By Ellie Riser
At the end of the day, there are many words, phrases, and jokes that are always better left unsaid. Always.
Through the many weeks I have spent writing this piece, I have felt pressure from many different people to write in a certain way, use a certain voice, or to only focus on certain things. However, this is the Dig, OES’ student-run, student-edited, and student-published newspaper, and the Dig’s motto is where my loyalty lies.
What this piece is meant to do is motivate and propel a conversation that needs to be had about the issues OES continues to face surrounding derogatory language. What this piece isn’t meant to do is perpetuate an “us” and ”them” dynamic around those who have made mistakes and those who haven’t. I do not wish to censor this piece or hinder my voice based on the agenda of others because it is uncomfortable or not part of what is meant to be heard about OES. I hope you use this article as a tool to help you motivate and understand the gravity of this issue while still recognizing the human mistakes we all make. Thank you, and enjoy.
A couple weeks ago, in a 10th grade History class, the n-word was used. Now, it was in no way used with bad intentions, but that didn’t stop a ripple of hurt, confusion, and anger from spreading through the Upper School divisions. From this event, OES has another opportunity to grow in ways we haven’t yet, and that is where I come in, both as a student and now teacher.
The discussion about the n-word and whether or not it can be used in an academic `class discussion, has brought our community into a larger conversation about derogatory language and its impact. I hope that the majority of the student body knows the history of the n-word, but if not here is a brief version:
The word “n****r“ stemmed from the latin word for the color black, and was used as a term for slaves during the beginning of the African slave trade. It’s a slur crafted from hate and for hateful usage, meant to degrade and destroy the humanity of many people of African decent, especially now African-Americans.
The problem is not this one incident or a single teacher, but more the multitude of issues surrounding derogatory language that I, and many others, as a student of color have experienced from both students and teachers at OES. Like many high schoolers, students at OES are still clarifying their values, beliefs, and morals before they are faced with the world outside of the “OES bubble.” While many students acclimate and mature as they move from each grade, there are still some stragglers that don’t realize that the hateful language which can be heard at dances, on social media, or other places aren’t meant to be thrown around in everyday life, if ever.
What is happening now:
There have been two meetings, Citizens In Action (CIA) + Black Student Union (BSU) where students were able to voice their feelings and reaction towards the situation and propose policies that they believe will help educate, regulate, and prevent these issues from occurring in the future. For students to feel like this is meaningful change, we need to continue to push for these policies to be adopted immediately.
Beginning May 22nd, Upper School teachers were made aware that under no circumstances should derogatory language be used in the classroom, if ever in our community. The history department has drafted a new policy surrounding “Sensitive Topics”. This is still very much a draft that applies only to the US history department. So far, this is what they have:
Through this piece, I hope that you have found a new reason to continue this conversation in our community and understand its importance.
Thank you for reading.