Bucks County Students Fighting Racism in Education; want inclusion

Sarah Zhang collects stories of discrimination.

Shelby Williams is campaigning for more educators of color.

Amy Liu has created an interactive hate crimes map against Asian Americans.

As students, each is pushing for change in predominantly white schools where racism remains a systemic problem.

When race is not discussed and the program lacks diversity, students from all walks of life are at a disadvantage, explained Williams, who is heading to Cornell University this fall after graduating from George School in May.

“When you send your child to school, you want them to have a full education, and if they don’t read writers from different backgrounds, it will impact how they interact with others and how they interact with others. their way of seeing the world. “Williams said.

Shelby Williams to attend Cornell University in the fall after graduating from George School in May

Founded by Quakers, George School in Middletown prides itself on a commitment to social justice. Black students have attended George School since 1947.

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 65% of students at George School are white. African Americans make up 14% of the student body. Eight percent identify as Asian and 6% are Hispanic, according to federal estimates.

Still, the program doesn’t always reflect the current student body, Williams said.

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“If we read eight books in a year, it wouldn’t be uncommon for there to be six books from white men, then one from a woman and one from an author of a different race,” Williams said. t get the opportunity to meet people from other cultures, which leads to closed-mindedness.

In response, Williams helped the George School develop a diversity, inclusion, equity and social justice plan.

His Instagram account @BlackatGeorgeSchool has over 1,200 followers, and Williams shares the experiences of African Americans on campus.

For students of color, Instagram has become a digital megaphone, allowing them to reach large numbers of students of color from their own schools and others across the United States.

At Central Bucks High School East, Sarah Zhang started @DiversifyCBSD on Instagram. With messages, Zhang advocates for a more inclusive learning environment.

“From a psychological point of view, this personal development is less likely to flourish if the child is uncomfortable, tense, frustrated or cannot identify with the material,” one post read. .

Growing up of Asian descent, Zhang said she “normalized the racism I saw and suffered” in the community.

Amy Liu will be attending Harvard University in the fall after graduating from Central Bucks High School.

When she posted pictures of her new dog on social media, for example, her classmates told her to “not eat the dog,” she said. As COVID-19 swept across the United States, Zhang perceived that others were afraid to stand even six feet away from her. She was more worried about someone attacking her Chinese-American grandmother while walking down the street.

“Much of it comes from a lack of education,” Zhang said. “I cannot be bitter towards young people when this is the way they are educated.”

In response, Zhang and others started an online petition for students to read more books by different authors. The petition calls for at least one book in each English or literature class be written by a person of color and present the life experiences of people of color.

According to National Center for Education Statistics, 89% of students in the Central Bucks School District are white. The remaining students are 5% Asian, 4% Hispanic and 1% black, according to federal data.

“Much of the story centers on how people of color were downgraded, overwhelmed or colonized,” Zhang said. “It would be so amazing if we got to know people of color and their accomplishments and how amazing these cultures are. It would have made all the difference to me if I had seen an Asian character in any of the books I read as a child.

Nearby Central Bucks High School South, Amy Liu said she hasn’t spoken for much of her student life. She didn’t want to be “seen as a nuisance”.

“My experience as a color student is that I shut myself up,” Liu said. “Since most people couldn’t understand my experience, I almost choked.”

“Due to the vast majority of CBs being homogeneous white, I felt my voice as a color student was frivolous,” Liu explained. “The under-representation of people of color in South – both in the student body and the faculty – has often contributed to a self-imposed cloak of invisibility.”

A graduate of Central Bucks High School East, Sarah Zhang will study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Liu said she believed the students at her school were using racial slurs because they “just didn’t know the weight of racial slurs.”

In response, she collected stories of racism and harassment from students of color and shared those stories with teachers.

The teachers had no idea, she said. Students do not report these incidents.

“Students of color may feel like nothing will be done if they report it,” Liu said. “They may feel like nothing can be done. In a way, racism isn’t as quantifiable. It’s not like someone punched someone in the face. don’t have that physical scar.

For their efforts, Liu, Williams and Zhang will each receive the Princeton Prize in Race Relations. Presented by a committee of more than 400 Princeton University alumni, the awards are presented to high school students who work to advance racial equity and understanding. The winners each receive a prize of $ 1,000.

Contact reporter James McGinnis at [email protected]

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