Topic: Racial Injustice and the Responsibility of Youth (Grades 11 &12)
Title: Our Responsibility on Racism
By: Afnan Abbassi of Washington Township, NJ
Despite the countless discussions of racism, many still don’t understand why it appears to have no apparent ending. Racial equity isn’t simply accepting diversity and not letting differences interfere with one’s opportunities. Furthermore, we often see systemic racism through a black-and-white filter, not realizing that it is so many shades of brilliant color.
Primarily, racism isn’t innate- it’s taught. And if something is taught, then it becomes a major impetus behind students’ beliefs. However, excluding the discussion of race doesn’t solve racism. Many state legislators have argued whether or not critical race theory is an appropriate class discussion. According to Stephen Sawchuck, critical race theory claims “that race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies,” (EducationWeek). If students don’t study the genealogies of racism, then they won’t know the public ideologies that are based on racial injustices. They won’t recognize the dishonesty when governments implement race-blind policies. They won’t realize that critical race theory is trying to prove that racism isn’t an anomaly anymore- it is now a part of American society.
Racial injustice has become the perfect opportunity for change-makers to use their voice. We hear about race from Malcolm X’s speeches on the power of the black man and Amanda Gormans’s poem “The Hill We Climb”. We read about it in books like “Caste”, which analyzes the origins of the American caste system and “Born a Crime”, which discusses Trevor Noah’s experience living under Apartheid in South Africa. We see it online through the recording of George Floyd’s murder and the TikTok’s documenting everyday racism in supermarkets and restaurants.
Additionally, we have the power to call out racial misrepresentations. Adding a non-white character into a minor acting role to promote diversity for the sake of diversity is ineffective. Noticing people of color breaking through their limiting societal expectations doesn’t have to be a surprise. This is why promoting diversity is crucial. If we show children, through media and education, that people of color don’t carry themselves in one stereotypical identity, they will realize that “racism is deeply ingrained in all aspects of our society, producing social, economic, and political inequalities that are inextricably connected to the past,” (Ben Crump).
I strongly believe that our world and our educational environments are richer when diverse people have safe spaces in which to interact and engage with each other. If we understand racial inequities, together we can design a global vision preserving the rich cultures and identities that today’s society seeks to white-wash. Exploring cultural differences, conflict management, and the reconciliation process, including how we can find a path forward must be our ultimate goal. We will use our time in and out of the classroom to research and deepen ours and others’ understanding of the causes and dynamics of racial injustice in our local and global communities.
Sawchuck, Stephen “What Is Critical Race Theory, and Why Is It Under Attack?” EducationWeek 18 May 2021
Accessed 13 February 2022.
Mitchell, Marilyn “How to Help Young People Fight Racial Inequality” Psychology Today 23 June 2020
Accessed 13 February 2020.
“Racial Injustice In America” Ben Crump
Accessed 12 February 2022.