Sowing the Seeds of Discord
By Christina Horner, President World of Wellesley
Among the many shameful, violent, racist, and anti-Semitic posts written by a peer group from Wellesley High School (WPS) on Discord during the 2020-2021 academic year were the following:
“N—-gers need to be kicked out of America along with the Jew.”
These and other posts reveal how these students truly feel about Koreans, the Chinese, Muslims, Persians, and of course, Jews and Black people—perhaps the most hated of all.
The sad reality is that this behavior has become a disturbing pattern at WPS and many educators, students, and their families are increasingly desensitized to it. Students seem to have a false sense of security—a belief that they won’t be held accountable for their racist behavior so long as it is online. But what is said in the dark inevitably comes to light in time.
Actively participating in these racist and violent posts is a troubling sign that should not be ignored. The refusal to acknowledge the severity of these statements and the ongoing racial incidents within our schools doesn’t reflect our school-community’s core values and paints an ugly picture of who we really are, what we tolerate, and what we truly believe. It’s called denial, silence, complicity, and the right to comfort. Remember Dylann Roof?
Some have had the audacity to say, “This is not a big deal.” Or, “Kids will be kids.” Or, “Saying and sharing those words makes it worse.” But such depraved indifference is part of the problem, if not the genesis of the problem itself.
Bringing It Home
My husband and I came of age during the infamous Boston bussing crisis that began in 1974. We are forever scarred, but we survived. I endured the constant invalidations, insults, and assaults as a student; I also endured as much as an educator in suburban towns like Wellesley, which boasted of their history and support for the METCO Program. (It’s surprising to me why superintendents continue to wonder why they can’t hire and retain educators of color.) Yet, all of these experiences pale in comparison to these racist, anti-Semitic, and horrific posts. As parents, we vowed that our children would have a better educational experience than we did. It’s all too clear that we failed them. So has the school and community. My question is this: What will our schools and community do differently?
The time has come to take off the masks, cease with hypocrisy, and have some honest dialogue.
What Is a Lynching?
The late Black songstress Billie Holiday, and lyricist Abel Meeropo,l described the terror of lynching best in “Strange Fruit.” The song is arguably one of the most controversial and astounding of all time. In case you still don’t get it: lynchings, past and present, are public grotesque spectacles used to terrorize Black men, women, and children (also, pregnant women). In a stunning 2015 study, Reconstruction in America, conducted by Equal Justice Initiative, the number of lynchings is reported to be over 6,000; although, historians believe this number is underrepresented. Because the lives of the victims were deemed worthless, we will never know the precise number of lynchings.
Let’s be clear. Lynchings are not a thing of the past. Almost daily, we are assaulted with some form of lynch porn: Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Brianna Taylor, just to name a few.
Today, it’s a knee to the neck, a choke-hold, or an unjustifiable shooting. The methods have changed, but the purpose has not. Lynchings were and continue to be used to inflict social control and to uphold white supremacy. Many historical lynchings involved unimaginable torture, which included burning, skinning, decapitaiton, mutilation, dismemberment, the distribution of postcards, and even the debaturoius sale of decaying body parts to commemorate the twisted event.
Again, the methods have changed; but perhaps not the sentiments.
Call to Action
If you’re tearing up by now, if you are feeling anger and disgust, I share your pain. Please note that my tears and pain are those of righteous indignation for those whom schools continue to betray: Black, Indigneous and People of Color (BIPoC).
Wellesley Public Schools will never achieve educational equity, and the community will never become the place where “diversity, dignity and respect for all individuals” is achieved until we work together and act upon the Select Board’s equity statement, which was adopted in February 2021:
Wellesley is a town that highly values diversity, dignity and respect for all individuals. As the Chief Executive of the Town, the Select Board recognizes its responsibility to make the following declarations:
The Board opposes unequivocally any expression of hate, prejudice, intolerance or discrimination toward any individual or group;
The Board is committed to engaging the Town on race, equity and inclusion through broad and collaborative public engagement; and
The Board denounces any form of racism, discrimination or intolerance as a threat to the safety and well-being of the public. We call upon the entire Wellesley community to welcome every resident, visitor, employee and resident student in the Town.
Adopted by the Wellesley Select Board on February 22, 2021.
This is a very powerful statement—on paper—but it could and should be so much more.
Now is the time to make sure that these inspirational words affirm and correspond to the Town of Wellesley’s central beliefs and actions. Let’s seize the opportunity to establish a school district and a community where “diversity, dignity and respect for all individuals” is actually valued.