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The Milton Measure

Enjoy Your Summer! But Please, Don’t Forget.

by Olivia Wang on Friday, June 9th, 2017

The week of May 22nd was Milton’s last full week of school before summer vacation. While I thought the week would be full of school work, it turned out to be the exact opposite — in a good way. The recent rise in tensions regarding privilege on campus culminated into a week full of protests and discussions. On Tuesday, after impatiently sitting in the dean’s office, admissions hall, and Mr. Bland’s office for 6 hours, the student body gathered in the FCC for a faculty-facilitated workshop which addressed racism, privilege, and identity related issues.

A handful of speeches and videos later, the workshop ended with a faculty privilege walk. The main objective of the activity was to help people understand the impact that societal privileges have on individuals. Ms. Otenti, the international students’ coordinator who participated in the walk, says that “so many students at Milton don’t understand racism and neglect to think about it because they don’t know what institutional power or system oppression is. The walk is a teaching tool which demonstrates just how much injustice there is in our system.”

Beginning in a uniform line down the gym, the faculty were asked questions concerning social privileges and advantages. Each participant took a step forward or backward based on how he or she identified with the question. Such questions included: Is English your first language? Do you come from a single parent household? If the police pulled you over, could you be sure it wasn’t because of your race? Have you ever been bullied for something that you could not control or change? By the end of the activity, everyone had a clear perception of the heartbreaking reality: a sea of white faculty members towards the right, privileged side of the gym, and a handful of marginalized faculty of color separate from and behind the majority.

What I originally believed to be just another typical assembly turned out to be an extremely emotional gathering that altered my perspective of the Milton community. In observing the actual spectrum of privilege with our faculty members, people whom we all have close connections to, I felt the tidal wave of reality — of privilege, of discrimination, and of systems of oppression — wash over me.

Inundated with confusion, frustration, and distress, I recognized not only my own privileges as an Asian-American student, but also the fact that I will never get to experience other people’s privileges due to my appearance. I admire our teachers’ courage to stand in front of the student body, confess their own struggles, and confront the reality behind systems of inequalities. From that single workshop, I gained a whole new perspective on our teachers. I learned that they are so much more than just authoritative figures; they are each individuals who share a lot of the same experiences that we all do.

Everyone is privileged, some more than others. Erinma Onyewuchi ‘20 believes that “having inherent privileges does not make you a bad person; it’s what you do with your privilege.” While you can’t change the fact that both your parents have college degrees, if you recognize your own privilege, you have the power to dismantle the systems which make it harder for people who are less fortunate. Being white comes with privilege. Accept it. Don’t ignore your privilege because of guilt. Take responsibility in providing a platform, use your valued voices to help pass the microphone, and, finally, stand with your marginalized peers, not for them.

The week might not have been as academically productive as we expected; however, it will go down in Milton’s history as one of the most productive weeks ever. I am proud to go to a school where the community embodies courage. Our ability to confront inequality and spur actual change is something rare and extraordinary. I hope that in the past few emotionally draining months, we have all learned a few — if not a whole lot of — lessons that brought us out of ignorance and into the light of motivation. We all deserve a break, and while I urge you to enjoy and relax this summer, I also want to stress the importance of reflecting on the recent occurrences. We have come so far as a community, and I hope that all of our efforts don’t go to waste when we come back in September for a new year.

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Posted by Olivia Wang on Jun 9 2017. Filed under More Opinion, Opinion, Recent Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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