Column- Annie Laforet

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I remember the first racist statement I heard at MHS like it was yesterday. It was freshman year, and I was walking down the hallway with two of my former friends when we saw a black boy and a white girl walking together. That’s when one of them said, “Wouldn’t it be so weird if they were dating, because he’s so black and she’s really white.”
I wondered why their skin color matters if they liked each othe–this is messed up. But I didn’t say anything, I was the new kid and I didn’t want to rock the boat. I was too scared to speak up against this blatant racism, and I still regret my silence.
Racism has always been a part of my life, I just didn’t realize it until high school. When I was growing up my hair was often compared to that of a dog, which I took as a compliment. It wasn’t until senior year that I started to stand up for myself, and it didn’t go as I would’ve hoped. One day a classmate told me again, “Your hair looks nice today… it reminds me of a dog.” When I told him that was rude, the whole class got involved in the discussion and it became heated. Some people sided with the boy, saying it was nice because people like dogs. Others were on my side, saying he could’ve just said he liked my hair and left it at that. We were simply telling them it was rude and inconsiderate, but they didn’t want to hear it.
The discussion ended with one girl telling the other side, “You look like a rat, but it’s a compliment because I like rats.” That made everyone stop talking, and (hopefully) understand where I was coming from. This incident is one of many racist encounters I’ve faced while at Midland High.
My junior year I was dealing with a racist boy in class who would joke about the n-word and constantly make little offensive race comments. One day he was talking during class, and when I asked him to be quiet, he told me “Shut up and stay in the corner, where you belong.” When I went to tell my teachers about this incident, I was told I would have to get over it, and that this racist behavior was what I was going to have to deal with my whole life. I was told to take the high road, even though this student’s actions should’ve been punished. This is absolutely unacceptable. I was disappointed that day because the staff I talked to made excuses for his racism, which sends the message that it is okay to be racist.
For too long racism has been an accepted part of the environment at MHS. It is the tragic truth, and unfortunately it has taken an extremely racist video for change to begin.
Education is important because racism exists in many-sometimes hidden-ways. There is the obvious racism like using the n-word or creating malicious content, or saying like the statements expressed in the video that came out last month. But, there are also smaller forms of racism that often go unnoticed. For example, touching a black person’s hair without asking, or comparing our hair to that of a dog, or telling a person of color they “talk white.” Using and allowing these micro-aggressions only enforces racism and hurts us all.
Racism will only start to disappear if we as a society make it clear that it’s not acceptable. One way you can do this is by calling your friends out if they make a racist comment. It doesn’t have to be in a mean or condescending way, it could be as simple as, “Hey dude, that was racist, not okay.” And if you’re the person on the receiving end of that comment, it is important for you to know you aren’t being attacked or called a racist, just your action was. So take the feedback and remember it for next time.