Students of all races and backgrounds gathered in the theater for the first Dragon Talks event, held on October 6 during MP, which offered a forum to discuss the current racial difficulties our country is experiencing.
Students on the Executive Council of the Associated Student Body and members of the Black Student Union and Campus Ministry Team facilitated the talk, fully supported by the O’Dowd administration.
“As a school we are responsible for nurturing our students and gifting them tools to advocate, as well as engaging their minds and hearts,” Assistant Principal Jase Turner said.
“Social justice is at the root of Catholic education and speaks to our Charism. O’Dowd is committed to continuing conversations such as these so that the ‘voiceless’ can be heard in a safe space,” he said. “These issues aren’t any one person’s problem. The O’Dowd community is called to community in diversity and we support one another as we find ways to help solve systemic issues.”
Students from the women’s cheerleading and men’s football team were on a panel that initiated the discussion. They were among a group of student-athletes who took a knee during the playing of the national anthem during the September 23 football game, joining in the national protest of racial inequality. The students said the action wasn’t meant to be disrespectful but rather raise awareness of the issue. And they hoped it would initiate positive steps towards solutions.
Students in the audience, as well as faculty and staff members, were invited to share their concerns and ask questions of the panelists.
Toni Carter ’17 agreed, and said she’s long struggled with double consciousness – an internal conflict making it difficult to have one unified identity. “A Black person like myself struggles with the identity of being American and Black. How can you love your country when your country does not love you?” she said.
“I commend O’Dowd for bringing situations such as these to light,” she said. “I know that I am not the only one that struggles with my identity in America. These conversations help to facilitate attunement with our identity and also our attunement with each other. Community is everything.”
Lonnie Turner ’18 said after growing his short hair out into an afro he noticed that people treated him differently. He said that he was hassled by police at a BART station after a white passenger said he looked suspicious. “It enraged me, but I knew I couldn’t do anything because if I had acted out I might not be here talking to you all,” Turner said.
Assistant football coach Anthony Jones asked the students who took a knee at the game if they understood the ramification of their protest. He stressed such a protest can’t be a one-time action, otherwise it makes a mockery of what people have done year after year to fight for civil rights. “Are you willing to stand (for your beliefs) for the rest of your life – at your school, in the business world?” he said.
Kamryn Rooney ’18 said it’s easy to be a bystander – particularly if you aren’t Black. “It’s easy to say I support this, but it’s not my movement. Someone else can speak up,” she said. “We all need to point at ourselves and say I need to speak up, and put that responsibility on ourselves.”
White silence is violence, Victoria Avery ’17 said. “Our voices were made to be heard,” she said.
Avery said she finds it interesting that people want Colin Kaepernick to stick to a certain role. “People say he’s a sports player – why is he taking a stand, this is so outrageous. But he’s a person beyond football, and to pigeon-hole him to this sports hero archetype discounts Black people, in general, as multi-dimensional people,” she said.
“We have to realize there are actions that all races can take. Just opening up this conversation but also realizing your role – (for me) acknowledging yes I am white, I am privileged, I don’t understand everything as much as I try, but I am here to take a role in this and here to see the betterment of all people,” she added.
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