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Stand in Solidarity: CRLS Educators Denounce Hate

Racist Incidents Prompt Silent Stand-In

Isabelle Agee-Jacobson, Managing Editor

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On December 20th and 21st, scores of CRLS educators holding signs with messages like “Tolerating racism is racism,” “I am not, Never will be, Never was N****r,” and “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that” gathered outside the main entrance of CRLS as part of two silent stand-ins. The demonstrations were meant to be an opportunity for educators at CRLS to stand in solidarity against hate and racism at the school after a series of racist acts directed towards teachers of color.

According to Learning Community (LC) L Guidance Counselor Ed Walker, a main organizer of the stand-ins, one of the incidents that prompted the demonstrations was a note with a death threat using the n-word that Sarah Serrano, a long-term English substitute teacher, received under her classroom door. Mr. Walker said that the demonstration was also a reaction to history teacher Kevin Dua’s recent comments to the Cambridge Day about his experience getting called the N-word by an adult at the school.

“Facial expressions could do all the talking.””

Principal Smith told the Register Forum that the school is in the process of trying to identify the student who wrote the note to Ms. Serrano. He said that they have talked to Ms. Serrano, as well as witnesses and anyone who may have noticed any unusual behavior in the area where Ms. Serrano’s classroom was. Principal Smith could not share any information on what the school is doing to address the incident where Mr. Dua was called the N-word to his face.  

The demonstrations were organized by the Educators of Color Group at CRLS. Mr. Walker told the RF that the group decided to make the demonstrations silent because sometimes silence can communicate a message more powerfully and clearly. He elaborated, saying that because of the silence, “facial expressions [could] do all the talking,” students could focus on reading the signs the educators were holding, and no one would be distracted by side conversations.

The first demonstration was for educators of color only, while all educators were invited to participate in the second one. Mr. Walker explained that the group decided on this format so educators of color could “show unity, strength, and support to each other as the victim[s] of racism,” and all educators could stand against all forms of hate on the second day.

The incidents that prompted the demonstrations hurt and surprised many members of the CRLS community, especially because they were targeted at specific people. “It was stressful. It was emotionally draining to know that our environment [had] been disrupted with signs of hate and disrespect,” said English teacher Natasha Labaze, who participated in the demonstrations and helped to organize them.

Senior Mahdi Ibrahim, who saw the demonstrations as he walked into school on the two days before Winter Break, explained, “We already have such [a] limited amount of teachers of color here at Rindge and hearing that there [were] attacks against people who are already struggling to be at Rindge … kind of broke my heart.”

Daniel Hikes, the guidance counselor for freshmen in LCs L and S, said that the incidents were “a little bit of a shock” because “of the community that I believe we have and that we are continuing to try to build.”

“It was emotionally draining to know that our environment had been disrupted with signs of hate and disrespect.””

Junior Jesse Lowe participated in the demonstrations, even though the organizers had planned for the stand-ins to be mostly about the adults in the school communicating a message to students.

Ms. Serrano was Lowe’s English teacher this past semester, and Lowe was disturbed not only by the fact that her teacher had received the note but also that she had resigned. Ms. Serrano cited the fact that she had received the note and that she felt unsupported at the school as her reasons for leaving.

Lowe wished that the demonstrations had been more focused on the fact that Ms. Serrano left and the factors other than the note that caused her to leave, but the school community only found out that Ms. Serrano left on the morning of the first demonstration, through an email Principal Smith sent to all students and staff.

Ibrahim told the RF that he knew that some students in the CRLS Black Student Union felt frustrated that the educators had taken action when fellow educators faced racism but hadn’t taken action like this when students spoke about racist acts they had experienced.

Mr. Walker says that the school community has reacted in an overwhelmingly positive way to the demonstrations, and the stand-ins have inspired new conversations and actions. Mr. Hikes said that these conversations have focused on how staff members are feeling, if the school is adequately addressing their concerns, and if there is more the community could be doing to prevent these incidents from happening in the future.

“It’s not just about the stand-in. It’s about us continuing to educate ourselves, informing ourselves, [and] growing stronger as a community to help everyone realize—especially students struggling with certain ideas that aren’t productive—that hate is not the answer,” said Ms. Labaze.“It is our daily obligation as CRLS to make sure we don’t ignore any of the -isms and instead we address them in order to make people feel safe and heard.”

 

This piece also appears in our January 2019 print edition.

About the Contributors
Isabelle Agee-Jacobson, Managing Editor

What elementary school did you go to?

Graham & Parks

What other activities are you involved in at CRLS and/or in the community?

I run cross-country.

If...

Lucy Messineo-Witt, Photography Editor

What elementary school did you go to?

Shady Hill School

What other activities are you involved in at CRLS and/or in the community?

Sisters on...

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Stand in Solidarity: CRLS Educators Denounce Hate