it has more to do with backgrounds and where people come from culturally. Concerning the allegations of discrimination, Matich remarked that, while he does not believe there is any, he “would be naive” to not understand that there are tensions regardless. He also notes that there are some “really talented Latino kids, but they just don’t stick with it.”

This recurring theme of students not continuing sports or accelerated classes isn’t a new idea. The low representation of culture in all aspects of school has existed since non-white students were barred from attending class with their peers.

Many East students believe that there isn’t a way to fix this, that nothing can be done. But, they believe that something has to be done. Our generation is so extremely nihilistic and that shows through the responses this survey received. Students say to “make a conscious effort to be inclusive and accepting,” but that’s harder said than done. If we remain this despondent and unmotivated for the future, what sort of future will we have?

Luckily, this year East High’s student government has started rolling out new plans for diversity and unifying our school. It really is nothing like past years, and within one month of school, they’ve already created a more interconnected school environment, what with the “Swap-an-E” t-shirt program.

Nothing good happens without change. As a school, East needs to be willing to evolve, to be diverse and inclusive, not just the former. Our student body is revolutionary. Last year, East High had a student-run, student-organized, and student-led walkout protesting gun violence. Our peers are going to run the world as we know it, and there’s no better time to start than now. This generation is fighting and organizing and changing all the rules we were told not to be broken. Why can’t we break this one, too?