MSJ’s Leadership 2 (L2) held its first-ever Anti-Racism Forum at 6 p.m. on December 13 over Zoom. The forum, with roughly 15 Zoom attendees and 114 views on Youtube, was organized by the newly formed Equity Committee, which includes ASB President Senior Alvin Wang, Community Committee Member Senior Aditi Morumganti, Elections Committee Member Junior Esther Lau, and Community Committee Member Junior Jackie Wang. Panelists included Principal Jeff Evans, Assistant Principal Jeana Nightengale, Social Studies Teacher Nancy Benton, FUSD Board of Education Trustee Vivek Prasad, FUSD Director of Curriculum & Instruction Kim Kelly, and GENup Executive Director and Former ASB Vice President Alvin Lee. Panelists discussed bias, racism, and inequality in the academic space.
Following a brief run-down of definitions and clarifications on anti-bias, microaggression, and intent versus impact, panelists took turns answering questions submitted online by MSJ students, teachers, and parents. Kelly answered the first question on the support that educators need to teach from an anti-bias perspective by discussing the value of teacher training on equitable discipline and grading practices. Prasad added that with the ongoing support within the educational community, teachers and staff can continue to collaborate to understand and recognize any implicit bias and move closer toward anti-bias.
Apart from just bias, the forum also explored anti-racism efforts and racism’s effects on schools. Lee shared that it can be especially easy to dismiss discussions of racism occurring at MSJ, where more than 90% of students are Asian American. “It’s important to acknowledge that there’s a lot of racism and microaggressions even between communities of color … as people of color, we all have the responsibility to … challenge these institutional biases and stereotypes,” Lee said.
Before closing, panelists provided resources such as Coursera, an online learning platform, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, a non-profit organization dedicated to K-12 history education, and MSJ’s own library webpage for students and staff alike to learn more about the history of marginalized groups and ways to facilitate inclusion.
L2’s Equity Committee, founded this year and pitched by Alvin Wang, was created to help support the forum. “We were having trouble organizing it because we didn’t have an organization to back us. So at the beginning of the school year, when Alvin pitched the Equity Committee, we thought it would be the perfect way to host this event,” Morumganti said.
However, organizing the forum came with obstacles. “The main obstacle was getting guest speakers and coordinating schedules. We also had a couple of technical difficulties at the very end, so we had to switch from YouTube live streaming to a Zoom link,” Lau said.
In the future, L2’s Equity Committee plans to host similar events in the future, including a sustainability summit with MSJ Green Club and the local non-profit Greenkeepers. With the anti-racism forum, the panelists and organizers ultimately hoped to inspire activism among MSJ’s student community. “The biggest takeaway [from the panel] I hope is that students feel motivated to speak out if they ever see injustice or [if] they see areas for improvement in school policy or district policy where we can work to make a more inclusive and racially equitable system,” Lee said.
Cover image by Web Editor Tanisha Srivatsa