Student experiences of racism

Alex Phelan, Art Director

27th October, 2022

With almost 70% of Arcata High School students being White, some students of color don’t always feel safe on campus.

In 2021, the district released a Humboldt County BIPOC Student Listening Report (written by Alannah Smith), describing students’ experiences in Humboldt County High Schools.

The report found that “being called racial slurs, hearing White peers use racial slurs, being questioned or mocked on certain stereotypes, having their hair touched without permission, seeing the confederate flag around campus, and dealing with offensive comments related to their race or culture” were common occurrences.

Some of these are examples of microaggressions. These microaggressions can come from anyone, such as teachers, students, parents, and administrators.

In an interview with the Black Student Union President, senior Elisha Green, I asked how administration and staff can better support students of color on campus.

“They can create more opportunities for people of color. Just being more open to talk about things and having more diversity in history, because, at least at the moment, a lot of history is just European based, which I think should change,” Green said.

In a separate interview with an anonymous student, I asked if he had any experience with harassment on campus, and he was quick to answer with two stories.

“One time I was walking out from class to go home, and two guys were behind me throwing rocks at me.” Another time, “while walking past the strip by Six Rivers to the gym, some guys [drove by] and called me a monkey out of the window,” he said.

These are not rare examples of harassment at Arcata High, because many students of color face these experiences at one point or another. These are things that White students and teachers need to be aware of.

“I think [students of color] do have resources but not the ones that would be most adequate for their situations. I think having a more diverse staff that students can go to would be helpful,” Green said.

As representatives of the school, teachers should represent the student body, which means having awareness and sensitivity since only a portion of faculty and staff are non-White.

“Teachers need to check what they say,” an anonymous student stated.

The behavior of staff should reflect the policy and mission of Arcata High.

“There’s just kind of a lack of respect for people of color in general, especially when it comes to certain language learning classes,” the anonymous student claimed.

Arcata High’s mission statement is, “To provide meaningful educational experiences in a safe, supportive environment through innovative programs aimed at empowering students to reach their full potential to be prepared for future college and career opportunities.”

This article highlights students’ experiences of an unsafe and unsupportive learning environment. This is why an incident reporting form is very important to have on campus.