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Diversity at Community High: Where Are We Now? by isabel ratner

On his first day of school at Community High, Terrence Vick was looking for black people. Standing outside St. Andrew’s Church awaiting the opening day ceremony, he eventually saw a few, as he began to wonder if he should have gone to Huron.

Race had not initially played a role into Terrence’s decision to come to Community.

“At the end of the day, I just come and get my education and go home,” Terrence said. “I didn't come to look at people.” Still, on the first day, he found himself looking.

In the winter of 2015, Sophia Scarnecchia attended an eighth-grade orientation with her mother, who knew students who attended Jones Elementary, the African-American-dominated elementary school that occupied the building before Community. On the car ride home, her mother asked her if she would be comfortable at a school where she might not fit in as much. She wanted her to feel protected. Sophia already knew she wanted to go to Community, and race was not a factor; a small school was the right fit for her.

Simone Mahler’s mother shared a similar worry.

“She wanted me to go to Pioneer so I could fit in with more kids and be around people more of my race,” Simone said. Simone also knew Community was where she wanted to go, for its opportunities and unique structure.

Francesca Olegario transferred to Community from Huron after her freshman year, when she was accepted off of the waitlist. When she told her primarily Asian friend group at Huron that she would be transferring to Community, they told her, "You know there's no Asian people at Community." Francesca felt that it was better to try it out than to not go at all. Today, however, she acknowledges that they were right.

As of April 11, 2018 Powerschool shows that out of Community’s 528 students, 140 are non-Caucasian: 26.5 percent. These non-Caucasian subgroups, which parents choose for their child upon enrollment, include African-American, Latino/Hispanic, American Indian or Alaska, Asian, Arab American, Multi Ethnic, Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander, or other.

Community’s racial diversity is lacking compared to that of Pioneer, Huron, and Skyline’s. According to usnews.com data from the 2015-16 school year, the total minority enrollment for Pioneer, Huron, and Skyline was 40 percent, 52 percent, and 40 percent respectively. Community’s was 25 percent.

BEHIND THE STATISTICS

Community’s lack of minority students has impacted students of color who attend the school today. Many members of Community’s Black Student Union (BSU) — which is open to all students and not only comprised of African-Americans — have found themselves to be the only person of color in a class, such as senior Ashlyn Strain.

Community's Black Student Union. Photography by Anna Mellet

“That's really uncomfortable a lot of the time,” Ashlyn said. “I’ll just be sitting in a class, especially if we're talking about something about race or something kind of sensitive, and then this kind of attention is all on you — especially if it's for black history. It’s like all the attention is focused on me because I'm the only [black] person there, and then I feel like I'm expected to say something about it even if I don't really want to.”

Simone, a sophomore, had a similar experience in the classroom.

“When we're talking about slavery in class, people always look at me and they feel sad, and I'm like ‘Well, I didn't go through it, and I don't know how that feels,’” Simone said. “They just look at me, and they're like, ‘oh I'm so sorry.’ It feels so weird that they feel sad for me. I just don't understand it.”

In senior Marissa Corizine’s U.S. History class, where there were only two African-American students, Corzine felt an odd responsibility.

“I just feel like whenever we were talking about any issue with black people, it was always like they were looking towards us to like provide some sort of insight about what we were talking about,” Marissa said.

Ashlyn, Simone, Marissa, and several other students in BSU find themselves feeling responsible to educate their classmates, like spokespeople for their race.

BSU Adviser and Community staff member Janelle Johnson feels similarly. She has been at Community for 10 years, and has led BSU for seven of them. She brought back the Harlem Renaissance and Beyond class in 2008 after Community went many years without one, as she felt that the school needed more culture. She agrees that people of color should not be expected of so much.

“You can't be the spokesperson for everything, and I say it,” Janelle said. “I'm not the black spokesperson. I'm the spokesperson for Janelle. I can tell you what my fight has been, I can tell you what my journey has been, and I can tell you that there are some other people who feel similarly to me, but that's not everybody.”

Several members of BSU also note a lack of visibility of Community’s people of color, particularly at recruiting events such as middle school visits and Connect With Community, when admitted eighth graders come to visit the school for an afternoon. Senior Clarence Collins III believes that this lack of representation at these events correlates to the number of applicants to the school. For the 2016-2017 school year, Community received the lowest number of applicants from Scarlett and Clague Middle Schools for the second year in a row; these two middle schools are the most racially diverse middle schools, according to Powerschool enrollment summaries.

“I think coming to the school as an eighth-grader, visibility of the people of color that there are was very lacking with and in of itself,” Clarence said. “There had to be some black people and some POC here, but I didn't know. I didn't know. I had to assume.”

Clarence had to believe in this assumption, but once he arrived at Community, he felt almost misled.

ADMINISTRATIVE EFFORTS

Dean Marci has been working to improve diversity since she became Dean in 2014. The recruitment of a diverse group of eighth graders to Community is very important to her, and she wants wants anyone to feel like they could go to Community.

“Diversity is important to me not just because I want to be able to say we're diverse,” Dean Marci said. “Just for the sake of diversity isn't the point. The point is so that every student at Community High School has more students who look like them, and they feel more comfortable at school.”

Dean Marci believes that one reason Community lacks diversity and a reason why people decide not to come is because of a transportation barrier. For students attending a “big” high school (Huron, Pioneer, or Skyline) as well as those beyond the 1.5 mile walking radius, a yellow school bus will pick them up at their house, or the district will contract with the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (AATA) to pick up that route. Community students, however, have had more problem-solving to do to get to school.

This is a struggle for many, Dean Marci says, especially those who live outside of the AATA range; for students who can take those buses, Dean Marci grants them a free bus pass, no questions asked.

For those who live beyond that range, getting to school is more difficult. Any student who lives beyond Zeeb road off of Jackson Road, beyond the Meijer on Carpenter Road and Ellsworth, or off of Wagner south of Scio Church road has a much harder time. If a student in this situation needs a bus to take them to school, they must wake up extra early to catch a bus to a “big” high school, and then take a transfer bus to Community, making their trip to school extremely long and forcing them to wake up very early to be on time to school.

This summer, Dean Marci was allowed to redesign bus routes to remove a common barrier for many potential Community applicants. For students living outside of the AATA range, no one will now have to board a bus before 7 a. m., a step Dean Marci believes is crucial in making transportation to school easier, and possibly attracting more families.

On a detailed map of the city, she drew red dots for every student at Community. For those outside of the AATA range, she grouped them by neighborhood, and also added a green highlight around students whom she knows have talked to her in the past about struggling to get to school. Dean Marci could only have four buses, so she called up several students to figure out who definitely did not have a ride to school. Eventually, she worked it out so that no students had to board a bus before 7am, and everyone had a secure way to get to school everyday.

Much of Dean Marci’s work also revolves around the recruitment of eighth-graders to Community before the February lottery. Community visits the Ann Arbor Public Schools' (AAPS) middle schools (Slauson, Clague, Scarlett, Tappan, Forsythe, A2Open, and Steam) to talk to students and also hosts several orientations at the school where families can learn more. Attending one of these orientations is also a required part of the application.

Marci acknowledges the importance of these recruitments efforts, especially pertaining to diversity. Most of the in-school orientations take place on weeknights, and Dean Marci acknowledges that not everyone works white-collar jobs and can make it over that night. Based on that, she recently added a Sunday afternoon orientation for eighth-grade families to attend. In 2015, she invited current Community parents who either spoke languages other than English or represented populations that have not typically applied to the school, to provide parents with a connection and a person they could feel comfortable asking questions.

Until 2016, Community was the only high school visiting middle schools. At the time, eighth-graders could either go to their neighborhood school — Huron, Pioneer, or Skyline — or enter the lottery for Community. When the in-district transfer policy was enacted in 2016, students could then apply to any school in the district.

This change initially lowered Community’s number of applicants because there were more choices. According to a 2015-16 Community diversity council update presented for the AAPS school board by the school, Community had 481 applicants. The next year, that number lowered to 360, and the following, it raised to 393. These numbers are overall going down.

Dean Marci believes that generally, a smaller pool of applicants is best because now, most students who are applying to Community are choosing it from among the four high schools, not just a default option to avoid their home school. There have, however, been downsides to this smaller pool that Dean Marci has observed. 40 students have already been admitted off of the waitlist for Community since February’s lottery results, meaning that 40 have turned down the opportunity to come to to Community. Dean Marci says this is a lot for a short amount of time.

Dean Marci wants to continue to figure out why Community continues to have a low number of students applying from underrepresented populations.

“[Figuring this out] is a passion of mine,” Dean Marci said. “Why is this, and what can we do to make this better, and why does this keep perpetuating, and what can we do to fix this? Why is this happening?”

Middle school visits are another priority for Dean Marci. At each visit, a group of current students accompanies Dean Marci and the Community counselors to talk about their personal experiences and give 8th graders an idea of what the school is like. Dean Marci strives to bring a diverse group of students to the middle schools. When current Community students sign up to speak at a middle school visit, they check boxes on a sign up sheet indicating what they are involved with, like playing sports, if they have taken Community Resource class, split-enroll, etc. Then, after students have filled out the charts, Dean Marci fills out another column. This column includes gender, if the student is white, or if they are an underrepresented minority at the school. Dean Marci says that she puts a lot of thought into who she brings with her to different types of visits as well, realizing that at evening orientations which include parents, it is important to have seniors present, to show what Community students have done and will do in the future. She often brings students along who have not taken AP (Advanced Placement) courses but are still planning to attend a competitive college.

Dean Marci believes that it is important to bring students of color to these visits, but does fear tokenizing students of color, making them feel like they are only being asked to come speak because of the color of their skin.

THE IMPACT OF TRANSPARENCY

In a group interview, many students in BSU acknowledged that they have felt tokenized before. Betoul Ajin, a junior, believes that to make her feel more comfortable, she would prefer a direct approach.

“If you just said it straight up, ‘I want you to come and we need more diversity at this school,’ I'm like yeah, of course I would come, because I want more diversity at this school,” Betoul said.

Students in BSU don’t want to feel tokenized, but they struggle with realizing that they could make a difference in an 8th grader’s decision.

Terrence says he often would be the only student of color attending a middle school visit, and realizes the impact it has on students in the audience. He also worries about telling the truth.

“The middle school visits that's I've gone on, I've been the only [person of color],” Terrence said. “I went back to my middle school [Scarlett], and that's a very diverse middle school, and as I was talking, they were looking at me like, ‘What you got to say?’ I don't want to say that there's a lot of black people because I'd be lying. I don't want to do that.”

Betoul believes that a diverse group of students representing Community at middle school visits is imperative for increasing diversity. When she was in eighth grade at Tappan Middle School, three Community students visited her advisory, all of whom were white. She ended up applying because her cousin had attended Community. Going into the year, however, Betoul did not know any other Muslim students from Tappan who would be attending. When she arrived at Community, she saw no one wearing a hijab like her.

“Having someone who connects to you on a racial, ethnic, or religious background is very important for a student,” said Betoul. “If that just means like a teacher, or even a group of students.”

Janelle agrees that this connection is incredibly meaningful.

“Sometimes when you see somebody who looks like you, you feel like you understand some of the cultural nuances,” Janelle said. “You understand some of the difficulties or issues or challenges that you have to navigate in this world, to be completely frank.”

Members of BSU, University of Michigan's Gospel Chorale, and the CHS Jazz Band at the Martin Luther King Jr. assembly in January. Far left Dean Marci, top left Janelle Johnson. Photography by Axel Hiney.

Betoul believes that even if a large group of students of color from Community attending a middle school visit does not accurately represent the diversity at the school, it is still important. This past year, she decided to attend more middle school visits for this purpose, and found it to be rewarding.

“I had Muslim kids come up to me,” Betoul said. “They're like, ‘Oh, everyone was saying this school is just a white school. No one wants to go to that school.’ One kid was like, ‘all the kids of color in my class were saying you shouldn't go to that school. It’s just full of white kids; you won't feel included. He was like, ‘because you came, I kind of want to sign up to see if I get in and go.’”

RACISM AT COMMUNITY

Several members of BSU also believe that the lack of minority students at Community contributes to the racism they face and have witnessed at school.

Terrence remembers an incident that took place in February of 2017, when the whole school walked to the Michigan Theater to see the movie “Selma,” and afterwards, went back to school to discuss race in their forums. In the theater, Terrence was sitting with another black student when he witnessed the following exchange between a few white students and a black student.

“They were making fun of him because when the lights went off, they couldn’t see him. [They said] ‘*John where you at? We can’t see you.’” These students continued to make these comments throughout the duration of the movie.

In the group interview with BSU, Terrence shared this story. When Janelle heard it, she was appalled, and disappointed that it was never dealt with.

“For things like that, that's when your voice gets loud and you say ‘I cannot believe that you are calling him out because he is dark-skinned black male. Is that what you're really doing?’ Janelle said.

“But then you know what they do? They start laughing,” Terrence said.

“That's okay. Let them laugh, but let you say it loud enough for the adults to hear it,” Janelle said. “Stuff like that is completely unacceptable. You need to be embarrassed, you need to turn beet red, and in fact, you should be pissed off that you said it because now I'm going to call you out about that. I need you all or whomever else or even your white allies — we've got to figure out what to do for you all to feel empowered, because you don't have a right to talk to me like that. You don't have a right to say that to me. We are on the same level, whether you believe it or not. You guys have to start telling us — in that moment, you get up and you find me.”

In the moment however, Terrence couldn’t find Janelle. She was in another part of the theater, and Kevin Davis, who assists Janelle with organizing BSU activities, was in the back. Terrence did not know. Sitting beside another black student, he tried to calm her down.

“We were sitting in the far right section, and the thing was she got really mad when they kept saying it, because they kept saying it while the movie was going,” Terrence said. “She got up and left, and I was like, ‘*Mia, calm down, go outside.’”

Janelle disagreed, however, and sympathized with Mia’s reaction.

“She doesn't need to be calm about that. That's so offensive on so many levels. You'll find an adult. At some point, people have to be called out or held accountable, because it's not okay. Because that’s not funny, let’s just be honest. Let them get in trouble for it. Then they're gonna be like, ‘I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.’ Let their scholarship be taken away or let them try to get suspended or something where it impacts them. Then they're going to want to be like, ‘I’m so sorry.’”

Several members of BSU agree that in moments like these, being surrounded by more people of color would help them feel more empowered to speak up. But even at the Michigan Theater, Terrence was.

“It was quite a bit of us that was sitting next to each other — black people — when it was said,” Terrence said.”

“So then why didn't you all do something?” Janelle said. “And I'm not trying to blame you or put you on the spot, but this kind of helps to get to the root of [the problem].”

“What I said was like "C’mon y’all like really?" and I just left it at that because it was quiet, and we weren't trying to interrupt the movie because if we have interrupted the movie, it would have just been like, ‘OK, show’s over, leave.’” Terrence said. “It would have gotten like that if Mia would have really went off. It would have been on. [John] was laughing at first but you could tell that that's crushing his spirit. He knows he's of a darker complexion. He's had to deal with that his whole entire life.”

Terrence did not want to cause an altercation. It was easier to stay quiet.

These experiences are shared by several members of BSU.

Francesca, whose primarily Asian friend group told her Community did not have any Asian people, was sitting in the library one day when she overheard a group of students behind her coming out of their Math Support Class, talking about their work.

“[They said] ‘Man, I wish I was Asian. It would be so much easier to do this.’ I was just like man, [that’s] not how it is,” Francesca said.

One morning during Sophia’s first semester freshman year, she overheard two white students having a conversation and saying the n-word. Sophia went up to the students and asked them not to say that word, because it made her uncomfortable. In response, the students talked back to her for getting upset at them, and told her that she should not have been upset, especially since she was just a freshman.

“I just remember feeling so small and a target at that moment,” Sophia said. I was just like wow, there's nothing I can do anymore.”

"FORGET ABOUT IT"

Simone is frustrated with the toll these events take on people of color, and the ways in which they are forced to move on.

“When these things happen, we’re the ones who have to forget about it,” Simone said. “We’re the ones who have to brush it off and be like ‘oh well, it sucks that it happened, but we have to get over it.’ There are some adults that will help but most of them are like, ‘Oh they probably didn’t mean it. It’s not their fault.’ It's just like, why do we have to be the ones?”

Similar to Terrence, Francesca and Sophia admit that they want to speak up in the moment, but they don’t. Betoul feels that students of color are often responsible for confronting their peers, and this upsets her, especially because she feels that it is seldom addressed to a bigger audience.

“It falls on us, the students of color, to fix that problem, but it’s not our problem to fix,” Betoul said.

Ashlyn feels that in many situations, calling out a student for their words or actions results in them targeting her back, asking her why she is attacking them. She worries as being stereotyped as “the angry black girl” for speaking up. Oftentimes, she just stays quiet.

"In the moment, I get so mad that I try so hard not just start yelling or going off,” Ashlyn said. “My mind just goes blank. I have to take time to process what happened and then figure out a response to say to that. But by that time, it’s too late for the situation.”

Marissa — who felt an odd responsibility as one of two African-Americans in her US History Class — says she has never had an experience calling out a white student in which they apologize.

"It's always been ‘What do you mean? You know I'm just joking. That's not racist.’” Marissa said. “So I think that's part of the reason why I don't speak up sometimes because they won't really listen to me anyway. They'll just brush it off.”

Ashlyn believes that if there were more students of color at Community, these instances would happen less frequently. She thinks that students of color would have a stronger support network to stand up for themselves and others in the situations described. Francesca agrees, but acknowledges that much of it lies in the hands of white bystanders — not people of color. When these incidents occur, she is glad to see white students hold other white students accountable.

“People who are allies shouldn't feel afraid of speaking up against things that do show up,” Francesca said. “Some people do, if I'm with them, they'll say ‘man, what they said wasn't right.’ People who are ignorant and are white would listen to [white people] more than put that stereotype on [students of color] who do say something to them.”

KEEPING THE CONVERSATION ALIVE

The diversity conversation is important to Dean Marci. In 2015, she helped form a diversity council, comprised of student leaders from BSU, Forum Council, and the Social Justice class taught at Community, which she said worked well, and an action plan was created. The council was formed after Dean Marci sent two students, Pamela Quintana-Salazar and Devin Weeks, who graduated in 2016, to a conference run by the Minority Student Achievement Network (MSAN), a national organization of multiracial school districts. Students also attended a diversity forum at Eastern Michigan University.

Each fall, there is a countywide board meeting where each high school sends 10 students and one staff member to speak about recent school accomplishments and news. Dean Marci and the students chose to emphasize diversity efforts in these presentations, including data about the minority percentages of each grade and the number of applicants to Community by middle school. In addition, in 2016, the presentation noted work being done within the school, such as Forum activity discussing race, and the school’s participation in several workshops.

Another event mentioned in the 2017 presentation were the conversations held last year between Forum Council and black Student Union, following a racist comment during The Social Justice CR’s “Ides of Trump” event last March. Ides of Trump was a nation-wide protest where people across America wrote messages to President Trump. A racist postcard was submitted during the event, and following the incident, three joint meetings were held between the Forum Council and BSU, with the Social Justice CR students present as well. Around that time, students from the Social Justice class published open letters to the student who wrote the postcard, expressing their feelings. The letters were posted on the wall outside of Community’s library, and were published online in The Communicator in May.

The Forum Council and BSU discussions were initiated by Forum Council, according to Janelle. They saw there was a problem and needed to be a discussion after the incident. The meetings were facilitated primarily by Janelle, BSU adviser and teacher of the Social Justice CR, Cindy Haidu-Banks who also taught the CR, and Steve Coron, Forum Council adviser.

Janelle had mixed feelings about the discussions. She was frustrated that they came about from a negative angle rather than a positive one. She also felt that the meetings were reactive rather than proactive. One conversation, she recalled, got out of hand and off-topic and she had to bring the students back to the reason they were coming together. Additionally, she felt like white students at the meeting were holding back from speaking, out of fear of offending someone.

“You've got to be honest about it, say how it feels,” Janelle said. "And sometimes it's not going to always be politically correct, and that's okay if you’re trying to come to a place of understanding. I can't ask you what I really want to ask you if I don't know how to ask you, because I'm afraid I’m going to offend you, but I really want to learn.”

Several students in BSU also believe that the middle school visits should acknowledge the diversity problem; some proposed the idea of developing a structure of “dispelling the myths of Community.”

Janelle believes that the diversity discussion could be integrated into the middle school visits through an honesty yet welcoming approach.

“To me, it's saying 'There's not that many people who practice this faith or who are black or who are Latina or who are Asian, but we want more,'” Janelle said. “‘We need more. We want more.' To me, it would be being honest about it.”

MOVING FORWARD WITH THE PAST IN MIND

The Community High School building has a history when it comes to race relations. In 1965, Jones Elementary, the predominantly-black school which preceded Community, was closed; this was the AAPS’s first effort in reducing segregation in the city (“University of Michigan Library's Brown v. Board of Education Digital Archive”). Community opened in 1972.

The Community High Sign going up in 1974. Copyright Ann Arbor News, courtesy of Oldnews.aadl.org (Ann Arbor District Library)

In 1985, The Committee on Excellence issued a report recommending several steps to provide equity and excellence to the Ann Arbor Public School system. One issue they addressed was racial imbalance. The committee recommended that each school have a range of 12-27 percent black students. The report identified several advantages of this percentage, and this one specifically.

“Narrower guidelines insure greater cultural diversity, enhance racial mix and expose all students to different lifestyles and experiences.”

This recommendation is still relevant today, particularly if one looks at all students of color.

“It's a lot richer when you've got to have a diverse mix of kids, and that's just the truth of the matter,” Janelle said. “You walk away with a deeper understanding, and then it makes you think and open your mind to some other things that may have not even thought about.”

Terrence feels similarly.

“I believe that if there were to be more black people, there would be much more of an understanding,” he said. “Because you've got a lot of white people, they got a lot of questions — not just white people but other people — they just have questions about the black culture that there's just not enough black people to be answering.”

Betoul feels that the diversity conversation is not reaching everyone.

“When we talk to students about diversity and race, we’re only talking to the students of color about diversity and race, or the students who are involved in those things outside of school,” she said. “We don’t hit the students that aren’t in many clubs. We don’t hit the student body, and that’s where it lies.”

HONEST CONVERSATIONS

Janelle, who teaches at both Community and Pioneer, could easily teach full-time at Pioneer. When people ask her why she stays at Community, she says that it is because there is a place here for her. She stays because she believes that students “need” her — both those who are in BSU and those who are not, who simply pass by her in the hallway.

“I stay here because the students need me,” Janelle said. “They need to see a black teacher here. I feel that social justice piece, that is my duty to be here. There’s a ton of kids I don’t even know in this building who I don't teach, but you’ll see me everyday and I carry myself with some type of dignity, and it's hard to explain, and I know I can't quantify it at all, but I do believe that is it’s important for me to be here. And definitely for my BSU.”

Janelle also recognizes that the diversity conversation may be important to many, but not to all.

“It's a problem only if you think that there should be people of color here, because you got some people who don't feel that way,” she said. “And I'm not saying people in this school, because I can't speak, but let’s just be honest, you've got people in this world, people in this country, people in the state of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, in this little bubble that people think is so great, which it is — it's a great place to be — but let's not be so jaded and think that everything is perfect here, and everybody's like ‘Kumbaya, let's hold hands, and life is good.’”

She goes on to explain.

“It’s a problem if you think that there should be more diversity. And I’m just saying there's some people who don't think that there should be more diversity. But we do. We think there should be, [Dean] Marci does, John [Boshoven], Brian [Williams], Dean Rebecca, myself, Kevin [Davis]. We all think there should be more.”

Janelle leads BSU in organizing many regular events at Community, like the annual Martin Luther King Jr. assembly, Soul Food Friday, and days dedicated to diversity, like the all-school viewing of “Selma.” She is passionate about this, and realizes that the progress may be slow, but she is dedicated to the work.

“When you're trying to increase diversity and you're trying to do things, you're damned if you do, damned if you don't,” she said. “You're gonna have somebody who's gonna complain about something, and that's just how life is. But you wanna get the majority who are like, ‘you know what, I'm actually glad that we did this.’ Even if you only get 100 kids who are like ‘yep, that was somewhat meaningful' out of 4 or 500, that's excellent. I can't do anything about the other ones, and maybe they'll eventually decide that it is important or care, and maybe they won't. But I'll know that I’ve done all that I could do to try to help support the cause.”

In addition to events held or conversations had, Janelle believes that little steps can be taken in one’s everyday life to address this problem.

“It's these small things in your everyday, every moment walking down the hallway, when you hear somebody say something that's a little out-of-pocket, [saying] ‘You know what, that wasn't really cool to say. That could be offensive.’ It's just even speaking up like that.”

Janelle also believes that deliberate confrontation is necessary.

“You don't want to be offensive, but be honest,” she said. “[You can say] ‘You know what, I don't understand. Can you explain to me why x, y, and z? This is what I feel, this I what I’m thinking,’ but still be open to whatever the other people's perspectives are, but to be able to say it.”

Janelle, along with many students in her BSU are passionate about this issue. They acknowledge that the conversation needs to reach a greater audience, and Janelle admits that honesty does often come with an unsettling feeling and a fear of offending someone. Still, she believes that this is the only way to move forward.

“If we can't have some of these honest conversations, we're not going anywhere. You’re just going to keep spinning your wheels.”

*names have been changed to protect anonymity

Created By
Isabel Ratner
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