It has been quite some time since I have written here and most of my followers may have stopped checking in on this page. Sadly, I am inspired today by some very disturbing events at Alta High School. My daughter graduated from Alta two years ago. Alta is a good school with many excellent teachers and staff. As a result of the 58 college units she earned there, my daughter will be able to graduate from college in 3 years. I am grateful for her high school education. However, she was very unhappy at Alta. She was often treated badly by her fellow students because she was not a part of the predominant culture. Some teachers and staff also added to her alienation. Almost daily, she heard negative remarks about her differences and it was extremely hurtful. Her yearbook is full of comments about her being “a Jew”. Of course, everyone would say they were not meant to hurt her or to be negative yet they still felt the need to point out she was not like them. Her experience led my younger son to attend a different high school in hopes he would have a better experience.
When I heard about the current racial tensions at Alta I was not surprised. For those of you unfamiliar with the recent events here is a brief synopsis. At an assembly to show school spirit each grade level was to wear a different color to display their school pride. The junior class was designated white. One student chose to wear a white pillowcase over his head with eyeholes cut out. The pillowcase resembled a KKK hood and this same student was apparently making the Heil Hitler sign as he paraded around. This action was upsetting for many students especially one biracial young man who took his concerns to the administration and the blogosphere. Since these events, racial tensions have flared. Text messages are circulating at Alta with KKK and Nazi symbols which read “Alta Pride”. Sides have been drawn and it is an ugly environment. Extra police have been called to campus to ensure safety.
It is time for these issues to be dealt with by the school. I strongly support Dr. Doty and his push to educate students about the dangers of bigotry. This is indeed a great teaching moment!!! However, at a meeting this morning at Alta, I heard parents and staff complain that this incident has been totally “overblown”. Many feel it was a harmless prank and are outraged. Hate symbols can never be seen as harmless and hearing people say so this morning brought me to tears. It is easy to say something is harmless when it is not directed at you. Too many Utahns think their way is the only way and do not take kindly to others pointing that out. If the KKK had strung up a few Mormon missionaries from a tree, we all know white sheets would be outlawed in this state. For example, at one middle school, a student wore a T-shirt which read, “Choose the Left”, a play on the LDS “CTR” meaning choose the right. This student was sent home and could not wear the shirt again. So, it is not OK to say I am different – I do not belong to the predominant culture, but donning a symbol of hate publicly is just a harmless joke by teenagers who don’t know any better. I call “BS!!!!”
Discrimination is alive and well here in the Beehive state and that is clear by reading the horrible things many in the community are saying about the biracial young man and anyone who supports him. Racial slurs are abundant and he is being called a liar. I hope he remembers that change only happens when someone stands up for what is fair and right. I applaud this young man and all those who stand behind him. Their courage will be worth the backlash. If this incident enlightens even a few then progress has been made. I believe to the bottom of my toes that we can do better and we will if more people speak out. For those of you, who choose to keep your head in the sand or who belittle this incident know this – change is coming to Utah whether you like it or not. So here is a little piece of advice -
“Snap out of It!!!!”