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When living in the progressive, liberal Bay Area, we tend to think that racial segregation is irrelevant to us. However, recently it has become apparent to me that at my school, there is definitely a sense of internalized segregation within the student body. I go to Berkeley High School, one of the most diverse and unique schools in the country. We have all kinds of classes, from African American studies and Afro-Haitian dance to Chicano and Latino history. But even so, we have a major clique problem. As I walk around on campus I take note of the groups of people gossiping to each other about their day. In the courtyard are the black people donned in cheetah print and hot pink, dubbed “ratchets”. In the hallway on the second floor of our main building, the white “popular” girls clump together. Even in my Spanish class, when told to pick our seats the students quickly divide the room in half, Latinos and native speakers on the right and everybody else on the left. All this subconscious separation makes me wonder; what’s it like outside of my Berkeley bubble?
In the United States school desegregation has been, in my opinion, callously overlooked over the past 14 years, and instead of helping more schools become more racially diverse there seems to only be a digression from addressing issues pertaining to separation. In fact, some of the laws passed aiming to eliminate segregation in schools seem to be doing the opposite and also are furthering the issue of racial cliques within schools. For instance, despite the fact that the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 allows the government to try to keep teens on track educationally, it also permits parents to withdraw their students from a school for any reason, giving more advantaged families the choice to move to other districts to go to better schools, while leaving minority families behind and failing to address the issues with cliques within schools while also furthering racial separation and segregation.
Solutions are possible though. Recently during august of 2013 at the National PTA Youth Leadership Summit Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, high school students participated in an exercise that asked them to reflect on their involvement in cliques and then attempt to break up these constructs by participating in projects together. This experience helped many of the participants bond with those who they would not usually interact with and taught them valuable tactics that they could spread within their schools and to other students. These kinds of attempts at progress have been rare though, and are still needed in many high schools nationwide.
To begin our conversation I would like to ask you:
1. In what ways are your schools racially segregated? In other words, where is racial separation apparent and are there cliques?
(Before you answer could you please include what high school you go to.)
2. Do you think that race plays a part in determining whom you hang out or interact with? Do you feel more comfortable around people of your own race?
3. Do you think that there is a stereotypical way that you are expected to comply with that is dependent on your race? What is it?
4. How does the faculty help break up group constructs at your school if any? If not, in what ways could they help do this?
5. Where can you see racial separation in the bay or outside of your school environment?
6. Do you believe that in the bay there is more or less of a problem with discrimination?