What it’s like to be a minority at an 83.3% white school

Students of color share experiences within a notoriously homogenous school

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What it’s like to be a minority at an 83.3% white school

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Every high school student has a unique experience, especially people of color (POC) in a predominantly white school.

It can be difficult for POC students to fit in and find their place at a school like New Trier where 83.3% of the student body is white.

Xariah Chase, a junior African American student, described how she was made aware of her race.

“I get glances like, ‘Woah who’s that girl? I never knew someone like her could exist at a school like this,’” said Chase.

While Chase understands that certain things like race can’t be changed, she also believes that many POC students have become accustomed to strange behavior directed towards them.

“I’m always going to be a black student in a white school,” stated Chase “We kind of become immune, which is sad to say and it shouldn’t be challenging for you to be who you are.”

Many POC students have been called derogatory names because of their ethnicities.

Junior Tala Talamantes said, “I’ve been called illegal and wetback due to my color because I’m Mexican.”

She said she had been discriminated against and expressed the difficulties of being a minority.

Nylah Jones, a sophomore who is African American, experienced similar situations where she was called racial slurs.

“I’ve been called crude names,” said Jones. “Last year this kid called me the n-word.”

Being singled out by her peers because of her hairstyle has made her feel uncomfortable.

“I had braids in the beginning of the year and people would ask, ‘can I touch your hair,’ but they wouldn’t ask other students,” said Jones.

She has questioned her self-belonging because of the behavior of some students.

“I remember students asking me how to cook chicken out of all the kids in the class,” stated Jones adding that “It makes me feel unwelcome.”

Sophomore Aaron Matthew Lariosa, an Asian American, believes that while ignorance is why people are racist, the topic of race itself is sensitive.

“People are ignorant in a way,” stated Lariosa. “The topic [of race] is really touchy.”

Sydney Gaines Wheeler, a junior who has African American, Indian and White ancestry describes how the expectations of a New Trier student impacts her as a POC student.

“I feel like going to a school like New Trier, there is automatically a stereotype that everyone is in all AP’s and rich, but that’s just not true. As a POC, you walk on eggshells and I sometimes feel like if I don’t do well on an assignment I could get even more judgement,” said Wheeler.

Like Talamantes and Jones who have been singled out and called racial slurs, Wheeler also feels the pressure of being both an NT student and also a POC student.

“I’ve been [called] the n-word on multiple occasions. One time a friend did it as a joke and they even whispered it so it was as if they knew they shouldn’t say it but they said it anyway,” recalled Wheeler.

Students who are ethnic minorities are often left feeling alienated because of their physical appearance.

“In the musical [The Addams Family] I have to play a dead character and I might have to wear “white face” to look dead,” said Wheeler, “It feels odd and uncomfortable.”

Despite struggling to fit in, many POC students appreciate their teachers and advisers for helping them and treating them equally.

“I do notice that most of my teachers are willing to really help when I struggle and they don’t necessarily put me aside,” said Talamantes.

Advisers and teachers are trying to educate students regarding race to provide a safer atmosphere for POC students.

“Here at New Trier, our advisers and teachers are telling us to get more aware with current social problems, especially relating to race,” said Lariosa.

POC students struggle like any other student to fit in and find their place; they just deal with a lot more along the way than a typical high school student.

“Everyone, especially in an area like this, needs to be more aware of equality and recognition for students of color,” said Chase.

 

 

A lively member of our NT News class and a part of our greater New Trier community, Ghousia Anwar channeled her compassion and enthusiasm for social action through her writing. We hope to honor that spirit by publishing these two articles written by her as a way of sharing her voice, the issues she cared about, and the impact she’s had on our community. We commit to continuing our work in this spirit.

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