Racism rears its head at SFHS: sparks discussion

In the United States there have been countless acts of racism throughout history, and some of the most current incidents have led to groups such as Black Lives Matter. However,  in the small town of St. Francis, some recent events have opened the eyes of many to the importance of addressing racism.

The first step in accepting there is an issue is to  understand what racism is. Racism is defined as prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior. In November, a student was caught on video expressing racist beliefs and this brought more attention to the subject.

Even if people realize there is a problem with racism, the real issue is what can be done to prevent it.

“The best way to prevent racism in the schools is to educate the students and hold each other accountable,” said Assistant Principal Jill Enquist.

One member of the school staff, Chris Lindquist, claims to witness bigotry among the students almost everyday, but he believes there is a large difference between bigotry and racism.

“Racism is evident in all facets of life,” said Lindquist. “It takes a lot of work to understand it, and it’s even more challenging to do something about it.”

There are consequences for students who choose to make racist statements or bully other students based on race.

“The student not only receives a punishment such as suspension,” said Engquist, “but we also believe it is very important to educate the student on the problem, so it hopefully doesn’t happen again.”

The most recent racist comments that were circulated on social media brought a former student, Sadie Lankford, out of the shadows to confess her experiences as a student of color at St. Francis High School. She spoke with people at the district officeto let them know that, as an African American student, she repeatedly heard the N-word, or other slurs such as “f*gg*t”, or “gay.”

These words typically make people feel uncomfortable and she believes they are unnecessary. Lankford even had friends who dropped out of SFHS or resorted to options such as PSEO or online to avoid a racist environment. Lankford believes it’s not all about blatant racism.

“There is a large problem with ignorance,” she said. “People have a certain attitude toward the minority groups, that make them uncomfortable.”

Even with racist issues that have cropped up, most members of the Saint’s community don’t agree with the perpetrators and support the victims.

“l would love to see no racism in the schools, but that is not an easy task to accomplish,: said Career Center Counselor Dawn Abraham. “So hopefully that is a goal we can eventually accomplish over time.”

Senior Tina VanWagner is supportive of victims of racism.

“l believe in our school. There are quite a few racist individuals,” she said, “and l do not think it’s right for someone to hate another person because of something as simple as religion or skin color.”

Just this spring, there was an incident where a student posted a picture of some Hmong students who were just outside the school playing volleyball. A student posted a photo on snapchat with a caption that stated, “Speak English, or go back to your f***ing country”.

Mao Lee and Adam Vang, two Hmong students who happened to be victims of the racist act, were very upset.

“People need to take racism seriously,” said Vang. “It’s not a joke, you never know how what you say might impact others”.

Lee explained that she felt helpless and there was nothing that she could do.

“The school just talked with us about it,” said Lee “they told the student that he shouldn’t have done what he did.”

Mao wants people to be aware that bullying takes place, even if people don’t realize it, and everyone should stand up for each other to make the community a better place.